Our first artist in our Skiptown mural series is Sydney Duarte of Duarte Designs, a mother-daughter artist duo spreading positive messages through hand-crafted, original art. Sydney is a certified yoga instructor and ice cream’s biggest fan. She’s also the power house behind Traveling Gypsy.
How did you get into painting murals?
I’ve been painting since I was little. In January 2019, I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal where I met a woman who was channeling. (Channeling is mediating communication between you and your spirit guides to consciously shift your mind and mental space in order to achieve an expanded state of consciousness). I sat with her for 3 hours. She asked me “What are you afraid of?” When I replied “nothing,” she said, “So what are you waiting for? Your murals are waiting to be known all around the world. To awaken and uplift everyone that comes in contact with them.” Taken aback, I replied “I don’t paint murals,” she laughed and said, “Yes you do, I’m looking at them. Your murals heal people. Put all the love you can into them and have fun with the process as you create each one.”
That was the catalyst. I came back to Charlotte and met with a friend for ice cream at Two Scoops to tell her about my experience with the Portugese woman and brainstorm plans to leave the corporate world. The owner of Two Scoops overheard our conversation and offered a wall for my first mural. The rest is history.
On Mother’s Day in 2019, I was admiring my mom guiding my niece through different shading techniques as they were drawing mermaids together. My mom had always talked about teaching classes and taking her skills to the next level. The idea popped into my head for us to collaborate. We had both been in different corporate jobs for many years, and the more years that passed, the more I watched her artistic side fade away from not having enough time to be expressed. So I suggested painting a mural together and it kind of exploded from there.
How did you learn to paint?
Self-taught + helpful tips and tricks from my mom. I love tinkering and creating, taking things apart and putting them back together in a better, more efficient way, using materials that wouldn’t normally be incorporated (sand, ink, broken jewelry, anything I can up-cycle and give new life to). My mom has a background in art and painted murals when I was younger. She always encouraged creativity and gave me a wide array of fun mediums to play with and explore. Most of my knowledge/background comes from being around her and surrounding myself with a creative community.
What was the process like to become an established muralist?
Becoming established in the city all happened in the blink of an eye. We created our first wall at Two Scoops Creamery and the Charlotte community really embraced and pushed us from there. So much love poured out from strangers, friends, new businesses. We are in awe every day and overflowing with gratitude for everything that continues to flow into our lives.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t ever want to close my mind off to anything. My style is fluid. I’m always trying new mediums (pottery, glass blowing, wiring, painting) If I don’t know how to do something, I research and experiment until I figure it out. It always ends up being something bigger and better than what I imagined. Every new artwork is so very different from the last. From abstract, realism, stained glass, lettering, neon effects with spray paint, I love pushing myself and adapting to each new environment/idea.
The Duarte Designs style is playful, loving and colorful. Inspiration for most of our pieces comes from the folks that we encounter along our journey of Life. The kind-hearted, loving people that are doing good out in the world. We want to help bring their light to you so that you can experience them in the way that we experience them. We fill each wall with love so that everyone that comes in contact with them can resonate in some way; to see a piece of themselves within the artwork. @duarte_designs was created to spread positive messages through our original pieces. Each piece is meant to spark thought and help you stop, stand there, and breathe in ALL the things that make you feel grateful for this life.
You duo with your mom, can you tell me about that?
We’ve created many things together over the years, but this is the first time we have combined our super powers to do what we love. It’s been a roller coaster ride so far. Many lessons learned, lots of laughter, some crying, and endless creative brainstorming to turn dreams into reality! Owning a business is fun and exciting, but also a lot of hard work. Communication is key, in anything that you do, and we’ve had to take several deep dives into understanding each other on a deeper level. We both give all of our heart into everything that we do and it’s been fun to challenge ourselves and lift each other up through each project that we’ve taken on so far.
What's the hardest part of painting for you?
The “business side/paperwork.” Working as a project manager/event planner in the corporate world for 17 years equipped me with all of the tools to run my business with ease. However, writing up contracts is on the opposite end of my passion spectrum. I was born to create! Having free artist expression and laying paint on the walls to turn the vision into reality is my most favorite part of the process.
What has surprised you the most about painting murals?
The outpour of love from strangers has been the most pleasant surprise. We love seeing how the community is interacting with each piece. Sometimes it’s the image and sometimes it’s the message/quote within the piece that resonates with different folks. Our hearts explode with joy every time we receive a fun photo from someone in front of our walls.
What brings you joy (art or otherwise)?
Art will always be my biggest love. The physical act of creating brings me SO much joy! I live my life as if every aspect is a new artwork; connecting with others to make sure they feel seen, heard, appreciated, traveling to a new destination, helping others step out of their comfort zones) Joy for me comes through adventure, wellness and oneness. My passion for yoga is all about healing others and giving them the loving encouragement and power to connect with their minds and bodies. Getting them out of their comfort zone to try something, whether that be in a studio or in the comfort of their own living room. The aspect of art and yoga intertwine by bringing community together and sparking inspiration and healing within everyone that comes in contact with it all.
What's something people don't know about artists/the art community in CLT?
Some artists went to art school, some are self-trained, some have had to dive in to truly support themselves, whether that be out of homelessness or other bad situations they’ve found themselves in. Some have battled cancer and other life threatening diseases, unable to keep a job, and art has been the only means to survive. You never know what someone is going through, We are all fighting some type of battle. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around. When you create a difference in someone’s life, you not only impact their life, you impact everyone influenced by them throughout their lifetime.
I encourage everyone to spread their love of art. If you like a piece, tag the artist when you share a photo. Share the beauty with other people that would enjoy it; friends who may not have come across it any other way.
You can also turn it into a scavenger hunt. When your favorite artists/new artists/anyone that sparks emotion in you puts up a new piece, go out and see it in person. Several years ago, there were several artists in town that would create art at night and no one would know who did it. I love showcasing others and teaching folks about new adventures/people/places. I did a lot of research to find some of the secret murals, tagged them, and the artists were surprised that I figured out who they were. When they realized that I was advocating for them, and shared the same love, we became close friends. One of those being Dustin Moates. He is a self trained artist that used to be anonymous in a lot of the work that he created. Over the years he has stepped into the light and is really pushing himself to the next level with each new piece that he creates. By showing/telling artists that you admire what they and their work mean to you, it encourages and pushes them to keep going, to create bigger and better and you never know how your kind words and actions may change their life.
What’s something people don’t know about you? I wanted to be a Veterinarian when I was younger. I was understudying in Kentucky, and when it came time to assist with surgeries I passed out. I tried 3 times, three different days, but every time: I passed out! I didn’t want to give up, but the Vet lovingly sat me down and said, “what else is calling your heart?” Really having to check in with myself sent me on a whole new journey. It’s been a long, winding, bumpy road of exploration, failure, learning, pushing myself to get to where I am today, but I am grateful for every moment.
What piece are you most proud of?
This is difficult. Each one is like our baby. A new beautiful expression of us. I love each one for different reasons, but I think the one that pushed us out of our comfort zone the most, where there was literal blood, sweat and tears put into the wall, was our piece titled “Perspective” on the side of Spirit Square/Blumenthal Arts. That was the tallest masterpiece we’ve ever created (5 stories) and there were many challenging moments.
If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Driven, Change Agent, Adventure Enthusiast
What do you want people to take away from your work?
That you can do whatever you want, and never take “no’ for an answer. Feel it in your heart and go forward towards that thing. At the end of the day, you can either be your biggest fan or your biggest critic. It’s your choice. I believe in you all and can’t wait to see all of the dreams that you’ll turn into reality.
How can we support artists in Charlotte?
Buy their art, and if you can’t afford a piece, follow them on social media and share their art on your IG stories or other social platforms, write a positive review, Hype them up! comment on their posts with a loving message to tell them what their art means to you, give them a shout out and tell your friends about the artists you love.
What motto guides your life right now?
There are 2 mottos that I live by (Love more, always) and (Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible)
Photos: Julia Fay Photography