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Meet Cynthia Nava

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Nava.

Cynthia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Hello! I am a Mexican American artist from South Central, Los Angeles. Growing up surrounded by poverty, I never questioned the hardships that we went through that were easily normalized in my community. Even though I was surrounded by what some might call “the short end of the stick” when it came to opportunities, there was always a source of joy in my life and that was art.

Like many artists, I don’t really know when my passion for art began because it feels like it has always been there. I loved watching Disney movies and admiring how beautifully drawn the princesses were or how creative the environments were designed. I was picked as the artist, the designer, or the editor in all my school group projects. I would draw fan-art and even created my own comic book series that never saw the light of day. I always dreamt of one day becoming a famous artist.

Fast-forward to my time in college, Cal State Long Beach opened my eyes to the realities of my socioeconomic status once I met people who came with similar aspirations yet wildly different backgrounds. It made me doubt myself constantly in the beginning. College was extremely hard and overwhelming at times (physically and mentally), but so incredibly rewarding in the end. It made me grow not only as an artist but also as an individual. Because of this, I was able to find my artistic voice and translate my thoughts and feelings into my work.

I like to express my love for bright colors and cute things through my pieces. My goal is always to evoke happiness to those who come across my work. There’s already enough negativity in this world and the last thing I want to do is contribute to that. I want to spread happiness and I want to spread the message that anyone is capable of greatness even if the odds are stacked against you.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I would say my path that led me to where I am today had challenges and obstacles that many others haven’t faced or probably never will. I think the number one struggle that affected almost all aspects of my journey was my socioeconomic background. Like I mentioned before, I experienced some stuff growing up that people from outside of areas like South Central probably will never experience. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family. My parents sacrificed so much for me so that I can live a better life. I know many can relate to that. I couldn’t afford prestige schools or luxury art supplies because there were more important expenses to make, such as gas money to commute everyday or helping out with bills at home. I had to balance a full-time school schedule all five years of college (since financial aid required me to be full-time) and a part-time job on the weekends. It was a ridiculous amount of stress at times. Not to mention the thoughts of doubt that would creep into my mind when I heard all these classmates having transferred from amazing schools and knowing all of these important connections. I had to work twice as hard as others just to get my work recognized. What kept me going was the mentality that I had no other choice. It was either being successful or losing everything and landing back at square one. It may not have been the nicest way of disciplining myself, but it helped during times where I felt like giving up. Now looking back, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I overcame these obstacles and overcame feeling like I wasn’t good enough. It is important for people who are going through the same thing to remember that we belong here, we deserve this, and that our hard work is rewarding.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an illustrator who creates fun and optimistic artwork! I mostly illustrate cute, bright, lively characters and environments that have interesting stories to share. My work is inspired by nature, animals, everyday things we look forward to, and my surroundings because we all have a different perspective and I like to share mine. As a result, I occasionally slip in a little of my Mexican culture into some of my pieces. It makes me excited to bring ideas to life. I love creating my pieces with gouache and various types of paints but nowadays I mostly do digital art using Adobe Photoshop and Procreate on my Ipad. My style is definitely more “cartoony” than realistic. I like adding personalities to characters and even objects and sceneries. Besides illustrating, I enjoy doing graphic design. I also enjoy other art mediums like screen-printing, oil painting, and playing around with the basics of 2D animation. I would say I’m known for my artwork having warm subjects and color palettes. I love being playful with my line and composition. The feeling of contentment that washes over me when I’m creating art is a constant reminder that I chose the right path in pursuing what I love. I am also grateful for having a career in a field where I can visually represent my community and people of color. What I’m most proud of is those moments when people tell me that my work brought a smile to their face.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Everyone I’ve come in contact with has played a role in my path! First and foremost, my friends and family, especially my mom. I will forever be thankful for having a supportive mom and dad who told me to never stop reaching for my goals. I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a loving and supportive group. My friends, who all believe in me, cheer me on and remind me that they are there for me. My professors, who I cannot thank enough for all their wisdom and knowledge that they bestowed upon me. Other fellow artists who constantly inspire me. Even the people who didn’t support my choices and career path; they were a reminder that better things are coming and that I need to push myself into the direction I want to be in and surround myself with people with similar goals. And finally, a big thanks to all those people I’ve come across who tell me ” Échale ganas mija! Si se puede!”

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Main photo: Emilene Orozco

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