20 Latino Artists
to Watch

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month,
we’re celebrating the styles and perspectives of
artists in the Latino community.

Here are the stories of 20 inspiring artists, shared in their own words.

Derek Abella

I’m a Cuban-American illustrator originally from Miami, now living and working in Brooklyn, New York. I create work mostly for media outlets such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and even TODAY! On the side, I create art which explores abstraction and the figure through a queer lens.

These days, I look less at art for inspiration and more at what’s immediately around me — like the books that I’m reading or how a ray of sunlight hits a friend’s hand while we’re having coffee together.

More than anything, my work ethic comes from my background. My parents came from Cuba in the 1980s, and their drive to succeed in this country against so many obstacles has been a huge, constant and humbling inspiration. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Alison Viana

Natalia Agatte

I’m a Brazilian illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York.  I love working with colors, texture and lights to portray the diversity in womanhood and our day-to-day lives.

I get most of my inspiration from people I see around the city, movies and photography.

The colors and the people I choose to portray are influenced a lot by my background. My work is usually very warm and bright, and the people I draw are often from different backgrounds or ethnically diverse, similar to what you find in Brazil.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Natalia Agatte

Sol Cotti

I’m an illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I studied communication and advertising while taking art workshops on the side. I started illustrating as a hobby until I developed my own style and found my own voice.

Observation is my way of seeking inspiration. I try to find visual pleasure in the mundane: the outfit of a person, the combination of colors on a plate of food, or the aesthetics of houses in a neighborhood.

In my work, I have a strong, bold but harmonious style. I like to support causes that I identify with and are important to me, like women empowerment, gender equality and diversity in all its ways.

Buenos Aires was always influenced by diverse cultures of the world. It is an intense and chaotic city, filled with passion, pride and a sense of belonging. All of the music, architecture, artistic expression that took place there inevitably influences my work. That is represented in my illustrations through the multiplicity of colors, strokes, shapes and textures.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Magu Saint Germain 

Jennifer Dahbura

I am a self-taught freelance illustrator from El Salvador, Central America. Growing up surrounded by women had a huge inspiration in my growth. I make up songs about everything because everything seems like a musical to me. I started drawing when I was a child and as time went by, it became my way of living and expressing myself.

My works explore human behavior; I’m telling different stories full of emotions but with a mystical touch. This is because I am inspired by my emotions, social problems, nature, music and magic, such as portals and symbols. I try to create art that reflects past experiences and everything that surrounds me. I like to portray women and represent them in a powerful way in my work.

El Salvador is a tropical country that contains a wide diversity of flora and fauna, myths and legends told from generation to generation, all with a mystical and magical touch. Its Saints festivals are an explosion of colors. 

Since I was a child, I was fascinated by the beauty of El Salvador’s traditions: the costumes, colonial architecture, our rituals, magical characters and markets with their unique charm. I apply those same details in my work.

My work has an explosion of textures and colors, characters with detailed costumes, all surrounded by magical characters. Everything about my local culture has marked and empowered me, which is why I apply and feature them in my illustrations. It is a tribute to my country.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Jennifer Dahbura

Marly Gallardo

My work centers around portrayals of ephemeral sites of belonging. It is a meditation on impermanence and renewal.

Through my work, I explore themes such as migration, nostalgia and yearning. My pieces reflect the nature of being uprooted from one’s homeland and yearning for a return, whether that return is to a geographical location or an emotive plane.

My art is informed by indigenous craftsmanship, featuring elements of ancestral folklore, spiritual botany and historical connections to land.

I explore storytelling through digital media, paint and sculptural mediums. Throughout my work, I combine soft gradients and diaphanous layers to delicately situate the subjects within shifting and fictional realms. I utilize a sentimental palette and deep tonal variants as metaphors for the profound emotional interiority of my subjects. The dream-like quality of my work suspends reality, evoking a search for the surreal within the mundane.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Marly Gallardo

Charlotte Gomez

I’m a Mexican-American designer and illustrator from Southern California. For the past several years I’ve been working as an art director for Buzzfeed. In my free time, I really love to draw.

I’m a huge nerd, to put it mildly. I’m especially drawn to fantasy books, movies, card games and video games, and try to put their qualities in my work. Sometimes it’s with unusual color combos or surreal elements, but other times it’s monsters and knights.

I love using saturated colors, something I attribute to the Mexican meat markets and dollar stores I used to shop at as a kid. It’s really fun to create something and blow it up with colors you can see from a mile away (like the candy and toys I used to buy from those places).

My background growing up in a majority Latino community has helped me not fall into the familiar trope of defaulting to white in my work. The fantasy genre, in particular, has long lacked representation of non-white people and non-European inspired settings. Same for representation in the media! I hope to keep playing a role in shifting away from this blind spot. I am happy to see so many other talented people doing their part.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Charlotte Gomez

Ricardo Gonzales

I am a graphic designer and artist from Durango in Durango, Mexico. 

I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the past seven years. My work specializes in script lettering applied to art, design and murals.

My story begins back in Durango when I was a teenager and I did a little graffiti in the streets of my hometown. It was a fun and dangerous hobby, but it showed me the love for painting in the streets, as well as the deep appreciation for letterforms and style. When I graduated high school I didn’t know what to do with my life, but my mom had the vision and trusted my passion and offered me to study abroad in Canada with her life savings. At that time I didn’t know what I was getting into but I took the chance and moved out to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where I studied graphic design for the next few years. The first couple of years were really difficult for me as an international student. It was a big culture shock, but I managed to adapt very quickly to the language and culture.

After five years trying to become a graphic designer, I had to go back to Mexico because my work visa expired. It was a bitter step in my life because I failed.

I went back to my hometown defeated and sad, but I put my hands and mind to work toward my old hobby, “tagging.” I combined it with the design skills I had and, little by little, my work started to gain recognition through social media. After a year, I applied to study typeface design at Cooper Union in New York. I was accepted and immediately I started saving all the money I could to move back to New York City. After a couple months in school, I was offered a design position at a digital agency and in this time, I realized offices aren’t for me. This is when "It’s a living" took shape as my studio/solo/artist name. I started freelancing making a living doing what I love: painting letters! Who knew this could become a full time career!

It’s been seven years since I’ve been living in New York, working as a freelancer designer and artist. My work has taken me around the world. It has opened my eyes to showcasing work in remote countries, painting murals, talking at conferences and sharing my story with the world. This is why it’s a living: I love doing what I do.

Script is an art that slowly has been disappearing or is not taught anymore in schools. My grandparents wrote in beautiful calligraphy. I want to honor my family by making this an unofficial tradition to pass on. We don’t write anymore. We type everyday on screens, keyboards and phones. We are forgetting the beauty and simplicity of handwriting; it is one of the most unique ways to communicate and express ourselves. 

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Ricardo Gonzales

Isabella Humphrey

I am an illustrator and visual designer currently residing in Mexico City but originally from North Carolina. I attended Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where I received a degree in fashion design. After I graduated, I moved to Los Angeles, where I worked as an assistant designer. In my spare time, during weekends and evenings, I illustrated greeting cards and prints and sold them online and picked up freelance jobs. After a few years of working in the fashion industry, I decided to make a career change and focus on illustration and graphic design — I’ve never looked back.

Finding my voice and style as an illustrator has been a fun process. Over the years, I have experimented with various techniques, colors and patterns — tweaking as I went until I could find a style that represents who I am as an artist and a woman.

I come from a family of driven, intelligent and hardworking Puerto Rican women who push me to be the best artist I can be. To be fearless and take chances, to embrace my heritage and understand the history.  My work highlights my relationship with my family. Through the use of bright visual elements, bold colors and unique figures, I strive to celebrate their spirit, beauty and strength.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Isabella Humphrey

Aimée Mazara 

I am an illustrator from the Dominican Republic, focusing on independent graphic journalism. I enjoy documenting everyday life: mine, the people I meet, the food I eat, the places I go. I showcase what goes on around me but through visual narratives.

The "ordinary" has always been fascinating to me, and I believe that’s where the extraordinary lies. My work is heavily inspired by the day-to-day nuances of a habitual lifestyle, particularly through childhood nostalgia, traditional culture and biodiversity. By highlighting stories and experiences of the communities, I’m finding joy in the simplest things.

My work has always been very personal; where I was born and raised is where I get to report, or illustrate, from. So my Dominican culture is often heavily interwoven with my art. I definitely see it reflected in the colors I use and its vibrancy, even in the themes I choose to talk about. However, it also became representative of those who relate to the experiences I share, or those who find beauty in them too, regardless of their own culture.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Aimée Mazara

Victor Melendez

I’m an art director, designer and illustrator from Seattle, originally from Mexico City. 

I am an immigrant artist that has been influenced by two different worlds: Seattle and Mexico. I spent half of my life in Mexico surrounded by pre-Hispanic culture and arts. I was forced to study engineering but quit in order to try something I would be happy doing. I moved to the U.S. in the late ’90s and had to start from zero; I didn’t speak the language and had to work odd jobs in order to learn English and go to school. Years later, I became a designer and then I learned illustration.

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years now and the exposure to this culture has influenced my work. Murals in public spaces and a hand-woven tehuana dress from Mexico inspire me just as much as the Seattle street graffiti and a wooden totem pole from the Duwamish people.

My inspiration goes beyond graphic art and traditional design. I look to other areas like sculpture, tattoos, graffiti, live music, traveling, local markets and local art. Another big influence was public art: Mexican muralists like Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros.

My heritage has played a major role in my work. I grew up exposed to my grandparent’s culture, the Zapotec. Everything from music to food to traditional costumes and indigenous art has been a big influence, mostly the use of color and the organic nature of the handcrafts. In Mexico, every state, city and little town has its own traditions, so I was lucky enough to explore many of those different cultures and be inspired by them.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Victor Melendez

Eugenia Mello

I am an illustrator, graphic designer and art director. I identify as Argentinian, was born in Lima, Peru, and was raised in Central America and the Caribbean.

My work is rooted in the joy that I find in the diverse vibrancy of humans: their way of moving, their tempo, their flavor. Being an only child and having moved many times as a kid, I think I developed a talent for observing behaviors. Later, I developed a love for admiring and studying the details that make each of us unique and the abundance of that beauty. So, in every piece I make, be it editorial or branding/advertising or a picture book, I try to incorporate music and different sounds by drawing or building characters with specific gestures and motions that evoke the power and personality of their individual beats. 

People inspire me, music inspires me, rhythm. Translations inspire me. I love the concept of synesthesia and thinking of ways to makes music visible and colors felt. I love turning feelings into motion and using that as a vehicle for communication in whatever medium I am working with.

It wasn’t until I moved outside of Latin America that I realized how much my work and my form of expression was influenced by my background. It was a gift in every way possible; I realized I have carried the music, the tastes, flavors, sounds and nature from my childhood in Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and Venezuela with me. The rhythm of all these places are a part of me and thus a part of my work. I have the unbelievable luck of expressing it, willing it and channeling it out. The result is an ever-growing body of work that tries to make music with bodies in motion and spaces that vibrate.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Eugenia Mello

Pedro Nekoi

I was born in the northeast of Brazil in a city called Recife, but I’m now living in Sao Paulo. I’m a graphic designer, visual artist and art director who explores digital collage and surrealism. I love thinking about different worlds and places I would like that’s the main purpose of my work.

I always say that anything can inspire me, from an image I see on Instagram to something that the doorman shares with me in a conversation. I’m always inspired by my fellow talented Brazilian illustrations, such as Leandro Assis’ beautiful letterings and colors and Henri Campeã’s organic shapes and drawings.

For a long time the northeast of Brazil was a very poor region with low development, but it is incredibly rich culturally. We have amazing artists who always represent their point of view and their surroundings. It’s also a very colorful, tropical region, with lots of different cultures and warm vibes. I believe that’s the biggest influence in my work: the region’s use of colors and textures. It reminds me of the green painted walls in the house where I grew up. Also, being gay is a main influence. The constant feeling of not belonging when I was a teenager influenced me to create my own reality and my own worlds in my work.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Pedro Nekoi

Dana Nuñez, aka COVL

I’m a multidisciplinary artist and storyteller whose creations embody the captivating energy of grassroots hustle and delicate artistry.

As a Miami native, my work is inspired by the festive, diverse and vibrant Latin culture of my hometown. For years, I’ve passionately embraced the inner workings of overcoming mental health stigmas with the use of color and imagination. 

My body of work is reminiscent of a childlike playful spirit that my audience deems as infectious and nostalgic.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of COVL

Marisol Ortega

I’m a Mexican-American illustrator and designer based out of the Pacific Northwest. I really enjoy drawing flowers, playing with analog textures and using bright colors.

I am inspired a lot by nature, nostalgia and my family. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest offered me tons of inspiration from nature, whether it’s camping, hiking or just being near a body of water. Being in nature always helps me reset my brain and makes me feel so small. There’s something very liberating about that. I overthink less and allow myself to be more intuitively creative.

One of the things I utilize when I’m working is the power of nostalgia. I tap into a lot of memories from my childhood but more specifically about my grandmother, Ines. Visiting her as a kid during the summer and winter breaks was such a special time for me. I would spend my days helping her tend her garden and small farm. My Abuelita also really loved plants and there wasn’t a corner in her home that wasn’t covered in them. I do the same in my home and it’s one of the reasons why I gravitate toward nature and where my love for drawing flora and fauna comes from. She was also a great cross stitcher and knitter, which I also love to do! I would say that my culture definitely inspires my love of working with my hands, so I try to incorporate as much of my analog work and use of bright colors as I can; I really love the process of making.

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Quinn Russell Brown

Nicolás Ortega

I’m a Colombian-born, New York-based graphics designer. For 10 years, I worked at different advertising agencies in Bogotá until I was invited to work at Fabrica, the research institute of Benetton in Italy. After that I went to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and haven’t left New York since. The breaking point for me came when I had the chance to work for Milton Glaser, one of the biggest graphic designers in the world and an incredible human being. That experience changed how I approach work and my life forever. Since then I’ve been working freelance for different publications in the U.S. and the world. I don’t like to say I am an illustrator because I am a designer before anything. If you can design one thing, then you can design anything. 

For me, there are two basic things that inspire me: life in general or the events that surround it, and the capability for the brain to accept intuition beyond logic to create new connections based on these experiences. That is why I feel art (no matter the medium) is important as a transformative tool. For example, recently I’ve been influenced a lot by South American writers: Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Manuel Puig. I am trying to translate their way of working in a visual spectrum. Also, as Milton Glaser used to say: 'How do you understand what is real’ is the question of life. 

I think being born in South America and in Colombia specifically creates a specific personality toward work. Latinos have a huge level of commitment and personality in moments of adversity created by all the political, economic and social issues that our countries have faced in the past. I think of that as an advantage instead of a curse. To have seen all the surreal things that happen in the south and indirectly be affected by it in a positive way changes everything. Your mind is on constant alert, is sharpened to every stimulus that can appear.  

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PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Nicolás Ortega

Carmen Pizarro

I am a Chilean-Mexican illustrator based in New York City. For the past six years, I have freelanced on various projects ranging from working for animation studios to creating illustrations for comics. When not on a project, I participate in local art events and manage my own personal online store where I sell shirts, prints and self-published zines.

I derive inspiration from numerous sources, but the most profound are my adoration for horror films and my collection of indie published works and comics. Growing up on the West coast and moving around helped strengthen my connection to my heritage by allowing me to reflect on the past and where we came from, which in turn influenced my artwork.

My culture and upbringing have always made an impact on my artwork. Vibrant color schemes are often in my illustrations; they are inspired from Hispanic textiles and artwork I saw as a child. Being raised by my grandmother and my Chilean mother, who was a single parent, I always had a strong female presence in my life. This influenced me to make art that my younger self, a child of an immigrant, would have looked up to, someone that I want to embody. 

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Carmen Pizarro

Jackie Rivera

I’m an independent lettering artist, illustrator and designer based in Seattle. I use my art as a tool to talk about things that are important to me, like my Mexican heritage, wellness and existential thoughts.

Some of my biggest inspirations for my work have come from music, film, life experiences and my Mexican heritage. I love having mind-opening experiences that help me see things from a different perspective.

I’m a daughter of immigrants who came to Northern California to create a better future for themselves. Early on in my life, I noticed how we were different from others. It felt alienating at times, but now making art about my culture is how I connect with other Latinx folks. I love being able to make artwork that connects people over our shared experiences. I want Latinx people to feel represented and seen when they look at my work. 

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Nikki Neumann

Vero Romero

I’m a Mexican artist, born and raised in Mexico City, but currently based in Los Angeles. I work in illustration, graphic design and painting; my practice in each of these disciplines constantly informs one another. 

With painting, I gravitate toward portraiture as a means to explore the human form, expression and identity. My work aims to strike a balance between strength and vulnerability; therefore, my subjects inhabit a space where they attempt to unify that dichotomy. I have a deep appreciation for food and nature that is celebrated in my art through fruit, plants and flowers. Beyond their intrinsic aesthetic pleasure to paint and observe, nature yields a level of symbolism and significance that inspires me.

I am very fortunate and privileged in that I was exposed to art from a young age. I grew up in Mexico City, which has an abundance of museums, public art and culture. This was a fundamental aspect in my life as it sparked an ongoing curiosity and appreciation for art and design. I also have this to thank for my fascination with color usage and theory, which is an extremely important aspect of my practice. I am not looking to generalize or romanticize, as Mexico City is vast, complex and dealing with immense precarity and many other very real issues, but I am grateful that within it one can still find moments of inspiration and great beauty.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Vero Romero

Camila Rosa

I’m a Brazilian illustrator and visual artist with a political perspective of the world who mostly likes to illustrate women. I started my life as an artist in 2010 with a female street art collective and since then I have been working worldwide in advertising, editorial, art exhibitions, fashion, beauty and graphic design. Besides that, my work is always described as a powerful and bold way to represent diversity in the illustration scene.

Everything inspires me. It’s a cliché, but it’s real. Walking down the street is an inspiration. Listening to music is an inspiration. I also get a lot of inspiration from the punk scene, from Brazil and Latin America, political topics like veganism, feminism, anti-racism, LGBTQI+ struggle and more.

Being an Illustrator from Latin America definitely influences me a lot. I lived in New York City in 2016 and 2017, and it was then that I realized how much Latin America has influenced my work. The strength and hope of Latin American people definitely inspires me a lot. Brazil is a country in construction and we have a lot of structural problems. I always try to use my work as a reminder of what kind of country I want for the future.

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Camila Rosa

Jen White-Johnson

I’m an Afro-Latina with cinnamon colored skin, a disabled artist, a designer and an educator living with Graves’ disease and ADHD. I was born in Washington, D.C., and now live in Baltimore, Maryland. My visual work explores the intersection of content and caregiving. I use my photography and design to amplify and uplift the often misrepresented and underserved BIPOC disability community.

vector illustration symbol combining a black fist on a bright yellow background, with an infinity symbol, which Autistic communities use to depict the breadth of the autism spectrum as well as the larger neurodiversity movement. On the fist is the text "Black Disabled Lives Matter" in bold lettering.

Radical joy, abolition, my faith, my son’s smile, disabled activists, organizers, and scholars are what inspires me. The Afro-Latino disabled artist community needs more visibility! We have always worked to hold space for joy and authenticity in our work. I hope my work can inspire others to center Black/Brown disabled voices, shift the narrative and redesign ableist visual culture. 

Digital photo illustration collage of a 5 year old Black and Autistic boy smiling, there are 6 different versions of him posing for the camera, he is wearing t shirts that state the following: advocate for autistic voices, advocate for autistic opinions, advocate acceptance, advocate inclusion, advocate autistic experiences - colors used in the poster are blues, purples, and pinks, 

The strength of our indigenous ancestors lives through us. We can’t let the stories of our ancestors be forgotten! By telling our authentic stories, we help to preserve our rich, unique culture and heritage. We are the past, present and future. Seeing the constant injustices brought upon our people calls me to bring visibility to the beauty, strength and collective power of our people.  

7 Year old Black and Autistic Boy holding a sticker in his hand that says Black Autistic Lives Matter in bold lettering

LINKS: WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

PHOTO CREDIT: TODAY Illustration / Courtesy of Jen White-Johnson

Editor's note: These artists' stories have been edited and condensed
for length and clarity.

Find more about TODAYs coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month, here.

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