Magic is made when we collaborate. There's no limit to what we can accomplish through inspiration and creativity, especially when we join forces. Two artists bring this truth to light with a social media-based collaborative art series, #HeyWeCollab. Inspired by each other's art and the work of other creative women, Dina Baez + Nikki Moon linked up to create a #WCW series in which they translate their inspiration from music and feminist values into paintings. Thus far, this project has resulted in unique pieces of artwork reflecting creative women such as Kehlani, SZA, Cardi B and Willow Smith. With #HeyWeCollab Nikki + Dina create individual paintings in their own style and share them via Instagram.
Nikki Moon (@heyshedraws) is best known for her "afro-celestial" drawings and paintings with bold colors, out-of-this-world themes, and astral elements. Upon receiving her degree in Elementary Education from Bowie State University, Nikki now spends her days working as an art teacher for grades K-5; she spends her nights creating commission-based and personal projects. Throughout the years, Nikki has also participated as a vendor at many festivals including Broccoli City + Afropunk where she met Dina in Brooklyn this past summer.
Dina Baez (@dinafairycake) describes herself as an "Egocentric Surrealist Painter/Illustrator." As an illustrator, she's created various projects including a Kendirick Lamar, DAMN-inspired coloring book. As a painter, she's been the subject of most of her pieces as they have been a way for her to self-reflect and channel her emotions. Dina's style of artwork features bold outlines, bright colors, magical transformations, and nature.
In this month of creative love and passion, the #HeyWeCollab series makes for the perfect cover feature of DARLA's #14DaysofLOVE project! In an interview with us, Nikki + Dina discuss their love for art, what inspires them, and why collaboration is more progressive than competition:
DARLA: When did you begin drawing + painting? What inspired you to get started?
DINA: I began drawing as a kid, mostly doodles of eyeballs or portraits of girls with glasses and braces. Creating was my favorite pastime growing up because we didn’t have many things like video games or cable to entertain us. I began painting this past year, with a focus on my mental health. I used myself as my main subject because with each painting, I grew and learned a bit more about myself which inspired me to keep going.
NIKKI: I've been drawing ever since I can remember! I don't remember a time where it wasn't my favorite thing to do.
DARLA: From a cultural perspective, Philly + DC are known as two great cities for art + creativity... Do you feel living here impacts/contributes to your work?
DINA: Philly living has opened up my eyes on how others apply their creativity in different career paths. I’m currently freelancing but I see educators, entertainers, & entrepreneurs all paving new lanes to mix their passion and their business. There are more people to network with here than where I’m from and it’s easier to gain exposure and clients, so in that way, being in a bigger city has impacted my work. With all the new people I’m meeting, I’m being exposed to new cultures, trends, art, emotions, opinions — these all influence my imagination and contribute to inspiring my work.
NIKKI: I definitely think so, for sure! When festival season comes around, there are plenty of vending and networking opportunities week after week. In the winter there are lots of pop-ups and arts celebrations in D.C., so my work gets out there easily.
DARLA: Do you have a piece of artwork you've created that you feel reflects you in ways more than words could express? When did you create it?
DINA: “TrophyWife” is my second oil painting on a 16”x20” canvas. She is the essence of my divinity in a self-portrait. I think she exudes my style the best and has the same silent but powerful presence as myself.
NIKKI: I actually don't think I have that piece yet, but I am hoping to create it soon!
DARLA: What does art mean to you + your current lifestyle as a young creative?
DINA: Art has always been a means of expressing and de-stressing for me. I’ve used art as a form of therapy when times were hard for me, and it helped me focus my emotions and energy into creating. I used to cosplay when I was young, so I loved making and being in costumes because they gave me a new identity. Being a muse helped me naturally channel different parts of my personality and I have a lot of friends who are into photography so I got into modeling through them. I like that I can use my vessel to express myself with their creative direction.
NIKKI: Art is everything to me. Spiritually speaking, if I am not satisfied artistically then it's really hard to get anything else in life done. I need good music and good visuals and vivid ideas around me if i want to stay alert and focused on my own work. Professionally, art is equally as important to me because I am able to support myself from both teaching art and freelance illustration.
DARLA: What's the concept behind #HeyWeCollab? How did you two link up for the project?
DINA: Nikki and I met at AfroPunk where I was just a spectator super hyped to meet her because I was following her online. I gave her some stickers and we clicked immediately! Nikki brought up the idea of collaborating a few weeks ago and as we were brainstorming, the idea of painting #WCWs came first. #HeyWeCollab is a play on Nikki’s handle (@heyshedraws), I saw that it was open so it’s cool that we got to claim our own tag and have people be able to follow it!
NIKKI: Dina and I met at Afropunk Brooklyn a few months back. She gave me her social media handles and when we started chatting online we both knew that we had to work together one day! We kept up with each other on social media for a while and and then a couple of months ago we started texting about seriously making a collab happen! To me, the concept behind it is two girls artists working together to highlight other artists. Right now we are working on our #WCW series, where we wanted to highlight some of our favorite female inspirations through portraiture.
DARLA: In what ways do you think it's more progressive to collaborate instead of compete with other artists? From your personal experience, what's a valuable lesson(s) you've learned thus far?
DINA: I feel like the competitive nature in visual artists is more within ourselves versus other artists. My goal is to become the best painter I can be, and if working with someone else challenges me to stay on my toes and exceed my expectations, then I can only hope to learn from that experience. I like to encourage everyone’s visions as they present them to me without judgement. The key to making collabs work is trust. Mutual respect, honesty, dependability, and support are the core progressive elements of trust, and when we use art as therapy, we can apply these elements to other relationships in our lives.
NIKKI: Two heads are better than one! It's been really awesome sharing ideas with Dina. It's taught me that working with others is something to do more often rather than run away from!
DARLA: What do you hope to achieve with #HeyWeCollab + your artwork in general; what do you want it to represent to the world?
DINA: Right now we’re in 2 different cities, but we plan on working on larger canvases together in the future. #HeyWeCollab is only in its beginning stages of the work that comes from when we join forces. We’re hoping to showcase our #WCW series at @phobymo’s female artist showcase on March 10th (in Philly), #TimeToPretend. I think Nikki and I have a very similar approach to our artistic vision, so I’m just glad to have a friend I can grow with. The cyber-collab allows us to get to know each other while working in our own space but I am definitely looking forward to linking in person. I can only hope our efforts inspire others to work together with passion, healthily and consistently. I’m very big on self-growth and I want my art to represent who I am in that moment so that I can evolve into who I want to be so that it influences others to grow with me.
NIKKI: We want #HeyWeCollab to reach a wide audience and get our work out there in general. I want my artwork to inspire others to create something. I want to be an example to aspiring creators everywhere that you can definitely live off of your dream.
DARLA: What's a current mantra or motto of yours for the start of 2018?
DINA: My current mantra is, “Be Better." I will never be perfect but I can always be better.
NIKKI: "Nothing is unless our thinking makes it so." - Shakespeare
DARLA: DARLA's favorite day of the week is Sunday — how would you spend a free Sunday with no rules or restrictions?
DINA: All I need to enjoy myself is some tree, snacks, music, paint and I’ll for sure have a great day lol. Nothing beats chilling at home with great people who like to eat, smoke, and create as much as me. I love to vibe with my tribe.
NIKKI: Since there are no rules or restrictions, ideally it'd be a day of perfect weather on a farm or mountain somewhere. With ripe mangoes and unlimited seltzer water, lol. I'd literally just explore the land all day playing guitar, taking pictures, and painting!
[these things take time.] the poetry book available on amazon.com.