“What If Brooklyn Was a Cartoon Character?” Conversations with Daniella Urdinlaiz
Daniella Urdinlaiz is a Greenpoint-based artist specializing in illustration, animation, and design. From her drawing desk she’s created worlds that have traversed the internet realm onto films, websites, and blogs such as Thought Catalog, working as their primary visual artist.
“I’m drawn to people and things that are strange and bizarre to me,” she exclaimed as I stared at the rubbery octopus tentacle on our plate by the bar top of Alameda. Over shiso cocktails, the storyteller shared a bit of her own story, from her Catholic school upbringing in Miami to dreams of having her own cartoon show.
GP: How long have you been living in Greenpoint?
I’ve been living here for about 3 years now.
GP: Where are your favorite places to frequent in North Brooklyn?
–Rocka Rolla – I have a thing for themed restaurants.
–El Cortez is great for dancing.
–Nitehawk; a place to eat and drink while watching movies is my heaven.
–Ramona, it’s like the show “Cheers” in there for me
–Cafe de La Esquina. I love the atmosphere there and plus delicious food!
–Jimmy’s, the one in Greenpoint, since I’m constantly on the search for the best Bloody Mary and this one is def in my top 10.
GP: What got you into your current field?
I’ve been drawing since I was around 4 and I’ve always been obsessed with cartoons, so it finally dawned on me in high school to be an animator. I studied at Pratt Institute and with a few years of struggle, freelance, and some strange jobs, here I am.
GP: What is your perspective on the industry at this time?
In regards to the animation industry, I think it’s a very small world. With traditional TV animation, I think it’s a little difficult to stay afloat as shows are constantly getting cancelled and networks are making way for other ones – sometimes shows that suck big time. But I think there is always a chance to get your foot in the door and some places like Adult Swim for example, or anywhere on the internet, really, that welcome new and exciting things. That always gives me hope.
GP: What can you tell us about the stories you create?
I love to observe the strange and unique, especially the weirdos around me. The characters I create are usually based on someone I’ve seen or know but exaggerated in some way. I like to poke fun of things a lot, but in an endearing sort of way. Someone once called me a misanthrope but that’s totally not true! It all comes from the heart and I take the time to make all these characters special in some way.
Story-wise, I want to talk about things I know, things that affected me growing up. Being a completely introverted kid going to Catholic school in Miami was a real trip and I hope to bring that to life at some point. Something about living in a diverse and unfamiliar suburbia. A different kind of Americana. That’s where my mind is going anyway.
GP: What kind of work are you currently doing?
I’m designing and illustrating for Thought Catalog, which is super fun since there’s a lot of creative freedom. I’ve done some original illustrations for the site and I’m currently working on a web comic about aliens.
GP: Is there anyone or group in particular that you’ve wanted to work with?
I have so many heroes and role models where I would have an out-of-body experience if I had the chance to work with them, like Tim Burton or Genndy Tartakovsky. Or if I could somehow find a way to travel back in time to the days of MTV’s Liquid Television. All of those things would be rad but, highly unlikely. Realistically, I would love to work at Adult Swim or have anything to do with Rick and Morty, since I am OBSESSED.
GP: Where were you 5 years ago, where are you now, and where do you see
yourself in 5 years from now?
Well, 5 years ago, I was working for a construction company! It was actually a really funny experience because that world has nothing to do with me AT ALL. I was this art school kid going to work with these macho dudes from Queens and Staten Island. But, it was a goldmine of funny stories and creative inspiration so I look back on it fondly.
Five years from now, I hope I’m at least on the road to having my own animated series and working with some really great and talented people.
GP: Has where you’ve lived influenced your work in anyway?
Living in New York definitely influences my work. I draw from life, so what I’m experiencing always makes an appearance in my work, even if it’s not something that’s obviously New York… like a terrifying subway ride or dodging comedy show barkers in Union Square.
GP: If you made Brooklyn into a cartoon character, what would its personality be like?
It would definitely be a crotchety, old bird lady who shoves you out of her way, collects garbage, and makes people cry all the time. However, she would have her likable moments where she pets a dog or you discover her secret past where she was a punk rocker.