It was almost impossible for me to navigate through the illustration community in New York City without seeing the work of D&A Nunez a dozen times a week. Under her brand, COVL, the playful optimistic work of Nunez has drawn a crowd of loyal fans, leading to her collaboration with Nike, Red Bull, Google, MOMA PS1 and more recently Instagram as the art director of her first Coachella house ever .
Nunez, born and raised in Miami, Florida, originally started her career in producing fashion shows at 21. For the next four years, she worked for Oscar de la Renta, Zac Posen and Carolina Herrera, until she realized she wasn't using it her skill set was to its full potential. Inspired by illustrators such as Hattie Stewart and Steve Harrington, Nunez realized that illustration was the perfect medium to tell her story.
After visiting her Brooklyn studio, I am impressed by her creativity, resilience and dedication to creating in her own way. I spoke with Nunez about her recent projects, how procrastination is part of her creative process and how digital artists can boost their game.
This interview has been slightly adjusted for clarity.
What does COVL stand for?
COVL stands for Craft, Onward, Versatility and Lifestyle. What are all the things that I feel include everything that I bring to the table, both as a person and as an artist.
How has moving from Miami to New York influenced your creativity?
I think it has helped me to grow up in many ways, in creativity and in business. I notice that I still grabbed that feeling of liveliness that I had so effortlessly in Miami, because it is tropical and relaxed. Here it is the opposite. It's just a concrete jungle, so you lose that vibrancy and that aspect of life, but it has matured me in many ways and it has challenged me to ensure that I remain faithful to COVL.
What was it like to work with Instagram in their first Coachella house? How did that happen?
It is clear that any ad that really delves into the Instagram culture ultimately wants to work with them because of what they represent and how they encourage creatives. But even months after I had the chance, it still feels unreal! It is very gratifying to know that your potential, what you bring to the table, and the story you say, mean something to brands like this. It provides them with added value.
How it came about was a good friend of mine, Fadia Kader, who works for Instagram on music partnerships. She was busy with the Coachella event and she came up to me like, "Listen, I can't imagine anyone else doing this. Would you like to do it?" And I kind of like it, "You didn't even need me to ask, you should have just given me the contract! I'm down! "
I think it's all based on relationships and is always very authentic to yourself. And that is what I have always been, I think Fadia has always seen it with me since the first day. And so the occasion happened, it really felt organic. It felt like I was taking two worlds and bumping into each other and it was just harmony. The project itself was very long. There were many assets and deliverables, but after the experience, I wanted every customer to look like them.
Really?! I thought it would be difficult to work with a big company like Instagram.
You would think so! Because it's a larger company, you have to go through this whole process of approving things, but with Fadia I think it helps to have someone in your corner, especially if you work with such a company. There will be times when we would ask for feedback and then she would get rid of the call and she would call me personally and ask me: "How did you find that? Is that logical for you? Let me break it this way."
And then she gave me more from the back so that I would understand what they need. I think that certainly helps. But in general the team, the production team was perfect and I wish we could always have that, especially in the freelance world.
How many of these projects you do are friends who reach you, or do you reach many brands? Are you pitching a lot for projects?
To be honest, we haven't thrown that far yet. We have a list of people we want to pitch to, but something is always added, so we put the pitches aside.
Talk to me about MadeByCOVL.
Yes, MadeByCOVL has always been a dream of mine. I wanted to take what I do in the digital world and place it in people's houses and cupboards. It speaks very faithfully to COVL. It is very lively, it is very funny, it has a very kitsch undertone. With this, these basic principles of everyday can become conversation principles. Things like yoga shorts and sports bras, beach towels, just things you would see and are like, "Oh, what's that?" That is what I wanted to do with MadeByCOVL. And share it with my audience in a different format that is not just a message or an Instagram story. This allows them to be more connected to me through the product.
What has it been like to transfer your art to physical products? Have you encountered unforeseen problems?
There are a lot of things that I'm learning and it feels like I'm going 1,000 miles an hour because I wear the artist's hat and also the business hat. I have learned about budgeting, I have learned about the quality of products. Diving into that space feels very frightening because it is clearly a foreign language. But the demand and respect of my audience is there. They are just like "We're done! When will it come? What is it? I want it!" They don't even know what it is and want it too.
Also touching something that I have designed or has something in my space that is mine, goes back to when I was a child and I had nothing. So being mature now and having things that are mine and I'm in control is just a very satisfying feeling. But it is also a lot of learning and lots of falling and getting up and growing, and wearing different hats at the same time was a challenge. But I mean, how should I become different and inspire others to do the same if I don't even try?
So it was a very frightening, frightening and exciting & # 39; I want to break every five seconds & # 39; type of trip, but I would not change it at all.
What is your creative process?
I don't really have one. It is postponing a lot until I get in. Because it doesn't matter how much COVL a company actually is, I am still an artist. And it's not an excuse why I do that, but I have to give myself a lot of room for maneuver. Sometimes I sit here in silence and just take my time, think of my affairs, watch out (my dog) Wifi and then it hits me and then I start working. But if it becomes something that I am stuck with, I go outside, I walk or I walk with him or I build something. I suspect there's a small process, but it's not like, "Oh, I wake up every day at 9:00, I dive in here for an hour and then …" I'm just not that kind of person. So the process is just smoother.
What software do you use?
I use Procreate when I am traveling or for illustrations that I have to do. If I have to work in Illustrator but still want to use my iPad, I use this app called Astropad. This allows you to attach your iPad to your computer so that you can use it as a drawing tablet. And of course your standard Adobe software. Photoshop and Illustrator are my two most important, although I use Premiere and After Effects from time to time.
How did having a manager affect your business and creativity? When do you think getting a manager makes sense for someone?
If you want a manager in your corner who sees your value and you don't even have to worry about the manager's business, this is a huge stress reliever because you know that part of your business is being arranged in your life. Now I can just frolic and be the artist I always wanted to be and work on opportunities and then be able to have someone to bounce along with. It took three years before I understood the workflow and understood what I wanted a manager for before I got there. It was a link.
For digital artists or only artists in general, they just have to be patient. If you have nothing to do or you don't have a client base or any form of traction, your manager won't use it because managers aren't looking for opportunities here. They simply help you to implement the opportunity and see through it in the admin position. I think it's just a lot of patience, and people don't have that nowadays, they just want to get rid of it.
How can digital artists expand their game from posting on Instagram to brand partnerships?
To think it up, you have to appear in your own life and in your own profession. If you feel that you are stuck or if you feel that customers do not hire you, that is fine. Do things you want to do and make things that you love. And that's what I always said in the beginning. I always created and still do every project that I had in my hands. I think that people misunderstand that their ultimate goal is that they want to be rented.
What is your craft? What is your purpose? How's your voice? What is your style? What makes you happy? If you pursue that goal, what will you make different from any other artist? So I think it just builds your goal and makes things to make you happy. That is a game changer. People don't do that anymore. People are very trend-oriented. Creating for yourself must always be the first for something else.