Manoela and Gray met on their first day of sculpture class at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in 2003. They began drawing and painting alongside one another and exploring the city together. By 2013 their collaborations evolved into a multi-disciplinary arts, graphics, and lifestyle studio dedicated to enlivening their surroundings with energetic vibrations of form and color. Thus KiiK Create was born. The world of KiiK Create is populated with abstract compositions that play off the architecture of the specific setting, allowing for a rediscovery of that space.
Can you tell us about your work?
Our work consists of vibrant colors paired with bold shapes and dazzling patterns. We are interested in the themes of alternate realities and portals which we translate into abstract, geometric art. We want our work to bring energy and uplifting vibes to the viewer.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a professional artist?
We have been working together for over 10 years- but officially as KiiK Create, for about 6. After we graduated from Pratt Institute we realized the limited perspective we had on what “being an artist” was. Back then, at least, what they taught you in art school was that if you wanted to “be an artist” you had to pursue a gallery, be in their shows and make it to some collector’s wishlist and maybe end up in a museum. Although we did participate in many group shows in different galleries, we felt it couldn’t be the only way to be a professional artist- even if we weren’t exactly sure what other ways existed. After living in New York City for 11 years, we moved to Puerto Rico, where Manoela was born and raised, and once there, we had the space to work in larger formats. We started painting murals and large paintings, while still participating in various group exhibitions.
Can you tell us about your process?
We work together from start to finish. Sometimes, one of us has an idea from the get-go - but most of the time, we will both sketch independently and then present each other our ideas. Sometimes they are completely different while other times they are similar. Then we work together to either merge the concepts or pick whichever one we feel more strongly about. We will make a drawing by hand, and pick out our palette, then we scan it and make a version on illustrator. If it’s for a mural, we then make a mock-up on the proposed facade so we can envision what the final piece would look like in context to its surroundings.
When you are looking for inspiration, what resources do you turn to?
Our inspirations come from many different places. First off, we have 2 children ages 1 and 5. There’s a lot of cool toys and books with patterns and shapes that catch our eye and inspire ideas. We also look at different patterns in items like clothes and quilts and even old sketchbooks that we revisit. There’s also a lot of artists who have done work that is also inspiring from back in the day to contemporary times.
Walk us through a typical day in your studio. What is your routine? Has it changed with COVID-19?
A typical day in our studio is that there is no typical day. It really depends if we are on-site painting a mural, or if we are working on a specific commission or project. We try to cap out our mural painting to 7-10 days at most. After that, you just burn out of being on-site painting the same thing. When we paint a mural we like to paint from early AM up until sundown so that we can be home with the kids for dinner and the bedtime routine. COVID has changed everything for us. We were living in Brooklyn in an 800 square ft apartment with our 2 daughters and it was pretty difficult to find the time and space to work while everyone was at home at the same time. We relocated this summer to Charlotte, North Carolina where we have some more space to work- but now we just take shifts where one can work while the other one watches the kids or we just wait to work at night.
During this challenging time with COVID-19 finding the right rhythm to be productive in the studio can be a challenge, what advice do you have for staying productive and focused?
Being parents has really taught us to be opportunistic when it comes to time- and to maximize any little moment the kids are distracted to get some work done. COVID has amplified that concept but also has pushed us to have a quicker turn-around with work and not spend too much time on the same thing. A lot of coffee helps too- but honestly taking some time off as well. The pressure to keep creating is real, and sometimes just taking a break and focusing on the day-to-day and resting is a good way to get motivated to go back to work.
What advice do you have for combating creative block?
The same advice for taking a break and taking the pressure off of creating: watching some movies and reading a book. Also getting back into the sketchbook and making lots of drawings without being precious about them. Playing around with different materials that we don’t usually work with helps too.As an artist, how do you measure your success? Can you recall a specific event in your career that made you feel successful?
It’s hard to measure success. We are really hard on ourselves, and a lot of other artists are probably the same. Sometimes we look back at some of our work and have a “wow so we have done a lot recently” moment. Of course, having the financials to back up your work helps, but also being able to look back and surprise yourself with the pieces you’ve created is an amazing feeling.
How do you see the art market changing? Where you do see yourself in this transition?
The art market is definitely changing- COVID alone has affected it when it comes to traditions like Art fairs and the like. A lot of local communities and organizations have also spearheaded initiatives to bring opportunities for artists that are beyond the traditional exhibition gig. A lot of artists are also selling their work directly to collectors through their online shops. We’ve kind of been on both sides of the spectrum, even though we’ve never been officially represented by a sole gallery we have had opportunities to be parts of exhibitions while also making our personal sales of commissions. We want to create relationships with those who can help our work be accessible to those who connect to it; Like partnering with interior designers, architects, and curators and working directly with them to execute custom pieces for their projects and their clients.What advice do you have for artists who are beginning to build their careers? Have there been any habits or strategies that you have adopted that you feel have created more opportunities or visibility for your work?
Have a sketchbook and fill them up with ideas. We were speaking to the late artist Boaz Vaadia one time and we were telling him how we didn’t have enough time to make all the work we wanted to make- and he looked at us and said “well you have a sketchbook don't you? That’s where the ideas are- not in the final pieces”. That really made it click. As artists, many of us see the final executed product as the successful idea because it was made; When in reality, the ideas and concepts are all in the sketchbook, making them is just another step.
Do you consider yourself, and all artists, to be entrepreneurs? Why or why not?
Working artists are definitely entrepreneurs. If you are thinking about your art, your brand, how to make a living making art, who your customer is, and what they respond to, then you are definitely an entrepreneur.Failure is an inevitable part of success in any field. Do you have advice for overcoming setbacks?
Being able to look at a setback as a learning experience and not as a symptom of failure is super important for your morale as an artist. You cannot beat yourself up for things that go wrong that are out of your hands, or for mistakes that are made in regards to something you hadn’t learned yet. Some setbacks do take longer to “get over” than others, but in the end, they can help you learn how to avoid pitfalls, set boundaries, and be savvier in the future.
What sparked your interest in partnering with TurningArt?
We had no idea a business like TurningArt existed and were super excited when Manoela was contacted to be a part of it back in 2011 before we were even KiiK Create. TurningArt was at the forefront of creating a space that showcases artists and pairs them with business and collectors. As artists, we can really tell the team at TurningArt takes the time to get to know their artists and pair them with great opportunities.
What does having your artwork in the workplace and other commercial or public spaces mean to you?
Like we mentioned before, we want our work to be out there and accessible to those who connect to it. It is proven that being surrounded by art serves as inspiration and motivation to those around it. We experienced firsthand how our art has positively impacted the lives of those working in a space with our murals and how clients have responded enthusiastically in businesses that showcase our work. Our main goal is to create uplifting, energizing visual experiences where we inspire others to be Vibrant!