Artist in Residence: Nina Palomba
Virgin Hotels x BucketFeet Collective
Drawing inspiration from comic books and cutesy cartoons like Betty Boop, artist Nina Palomba has merged the real world and the cartoon fantasies to create whimsical street art, that has become a solid fixture in the Chicago street art scene. We liked her right from the beginning, a) because she rocked a pair of her own hand painted BucketFeet shoes to our interview and b) her euphoric happiness is apparent in all of her incredibly hip masterpieces.
Based on polled votes, one piece was selected to be the inspiration for a new shoe designed by Palmoba for BucketFeet.
Thanks for voting! LOVE DRUG was the winner by a slim margin!!
Virgin Hotels: We’re so excited to be working with you in Chicago! Where are you originally from?
Nina Palomba: Born and raised in the Wild West, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
When did you start painting?
I first learned how to paint when I was a little kid. Painting has always been something I am really passionate about. I’ve moved through watercolor, oil and now into acrylic and spray paint. I’ve always painted. My painting style and technique have evolved over many years now.
What is being an Artist in Chicago like? Is it a generally creative community?
Being an artist in Chicago is very inspiring and exciting. It’s an amazingly creative place and really pushes you to work hard. I love that it’s competitive but at the same time extremely welcoming. I’ve been fortunate to have my work grow here while building a creative community of my own. Chicago makes it easy to stay driven and be fearless in making.
What neighborhoods draw the most inspiration for your pieces?
All neighborhoods draw inspiration. No matter where I am there is always something unique I can find that is worth taking a photo or mental note of. It’s always the smallest things that catch my eye, like a sign or old toy in a window. Nothing particular to a type of building or area, just things that draw my attention.
Would you consider your work graffiti art?
I would not consider my work graffiti simply because it isn’t vandalism. My murals are painted with permission and most the time approved mock ups.
What is the story behind the Virgin Hotels Chicago pieces?
The two paintings on canvas tell a story of asking someone your swooning over on a date. The sweet gesture of giving and receiving a love note appears often in my work. I wanted to make this gesture the main emphasis of the duo. The four piece series speak to one another, playing off of each other’s emotions. The paintings are a progression of feelings that work through the challenges of life. Each saying is accompanied by a character experiencing an extreme emotion. I think Virgin Hotels and my work are aligned through our charismatic spirit and through our efforts to bring joy to people we encounter.
What inspired you as you created them?
As most my work, my day to day inspires me to create. The sayings came to my mind several times recently, so I decided to turn them into pieces. The love notes are always in the back of my mind as well. Being someone very in love and in love with romance, I enjoy love stories and making sweet narratives that inspire hearts in people’s eyes. Generally, I am inspired by my daily experiences. My cast of characters are inspired by family and friends. The stories are the adventures life throws my way.
Favorite piece in this show is probably the main feature “Love Drug,” the dinner scene. It is definitely a break through piece in several ways and I’m excited to see it in the space.
Do you listen to any music while you paint? What’s on your playlist?
While working I do listen to music but not always. I love pop, so I’m typically jamming out to anything that makes me move. My playlists are all over the place. You can find anything on them ranging from Gaga to Phyllis Dillion to Spice Girls to Pink Floyd. That just depends on my mood and what kind of day I am having.
Typical day in the life of Nina? How do you relax?
Typical day in the life of Nina, well, there is always something and not much relaxing. No day is the same, which is the best part. Weekly mornings are spent planning the day, getting coffee and getting to work. Murals, paintings, projects, computer work or sketching takes up most the day mixed with errands, food and emails. Evenings are finishing up outdoor work, dinner, and depending on the night assisting my fiancé’ Miss Tosh in her performances. Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated to family time and adventures. Throw some sudden traveling in there and trips to the gas station and that pretty much sums it up. There isn’t much relaxing in there, I love what I do and how crazy it gets.
Where do you go for drinks? Favorite spot?
Favorite drink spot would have to be Headquarters in Chicago. I’m not much of a drinker but do enjoy a good cocktail while out with my Fiancée or a couple beers with my friends. I love playing pinball and am always up for a Tetris challenge, that place has definitely become a favorite for me. Especially since they have Police Trainer.
What if you had to paint with one medium for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I had to paint with one medium from now till forever I would choose spray paint. I am still learning a lot about it and the technique. It’s been a really great challenge as well as a great tool for me because I tend to work really fast. Murals are my favorite so to be able to paint big toons forever would be amazing, and hopefully will be.
You have a really cool fashion sense! Does your art inspire your day-to-day fashion or vice versa?
Oh wow thank you! My art does influence my clothes and vice versa, absolutely. Often times my toons are wearing the clothes I have designed it my favorite things. I love sporting my work and have always made shirts. I’ve been rocking my mural company’s shirts a lot lately, so my characters are too. Lots of black t-shirts, lots of hats, white shoes, paint everywhere.
What comes first the chicken or the egg? Speaking in terms of art, does an idea of the art come first or do you just start painting?Depending on the piece or project, both the chicken and the egg can come at the same time. Most personal work I make is off the top of my head and really evolves and develops once I start painting. I have a very intuitive process so most times I have no concrete idea of what the work will actually turn out to be. This has made creating really exciting and special. On the other hand, I work off of sketches and start with a simple idea and develop it from there. Murals are a different ball game because to have to ensure my proportions will look correct. If it is a bigger production I’ll have mocks and sketches and a plan. On smaller walls or quick ones I’ll just wing it or pull from existing work.
What is your favorite cartoon?
Favorite cartoon ever is Betty Boop.