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August 10, 2020


 By Shannon Dugan of Digital Future

Yai Vila is a Downtown Phoenix staple. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Vila now resides in Los Angeles. Those who frequent Roosevelt Row may recognize her work from her multiple collaborations with Jobot and Melt and her commissions around the city, and a scroll through her Instagram highlights the extent of her artistic work over the years. Her characters are colorful and bold, drawn with wide, cartoon eyes, which give them a whimsical quality that has become Vila’s signature, meant to inspire levity and fun in a world so often bogged down by the opposite.  Through various projects, including a show at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2017, Vila’s fantastical work has been enjoyed by onlookers in a number of cities. 

The playlist she compiled is a reflection of the artist herself: fun, energetic, and unyielding. It starts off with a Spongebob-inspired J Balvin song, a nod to Vila’s love of cartoons. The rest of the playlist is composed of tracks from various genres, including the irresistibly danceable TKN by Rosalía ft. Travis Scott,  the layered, steady electronic Sleep Sound by Jamie xx, and the clever, empowering anthem 1894 by Amber Mark.

You can find more of Yai’s artwork on Instagram @yaicecream, where you can also find ways to support her endeavors and collaborations with local businesses. Listen to the playlist she created for Timeless on Spotify here.

Below is our conversation with Yai about her creative process, her growth as an artist, and her thoughts on the age-old debate: Should playlists be listened to in order or should all playlists be made to shuffle?

How long have you been painting and making art professionally?

Professionally... it's been like, 7 or 8 years, I guess. I have been painting for 10, I picked up my first canvas when I moved to America back in 2009 and couldn’t stop. I fell in love with it and it opened my artistic world to so much more.

How long did you live in Spain and did the environment have any direct impact on your creative endeavors?

I lived in Spain from when I was born until I was 21. I have gone back as often as possible, but not as often as I would like to. My mom and all small family and friends are there so I do miss that but I always felt like my place was in the US. I feel like there's no denying the fact that my artwork has been influenced by European street art. Growing up in Spain I chased anything cool like little magazines with artwork or cool brands, I would collect them or make a collage with them, so definitely that helped to develop my style but also I am an only child of a single mom and growing up my mom had to go to work so I would just stay a lot of time alone watching tv, and I was lucky enough to have some kind of old school cable where I got the Spanish version of Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, MTV, etc so my world always was pretty Americanized. I wanted to play basketball and baseball and be a cute American boy on a skateboard lol

How long have you been living in Los Angeles?

I have been back and forth for about 2 years and finally made the transition like a year ago. I have been going to Phoenix every month pretty much though for all kinds of projects or deliveries or just to hang out.

Your artistic style is very unique and easily recognizable. When did you first feel most comfortable with your style and direction and has your creative process changed any since you first started? 

I think I have always drawn what I like to see and comes out of my head. I have lots and lots of old sketchbooks from when I was 11 and 12 years old already drawing characters and cool skate brands and colorful stuff and then I went through a very emo phase where I was drawing monsters and kids ripping out their guts and stuff like that, but always

very cartoon-y and colorful. I wish I could show you right now. After a while, I felt like I was being childish and I needed to mature so I actually started drawing mandalas and patterns (never abandoning my cartoon style completely) and that’s when I realized what my work was about and how I could never change myself. I mean I put the pen or pencil to the paper and the first thing that happens is a couple of big round eyes followed by whatever shape my hand feels like drawing (usually a dog or a bear) I just needed to hear myself and the message my artwork wants to send which is overall just positivity and excitement.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Are there any specific artists, music, pop culture influences that have inspired your art? 

Everything, yeah, from cartoons to songs, or books, brands and shoes I want to wear but can’t afford, I guess trends... I would be obviously lying if I said I don’t get affected or influenced by what’s cool at the moment. But I am not ashamed because it happens to everybody whether we realize it or not.

Have you been painting in quarantine?

Not as much as I would have expected or liked to, but definitely started some important pieces I am looking forward to finishing. I have been painting a few murals though. I have been making more digital illustrations and designs also, and T-shirts as well.

What has your experience been in lockdown? Have you felt more restricted, or more inclined to create freely?

Both, because I feel like I’ve had more time to create but also I have been trying to create things I could sell and commissions I have arranged. So it's great and I am 100% grateful cause I wouldn’t be able to survive if it wasn’t for the amazing people who support me and buy my stuff but I also abandoned a little bit the freedom to create just because.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or interests that you didn’t think you’d do while not on lockdown?

Well yes, besides gardening I started making cement pots, and all of a sudden I am making macrame plant hangers but taking my sweet ass time cause I don’t know what I am doing. Also looking forward to learning to do different things with Paracord, I have been really trying to better my design and illustration skills. But the main thing I want to focus on is learning to use Cinema 4D, it just takes forever to learn a new language and I feel like I am just barely getting confident with Illustrator.

If your playlist was going to be a soundtrack for a movie, what kind of movie would it be and what would it be about?

Probably like the 2020 Lesbian version of Lords of Dogtown.

What are some of your favorite songs on the playlist?

A New Error by Moderat will forever be one of my favorites. A seasonal favorite would be the SpongeBob song with J Balvin I started the playlist with, it's just so fun and they did such a great job with it. And... I love cartoons, so there you go.

Do you think playlist making is a lost art?

Not at all... I make lots of playlists for different genres and moods constantly. I feel like everybody kinda needs playlists because what feels more like a lost art is listening to the whole album from beginning to end, unless it’s like you know, Drake, or Kanye, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu…

Have you ever created a playlist for someone as a romantic or friendly gesture or had one created for you?

Definitely. My girlfriend and I have a playlist for when we started dating and since then I have made her a couple of other love playlists just for her. I used to be all about making mixtapes with my yellow cassette player. I would be waiting all day for the song to come on the radio so I could record it or take it from a borrowed CD and mix it with other stuff. That was fun. Now we have access to everything we want in the tip of our fingers.

What are your thoughts and opinions on the order of a playlist? Do you believe in the sanctity of listening to a playlist in order or do you prefer to just hit shuffle?

It depends on the playlist. Normally I listen to them in order unless I’ve heard it many many times and I need a change so I don’t know what song comes after the other. In the playlist I created for you guys, I actually recommend listening to it in order. I start with fun Hispanic songs and I end with a very chill song called The End. And all in between is a total trip if you have the attention and patience and also open mind for it. (I know not everybody likes all genres!) I just wanted to show a little bit of who I am and what I like through these choices. Music is always with us, painting, illustrating, designing, tattooing, driving, skating... so it becomes part of us.

You can shop Yai's Limited Edition Flip Case + Battery here on while supplies last.

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