We sat down with illustrator and artist Pamela Navarro aka Dope For Queen to discuss her creative practice, living and working in New York City and what’s on the horizon of Dope For Queen.
Hi Pamela. Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself, where you studied, and what you are up to now?
Hello, first of all thank you for having me. I was born in Mexico. When I turned 18 I lived for six months in France and the UK. I always knew I wanted to do something in the visual arts, but then I understood more about the business of illustration because the parent of my host family in England was an illustrator and immersed me a little bit more in that world. That sparked my fire to pursue a degree in Illustration, but since that is not a career you can get in Mexico, I applied to Art Colleges in the US. Now I am working freelance and in my free time developing some pieces to perfect my technique and have my own show in a gallery.
What initially got you on the path to becoming an artist and designer? Has art and design always been apart of your life?
Yes, since the day I was born. Both my parents are architects, and my mom started painting when I was just a baby and now she’s a full time artist as well. Both of them have always loved the arts and culture, and I took that passion after them. I’ve always had it in my blood, I don’t think I would be happy doing anything else than something related to the visual arts because I was always surrounded by it.
You were born in Léon, Mexico and emigrated to the United States where you now live and work in New York City. That must have been quite a big transition. What were your first impressions of NYC?
I remember the first time I stepped that city. I was studying in Boston, at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design at the time, but after spending my spring break with a friend in NYC I just told myself, what the hell am I doing in Boston?. I´d found a new passion of mine, Fashion. And the arts and fashion capital in the US is New York City, so it was a no brainer that I had to make a transition to live in New York. I do think is a magical city, it was like love at first sight even though some people consider it chaotic, I was craving that kind of chaos in my life. Art and fashion are everywhere, from the moment you step out the streets there’s endless inspiration at your disposal. Not to mention the never ending list of museums, galleries, and cultural events you can go to.
Does your cultural heritage and point of origin influence the subject matter of your work? Or are you more inspired by your current surrounding environment in NYC?
I would love to say that it is for the most part, but honestly, the time where I started creating my best artworks and learned most of my technique was when I began living in NYC. I had always had an aesthetic fixation with the renaissance artists, neoclassical architecture, old Hollywood films from the Sixties and European glamour. But it’s funny because now I am in a reverse transition - when I go back to Mexico to visit my family I get way more inspired and astounded by how beautiful my country is. The colors, the traditions, the architecture, Mexican surrealist artists, even the food; things that have always been there but didn’t have enough appreciation for, are now the things that are shaping my body of work and adding more identity to it. I am very proud to be Mexican because the cultural heritage that my country gave me is like no other in the world.
New York City is synonymous with the arts. It’s nurtured some of the greatest talent to have lived. However, recently there has been considerable talk around New York City becoming too expensive to accommodate a thriving arts community and that many creatives are seeking a new city to make their own. Legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne wrote in a column: “If the 1% stifles New York’s talent, I’m out of here.” Do you believe this to be true? Or is New York City still the creative microcosm it’s always been?
I don’t want to disregard Byrne because there is truth in his statement. Rent is insanely expensive in New York City, so living somewhere else could definitely improve your quality of life and give you a bigger studio to work on without a doubt. But I do believe there is so much worth in living in the City for a period of time just because the opportunities you can get here are irreplaceable. You can build up an amazing client list and work for the top clients in the arts, design, and fashion industries. Just like living in any cosmopolitan city with creative microcosms like London, Paris or Tokyo, I believe it can open an artist’s path to better job opportunities in the future and that can help you create a name for yourself. Then yeah, I think I’ll move somewhere else when I crave more slow-paced lifestyle.
Your works often include words or phrases. Is this to strengthen and reiterate the message you’re conveying to the viewer?
Definitely. I didn’t want to name my artworks with simple names like ‘’Still Life #4’’ I wanted to transmit a little bit more of the emotion that inspired me to paint whatever artwork in the first place so the viewer can just get a bit more immersed in it or can understand my concept better. Oftentimes artworks can be disregarded until you understand the purpose behind it. I don’t want to just paint something that can be subjective, I want the viewer knowing there’s symbolism and motive behind whatever I paint.
You’ve recently began reproducing your artwork on a range of homewares and objects. Is this an avenue you would like to focus on moving forward in your career?
I’ve always believed I am both an artist and an illustrator. As an illustrator you’re supposed to reproduce your work for the market, so I do love it when people buy mugs with my art on it and use it on their everyday lives. I like the commercialization of my art because it can only help you expand your work to more audiences. Then yeah, I’ll make some 6 foot big canvas paintings and hang them on galleries just to be stared at, but I will never stop selling prints or reproductions cause it’s one of the best marketing strategies to gain exposure.
What’s are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in becoming an illustrator and designer, and how have you overcome them?
Well I believe my biggest challenge has been coming up with an aesthetic of my own. The art market is oversaturated and only the people whose work you can instantly recognize have been the pioneers of the art world since the era of social media began. So coming up with my own aesthetic took a while because if you think about it, everything has been done already. How do I add a spice that makes it more intriguing? That was the real work behind it.
Thank you for your time, Pamela!
Thank you so much, I am honoured to be in the second volume for DRAWN with such insane artists.
To view more from Pamela's portfolio, visit: dopeforqueen.com