We had the good fortune of connecting with Ariana Leyva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ariana, how do you think about risk?
I’ve always been accustomed to being comfortable. If it was out of my zone you’d see me away from it with a yard stick. I saw so many opprotunities slip away as a teenager, because I was scared to take risks. When it came to the decision with my future art career, I took the risk of leaving everything; my home, my family, anything that was convinent in my life. I had to leave to pursue and learn more about the art world, which I didn’t know anything about in the first place. That was scary! I was miles away from home and had to speak for myself and fend for myself while juggling art college. I honestly did not think I could make it. But I knew I couldn’t face coming back to Texas without bringing anything back. I would not allow myself to give up because it was “too hard.” Taking this risk, I came back home as a new person, a person that I love as I take new art adventures in my career. Life is a risk, every decision you make is a risk. You can’t just let moments slip by, taking risks made me the artist/person I am today.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When making my art, I want my audience to have fun whenever they see it. No matter if it’s a print, stickers, or even clothes. I want you to look at it and be like “yeah, that’s an Ariana piece.” I love working with bright and “poppy” colors, messing with organic shapes to represent figures, animals, words, all of the above. Combining words to make something something unimaginable, like a taco luchador or a merry-go-round filled with pinata horses. I want to create my little world and all of y’all are welcome to join. Being an illustrator, I had so many paths to go down when it came to my career. After graduating SCAD, I realized that there’s no specific path I have to take, I can do them all. I’ve had so many different jobs that may have not pertained to specifically an illustrator, but I constantly keep learning new skills to make my art next level. While always taking commissions, my first job was an internship for a small web commerce business. There I learned the many different ways I could get my art to help a brand. I started making snapchat filters for family events with my illustrations decorating the frame of my family’s pictures with fun text that pertain to the occassion. Later on, I was hired by a parent magazine in Dallas, TX as an editorial designer. There I had many roles, page setup for the magazine, collaborating with the editors, contacting businesses for photos. While also, getting my illustrations published in the magazine. It was such a different experience than the internship. The one thing that is similar about these two experiences is that I used my skills in illustration to benefit me in my own way. Before I lost my editorial job due to COVID, I overheard one of my co workers say “we didn’t hire an illustrator, we hired a designer.” It honestly hurt knowing that my creativity was being put into a chokehold after working so hard. Why should I only be considered as one thing when my other skills were such a great add on? I had constant thoughts of “will I ever be appreciated for being an actual illustrator? Am I even an illustrator? Or am I just living in a fake reality…” I ended up unemployed during the pandemic, and it left me with myself again. After feeling like losing everything, I realized I still had my little world. I could finally work on my personal art and make things I’ve always wanted to make. With the help of my artist friends I started selling prints and making stickers. Collaborated with my very good friend, Brian Bradley, and designed my own clothes. Something that i learned about the art world, is to always support your community and stay in touch. Do your work right and people will see. Most of the jobs that I get are from word of mouth, and then the chain of words will extend to right people. I want to keep on collaborating with different artists and making my work better than the last piece. I hope for new and old viewers of my work can relate and feel happy when seeing my art. That they see the passion and love I put in each piece I make. I’m excited for the future of my career; I’ll be attending Anime Fronteir in Fort Worth, TX in December as a first time vendor, selling my own merchandise and fan art. I can’t wait for the new opprotunities that will come my way!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When I lived in Georgia, I had all my visitors wanting to the “Savannah” experience which is right down my alley. I don’t like to give the basic reccommendations of ghost tours and the fancy southern food. Why do that when there are so many small businesses to support in the city? There’s nothing better than getting a nice coffee from any of the “Coffee Fox” locations in downtown, I always get an horchata latte with a tres leches cake. Just walking around the historic city, seeing the beautiful buildings, roaming around Forsyth Park is like walking into a movie. Forsyth Park is perfect for picnics and people watching! Always a necessity for me to do live action sketches of people at the park with an array of food (especially on Saturday mornings when the farmers market is open). My top restuarants I always make my guests try are more for comfort food. First is Fire Street Food, maybe I’m just bias cause I used to work there, but it should say something if I still like to eat there. the staff is always wonderful and there’s something on the menu for everyone. Next is Zunzi’s, this is not just any regular sandwich, because everytime I eat it, I feel like it’s a reward that I paid for. Lastly is Sly’s Slider and Fries, the food may be small but it is incredibly filling. Always hitting the spot and never disappoints. Best part is that all of these are perfect to order, pick up and eat anywhere you want. That’s how accesible Savannah is. Besides walking around I like to go to the different thrift shops, because who knows what you’ll find! I usually look for things SCAD fashion majors gave away as a new part of my wardrobe!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To my parents and my older sister, for being my cheerleaders from the beginning of my art journey.
Les quiero agradecer a todos que me han apollado con mi arte. Estoy tan afortunada de tener familiares que siempre me ayudan cuando necesito. Muchas gracias del fondo de mi corazon.
To my SCAD illustration professors, the amount of care and advice y’all give to your students, have always given me the extra confidence to keep working hard on my career.
To my middle school art teacher, Ms.Q, no matter what happens, you were the one to ignite my creative mind, and believed in anything I wanted to achieve at such young age.
Lastly to my Papo, for always encouraging me to be my authentic, best self. I truly feel like a “championette’ now.