INTERVIEW by Leticia Nguyen PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Daniela Garreton

Whether illustrating burly, bearded seadogs or giving sea creatures humanistic qualities, Chilean-born artist Daniela Garreton is all about seeking new ways in which she can convey her deep-rooted fascination with the ocean.

Tell us a bit about your humble beginnings…
I grew up in Chile, a country that has more than 4000km of coastline. As a child I would spend hours in the sea, collecting shells, stones, swimming and fishing in my grandpa’s small boat. I grew up feeling a great respect and admiration for the ocean. Art was a big part of my life too; both my parents are designers so my house was always full of pencils, markers and papers. My mum would always encourage us to be creative and to express ourselves through drawing and art. It was only a matter of time until my two passions collided.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist?
Since I can remember I was very determined to study a profession that involved a lot of drawing, so I studied design and worked as a designer for a few years until I realised that what I really wanted to do was illustration and art. My husband was the first to encourage me to pursue my artistic path and he’s been supporting me all the way.
Which 3 words would you use to best describe your art?
Mysterious, intense, nostalgic.

Your pieces are clearly driven by your love of the ocean. What is it about the ocean that inspires you and gives you the impetus to feature it so prominently in your art?
The ocean is what drives me…it’s where I get all the inspiration I need. Whenever I submerge myself in the sea, I come out with this amazing energy that moves me to create. It’s the only place where I feel totally free, where I clear my mind and I’m 100% in the present…it’s very therapeutic. I’ve always been struck by the creative power of the ocean and I am fascinated by that vast blue surface that hides so many creatures and mysteries underneath. I think through my art I try to celebrate the sea and all individuals who feel this utter love and respect for our oceans and are aware and awake of the immense value it has in our lives.

You mostly work with pencils and acrylics on paper and wood. What is it about your media that appeals to you?
I like the control of working with pencil and markers and I find interesting using wood as a canvas because it adds a lot of texture and depth to the piece.

Is there a particular medium that you would like to try in future? I would like to try everything! I think it’s important to push your limits and to experiment with all kinds of material so you find out which ones you can express yourself with best, but in the near future I want to experiment with grabado (etchings).

“Sometimes you put too much of your head into an idea—too much thinking, too much analysing and that’s when you get blocked. You should just DO, don’t wait until the perfect ‘concept’ comes to your mind”.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of what you do?
I guess making a living out of it. It takes a lot of self-discipline, a lot of door knocking, hard work, contacting galleries, magazines, blogs, etc. You have to do everything for yourself and just be out there and spread the word.

Do you ever get ‘artist’s’ block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Yes, all the time! I think it’s part of being an artist to constantly doubt yourself. Whenever I get a block, I go out. I walk barefoot in the beach and try to be really awake and aware of new things that can inspire me. I try to travel as much as I can, which is one of the best ways to get inspired and to find new amazing things. I also read a lot and always have my ‘creative bible’ always next to me. It’s a book by Alan Fletcher called The Art of Looking Sideways. It’s an awesome book about art, design and looking at life differently—just keeping your mind open and always being interested in knowing more. I think the more ideas you materialise, the more new ideas will come. And the more you create, the faster the process of perception-conception-expression is.

You moved to San Sebastian in 2010. What prompted you to make the decision to relocate and how has SS influenced your evolution as an artist and the works you create?
I think SS is the perfect mix of a cultural and maritime city. We wanted to live in a place where we could surf and be close to the ocean, but also be in a city that is culturally exciting. It was here where I joined my two loves…the sea and art. I started nurturing myself with the rich Basque maritime culture, I would breathe the salty air everyday, go in the water and just be amazed at the energy the ocean gave me. It was something very instinctive for me to capture these feelings in my art.
Do you set yourself any particular ‘goals’ that you strive to achieve with each piece?
Not really…it’s a very personal and instinctive process. I just let myself go in the particular energy a certain idea has and express my inner world and vision of it. I think the more emotion you put in a piece, the easier is for people to feel something and to react to it. With some pieces I develop a really strong emotional bond and normally these are the ones people connect with the most.

If there were no limitations to what you could do, what would you create?
I would make a giant vacuum that would suck all the plastic from the ocean and I would love to have gills.

Besides the ocean, where else do you draw inspiration?
The ocean is definitely the main force, but also I’m influenced by other creative expressions. I really like Wes Anderson films, specially The Life Aquatic (I know…still oceanic) and some artists like Yoku Shimizu and the spiritual approach Kandinsky had about art and color. When I was young I was really struck by ‘concerning the spiritual in art’ more than the mystic side of it. It was realising that you could convey and express a lot through art, that it wasn’t just colors or lines…art itself can be a deep and strong message.

If you could do the artwork for a band or musician of your choice, who would you choose?
Pearl Jam. I like the band’s philosophy, their music and the fact that Eddie is a waterman.

In a relatively short time, you have been involved in several exhibitions and even a couple of collaborations. What has been a significant highlight for you so far?
I think the Poseidon surfboard was really a highlight. It was the first time a big brand like Rip Curl approached me. It was pretty exciting and they gave me absolute creative freedom.

What has been the best artistic advice anyone has given you?
I like this quote from Warhol: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Sometimes you put too much of your head into an idea—too much thinking, too much analysing and that’s when you get blocked. You should just DO, don’t wait until the perfect ‘concept’ comes to your mind…just draw.

What are some of your artistic aspirations for the future?
I would love to be able to live solely from my art…that’s every artists dream! This year I have some collabs planned, I’m working with a really nice new Basque brand called “Bask in the Sun” and I would love to have some exhibitions abroad. As long as I’m able to keep drawing and people enjoy what I do, I’m happy.

Head here to check out more of Daniela’s work.