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Meet Shirley Alonso of Art Kid Shirley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shirley Alonso.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Shirley. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
According to my mom, I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil. Art was the second love of my life after my parents. I didn’t think much of it or myself doing anything with my doodles until my little brother starting watching me in awe and the 6th grade where my art teacher. Ms. Chui unlocked my full potential as a possible up incoming artist, I fell in love and wanted to learn every medium…

In the 10th grade, I joined the Visual Arts, and Design Academy (VADA) & was taught that art was all around us and I could make art not only be a hobby but also become my career.

But as a first generation Nicaraguan American, there’s always that high expectation to become a somebody because of the sacrifices our families make coming to America, seeking better opportunity & for that higher education has always been programmed in me since I was in elementary school, even if it meant not having your average career choice.

I was raised by my grandmother, and she was the non-traditional Latina that preferred me to be a somebody than to be married to somebody & have their babies. She was a woman before her time that wanted me to make my own money because money is power & if you didn’t make your own money, a man would think you’d owe him something. She was the Abuelita Feminista I’m glad I had till my teens.

For that, I am grateful, that the support and love my family radiates and thus will forever be my muse. My mamita always told me, “don’t listen to those comments, you can be whoever you want to be. You’re going to school, not me.” We were women with degrees & therefore I couldn’t quit in becoming the artist my 6th-grade self & my family would be proud of. I now have my Bachelor’s degree in Art & Graphic Design.

Fast forward, some years and I have been a graphic designer for now roughly six years, working on branding and marketing the Spirituality Center at my university’s campus, as well as starting up a design business of my own; freelancing and designing logos for up incoming small businesses like mine. I have always had an eye for creativity through the eccentricities of my environment and wanting to help make my client’s visions into my masterpiece.

But then 2016, the year where my life needed more substance to make myself happy, my clerical jobs and tutoring at-risk youth after school wasn’t fulfilling enough. 2016 I grew a pair. The year I decided to show my artwork to others in the underground art exhibits in Los Angeles, other than to my family and friends & in the summer of 2017 was when I was scouted to display my work & that it was enough to reproduce as merchandise other than paintings.

Never in a million years would I have thought the awkward Nicoya from Pasadena would have been vulnerable to share her story to others walking a similar path and was enough for me for the first time in my life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Every road to success has some bumps and detours; I am still on that never-ending road:

-Freelancing was not stable enough for me to eat and pay my bills, so I resorted to teaching and tutoring the youth, showing them that it’s possible to follow your dreams even if you have setbacks. After years of teaching and inspiring the youth, I had to follow my own advice and show my gift to the world.

-My dubious thoughts, recurring low self-esteem have always been my artist’s block; but I gain back my confidence through humorous works that help me cope with my inner demons; which most seem to enjoy.

– Lastly, figuring out my crowd and where to sell my works of art has been my biggest struggle… even though my art is for Latinxs specifically, often times I find myself thinking I am too much for my own people & that they are not open-minded enough to find my art inspiring instead of vulgar.

My work is to strike a conversation, not eye rolls. My art is all the thoughts some of our mothers and aunties were too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about. But I suppose if my art both is idolized and pissing people off, I’m not doing so bad as an artist.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Art Kid Shirley got its name because I was called an art kid through grade school & I wanted to reserve that inner child artist I still aspire to be when I grow up.

My business was created because I wanted to see more women like me in the art world, more brown women confident in their own skin, more women not seeking validation of their own beauty and body, more woman loving themselves often, more women of all shapes and sizes celebrating every stretch mark that makes us human. My art are the thoughts most find taboo to even talk about but should be to encourage self-love, and dignity amongst people who look like me.

My art is how my blunt, Nicaraguan family raised me, my art is my Nicaraguan culture that often times is overlooked in Southern California, my art is my silly humor, my art is who I am and who I am trying to become, my art is my therapy, my art is my freedom, my art is my escape from reality. May my prints, stickers, buttons, enamel pins, caricatures, bottle openers, and mirrors inspire more to be themselves and smile often.

“So let’s design, let’s develop, let’s create a lifestyle we both want.” is my signature to every formal email because ultimately I want to have my art not only inspire woman of color but also live comfortably & happily through my art for the rest of my life. Art is no longer a hobby but a career that has been blossoming and hopefully flourish through my illustrative narrative of my Nicaragüense American, brown, chubby girl life. Portraying these illustrative stories of my culture, pop culture, struggles, dating, my loud family & uniqueness I bring to the table (both literally & figuratively).

I am proud that I still surprise my family with my ability to create masterpieces and that people like what I do and support my movement of trying to be a more open-minded community of beautiful brownish beings comfortable with talking about sexuality, women’s needs and wants, love, being present & unapologetic; instead of closing ourselves from the world.

We are more than enough to radiate our authentic selves every single day.

What were you like growing up?
I was a shy, quiet, four-eyed, brown girl that shut herself from the world in her room, never would you or me have expected me to be the face of all these eccentric works of art. I didn’t talk unless spoken to and was an obedient child that didn’t rebel like kids were supposed to rebel.

I was focused on school and only school; my social life was non-existent because of my innocent persona. My artwork made me friends; I would tag “my friends” names on their notebooks and binders from the graffiti generator I had memorized. I’d also draw them their favorite celebrities with my #2 pencil and printer paper I had lying around. I slowly found myself through art.

It wasn’t until I moved away to college (at 17), from my family and hometown that I was finally able to fully blossom and let everyone else see the Shirley my family knew and loved.

I now spoke what I felt, and meant what I felt after years of keeping quiet and letting others think for me. I was finally free to be myself after being reserved for most of my life. I had to get away from all the pain and come back to my roots to realize my purpose of becoming the artist I am today.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


























Image Credit:
Ruth in Truth Visuals, Red Heart Media, Cumbiaton

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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