Iconic pop artist Nelson De La Nuez creates masterpieces that are coveted from celebrities and art collectors worldwide.
He recently shared with us what his experience as a pop artist is like and where his initial inspiration came from. Nelson also talked about what expanding his art business means to him and even gave some advice to young, similar artists who want to pursue their passions.
Pop Culture is captured throughout various forms of art around the world. It’s almost impossible not to see it anywhere you go, as artists have been using Pop Art as a form of inspiration for decades.
The key to being successful is to find out who you are and asking yourself, “What is it that I want? What’s my passion? What do I want to contribute to the world?“
– Nelson De La Nuez
How has your perspective as an artist changed throughout your three-decade-long career?
If you’re a creator, you have to make sure that whatever you’re creating hits a nerve with your audience. For me, I feel as if I’ve gotten progressively better by focusing on my creativity and getting better at my craft.
When I started, I was testing the ground and going out and seeing what people thought of my work. I just wanted to get a response to see if they liked it, and if they did, I wanted to know what it was about the art that they liked.
Your audience will tell you what they like if you listen. Over time, things began to turn around for me when galleries started approaching me, and I knew I was doing something right because galleries wanted my work. Essentially, you begin to understand what works for you, creatively when you feel it.
What is it about pop culture that intrigues you to create your work? Describe the process you take about re-imagining inspiration that’s uniquely yours.
For me, it’s always been about revisiting my past and reliving my childhood. My art is a reflection of that; the things I saw and observed. When I came to the States as a child, I was absorbed by it all and influenced tremendously.
My childhood is the reason I became a pop artist, because I came here in 1966, and what I observed from TV commercials to fashion and music rooted in American themes became what inspired me to create the work I do today.
Being an artist can be quite difficult for most, especially someone with immigrant backgrounds. What does it mean to you having come from Cuba and making it as a successful artist in America?
I came here when I was seven years old, and my parents weren’t wealthy. Other artists have been fortunate enough to pursue their creative careers because they came from families that have money and were able to nurture those crafts without worry. For me, art became an outlet, and I’ve been doing this since I was a little boy.
I had to learn how to make money from it, so I had to develop the talent. Nothing was handed to me, and I learned it all on my own. I was lucky enough to find my wife, who’s been an enormous supporter of running my company and running my business.
The art business takes a lot of work. It’s not just creating the art; you have to also manage a company behind it. It’s hard. Anything you are passionate about, you have to work hard for. I didn’t reach success because of luck, I’m just a hard worker, and I love what I do enough to do it every day.
What lesson would you share with young artists who want to follow a similar path to you?
The key to being successful is to find out who you are and asking yourself, “What is it that I want? What’s my passion? What do I want to contribute to the world?”
The lesson is in finding out who you are as an individual and staying true to that. If that means you want to become an artist, then find out what it is that you want to create and what is it that you want to communicate with your audience.
Do you have any favorite pieces that have a significant meaning to you that most people wouldn’t know?
I don’t have a favorite in particular. Every time I create a new piece, it becomes my favorite, because I’m always trying to outdo myself. But I do have one piece that is unique in how bizarre its story is.
Back in 2009, I created a piece called “The Donut Queen,” and it came to me in a dream back in March of that year. It was a dream involving a lady going around the countryside selling donuts. That piece had a lot of weird and significant things about it that I wasn’t going to find out about until 7 months later. It was purchased by Michael Jackson that year in June.
“The Donut Queen” depicts my dream about the lady, a milkman, and two oak trees with two angels that are crowning the lady. After Michael Jackson’s death, it was eventually released that his death attributed to an overdose by his doctor of the drug Propofol, which also has the nickname “midnight milk.”
In my piece, there is a gentleman depicted delivering milk. There’s also a shape in some of the donuts that resemble a “50,” – which is also the age Michael was when he passed.
The two angels crowning the Donut Queen are wearing sashes in the colors red and purple. At Michael’s funeral, his two oldest children wore a purple and orange sash. The crown in my art piece is depicted at the top of the piece, and there was a crown placed on top of Michael’s coffin.
You have a line of home goods now being sold in national luxury retailers. Describe the difference between creating your own personal work and now creating for a partnership like this?
It’s honestly a bit frustrating at times, mainly because I have to take what I make and be able to merge the image with the vision of the retailer. In this type of design, I have to create within the parameters of a template, which can be limiting when the image might not fit.
It becomes a challenge because art changes when you shrink it, and its significance can change. Another problem is that it goes straight to print sometimes, and I like to create things that I can see from beginning to end and tweak as I go. With this, I can’t.
I’m helping create designs for purses, luggage, shirts, wallpaper, etc. and I have to make sure the needs of the vision are there. It’s tricky. The integrity of the art can be compromised because of the shape or pattern and size. Regardless of the challenge, though, I like it because it gives me a platform and allows my art to be seen in front of large masses of people.
That’s the great thing about branding. With retailers like Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Ave, my art gets high levels of high-end distribution, allowing it to be seen all over the world.
What are your most current projects happening over the rest of the year?
July saw me do a series of sketches for the Art Hamptons event that happens every year and probably one of the best shows I do. I exhibited with the Bruce Lori Gallery this year.
I recently partnered with Corum Watches to design a collection for their popular Bubble Watch line, in which I created three designs sold worldwide.
Another fun project I’m also excited about is a new line of puzzles that launched in September, while also doing a large commission piece for my gallery in Boston.
And by the end of the year, I’ll be participating in Art Basel in December. Honestly, I’m just always working. Thankfully, the work is consistent, whether setting up shows or just creating overall.