Maria Delvs: 2019 Grant Winner
Maria Delvs is a newcomer to L.A., but certainly not to the art scene. The daughter of an oil painter, Delvs’ first memories as an artist began in her childhood home in Miami, Florida.
“I've always drawn on everything. I remember drawing on the outside of my house with crayons and getting yelled at by my parents. I think there's still a drawing I did inside the closet at my mother’s house. I learned how to experiment with styles at home because she always had paint and different materials around.”
In high school, Delvs became intrigued by graffiti art. “I met graffiti artists and was amazed at the speed they had. That really changed a lot for me.”
“The best thing about being an artist is channeling myself through my hands.”
Delvs’ decided that she might be able to work as a professional artist when a co-worker at a make-up counter took her drawing out of the garbage, smoothed out the wrinkles, and asked if she could keep it.
“I think that was the one moment where I was like – wow, I think I can do this for a living. I think people really like this stuff!”
“I want women to look at those characters and feel good about having all those lumps and bumps and curves and colors.”
When asked what she most wants to say with her art, Delvs says her art is “mostly for women. I feel like women are so worried about the color of their skin, the size of their breasts, the way they look. I mostly draw female characters that are kind of cartoony and they have big hips, big stomachs, big, big breasts. I try to make them in your face – just bold and bright. I want women to look at those characters and feel good about having all those lumps and bumps and curves and colors. I don't understand why people focus so much on the outer shell and pay little to no attention to what's going on inside.”
“Nowadays, people define their happiness by what they have, or what somebody admires about them, but they don't find happiness in what they admire about themselves. And now with social media, people value others opinions so much more now. If you have followers, then people will sponsor you. Society really does revolve around what people think and people are all worried about that. I think that’s terrible. I think people need to find happiness in the little things.”
The Process and the Critical Voice
Delvs grapples with her own critical voice and finds that having a mentor really helps. “I think mentors are necessary because as an artist, you're always so critical of your own work. You never appreciate your growth or notice the major moments where your art starts changing or taking a different shape.
“To this day, I can't hang my own art in my house because I tear it apart. I just start nitpicking it apart. I think mentors are really important for artists not just to learn about the art, but to support you.”
Delvs often paints with a group when she’s working on a mural and describes her style as vocal and honest. “The whole time, I'm just like, ‘This is so ugly! Oh my God, look at this.’ Because I basically use a bunch of colors and at the end, I outline everything in black. So until I get to a point where everything is defined and held within those black lines, I am just hating life! It is so stressful. I’m grinding my teeth. It's like the world's coming to an end and then the minute I put a couple of black lines on, I'm like – okay, it's not that bad. I mean, I have to laugh.”
On discovering that she’d won the Not Real Art grant, Delvs says, “I was so happy. I couldn't believe it! I was like – what, I won money?! It’s amazing when somebody reposts your artwork or mentions you or buys one of your pieces, because like I said, this is stuff I used to throw in the garbage. It's like a little fuel to keep going.
“Art is just something I have to do. It’s like, you wake up every morning and you have to go pee. For artists, you wake up and you have to make something. To have someone repost or even buy your stuff when it’s something you just have to do, it’s –“
Delvs pauses there and shifts gears to share her thoughts on what the toughest challenge is for artists today – monetizing their talent.
“When I decided to leave my son's father, I had to support myself. People would buy pieces from me here and there. But like I said, I didn't find value in what I was doing, so it would go something like, ‘Oh, you want this? Sure. 20 bucks.’ Because it was something I was throwing in the trash anyways.
“People don't see what we do as work. It looks easy because I've been doing it all my life. I do it fast. I've been doing it for 20 years. It's hard to show them that they're getting a deal. It is a constant thing for artists, whether it's a canvas or an illustration or a logo, or even a design for a tee-shirt. I mean, they want to know the value of your work, but when it comes to paying, they devalue it and just keep stripping it away. I feel like they're shopping and they could take stuff out of the cart. This isn’t Target!”
When Delvs isn’t feeling the creative vibe, she turns to music and comedy for inspiration. “I can relate to them so much. They have so much to say. They’re two very honest art forms. So that's where I get my creative juices flowing.”
The Best Thing About Being an Artist
“The best thing about being an artist is channeling myself through my hands. You can't buy that. You can't make that. Nobody can take that from you. No matter what you have or don’t have financially, you always have that.”