Introducing Dev Heyrana to the FRĒDA WOMAN series
We are huge fans of your work and love how they are centered around women. Can you share a little bit about your style and what inspires you? Has it shifted over the years (or lately)?
One of my earliest memories is of my Lolo Jose teaching me how to water mango saplings. He converted to Buddhism when my mother was young, so he viewed the world with love and kindness. I didn't realize it then but watering those mango trees were life lessons. We need to take the time to nurture, practice patience, and respect all living things. I still imagine him walking beside me often, carrying his teachings as I find my way in this world.
Nature and the Sun drive my pieces. My abstract works are fragments of moments. Like the sunset, I grew up with when I was seven years old in the Philippines, like how I saw the water in Cebu when I dove in as a young adult, and like when I saw the redwoods with my children for the first time.
I see the earth in our skin and especially when I paint people. How our mango trees grew and blossomed because the dark earth was rich with nutrients. I imagine the Sun piercing through these women I depict. I paint their love and bravery because their resilience cannot be contained. I want to celebrate all of it.
This is the beauty of art. I can paint exactly how I see it.
How can art influence us for the better right now? You have been holding online classes for kids and adults, which is so awesome. What made you decide to do this? Any interesting takeaways?
When I paint, I know the truth behind it and why I paint it. When it is something heavy, I want to humanize my subjects because a lot of times part of their story is lost. I have full respect for how others interpret my pieces. Art is something that can move all of your emotions. You can find joy, and then it can challenge your beliefs. For me, art is healing. When I can’t find the words to express how I am feeling, I paint.
I started Color Together with my sister, Kay, who lives in Virginia. My nephew, Gabriel, and my daughter, Quinn, FaceTime each other constantly. We gifted Gabriel an art kit, and we started doing small art classes. Like all my ideas, it came in a storm. My sister, an educator, and me, an artist. It felt so organic.
We have hosted 7 art classes with 50-70 kids joining us, and each class is about 1.5 hrs long. We would tell the kids that it was like we were hugging them from each coast of the U.S. The classes are all free and mostly centered on self-portraits. All the materials we use are ones most have at home. Crayons, colored pencils, and/or markers. We did it in the Summer, and it was really fun. Parents started emailing me about how to pay it forward, so an option was to donate $5, and we would put together these art kits for whoever needed them. To date, we have put together 30 art kits that include all the materials that you need for taking our classes.
I have been doing this with Quinn for some time. I remember she was struggling to find a crayon that matched her skin tone. We talked about the basics of Color Theory, cool and warm colors. How, all of us have brown, pink, and yellow tones. I apply this to all of my classes. We do a cross-hatching technique and layer on these colors. I talk about how the color black is the existence of all the colors in the rainbow. I love how their eyes light up as we’re going through each step. I remind each of them that we are all beautiful in our unique ways. If it was not for what is happening, I would not have thought that this was possible. Instead, we have all come together from all over the country to draw. It is incredible.
How have you been handling work life and home life during the pandemic while raising kids? Any silver linings?
I have been kinder to myself. Some days, I am amazed by how we have been able to handle having a 7-year-old and 3-year-old at home. Others will order nothing but takeout and watch every movie imaginable.
My work is full time, and sometimes I have to wait until the girls are asleep to get things done. My husband and I communicate constantly about our schedules.
Our goal has been to go outside at least once. We want to bring some magic into these girls' lives because they are still kids, and they deserve it. It does not have to be HUGE. It could be just a 30-minute hike up a trail by our house or make sure to watch the sunset out our window and talk about the colors.
So many silver linings. We are doing our part in this pandemic, but we are discovering so much more about our family. The girls got really into biking so we have been doing that a lot and looking for new trails to tackle. Sometimes we chill on the couch while Ro and I listen to Quinn and Jay play their ukuleles. I have so much to be thankful for and we’re still discovering so much about ourselves as a team. I love it.
We are hearing the words overwhelmed, anxiety, stress a lot in conversations right now. How are you staying positive and making sure you are taking care of yourself and those around you?
I’ve been good about setting boundaries. The power of no and not taking things too seriously. I always take a step back and look at all the angles before I respond. All of this takes practice for me, and the more you do it, the more empowered you feel.
Before March, I had three shows lined up in three major cities, New York, L.A., and here in San Francisco. I got word from New York first that they had to cancel my show, and I knew the rest would follow. It broke my heart, and I was sad for a good two weeks.
This is what I quit my design career for, this is it! And it was gone like that. Not that it was gone forever, but I was working so hard the last few months to build my collection, and whatever I made from these shows would have helped me for the next few months. When things are hard, I take it one step at a time forward. Even if I’m still sad and drained, because my hope is that the light will be brighter from where I started. I’ve been like that all my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that art is just a hobby. I have been good at ignoring a lot of people.
The incredible thing is, I’ve been busy. I am so grateful for these commissions and honored that my pieces are in these homes. I’ve met and connected with folks on a deeper level because we’re all going through it.
Do you have a daily practice that helps you stay grounded and happy?
I find it necessary these days. When the girls wake up, it feels like a madhouse. So I try my best to wake up an hour before everyone does. Drink two glasses of water and listen to music. I also will try to do something active for at least 30 minutes. I need to reset a lot. I’ve grown to embrace self-care and carve out time just for me.
How does your community help support you and vice versa? Do you actively volunteer or how do stay involved or give back?
This is something I don’t share often, but I reserve at least 10 pieces a year for charities. So far this year it is up to 20 pieces.
I had no idea my art could be part of auctions to help organizations I believe in, and in this age in technology, I am grateful for it.
What does Women Supporting Women mean to you? What can we do to help each other more?
I come from a place where there is room for all of us to shine. I am interested in connection rather than validation. Talking to women who are interested in personal growth is life-changing. I am an empathetic listener, and I would not be this way if it was not for my sister, Kay.
Not everyone can say that their best friend came into their lives when they were two years old. I am so fortunate to be able to say that. My sister had Angelo at a very young age. Angelo is perfect just the way he is, and he is a Special Needs child. My sister’s life is filled with nurses going in and out of their home, countless medications, and doctor/hospital visits. Yet, she always finds the time to ask how I’m doing. I’m ready to listen to her, and she’s ready to listen to me. If I sell a piece, she gets so excited. I know her life can be heavy at times, but she never makes me feel like hers is harder than mine. She makes me feel like my experiences matter too. So we lift each other and cheer each other on in every win we get. We make sure to keep investing in this relationship we hold dear.
I am the way I am because of my sister. She is the most beautiful representation of Women Supporting Women.
You’ve been holding onto our white EDA sneakers for some time now to customize them with one of your paintings! We LOVE the VOTE message. What inspired you to go this direction?
I was nervous to paint on your beautiful sneakers. I’ve never painted on leather. Your shoes are works of art for me, and this was one of the most precious canvases I have ever painted on. I was researching and practicing on leather items I got from thrift stores. The kind of paint to use and how heavy my stroke needed to be. Then deciding the placement of one of my pieces was another factor.
When I see your shoes, I think about all the hands and eyes that went into each design and how it comes to life. That process is key for me, and that’s when a small business truly stands out.
Honestly, I was having a hard time. Nothing felt quite right. Seven months into Shelter in Place and with everything going on in the political atmosphere, it naturally came together. I was in Print and Package Design for 15 years. It was painting that I had to be patient about how to approach it. It feels powerful looking at them. I know what to wear when I take the girls with me to drop off our ballots.
How can we inspire more women to get out there and vote?
I think of the women who came before us who were not allowed to vote. How they fought and made their voices loud to be heard. I think about my grandmother, my mother, my sister, and my girls. This is how I can honor them.