Ai LIVE: Becoming the King of Pop Art®
In this edition of Ai LIVE, host E. Vincent Martinez sits down with Nelson De La Nuez, the King of Pop Art®, and shares his journey from starting out, to selling to high end galleries.
The title “King of Pop Art®” came about through a chance encounter with Michael Jackson. The renowned singer visited one of Da La Nuez’s galleries, and was impressed with the work, purchasing a few pieces. As the hype around the visit increased, someone exclaimed that the king of pop art sells to the King of Pop. De La Nuez liked this idea, and it became central to his branding.
De La Nuez was born in Havana, Cuba, and his family later moved to Oceanside, California. With the move came quite the cultural shock and De La Nuez absorbed it all: jingles and music, cartoons and brand mascots—by the time he was a teen, he had taken over his parents’ garage to start creating art. But beyond that desire to create was another question: how do I make this a career?
Starting out, De La Nuez took up jobs and positions that weren’t fulfilling since, according to him, he was pursuing money. In his 30s, De La Nuez quit a very secure job and started from scratch making art. He calls it a leap of faith, as he wasn’t entirely sure what to do, only that he knew he wanted to be an artist, but he would be starting from scratch.
He started selling his first pieces directly to the consumers, which he listed as a benefit as it very quickly gave him feedback and criticism he could use to improve. This method worked for him for about 8-9 years, and from there, he gained the confidence to move into high end art shows and galleries.
His advice to anyone wanting to become an artist is that overnight success doesn’t happen. De La Nuez notes that he put in the work to get where he is because there was no plan B for him. The advice of his mother rang true for him: you’ll get there eventually if you put in the time. He encourages students and creative types to follow their passions; his one regret about his career is that he didn’t start sooner, and De La Nuez considers himself lucky he had a passion.
“Nothing in life is worth doing unless you take risks,” he concludes.
If you want to learn how to become an artist like De La Nuez, come join the visual design programs at the Art Institutes.
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