Every month, the Pacific Northwest’s next generation of great artists puts their spin on the ThinkNW logo. Tacoma-based independent illustrator and graphic designer, Kayla Dunham-Torres, shares her journey to an outstanding interpretation.
How did you initially want to approach your interpretation of the ThinkNW logo?
The two things that were most important to me to keep in mind as I approached the logo were both ThinkNW’s mission and my integrity as an illustrator. While I love the blue mountains, towering trees, and crisp ocean as much as the next PNW local, I’ve always been a bit more of a people watcher. Most of my art is inspired by this fascination with what makes people unique and what draws them together. Tattoos have always portrayed the intersection of individualism and community very well—I knew I could encapsulate my love for the Pacific Northwest in this way.
How did the direction in designing the ThinkNW logo evolve/change over time?
My idea was about a tattooed figure right from the start. The struggle was to decide the more minor details: the figure, the pose, the tattoos, etc. These evolving particulars are what really brought the logo to life.
What are some of the specific elements in the ThinkNW logo design that you feel are unique/cool/fun?
An aspect of my art that has consistently stood out to me and others is my love for a limited color palette. Throughout school, I was teased, by those who noticed, that I had a tendency to use the same three colors over and over again. But I know what I love to create and what works, so why should I betray that because of others’ opinions? In this image, I flexed my token palette and allowed it to guide the piece’s overall tone. This limited palette perfectly fits traditional-style tattoos and worked well with the composition to translate my vision onto the page.
When did you know that art was something that you wanted to pursue?
I was drawing before I could even write my name. Pictures, colors, and shapes came easier to me than anything else. As I grew, I found that my art helped me express and process my emotions and thoughts and gave others a vessel to express themselves in a way they couldn’t find the words for on their own.
In the house I grew up in, my love for art and the future I wanted to take with it weren’t supported. But, like all creatives, I am not one to allow that to stop me. So I made the future I wanted for myself with the support of those that had faith in me. I guess you could say art has always been my life.
What are the biggest inspirations in your art (i.e., people, places, things)?
Like many other artists, I draw inspiration from my own life. The people, experiences, and good/bad that came with it all can be found in the works I create. I like to say I’ve lived a long life despite being on the younger end of my twenties. Yet, this long life brought me the most inspiration for my artwork.
Do you think that you have a style? If so, how would you describe it? If not, why is that?
By others, my style has been described as “urban,” “punk,” and “gritty.” And while those words definitely describe my work style, they don’t touch the subject of my work. You could say there is a significant contrast between my artistic style and the subject matter of what I like to create.
Mostly, I try to make my artwork inclusive of the queer community: depicting love, emotion, and small slices of life. I’ve been a sucker for romance most of my life. The swell of music before the first kiss,
the shared looks only two people can know, and the giggles and laughs spilled over nonsense are frequently a topic of my artwork. I’d say that my style portrays this romance in a way that feels authentic to me in a way that fluffy pink doesn’t.
What is most important to you when expressing your art?
When creating art, the most important thing to me is being true to myself. Honesty in art is essential to me, and I never want to compromise my identity for profit, approval, or anything else. Everything I create is something I genuinely believe is an honest reflection of myself and how I view the world.
Where do you feel your art is going next?
While I can’t predict the future of my art, all I can hope is I make the impact I always wished for. Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to do was good. Today, that mission has remained strong, only expanded into the art realm. As an artist and designer, I wish to create works for people, companies, and organizations composed of good people and ideals. I want to get up every morning and be excited and proud of what I do as a creative human being.