Managing and Copy Editors Emmel El-Fiky and Peter Makey sat down with Paola Delucca, an artist and designer currently working at Refinery29, to talk about her creative process, where she finds inspiration, and how her Puerto Rican heritage has influenced her work and her outlook on life in general. You can find her on Instagram @paola_delucca.
ROCKET: Where do you draw inspiration?
PAOLA DELUCCA: I have this website I use to compile everything I like called are.na. But apart from that, I’m in a little bit of a rut figuring out where to draw inspiration. It comes and goes and sometimes I have to chase it around.
R: What is your creative process?
PD: Usually, I just sit down and try to get in the zone, I put on these huge Sony headphones and don’t talk to anyone for hours when I find my jam. Otherwise, I tend to work in an organized way, I make one folder for each round and make sure I keep all the files so I can refer back to them. I’ve saved myself a couple of scares by keeping too many past files handy.
R: Are there any genres of art you try to fit into, or do you seek to subvert the idea of genre altogether?
PD: I don’t like to think of what I do as in a genre, I do what needs to be done and enjoy it as much as I can. A lot of the time people think half of the battle is designing but it’s not! 90% of it is probably revisions and client feedback.
R: Do you incorporate current events (politics, pop culture, etc.) into your art, and if so, how?
PD: Even though sometimes I do talk about politics and pop culture (which I know a lot about & love), I like to keep my work separated from it. I just think in general my brain doesn’t work that way and I can’t make a connection to my work and what the rest of the world is doing. This doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful to me but it’s definitely a little more separated from it than other designers.
R: How has your Puerto Rican background influenced your art? What do you hope to convey about the people, especially the women, who live there?
PD: Being from Puerto Rico has opened my eyes to the diversity in people and how important it is to keep everyone in mind when designing and illustrating. Puerto Rican people are super mixed so I have grown up knowing the importance of appreciating people for who they are. Focusing on Puerto Rican women has a very important place in my heart, even though I do keep my work separated from my personal experiences. I do however try to incorporate as much diversity as I can in my work at Refinery29.
R: Many of ROCKET’s Fall/Winter 2018 features explore instances in which POC artists, and works of art focusing on POC subjects, are excluded. To what extent have you faced exclusion or been made to feel as though you/your work is illegitimate as a result of your identity?
PD: In the design world specifically, you can see the same type of person working in studios. I like to call them “design bros”; white straight men who pose with their arms crossed and wear Warby Parker glasses. These types of people exist a lot in small studios and they’re the type of people I’m very wary of when I look for places to work with. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from my former classmates of workplace harassment for being a female and as a result, I try to not show my face alongside my work because I fear that that’ll influence people’s opinions about me.
R: In your “Art on Link: People of the NYC Subway” series, you convey the many faces and fashions of those seen on public transit. What have you learned from observing so many unique and interesting people? Do you ever speak to your subjects? If not, what do you think they would say if you did?
PD: I think what I’ve learned is that I gotta get out of New York! Everyone here has their own schedule and I doubt they would be interested in speaking to me about much. But I do have to say that some of those characters are inspired by my designer friend — the “Best Dressed” character is my friend Evelyn, who I love dearly and always has amazing shoes on.
R: How have your past experiences as a student at Parsons School of Design, and working at Nickelodeon and Black and Black Creative, influenced your work now at Refinery29?
PD: The way I approached all of those internships was in a very unafraid way. I wanted to try as many things as possible before I settled in one job and that definitely paid off. Here at Refinery29 I do a lot of different projects ranging from production work, illustration, web design, [and] print, and I think that working in all of those different places gave me a thicker skin. I’m unafraid of failing and I owe it to the great people I’ve worked with.
R: What is the most exciting part about your current position at R29? The most grueling/difficult?
PD: The most exciting part I would say is with the willingness to try something new and the fearlessness in which they let us approach a project. [The] most grueling [aspects] are clients and revisions; revisions are always grueling.
R: What advice would you give to recent graduates seeking to work as creatives in a largely corporate world? What skills have you found necessary to navigate this industry?
PD: GUYS! Do NOT focus on something specific in college! Try everything and anything if you’re studying design. Do your THANG but also do another completely different THANG! I used to hand-letter on the side to pass the time, and that got me the Nickelodeon internship, so don’t be afraid to not have a style or to be lost in design styles for awhile. It pays off!
Art by Paola Delucca. Originally published in ROCKET Volume IX, Issue 1.