Dinara Mirtalipova grew up viewing art as a way to relax, a hobby to indulge in whenever there was downtime.
Born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Dinara was encouraged by her parents to explore her creative side – to draw, embroider, play an instrument, to write. When it came time to go to college, Dinara chose Computer Science as her field of study, before moving to the United States.
It was there that she realized her true calling was in making art. She took a temporary seasonal job at a greeting card company, helping cut out shapes for templates. That seasonal job transformed her whole life; she worked there for several years, moving from one department to another as she learned to file construction, scan, silkscreen, calligraphy, paper engineering, finishings, and so many more skills.
When her daughter, Sabrina, was born, she decided to take the leap and start a career on her own in art licensing. Now, she works as a designer and illustrator in Ohio.
We sat down with Dinara to discuss her creative process, where she goes for inspiration, and her Moleskine Studio Notebook.
When was the first time you remember feeling inspired by art?
When I was little, TV offered very limited options, there were maybe only two or three channels and most of the time it was something too boring for a child – like a news channel, a talk show or a weather channel. So as a little kid I loved reading books about heroes with superpowers and mythical creatures, spooky stories and mysteries. So often those books came with amazing pictures that captivated my attention and provoked my imagination. I remember tracing some of them and then coloring my drawings with color pencils. Throughout my school years that habit of drawing (or doodling) basically rescued me from boredom. I grew up in the Soviet school system, where discipline was rewarded, so the only way to survive through those long monotone lectures was to sit and doodle on every back page in my textbook. My notepad was covered in drawings.
Imagine you could time travel and give yourself one piece of advice when you were just starting out. What would you say?
I would say get sleep and do more yoga! When I was younger I took my body for granted and because I have always been so passionate about drawing – there were moments when I could draw for days and nights in a row and not getting enough sleep. Over the years it’s caused me some shoulder pain and insomnia.
But when it comes to professional advice – I think I would stay silent and let my younger self make the mistakes I made, because that was all part of my learning journey and it helped me build my personality. It’s important to fail and I don’t think the goal is to avoid failure; the goal is to learn how to bounce right back up and keep going.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s an old Russian saying that my mom loves to repeat: “Eyes fear, but hands do the job.” It means that sometimes our eyes tend to fool us into thinking that the job is harder than it actually is and only by showing up and moving one brick at a time can we get through it. Every time I feel intimidated or afraid of a bigger project, or something that is more challenging or beyond my abilities I like to repeat this saying to myself.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Inspiration is a funny thing – it’s not an item that you can go and get, it’s an abstract force that visits you when you least expect it. And, from my experience, it usually hits you at your busiest times, or when you’re in bed all tired and ready to fall asleep, or when you’re driving and can’t grab a pencil to sketch it out. Inspiration is a vision, it’s a collective impression of your life experiences, it’s an imprint of the places you visit, songs you listen to, books you read, and movies you watch.
What do you do to work through a creative block?
I view the “creative block” situation more like a Mario Game. It’s not really a block, it’s more like you’re at the last point of your level and now you need to make an extra effort to move up to the next level that is slightly above your current skills. It means that it’s beyond your comfort zone and to get there you simply need to somehow expand your comfort zone, to stretch it, and to make room for more thoughts.
The more you do something that scares you – the better you get at it. When working on ideas, the first five or ten are probably the cliché, and only after a few rounds of thinking it’s possible to achieve that “aha” moment that many creatives write about.
What are your favorite tools?
I think of myself as a traditional artist – meaning I still use brushes and paints to create my work. There are a few simple and basic tools that I always come back to, I call them my “working horses.” In my work I use gouache, cotton paper, pencils, and inks. In my free time I like experimenting with tools that are unknown to me. When I visit my local craft store, I like getting something that I haven’t tried before. Luckily we live in a world that is fully interesting and different art techniques! I enjoy signing up for workshops and classes that teach new techniques and help you experiment and try new tricks.
What are you using your Moleskine for today?
I have been a fan of Moleskine notebooks for many years now. I admit they are pricier than most notebooks, but the quality is absolutely outstanding, the papers are well-made, and the pages are well bound. I also appreciate the range of notebooks that Moleskine offers these days – you can find notebooks with thicker paper that are created specifically for gouache and watercolors, there are thinner and lighter notebooks that are perfect for traveling, there are even fun formats for your creative experiments like funky folded accordion notebooks. Currently I’m using a larger size Moleskine (8.5 x 11.75) to play with cutting out shapes and collaging. The pages are filling up quite fast. I often share my process on my Instagram account.
How did you evolve your designs into a line of products?
I grew up in a very ethnic traditional environment that was packed with patterns of all sorts – the clothing, home décor, essential household items – everything was very ornate and full of details and bright colors. I think subconsciously that childhood experience made a big impact on my taste. I am absolutely obsessed with patterns and ornamental designs. It was only a matter of figuring out the technical part of turning a painted artwork into a continuous repeat pattern and I felt like designing wallpapers, textiles and gift wraps.
What has been your greatest challenge as a designer/illustrator?
For me the greatest challenge is to know when to stop or to take a break. My little studio is in fact my giant world and once I’m in there, I don’t feel the time passing. Just very recently I’ve been trying to make great efforts to exercise more. To do that, I need to go to bed earlier. And going to bed earlier is the hardest thing ever – because once I’m in my art zone, it’s really hard to stop playing.
There are so many projects I want to accomplish. I love working on children’s books and stories and I am always open to fun collaborations, so carving out time is the most challenging thing at the moment.
Your work has a beautiful nostalgic quality to it, and I wonder if that’s intentional, and how you think about nostalgia as you create?
Growing up I was surrounded by folklore, colorful textiles, ethnic songs, and storytelling. But it wasn’t until I immigrated and until my daughter was born that I realized how much I missed it all. When my daughter was a baby I began singing to her some of the songs from my childhood, reading to her some of the stories I grew up with and somewhere deep in my heart my nostalgia was awakened and came pouring onto paper through my paint brush. I often hear comments that my work reminds people of their childhood or of their grandparents, and it makes me so happy to hear that. The purpose of art is to provoke emotions in people, to make them react and feel.
How would you like to see people use your Moleskine Studio Notebook? Feel free to provide a creative prompt!
You can explore the collage technique. It’s not hard at all and the main point is to have fun with it! All you need is glue and scissors. The rest – you can probably find in your trash can. I love combining packaging labels, stamps, textured papers, newspaper cutouts, magazine or catalogs cutouts. I like combining ink with paper shapes and doodle all over it. I also like cutting out people’s heads from newspapers or magazines and finishing their bodies; if it sounds too creepy – you’ll see it’s actually a lot fun.