Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. (BTW Happy Summer to ya’ll! Just a quick note to let you know we’ll be taking a mini break from our artist interview feature in July, but will be back in August!)
This month I’m thrilled to be catching up with the gorgeous Illustrator, Nivea Ortiz! I am a huge admirer of her beautiful, energetic artwork! Nivea is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She earned her BFA in Illustration at the Pratt Institute in NYC and began her career in her home country at the leading newspaper El Nuevo Dia. She has a thriving illustration career creating editorial and fashion illustrations as well as illustrating children’s books. You can view more of her artwork here!
|How fabulous is she?! I'd totally love to gossip with her over tea & cake!|
Q: I absolutely ADORE the bold colors, graphic shapes and gestural, flowing lines in your artwork!! Dish with us about your creative process: ideas, sketches, mediums, technique, finished art style—you know, all the good stuff!!
A: Thanks! I enjoy painting with water mediums like watercolor, gouache and ink. Painting with ink is great because it is spontaneous, fast and immediate. You have almost no control and the results are amazing. I feel very comfortable with the medium, particularly for personal work. I enjoy doodling, exploring and playing with different pens and brushes. The bamboo pen is my favorite, because I get interesting gestural lines, and for that very reason, I use it more in my personal pieces.
|Love, Love, Love!|
Q: You live in Puerto Rico and studied art in New York. How have both of these very distinctive places influenced and inspired your artwork?
A: I loved studying in NY. It is a unique place where you see everything and are exposed to a thousand different things and styles. There is inspiration everywhere. I studied fashion design in my first year of college. Then I changed my concentration to illustration, but fashion design is still present in my work.
My first job in PR was as an editorial illustrator in the main newspaper of the island. It was great training. I illustrated all kinds of different subjects like Travel, Health, Fashion, Culture and everything was rush. I think that's why I'm good at drawing fast and capturing the essence of things.
The island has a strong influence on my work. It is an eternal summer. You can see its influence on the colors that I like to use. They are warm, happy and as intense as the Caribbean people. The vivid colors of nature, the incredible blue sky, the turquoise sea, the afternoon light manifests in my palette.
|Calling all dance lovers—this books is so totally for you!|
Q: I’m so excited about your new picture book, Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha, which is set to release this fall from Penguin Random House! Give us the full scoop on Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha: how you came to be the illustrator on the project to your experiences working with the art director to creating the artwork itself.
A: Roselyn Sanchez and Eric Winter had this idea some time ago and told me about it. I really liked it, and finally, it came to be at the perfect time. Working with the art director and the whole team was great and enjoyable. Everything went smooth and well. Creating the characters and the design took time and many sketches, but once it was all approved and Sebi’s world was created, it was easy and fun. Collaborating with Penguin Random House is a dream come true for me.
|Sweet, fun, friendly and absolutely smile-worthy!!!|
Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustrator project: one from the past and one from the present.
A: One of my favorite past projects is The Mall of San Juan mural. I had to create an illustration for a digital mural to be displayed in the mall. The theme was Mi San Juan, “What San Juan means to me”. It measures 30 feet x 14 feet. I liked it, because it was the first time I saw my art on such a large scale. Every time I go shopping and walk by it, I smile.
From the present, I’ll say my recent children’s book La Maravillosa Visita del Calzadísimo Extranjero / University of Puerto Rico Press, because the communication with the editor and the author was excellent. They respected my style and gave me total visual freedom. I had a blast illustrating the story!
|Who loves you? Mama does! XO|
Q: What is a typical workday like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your responsibilities (art making, business stuff) and creative juju (rituals, inspiration, process).
A: I’m a morning person, so I wake up early to draw. A cup of strong coffee is a must! Usually I go outside to feed the wild birds. It fills me with joy. Then the drawing starts. My workspace is usually messy. Gouache, ink and papers are everywhere on my drawing table. I always have music on, and I just go with the flow.
If it’s a project for a client, I will do some research about the subject, but not too much, because I like to keep the images fresh and want to capture the essence of things. Aiming to translate reality into my particular creative language, I like to start with some loose sketches, pick the more effective ones and then work over them in Photoshop. If it’s personal work, everything is more relaxed—a fun journey of exploration.
Looking at other artist’s work enriches and inspires me, too. It makes me want to work harder and see what else can I create. Often times I surprise myself! It’s happening now that I’m exploring abstract painting.
|Colorful kings are "celebration" personified!|
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Starts early in the morning, kayaking at La Laguna del Condado / The Condado Lagoon. I really enjoy it. Being in the water relaxes me and nourishes my creativity. I love to observe nature, calmly strolling along in a kayak makes you feel closer to it. The best part is spotting manatees, turtles and rays swimming by your side. The Caribbean is a treasure.
Thank you very much for inviting me!
Thank YOU, Nivea, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love your artwork!
(Psst! Bonus news: Bird Meets Worm is debuting a NEW diverse children’s book review feature later this month!! Look for it on Wednesday, June 14th!)