Illustrator Dina Razin celebrates femininity and women empowerment in her beautifully bold and colourful depictions of strong, culturally diverse women. Dina shares with us how growing up in a predominantly male household has shaped her as a female. We also discuss the strong link between women and nature; how nature connects us to the art of creation, reproduction and renewal. Dina shares the reality of being an artist, businesswoman, and mum of two whilst working full-time – turning to art as a form of yoga which brings relaxation and positivity to her life.
At the end of the day, vulnerable experiences make us stronger.
Your work is so vibrant and culturally diverse, can you tell us about the influences behind your work.
Usually, influences come from your inner self or outside environment and for me they go hand in hand. I come from a diverse environment, I am half Syrian and half Iraqy, and I am married to someone who is half Russian and half Maldovan. I feel like I have half of the world living in my household! I grew up with my mum’s culture and my dad’s culture and in my opinion, the world is more beautiful when it’s diverse; diversity brings out the best in people. Travel also influences my work, I love experiencing different cultures and visiting different countries. I would say I am mostly influenced by the Spanish culture and architecture.
How do you like to work? Can you share your creative process with us
I used to work from photos I had taken of people and nature, but then my style took a different direction where I would get inspired by people in my life. Sometimes, the characters in my work are inspired by idols I have met, especially women who influence my life, for example I can see my mother and some good friends there. But honestly, when I draw a character I don’t necessarily have a person in mind, I just got for it. It will either turn out as something I like or I forget the whole project.
For Breast Cancer Awareness month last year in October I created a piece which is partly based on my mum, she is a survivor of Breast Cancer. I am proud of her because this was a big vulnerability that she had to face. A lot of people commented on how she was dressed up with make up etc but for me this was how I looked at my mum during this experience: strong and beautiful and proud of her journey. At the end of the day, vulnerable experiences make us stronger.
There is definitely a connection between women and nature: the art of creation, reproduction and renewal.
Women empowerment appears to be an important message in your work, why are you drawn to portraying women?
I grew up with three brothers and I have always felt like I had a unique experience growing up in our household because I was the only girl. I felt a bit of distance between me and the male world which was overwhelming, so I tended to turn back to myself. I wouldn’t say that I was lonely in that experience but I always felt like my experience emphasized my feminine side – I wanted to prove myself more. I love my brothers and we have a great relationship but I had to fight hard to make myself heard, so that feminine side in me became stronger and stronger.
Growing up, I also surrounded myself with girls who were strong, and I’ve always felt more inspired by them than I have of men. With all respect to the male culture, the female culture has a lot to offer and the world hasn’t given women enough opportunities. We have fought hard to get where we are and I feel like I owe it to my female counterparts to fight for women’s rights and empower femininity. I also want to show diversity in the female form; not all women look the same, and I want women to identify with the characters in my work.
There is also a strong portrayal of nature – which pairs well with the women in terms of fertility. What does nature mean to you?
My favourite colour is green so I always want to include it somehow! It is my favourite colour to play with and to work with in addition to yellow. There is definitely a connection between women and nature: the art of creation, reproduction and renewal. Having nature and women in one painting gives a strong statement about the importance of females in our lives. To me, nature and women symbolise fertility; and having gone through the experience of having two children you really feel empowered as a human being. With the act of giving birth and creation, you develop a new outlook on life. Nature is female to me, so maybe that is why I have so much nature in my work. But it is also inspiring in itself: the colours, the patterns, the diversity in plants and trees – just like us humans. If we took the lead from nature we wouldn’t feel as many differences between human beings – we have a lot to learn from nature.
Not all women look the same, and I want women to identify with the characters in my work.
Your work has been featured on a number of magazine covers and you are currently creating illustrations for children books – what have been some of your favourite projects to work on?
As an anxious person I like working on diverse projects, and I get bored very easily! The diversity of projects gives me a lot of energy, from doing editorial illustrations, to book projects, to personal portraits, it makes me happy. If I was to choose, I would say that editorial illustrations are closest to what I want to do eventually, because I love connecting my art to someone else’s thoughts. I have a background in journalism, so for me to work on an illustration to illustrate what an author wants to say makes me very happy and connected to the text and purpose. Editorial illustration also takes me out of my comfort zone.
You have your business ‘Dinamalina Illustrations’ and your own shop on Esty – how has launching your business been for you?
I started my business around a year and a half ago; I’ve always been passionate about art and I wanted to create something around that. I was hesitant to start because I have a full-time job and I’m the mother of two children. It’s one thing painting with no pressure, and it’s another starting your own business in addition to working and being a mum. So, I knew it was going to be tasking time-wise. But when you are passionate about something it’s a drive within you and if you don’t do it you might regret it. I wanted to do something right now whilst I am young and energetic and still able to establish something from scratch.
I rely a lot on Instagram and right now I’m in the final stage of opening my online shop, which will hopefully be ready to launch by Spring. I do appreciate social media, it’s a very powerful medium for artists to get their work out there. But at the same time you want something of your own, in case tomorrow Instagram isn’t there to rely on!
The female culture has a lot to offer and the world hasn’t given women enough opportunities.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
It’s very therapeutic for me, I am an anxious person who finds it hard to relax! Art is my yoga; it’s yoga for my soul and for my body, it calms me down and gives me a lot of positivity. Art is also a relaxation technique for me, especially whilst using watercolours. I do a lot of digital work because it is more convenient, however, I enjoy water colour the most; you can get in touch with your inner self. After doing it for five minutes nothing else exists apart from me, the water, and the page. And now I can enjoy doing it with my children, we have our own workshops at home and I can see that impact on them too when life is a bit chaotic. Other than fulfilling the business side of it, art helps me be the best version of myself.
How do you find navigating the art world?
It might look glamorous on social media when you have your ipad and a cup of a coffee – which can be the reality sometimes! – but that’s not just it. It takes a lot of work and a lack of sleep to establish yourself as an artist and it requires a lot of sacrifice. I envy artists who can do it full-time, but hopefully that will be me soon! Although the art scene is competitive I do see a lot of compassion between artists. There is a strong community on Instagram where you do feel like people care; you share the same passion and people are very helpful. I’ve had a lot of good advice from people all around the world.
What have you got coming up that we can look forward to?
Being an illustrator is very powerful, and I am hoping for my work to become more diverse. I’d love to open my own artist studio and have my art on different products like notebooks and bags, to diversify my business more. I would also like to create my own children’s book. I have my background in journalism and I am passionate about writing, so this is definitely something in the works.
Art is my yoga; it’s yoga for my soul and for my body …
To view more of Dina’s art:
Website (launching soon): www.dinamalinaillustrations.com
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Malinaillustrations