Midwest Uprising: D Guzman

Welcome to Midwest Uprising, where Cheyann Neades and Fatima Calderon Ceron chat with artists of color about their journeys in a region that is often overlooked. This episode, Cheyann Neades and Fatima Calderon Ceron chat with illustrator D Guzman. From Des Moines, IA to Minneapolis, MN, Guzman has done art full-time since graduating from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2020.

Recorded by Cheyann Neades and Fatima Calderon Ceron via Anchor

Edited by Cheyann Neades

Featuring D Guzman

Photo by Isaak Berliner

Music: “Just Dance” by Patrick Patrikios via YouTube Audio Library





CHEYANN NEADES, HOST: And I’m Cheyann. And welcome to Midwest Uprising.

CHEYANN: We chatted with D Guzman. She is an artist from Des Moines, Iowa that has relocated to Minneapolis since studying at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

CHEYANN: We talk about her work in illustration and why representation is so important.

CHEYANN: We hope you enjoy our interview with D Guzman.

CHEYANN: So tell us about who you are and what you do. How did you first get involved with art?

D GUZMAN, GUEST: So I’ve I think I’ve always been interested in art ever since I was little. I would always draw characters, let’s say Mickey Mouse or whatever I would see on TV, I always draw them. Throughout middle school and high school, art class was always my favorite class and I don’t know, it just always been something I really like doing. And I guess it wasn’t until sophomore year, junior year of high school that I kind of realized that, during that time, you kind of have to think about what you want to do in life and where you want to go for college and all that stuff. And so I found out, “Oh, you can be an artist and oh, you can’t go to school for art.” I started looking at art schools and stuff and kind of decided I wanted to be an artist, an illustrator, as a career.

FATIMA: And you’re an artist that is based in the Minneapolis area, but originally from Des Moines. So how do you compare those two Midwest states for artists/illustrators? How does that impact your craft in any way? 

D: Here in Minneapolis I definitely have a community. I have a community of friends who are also artists who know the art world as well. And I know people who can hire me or recommend either me or I recommend other people for a specific job, but I think that’s because I went to art school here. And the difference is, I didn’t really start my art career until I got to Minneapolis. In Des Moines I was just kind of doing art classes, I didn’t really know anybody who wanted to be an artist or an illustrator. I don’t have those connections in Des Moines as much as I have them here. It was definitely because of college that I made a community and have friends who are also artists.

CHEYANN: Lately, when I’ve been on Instagram, I’ve noticed kind of the illustration boom that’s been going on. There’s so many illustrators, or at least like people making this kind of content and it’s gotten so much bigger in recent years. Have you found that to be helpful or kind of hurtful for your work and your business? Does this help you find inspiration? What is that like for you? 

D: I honestly really like it. I love seeing other people’s work, I love seeing other people’s style. I obviously have a certain kind of a style, but I love seeing other illustrators. “Wow, that’d be so cool.” They just kind of inspire me, if anything. I don’t see I don’t see it to be hurtful anything because I feel like everyone’s work is kind of different anyways, and so if a certain, let’s say a company or whatever…they’re looking for a certain type of style. If they went to them instead of me, then that’s fine, because our work is probably different anyway. Their work is different than my work.

FATIMA: So there was a piece that I saw that you did I think, last year, but it’s called Mujeres Fuertes. I just want to get your take on that piece and why it was important for you to come out with this illustration highlighting women like Selena Quintanilla, Celia Cruz, which are one of my favorite singers. So, yeah, I’d like to get your take on the responsibility, not responsibility, but how, as a Latinx woman, do you feel like it’s important for you to make illustrations that highlight other Latinx women or social issues around your community?

D: It’s for sure, very important to me. I feel like a lot of the representation we get in the Latinx community is the same three people. But I just really wanted more representation of brown folks as well, like brown-Latinx and Afro-Latinx and trans-Latinx. A lot of them are on that print. I obviously put some of my favorites, like there’s some that obviously don’t get the spotlight. But obviously I put some like Selena on there and Celia because, favorites. The main reason was so that they could have a little spot somewhere in the media at least. Obviously my platform isn’t that big but I feel like it did get a lot of attention. A lot of people were DMing me like, “Hey, this is nice. Can I get a print?” As long as someone sees it and they feel inspired by it, I love that. I love that for them. I feel like just because they don’t get the attention, I feel like someone should put them in the media. Someone should show them who they are and what they did, and I did a lot of research for them. That was for my senior project and I was going to make a bandana out of them. I think it would have been really cute on a fabric and stuff.

FATIMA: Oh, yeah, yeah.

D: Yeah. I did a lot of research getting to know these women and who they were and what they did. I think a lot of my sketchbook was just filled with notes about these women, which is also kind of like a learning moment for me, too, because I honestly didn’t know some of these women either until I was like going, ham on Google.

CHEYANN: You talked about inspiring others with your work, but where do you find the most inspiration? What’s your creative process like? Do you find a lot of your inspiration through Instagram or how do you usually go about starting a new project?

D: Honestly, yeah, I think for me, my inspiration really comes from my own family, from my friends. And I know this is so cliche, I’m sorry, but it’s really just living life, honestly. And obviously Instagram, I find all these amazing artists and Pinterest. Obviously, you can also find amazing artists on there as well. But it’s really just going, pre-COVID, like going out and traveling and kind of go on mini road trips or go on big road trips and just kind of seeing the world as well. And again my family, I think is really part of it, too. 

FATIMA: Something that we were wondering is, what’s the future look like for D Guzman, the artist on Instagram? Do you hope to continue doing your illustrations, continue to sell prints, and just continue to make a change in the illustration world?

D: Yeah, I do, I think I’ll keep going, this is going to be my full time job, really. I want to start a little shop. I bought some printers, so I’m kind of getting in the middle of trying to make work for this job and trying to print some stuff. And even with the illustrations, I already have. But I kind of want to open a little shop and it’s taking me kind of a while because I want to make sure it’s perfect. I kind of also want to see if I can get myself into packaging design, see what I can work with, who I can email and just kind of promote myself to–art directors and see if I can get picked up by anybody to work for, just to make illustrations for something. And I also kind of want to… I really love drawing for children’s books. I really want to get into making a children’s book one day as well.

CHEYANN: Just wrapping up, what advice would you give to other women, specifically women of color, who wish to pursue art?

D: To just do it honestly. Just do it, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re good enough. I feel like it’s okay. At this point, I feel like people’s art is so different. You don’t have to be super realistic with your drawings, or with any type of art really. I feel like there’s just so many things you can do. Even like embroidery, or punch needle, or painting, or even making music. If you just keep trying and putting in the work, or it doesn’t have to be work–it can just be for fun honestly. It’s some sort of relaxing stuff for fun. Just keep going and doing it. I feel like there’s always an audience like whether you don’t think there is, I feel like there’s always going to be somebody who likes the things you do.



CHEYANN: Thank you for listening to Midwest Uprising. Keep up with Urban Plains on our social media and website urban-plains.com for more content.


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