Could you present yourself?
My name is Amanda but everyone calls me Mandee. I’m a 29 year old Mexican-American living in Los Angeles, California and I’m the artist behind trashpanda.
Why do you use Instagram to promote your work?
Growing up during the rise of Social Media, I have had the opportunity to see different apps/websites rise (& sometimes fall). In middle school, I used MySpace. In high school, I moved from MySpace to Facebook/Tumblr but during my high school years, Instagram started to become the new popular app. While you could share images on Facebook, I mainly used to share status updates and like an instant message app to talk to my friends. I started using Instagram in 2011 when it was fairly new.
The interface looked nothing like it does today. It was a place for me to share images of memories and special moments with all my friends and family. I had a creative hiatus after high school so the thought of using it to showcase my art didn’t really come to my mind. As the app improved, I started to notice a lot of artists showing up on my homepage. As I came out of my hiatus, I figured it would be a great app to use as sort of a portfolio and I could see my improvement overtime in one place. While it can be challenging to make the algorithm work in your favor, I still enjoy sharing my art.
What are you working with? (Devices, softwares, tools…)
Right now my art is heavily digitally based. I started using Procreate on my iPad Pro in early 2020. My mom got me my iPad for my birthday right before the pandemic. Being forced to stay home really pushed me to continue on my creative journey since we couldn’t do anything outside. I had lots of time and a brand new medium to experiment with. Some people may think that digital art is easy but it is a struggle to get used to at first. Now it feels like second nature to me when I start a new illustration. I eventually want to learn how to use photoshop so I can further enhance my artwork with its quality. That’s my next step. When I started illustrating, I mainly drew and painted on canvas. Digital art wasn’t something I knew I could tap into until later in my teenage/younger adult years.
Did you study art/took lessons?
Other than taking an art class in high school, I haven’t taken any other art classes. I’m a self-taught artist as I have been illustrating since I was little. In my high school art class, our teacher showed us various techniques/mediums you can use as an artist: charcoal, paint, canvas, stenciling/spray paint, etc. but I just went with what felt right to me. My art teacher was a big supporter of mine. She always pushed me to improve my skills. When I completed an assignment, she would use my completed work as examples for the rest of the class. Putting myself in front of other people still makes me nervous to this day but she made me feel like my skill/talent was important and worth something.
Are you trying to convey messages through your art?
One message I want to convey with my art is to remind all women, including myself, that we have the freedom to express ourselves how we want to. Women in this society are always under a microscope and told how we’re supposed to look in order to be accepted as beautiful, worthy, or even “normal”. My illustrations are unique in their styles: different hair styles, colors, eye colors, accessories, make-up, etc. We’re all individuals and we’re allowed to look how we want. Growing up, I had a hard time being myself and didn’t know how to show the me inside in a physical form. When I was young, people my age always wanted to label you under a specific genre. If you would tell them you’re punk, they’d criticize you for either not being “punk enough” or shun you for being “weird”.
I went to a catholic school so I always had to wear a uniform. We had free dress days so I would come with my plaid skirt with chains, black wristbands, and doc martin boots. I quickly started to be the odd one out. Thinking back now, it’s hard to imagine why I let other people’s opinions get to me but at the time I felt embarrassed for just trying to be me. For a while, I kept the true me inside because I was being told it wasn’t “acceptable” to be me. Art has played a major role in showing me we are all different and has allowed me to be myself; expressing it not only in my everyday life but in my artwork as well. My partner is also someone who reassured me I can be who I want to be and he made me realize it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me. I am free to be who I want to be as everyone is. Shave your head, bleach your eyebrows, wear eccentric clothing; who cares! Always be you.
How did you choose your artist name?
It was hard to pick an artist name for myself. I didn’t just want to use my name because it felt generic to me. I wanted a name that would stand out. At first I chose peachypanda as my artist name. I love peaches and the color pink so I figured peachy was a start. My mom and dad would call me panda growing up (and still to this day). I feel it’s a big part of my life and just naturally had to include it in my artist name. As I started to discover artists and small businesses online, I noticed variations of “peach” were being used excessively. I was also doubting the name. I wasn’t vibing it with it. I still wanted to include panda but wasn’t sure of the full name yet. I started to brainstorm other names.
I reminded myself of my upbringing, my likes, interests, and music taste. The thought of raccoons popped in my head and another name people refer to them by is trash pandas. Most people would stray away from them but I think they are really cute. I tend to like the “odd” things in life and I was typically the odd one growing up so I thought it fit perfectly.
What are your inspirations?
Some artists that inspired me to keep pursuing my dream of becoming an artist were Banksy, Buff Monster, & Tyson McAdoo. Though my inspirations come from other places such as music and my state of mind. I like to think I’m in-tune with my emotions so it plays a part in how my illustrations end up. I’ll pick up my iPad and start sketching out what feels natural. My mind quiets down and I get an art piece out of it that feels special to me.
Could you describe your aesthetic in three words?
Nonconforming, devilish, and vivid.
Could you tell me about your creation process?
Typically, I do my best work at night. I like to have music on so I will have my headphones on while I sketch either sitting on the couch, lying on the bed, or at my desk. Depends how I’m feeling. I like to first do a rough sketch of whatever I have in my head and add new details as I go. Sometimes I like to use references but most of the time, I’m just sketching what comes to mind. Once I’m satisfied with my sketch, I will then start my line work and color. Sometimes I get blocked and I’m unsure of either what to put in the background or what colors to use. I’ll look up color schemes or look to other artists for some inspiration. Once I’m confident in what route I’m going, I get completely consumed and time starts to fly by. I will usually spend about 3-4 hours at a time working on my illustrations. The most time I spent on an illustration was about 8-9 hours.
What are your plans for the future?
Eventually, I plan to be an artist full-time. It will take time to get there but I’m looking forward to it. I currently sell prints, stickers, keychains and other accessories at in person pop-up events and online. I’ve had my ups and downs but I expect that. No road is a perfect flat route. I have many ideas and plans that I would like to execute but my next plan is to be featured in a small artist gallery. It’s something that I’m nervous about since it’s out of my comfort zone to put myself in front of other people but sometimes you’ve got to step out of your bubble in order to keep moving towards your dream.