Ánimo Voices Writing and Art competition named Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School student Elizabeth Martinez as one of three art winners in the 6th annual arts competition. For Martinez, this year’s Animo Voices’ theme, ‘About Joy,’ came with many reflections on individual and collective sparks of joy to lift her and others’ spirits to get through difficult times. Through her creative process , she came up with inspiration for her winning piece, “Universal Joy,” and the motivation that helped her continue making art.Recently, we interviewed Martinez, who shared her experience competing in Ánimo Voices, her inspirations for art, and what she sees in her future.
Q: Where do you feel most comfortable painting?
A: I'm more comfortable with– not cramped up—but closed-off spaces. I like working from my bed or the couch. Most of the time, I spend all-nighters, with a bit of light just inking and stuff. As long as I have the music, it feels nice. It feels boring if you're in silence, or I'll get distracted. I procrastinate and will get on my phone, and it will feel like a chore, but as long as I have music, I will feel more concentrated. Music brings the vibe, but if you're in silence, it feels a bit awkward. At home. I have a front porch, I paint there sometimes, I have sunlight, and there are plants outside too. It's a vibe.
How do you start a drawing piece?
Most of the time, I just wing it. I do a sketch, which becomes a drawing from the sketch. This one (Ánimo Voice's winning piece) was like a small idea from my dream. It comes from being at peace with myself. I would start doing sketches, like tiny thumbnails or even just an illustration of how I want it to look visually, and then I added on from there. I have a sketch in my sketchbook of what it looks like.
What are some central themes of joy within your piece?
It's about childhood imagination. My mind is so busy in all the places, so the one thing that would bring me joy is small memories from when I was little because I can't recall too much when I was happy. My artist's statement uses childhood and nostalgia to protect me from the real world. I want to keep going. I want to be satisfied.
The ponies reflect my childhood. As a child, I would always watch My Little Pony. I didn't have cable, so watching it changed my personality. I would talk about it with friends, who stayed with me until middle school. Even now, I like it [ takes out a My little pony keychain from her backpack]. Having a positive mindset in my head is what made me happy.
As for the cats, I am dependent on them– my cat Bella gave birth one day while I was in school. I teared up seeing all the kittens. I told myself I would keep working hard for her and her kittens. My drive right now is to keep pushing through for when I get another cat. I will have the money to support her.
How did you start making art? What has motivated you to continue making art?
I started in elementary school, but every kid does. But I didn't stop. I got more interested when I got my first manga book, Soul Eater. I would copy the drawings. From there, I wanted to create my characters and discover my style. I would find tutorials on anatomy and character design. I'm mostly self-taught but learned realism and anatomy through an art program.
Last year, my art teacher (Rachel Kopera) provided us with a semester-long program. We had life models, and I learned how to draw anatomy because you had a teacher there. They taught us skills, how to think of body parts as this kind of shape or food. They used food as a reference for other body parts so that we could think of simple shapes.
Why do you think sharing personal stories within your art is important?
It's your drive to create because sometimes, when I'm drawing, I question why I am drawing. You can draw for fun, but if you want to make it your life, you must find your why. Find out what you want to create because art should have meaning. If you don't have a purpose, then you don't have skill– anything can look nice, but art has meaning. For my portfolio, I find meaning in discussing struggles with a Latin household and generational trauma. I want to talk about it because most people make jokes and accept these struggles as cultural things, but it's like your life and affects your future. That is why I continue to make art.
How do you see art being part of your future?
Well, I want to be a teacher. That's what I want to do. I want to help others find their drive and how they perceive life. With my art, I draw people's struggles, and I want to create for the sake of others, so they can visually see the kind of struggles that they go through and know they are seen and understood.
What is a lesson learned from joining Ánimo Voice Writing and Art competition?
I am glad I joined because every artist wants to discuss conflict and struggle. But this year's theme made me push through what was comfortable, and I was pushing through to understand that my struggles are temporary, but it reminded me that even the smallest things are joyful. Last year, I joined, and I didn't win. I never even made it to our school's selected pieces. I cried and felt terrible, but I kept pushing through again. I accepted the rejection and kept going.