We caught up with Madrid-born artist YAI while she quarantines at home in California. If you’re new to her work you can spot her vibrant cartoon inspired murals can be found at iconic spots in major cities from Los Angeles to Phoenix. For our newest installment for On The Line With… learn how art keeps her balanced, her recent capsule collection with Pabst Blue Ribbon, and how she continues to stay productive. Read up.
Describe what you do for a living and how you’re adjusting to social distancing.
I create characters and worlds in different media. I paint in panels, on walls, I illustrate and design and produce different merch like t-shirts, hats, hoodies, etc. I also collaborate with different brands to make my designs come to life in different shapes and forms such as lighters, fanny packs, masks, etc. All of this with the intention to brighten up the world we live in and make it a more positive, colorful, and happy one. During quarantine, I realized not much changed (for me) because somebody tells me I can’t leave the house, and even in normal days I don’t really leave the house much. I kinda like it that way. So as far as social distancing goes I was already at an advantage being an artist who enjoys a life at home.
During this time of social distancing, people are leaning on things such as streaming services, puzzles, at-home workout classes, to name a few, what activities are you using to take your mind off of things?
I have done a few different ones like baking and making my own bread. Yes, I am one of those people. Also gardening; my girlfriend and I have a lot of plant babies to take care of and a lot to learn about them. We even watch YouTube videos to learn more about gardening.. It’s actually not very much different from every other day, but I guess now I have the excuse and the extra time to do it.
Besides that, I feel like I am not really allowed to take on any other hobby since I always feel like I should be productive and at least be drawing or making new personal designs. I would have liked to play more video games but I always feel guilty if I spend too much time doing that.
What is keeping you grounded/balanced at the moment?
I can always count on my art to keep me grounded and balanced. I always have something to create and if I don’t, I just start drawing ideas or doodle enough so my hand doesn’t forget the motions. Also, like I mentioned before, the gardening really helps since it relaxes my mind and allows for time in the sun, absorbing vitamin D, and doing something good with my girlfriend.
How have you stayed connected to friends and family during this time?
I guess mainly through social media. I am not a great phone caller so I just make sure I talk to my friends often through, you know, Instagram, etc. I call my mom often on WhatsApp since she is in Spain, and try to keep up with her online.
How do you typically start your day? What daily rituals are you practicing?
My cat is the alarm, so I wake up to that every morning. He meows until I give him his food and then I make coffee. After that, it really just depends on how I feel or the things I have going on that day. I have a hard time with discipline and routines so it could be working on stuff right away or relaxing my way into my day. I need to start working out to get the energy going and then get to work.How are you staying productive while at home? Any useful tips?
I almost always create at home unless I have an offsite job like a mural so I am used to it already. I am happy just having my laptop, iPad, sketchpad, and favorite pens and pencils. I could be on my desk or even on the bed and I feel like I am being productive. I also really enjoy going to the coffee shop where I can focus and not get up from my chair too much and I have very little distractions, but I obviously lost that chance being in quarantine. So one of the tips or tricks I have been practicing is acting like I am in the coffee shop. Make my coffee and maybe a snack, put headphones on and do a very simple setup with everything I need and tell my cat that mom is going to work.
What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling in isolation right now?
Well, I think we all are different and some people enjoy the quiet and alone time and some people need the energy of other people around. Luckily I am an only child, daughter of a single mother so I think I was raised to entertain myself with very little. That may be one of the main reasons why I am an artist; not having brothers or sisters to play with and having a busy mom who had to go to work. That gave me the opportunity to be resourceful and use what I had around me like papers and markers and of course, my imagination. Even a mirror was so entertaining to me, or TV – I did watch a great amount of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel growing up. But I guess my best advice is to learn to be with yourself as much as you can. Look at yourself in the mirror, meditate or at least sit still and focus on your breath, learn a new skill, read… (This advice goes to myself as well).What accomplishment are you most proud of while social distancing?
Definitely winning second place in the amazing Pabst Blue Ribbon competition. It pretty much saved my life and also encouraged me to push myself harder and feel more worthy. Since then I have decided to reach out, apply for things and try harder for my goals.
What are you most looking forward to once this is over?
Go back to hanging out in coffee shops and bars. I know that’s not that exciting for many people but it’s something I have been missing.