It's hard to find a spot that feels out of place in Nayeli Lavanderos' works.
Nayeli's style somehow feels delicate and punchy at the same time, striking that perfect balance between fragility and confidence which makes her art so attractive to the eye. Perhaps, her art works so well because it is a reflection of her spirit: once afraid of the unknown, Nayeli has learned to step out of her comfort zone and embrace novelty, pushing boundaries to find a new part of herself every day.
For this Member Spotlight, we've had the chance to chat with a passionate, confident artist who developed enough strength to make admirable and bold choices in life. An aspect of her character which is certainly reflected in the beauty of her art.
How did you get into the industry?
After studying a BA in graphic design I fell in love with 2D animation and decided to pursue a career in this field. I went on to complete an MA at Savannah College of Art and Design and moved to NYC to search for work opportunities. My initial focus was to score a full-time position at a studio but I kept getting hired for freelance gigs. Having very little work experience, the freelance world was initially very challenging, but I loved the variety of projects I was exposed to, collaborating with different people, and the overall flexibility it gave me.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
After being in the industry for 7 years in NYC, I felt burnt out and longed for a radical change. I slowly began to shift gears and opened myself to mostly remote work. I knew I wanted to leave NY but I also wanted to be smart and prepared when the time came.
Even though many companies are hesitant to hire remote freelancers I felt this would eventually change over time. Soon after, my dog and I made the big move to Lisbon, Portugal.
This has been my base for the past year while working with US-based clients. Even though the adjustment of being fully remote in a foreign country has created a new set of challenges, I couldn’t be happier to be in this city. In hindsight, I’ve realized this change has not only opened a whole new world of possibilities but also created a lifestyle that’s more aligned with my priorities, values, and purpose.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
Since I was young I have always loved and felt very connected to animals and nature. I thought about being a marine biologist but wasn’t too keen on studying biology. Now that I’ve been a vegetarian/vegan for the past 12 years I find it fascinating to learn about food, nutrition, and experimenting with plant-based recipes. I would probably delve more into this world, write a blog, create content and videos to build awareness about the benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Can you explain your creative process?
It really depends on the project but typically I begin with visual research and brainstorming ideas. If the budget allows it, I really enjoy diving in, taking my time, and being open to any possible diversions in this phase. I find this experimentation makes a difference in establishing a unique voice that fits the client's needs. It’s easy to go with the first few ideas but I try to push myself to take new approaches. I then create a mood board with different design styles which lead to a set of boards and style frames.
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
Technology has been incredibly important in facilitating my passion for living abroad by providing all the necessary tools to manage projects remotely while connecting with many people around the globe. I could potentially be working from anywhere in the world that has access to a reliable and fast wifi connection.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Try new things. When I lived in NY I rarely had the time and energy to try new things but in my last years, I began to travel solo. I went to Kenya, Tanzania, Nepal and a new world began to unfold.
I became more confident and my priorities began to shift. It’s easy to get trapped in the “motion graphics bubble” but that only creates a very narrow vision and perspective of the world. Since I moved to Lisbon I have pushed myself constantly to take a leap into the unknown, even though it can sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve made it a point to try something new every week. The more you do it the better it gets. I’ve found these experiences have opened new and unexpected doors.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
Shortly after moving to Lisbon, I was approached by Google to collaborate with the amazing artist Steve Spencer and animate a doodle honoring BB King’s 94th birthday. I felt incredibly honored to be a part of this project. It was all done remotely and the collaboration between all of us was very fun.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I have a morning routine which has helped me release stress and get fully energized throughout the day. I go for morning runs, to the gym, walk my dog to the park and eat a healthy breakfast.
When possible I add a mini morning meditation, otherwise, I do it at night. Since I work from home I try to take breaks in between. Having a dog also helps. I feel very grateful I no longer have to eat within 30 min in front of a computer.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
I’m still learning and experimenting along the way but I would say the most important things are: put yourself out there, constantly reach out to companies, optimise your portfolio with your best work and continue perfecting your skills.
I was never taught marketing and business skills at school which is so important in this profession. There is so much incredible talent out there and the only way you will get known is to constantly reach out to companies. If you have identified your niche and know what and how to communicate your value, this will already give you a big head start. This business is constantly changing and you need to be ready to adapt to its fluctuation.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
The industry can be quite callous at times, expecting people to work long hours and nights regardless of the situation. I really disliked feeling like a machine. When you are young you might not mind those endless hours but after working for a while in the industry it begins to take a toll.
I hope for a more “human” industry which partakes in providing quality of life.