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Carmen Deñó on Staying Connected Through Art

The Hispanic/Latinx community finds strength in their similarities as well as their differences. In honor of Hispanic/Latinx heritage month, we’re sharing stories of community members who have used their voice to advocate for visibility, change, and representation of every identity.

Originally from the Dominican Republic and now living in France, illustrator and graphic designer Carmen Deñó defines herself as an “image maker.” We spoke to Carmen about her creative process, her cultural influences, and how she infuses her work with a sense of inclusivity. 

SQUARESPACE: When did you discover your love of art and illustration?

Carmen Deñó: This will probably sound cliché, but I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I just never really stopped. Drawing has always helped: sometimes to disconnect from the outside noise while connecting with myself, other times to process and interpret what goes on around me. Even though I have dipped my toes in several areas of creative expression and from time to time love to move out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with another medium, I definitely feel closest to illustration and its process. It’s where I feel home.

SQSP: When it comes to your own creative process, how do you typically begin a new project?

CD: A new project usually begins with words on pencil and paper. Doing word association and small thumbnails before sketching helps me clear everything out.

SQSP: How does your heritage and your identity influence your work, if at all?

CD: The bright, loud colors of Caribbean architecture have definitely been an influence. There are also recurring symbols I tend to gravitate to, that definitely bring me back to the Dominican Republic. Palm trees, the sun, beaches, waves, the occasional stray dog, Black and mixed race characters show up very often in my illustrations.

SQSP: You’ve done a ton of work for a number of different brands. How do you incorporate your own personal style and taste into a piece of branded artwork? 

CD: You know, for a long time that was an issue that worried me a lot and made me very self conscious. Style consistency and making pieces that are recognizable while simultaneously trying to experiment and grow from those experiments can sound contradictory. The more I worried about it, the more apprehensive I felt before starting a new commission.  In the end I just came to terms with the fact that I simply cannot escape myself, even when I’m trying out something new “to spice things up,” or “to bring something fresh to the table" my love for expressive lines, subtle textures and keeping things very flat always make the cut.

SQSP: What do you hope people take away after viewing your work?

CD: I really do hope people can identify or see themselves reflected in the images I create. I may come from a small half island in the Caribbean, but the human experience, in all its complexity, is universal. The more I travel, the more I meet people from different cultural backgrounds, the more I realize that though we may have our differences, we have so much more in common than the things that separate us or set us apart. We are all connected.

Learn more about Carmen and her work by visiting her website. Ready to showcase your own creative side? Get started today with a Squarespace portfolio.

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