Artist Spotlight: Dylan Mierzwinski

October 22, 2019

We are so excited to have one of our newest artists, Dylan Mierzwinski in the RCC Artist Spotlight today! Dylan is a graphic designer-turned illustrator from Phoenix, Arizona, a master of retro floral and botanical designs, as well as a savvy sewer/pattern designer and chef. Dylan’s happy, colorful work for Red Cap (those gift bags!!!) is making us all giddy. We had the chance to interview Dylan about her life, work, and a burgeoning YouTube series that she has created for up-and-coming artists as well. We are so happy to properly introduce her–Dylan and her work are a wonderful ray of sunshine.

Tell us about a day in the life of Dylan!
Dylan’s days…okay I’m not going to do third person. My days are ever-changing as I begin to get better at crafting a schedule that works with my tendencies. In short, even though I love love love my job, I still procrastinate. Most of my scheduling woes come from trying to trick myself to get working sooner, because once I get going, I’m hard pressed to stop until it’s done (I suspect my brain might know this, hence it being hesitant to get going on something…it knows it’s going to have to work!). In general though, my days are super awesome. They involve waking up without an alarm clock, being in my quiet apartment alone, and cycling through admin, creative, and client tasks. A few important key things that have helped me lately are:
  • Going for a one mile walk in the morning
  • Starting easy. Contrary to 2019 productivity beliefs, I don’t begin my day with the most important work (re: procrastination station), instead I enjoy some quick wins with admin tasks to ease me into the day
  • Exploring my art early. I used to put client work first, but it’s crucial to the health of my heart and career that my personal art practice is prioritized above all else; no client comes before it. After my morning admin tasks I sit down with a brush or pencil and get to work.
Other key players: tacos, Parks and Rec reruns with my babe, waving at dogs in our apartment complex, reading too many murder mysteries
What defines you as a person and an artist?
Easy! (Not). As a person I think I’m defined by my transparent nature and weird sense of humor. Those things are echoed in my art, usually manifested through a shared moment of humility or growth with animals and rosy cheeked characters (like the drawing of me being naked at home when a delivery knock comes at the door, or a group of animals pushing a scared elephant on a skateboard that he really wants to learn to ride). I think my art is most marked by a happy balance of nostalgia and real life; this comes through in my retro and sometimes clashing color palettes, and the inky line work that carves out bouncy petals and firework stamen shapes. It’s as beautiful and rich as those real life things that inspire me, but not too beautiful, because it’s the weirdness that draws me in. For what it’s worth I’m also like 400 years old on the inside.
Do you remember being artist as a child? Do you have a specific memory of when you really knew what you wanted to do?
I did a lot of artsy fartsy stuff as a kid. I’ve always loved the office supply and art supply aisles at stores, and since my mother was an artist, it felt very natural to always be painting, drawing, sand-arting, and making our halloween costumes. It’s not that I always knew I’d be an artist, I just knew I felt comfortable in that world. If anything, becoming an artist has been more about crossing things off the list that I’m not. For example, in first grade I moved to a new city, and it seemed like literally every kid in my school was on some soccer team called “The Lightning” or “The Stingers” or what-not. Standing on the sidelines with my dad as we watched them play, a very calm and accepting voice in my head said ’this is not for me.’ That feeling kept re-emerging, and eventually, returning to art and those long aisles of pencils and palettes felt like a homecoming. It’s not that I thought I was an excellent artist, but I never felt out of place wandering through that world. In fact, I wanted to get deeper and deeper.
More recently, though, after a few years working as a graphic designer (aka as someone else’s hands), I was sad to feel so uncreative in my creative industry. I owned paints and sketchbooks but never used them. In the privacy of my apartment I took on my own 100 day drawing challenge, and with each push and day done I knew this was the challenging work I wanted to continue. I was meant to be creating something. You can actually see the evolution of that challenge here.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
Things that look old and bring me feelings of nostalgia – that warm remembrance and familiarity feels soooo good to me, and I try to bring it forward in my work. My work reminds me of my mom’s house in the country with Bob Dylan leaking through the windows, or my grandma getting ready while 60s Motown hits stream from her small bathroom radio. Old floral sheets, candid pictures of families at birthday parties, shared moments that connect us as people, vintage advertisements for contraptions long forgotten – all of it holds a bit of gold that I like to collect. Some of my favorite artists include Edward Gorey, Ed Emberley, Rachel Ruysch, Mary Blair, and Henri Matisse (is that a given?)
Tell us about your creative process in terms of both illustration and pattern design. What are your favorite aspects of making art? What do you find most difficult?
I really enjoy my workflow being a hybrid between ’traditional’ analog media (pencils, pens, paint, paper) and digital media (Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate). I joke that if I were a better artist I would be able to just rely on the former, but I think that’s a cruel way of minimizing my own work. I love the real feel of my pen scratching against the paper, and the unpredictable line quality and blobs of ink – but I also enjoy being able to really push and ‘correct’ a piece on the computer. I wouldn’t want to have one without the other. The parts that prove most difficult are: starting (every time! So silly), and composition. I’m fairly middle brained and when my left, linear thinking brain tries to get in there my compositions become contrived and overworked – it’s something I regularly have to work on in illustrations and surface designs. It’s like a fun puzzle though, I know there’s a solution to be found.
Tell us about your Youtube series, Hey Dylan!
My YouTube series “Hey Dylan” is just getting off the ground, and is here to be the casual wisdom that an older sister may carry. It’s a conversation between creatives where listeners write in their questions and I answer them, unscripted. It isn’t official legal advice or business strategy, but more a place for creatives to have their very specific questions answered, while sharing the information for others to use, as well. Sometimes Google isn’t able to fill in all the gaps, and so I like being able to share a bit of my experience and strategic brain to help others along. The best part is a lot of the questions are fear based, and so the answers I give aren’t anything groundbreaking, but more of a reminder to the asker of what they already know. Usually: you already have what it takes, stop being so hard on yourself, and get to work. As of this writing only one episode is actually published, but a big push this fall means quite a few more episodes are ready to calm, share, and encourage.
Do you have a favorite piece you have created?
One of my favorite pieces is called “Inky Florals” and it will always be a favorite because it’s one of the first times I really embraced my ‘ugly’ color choices and stumbled onto a color combination that felt absolutely perfect and weird. After that point I had no qualms about throwing in a muddy brown or shock of blue.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Besides the golden rule, which I could talk about all day, I love the quote “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.” Richard Bach may have been the first to pen it, but I heard it while listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Big Magic. You don’t get brownie points for having a really good excuse, you just have an excuse in your way. I’m more interested in busting through and getting to the goodness on the other side of that limitation. If you think you can’t do something because you don’t have the time, money, talent, resources, etc, guess what, you won’t be able to do that thing. Sad sad sad. Prove whatever evidence you’ve gathered wrong and throw it out the window.
Obligatory Red Cap question: favorite drink?
Not to be a real dud here, but you know how people for ages have longed for an elixir of life? Well there is one and it’s called water and the healing and nurturing it does is INCREDIBLE. So water. And then orange pop.
Thank you so much, Dylan! We love you! You can view Dylan’s collection for Red Cap Cards, here.
Photos courtesy Dylan Mierzwinski.