Know Your Neighbors: Berwyn Artist Rafael Nieves

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Artist Rafael Nieves

When it comes to putting things on the walls of our home, I have commitment issues. We will be living in Oak Park for two years come November and I can count the number of items on the wall with one hand. I don’t want to hang stuff just to hang it, I want to get it just right.

So I was on the lookout when at the “What’s Blooming on Harrison Street Art Fest” a couple weeks back. There were many talented artists there, and spending an afternoon strolling between booths in the sunshine, delicious beer in hand (thanks, Kinderhook Tap!) was a delightful way to spend the afternoon – whether I found the ‘right piece’ or not.

Then I spotted it – hanging in the booth of Rafael Nieves. An Oak Park-inspired print showcasing a flowerpot from outside Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio that simply reads, “Welcome Home. Oak Park Illinois”. It would be perfect for our entryway. We purchased the print and chatted with Rafael a bit, discovering that he had also made the move to the area from Rogers Park.

When I got home I checked out Rafael’s site and saw that he is not only a graphic designer (he creates his prints in Adobe Illustrator), but also a comic book writer. I thought he would be a great neighbor for you to get to know. Read on to learn about he came to Berwyn, his advice for working for yourself, what inspires him and more.

Around Berwyn
How long have you been living in Berwyn? What brought you here?

Rafael Nieves
I live in Berwyn with my wife, Amy, our daughter Zoe, two dogs, and a cat. We moved here about nine years from north Rogers Park. Our real estate agent told us we could buy a bungalow for the same cost as our townhouse up north. We took the leap and have never looked back!

Live here, work here. I would LOVE a space for my business. One day…

Around Berwyn
What does the perfect day in Berwyn look like for you?

Rafael
The sun is shining. Gina’s Italian ice is open. The trains I need to catch are running on time. The ones that block traffic for hours are all in the shop for repair.

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AB
If you had to explain your personal ‘mission statement’ to someone in two minutes, what would you say?

Rafael
Be kind. Be brave. Be smart. Know the difference between art and commerce, and learn to travel between the two. Create what YOU want, but remember that there are others who might want it too. Don’t make something for the sake of making something, all art is made for a reason.

Never apologize for what you do.

AB
What does a typical day look like for you?

Rafael
Dreary and overcast. 🙂
I wake up earlier than I’d like. Get coffee started. Pretend to be awake while checking email messages. Troll Facebook. Try to convince my abruptly awake 4-year old that 5:30 in the morning is much too soon to want to play. Then prep for the day job, race for the train, and dream of getting home to my family and my *real* work.

AB
As an independent artist, what are the best pieces of advice you have gotten? Biggest lesson learned?

Rafael
Two pieces of advice: “never say ‘no’’” and “get the money”.

Biggest lesson: talk to people. Sometimes, knowing how/why an image came together is enough to create a connection and cause them to buy a piece. Also, remember that everything in life is give/take. Treat everyone with respect. Love what you do and the money will come.

AB
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a business? What are the top three things one should consider?

Rafael
Oh, boy, I don’t have any to recommend! Learn from people you respect and admire! Oh, wait, and Google! Always, always google!

Top three things to consider: Can you afford it? Can you afford it? Can you afford it?

AB
What question do you get most often from customers?

Rafael
Do you have a poster for (pick a city/neighborhood)? Why not?

AB
What is the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

Rafael
Coffee. Facebook.

AB
What inspires you?

Rafael
Kind, successful people inspire me.

AB
If you were magically given three more hours a day, how would you use them?

Rafael
Sleep more. Create more. Hug my daughters more.

AB
What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Rafael
A fireman.
A spy.
A ninja warrior.

AB
What is your favorite season?

Rafael
Hmm. Spring, I think, not too hot. Not too cold. And the air is filled with promise and possibilities!

AB
How would you describe yourself in three words? How would others describe you?

Rafael
I would describe myself as eager, earnest and honest.
Others would describe me as aged, ornery and archaic.

AB
You definitely have a lot going on. How do you stay organized? Any tips?

Rafael
Organized? What’s that?

AB
And, finally, what is your favorite song right now?

Rafael
Right now, I’m enthralled by Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, as performed by the rock group Disturbed. Saw a clip of the group performing it on Jimmy Fallon (I think)? And fell in love with the singer’s growly, raspy rendition.


To check out Rafael’s work, follow him on Facebook, purchase a piece and/or get in touch with him, visit:
Rafael Nieves
Blog: www.rafwrites.blogspot.com
Store: www.raf_nieves.storenvy.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nievesdesigns
Email: raf.nieves@gmail.com
Phone: 773-255-1696

6 COMMENTS

  1. BTW– Others describe Rafael as wise, innovative, & committed. Great job, Kelly, I just learned some interesting tidbits about my husband. Now that’s a good interview 🙂

  2. I have known Rafael Nieves, since grammar school. He has always been a kind, generous, humorous, witty and creative guy. He pulls no punches and is straightforward with his thoughts. A good listener and a great conversationalist. He has a good heart and is dear with people. He’s a dynamic person. Great interview!

  3. I have known Rafael for several years. I recently found a hidden talent for art in myself. He encourages me to develop that talent. Unca Raffy is a great friend and all-around awesome guy. Great interview

  4. Words alone cannot convey the love, respect, and admiration I have for this guy … no wonder there are legions of artists around who know him as “Unca Raffy”!

  5. What a great interview about a man who is a great person and artist. When I see pieces of his work it really makes you think and see all the possibilities of what people can do and to not waste not using their talents!!

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