I recently shared a pizza with artist Paola Delfin at a little spot next to her home in Colonia Roma, Mexico City. Talking over the top of a screeching Camote vendors whistle, we chatted about Mexico, her enviable lifestyle as a traveling artist and her inspiring approach to work and life.
Tell us about your background?
I grew up in the North of Mexico and it was a very quiet family oriented life. My parents sent me to a German school, which was really weird, so I wasn’t really much of a school person. I always loved to draw during my classes, so I decided to study graphic design because I thought it was the closest thing to drawing and painting. But, after a year at school I didn’t feel I was fitting in there and I was seeing all these artists making amazing art, so I decided to give it a try. I moved to Mexico City and found a collective of young artists. That was three years ago and it has been an amazing experience so far.
When did you start painting walls?
When I was first with the collective in Mexico City I was painting canvases and preparing some exhibitions. I was working on a project with a brand and they asked me if I could work in a bigger format, so I did a wall. It was a five meter wall, which for me at the time was a super big challenge. It was an experience that I really enjoyed so I started to work on more walls. I find it a great way to share my work, and working in a public environment has given me the opportunity to grow in both personal and professional ways.
I noticed that your style changed a lot about six months ago, what happened there?
I have experimented with different subjects, but always felt closest to my work related to the feminine figure. I find amazing contrasts within that subject and still think that I have more to discover. When I was working on my first wall I only had one day to work and I needed to fill a large space, so I started doing the hair stuff just to fill space. I really liked it and ended up using it a lot. But, I did it too much and started to feel stuck so it became a personal challenge to change what I was doing.
Are you based here in Mexico City most of your time?
The last two years I have been in Mexico about half of the year. In 2013, I was travelling in Europe. It was an adventure, I went there without any plans and met a lot of great people who introduced me to some interesting stuff. I ended up being part of some festivals and at one of the festivals, I met a gallerist who invited me to paint the outside wall of his gallery in Berlin. He ended up inviting me back again last year to make ‘Engrane’ my first solo exhibition. Between the trips to Berlin, I went to Colombia and Peru for some festivals and did some stuff in Mexico, and then most recently I have been at Art Basel. I just got back to Mexico two weeks ago.
Is this lifestyle of traveling to make art something you were always aiming for?
No, not really. I feel very lucky, everything has just happened. It all kind of flowed on from that first event in Berlin. It’s been really nice, so now I’m looking for work to keep it going.
What would your advice be to a young artist looking to get into this lifestyle?
I didn’t really search for this lifestyle, but I worked hard and trusted in my dream (its sounds cheesy but its true). I really wanted to do something with my work and I believed that if I worked hard I could go somewhere. Suddenly I discovered that I could live and travel and get to know places through my work, which I think is something amazing.
I was dreaming big when I decided to quit school and live just from painting. At first it was just a temporary plan. Then I decided that if I was going to do it I needed to push myself to work hard and do my best. I think it is important to challenge yourself and not to settle down, or just expect things to happen. If you have an honest dream you will always get to it somehow, and you will be surprised to find yourself in places you didn’t expect to be.
How do you think that this lifestyle, of traveling to festivals, has influenced your work?
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, traveling will always open your mind because you are receiving new impressions all the time. Through my work I have been meeting people that I never even dreamed I would meet, people that I was inspired by even before decided to become an artist. I have been meeting all these people and everywhere I go I see incredible stuff so it makes me want to improve and try new things. I used to be afraid to experiment, but through all this I’ve just decided to do it and see what happens.
How does Mexico fit into your global lifestyle?
It’s a really good fit. Mexico right now has a lot happening. There are great artists here and an incredible history of art. It’s also important to be close to family and at the moment I’m trying to find a balance between that and traveling.
Now that you have experienced what’s happening globally what do you think of the art coming out of Mexico?
Mexico has a really important background of mural art. It was quiet for a while, but now it has become a movement with a lot of very talented artists. There is really nice art in our history so I think it is important that we do a good job to keep up that culture.
What’s happening this year?
Right now I’m in Mexico City working in my studio. In February I am going to a festival in Cancun, then I come back to Mexico City and I want to do some projects in different towns close to here. I don’t really know my own country so well, so I want to visit at least five places in Mexico. Then in May I will probably go to Cuba and then back to Europe later in the year.
Do you have any advice to artists traveling to Mexico City?
The first thing you have to do to understand a bit of how Mexico works is go to downtown and just walk around. We have pyramids just forty minutes from the city and amazing museums. But, I think the best way to know Mexico is to just walk as much as you can and eat a lot. It’s a really surreal city and you will be inspired by what you find in the streets.