Rubina Dyan Is the Model Whose Art Embraces Imperfections
Rubina Dyan is a 20-year-old who probably has at least one of your dream jobs.
She can be spotted in large-scale campaigns like Victoria’s Secret Pink or running through the streets of NYC on her way to castings, but when she’s not living the life of a in-demand model, you might find her in her bed painting — or knitting.
You see, as much as Rubina loves getting in front of the camera, she also loves being behind the camera – or in her case, the canvas. Rubina sold her first piece at 17, and she hasn’t stopped creating since. Her work features lots of watercolor, a medium that’s notoriously hard to control. The result is work that’s dreamy, natural, and totally impossible to look away from — check her art Insta if you don’t believe us.
We talked to Rubina — who was born in Armenia, grew up in Spain, and moved to LA at 16 — about how she started creating, what her process is like, and her long-term goals. Check out the interview, plus this dope editorial where she gets up close and personal with her art.
How has your artwork evolved throughout your career? When did you start getting into it?
I started getting into art when I was very young, when I was little. I found that when I started painting and drawing more and more. Actually, one of the things I used to draw the most was models from the magazines. It was something that I just randomly started doing, and one day I became [an artist].
Throughout the years I kept on going, trying different styles, and when social media came along I started sharing my work and by the time I was modeling I started getting more exposure. The more I shared it with other people, I found that there was interest, so I started working harder on it and started using new media, working with watercolors and acrylics. Some people started getting interested in commissioning and buying some of the works, so it’s been a very nice adventure figuring out what my style is, but I still don’t know what it is. So I’m just going to keep trying and trying.
Do you feel like posting your artwork on social media gives you more motivation to do it? Just because people are waiting to see what you come up with next?
Yes. I think it’s a great motivation, it’s great to see what people think about it and what they’re most interested in. I’m going to keep doing what I like to do, if it sells or if it doesn’t, or if it gets likes or it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter to me. But it’s still a great medium to share it and get people’s opinions and just finding other artists around who share the work too and getting inspired. It’s a great way to get exposed and get inspired.
When you’re selling your pieces, is it ever difficult to let go of something you spent a lot of time on?
Yes, actually. Funny you say that because the very first piece I sold I was crying to my mom. I think I was 17 and I sold my first piece and I didn’t want to sell it, I was trying to find excuses not to sell it. The guy that was buying it was an art collector and I had this idea in my head that he was going to delete my signature and start selling it. It was a nightmare to me. I did let it go and it felt good. He hung it right when I dropped it off and it was such a good feeling knowing that my art was appreciated. It has a lot of value to me, not when it comes to monetary value, but the fact that it gets appreciated.
Yeah, that’s crazy you already sold a piece at 17. How did that come about?
That was actually when I was sharing and random people were hitting me up. When I released my website it became easier to get out there. [The first purchaser] was an art collector, I don’t know how he found out about my work, I guess social media. He looked it up and said, “I want this one. ” I didn’t even know how to price it, I was doing research and seeing what artists in my area were doing and I randomly said something and he said, “okay great.” I was like, “really?” So that worked out very well. I don’t even know how this is all happening. It’s great to share it and get my art appreciated by others, but it’s never been about [money] and it never will be.
How old are you now?
I’m 20 now.
What’s your artistic process like?
Most of my pieces kind of just happen, it just organically has to happen throughout the process. It’s trial and error, I just keep trying and figuring out what I like. Most of the time, when it’s one of the pieces I have with the outline and watercolors, usually it’s just me sitting and playing with the watercolors. Once I see this little thing that I like, I take it to another canvas and try it again and again and again until it becomes a greater piece and a greater style. It kind of has to come organically, that’s why it’s a little hard for me to work on commissioned pieces. Even having to change a palette of a work I’ve already done, it’s always a little harder for me because I actually have to put some thought into it and I start overthinking it and then I mess up.
Especially with water color, it’s a medium that’s hard to plan ahead.
Yeah, you just have to let it do its thing. You can’t control it that much, and that’s what I love about it. You just let the colors and the water just play, but when it’s commissioned you can’t, and that’s not something I’m very good at.
How does your career as a model influence your artwork?
Its been a major influence. Even before I started modeling, fashion was something that was not around me and I didn’t know much about it, but it always caught my attention for some reason. I started working and traveling and meeting people and there was inspiration all over the place. One time I was working with David LaChapelle and he had this incredible set in his own studio, this car crashing, it was just insane. That gives me so much inspiration for my work. There are so many creatives out there, so many sets I’ve been in. I love to scroll through images of fashion shows and editorials and that’s something I always take as a reference. Lots of them involve women or beauty, the main things that inspire my work.
Do you ever paint any self portraits?
Actually, that’s one thing I never do. There is one face I always kind of doodle here and there when I’m playing around and I always do big eyes and eyebrows, so people say it does look like me, but that’s not my intention.
Do you feel like people make negative assumptions about your artwork because you’re also a model?
It doesn’t necessarily happen that way, but I do notice some people’s tones, they do kind of have an idea in their head about what kind of artist I may be. I don’t know what idea that is, it doesn’t bother me, it’s actually fun when I show them and they’re surprised to see that I do put a lot of time and effort into my work and I do take it seriously. I don’t think it’s common, but it has happened before. Whatever, I don’t really care. I’m going to keep doing my own thing.
What do you do when you’re in an artistic rut?
When I don’t feel inspired in painting, I do other hobbies or ways to express myself. Recently I just started knitting and doing embroidery and that’s one thing I’ve been doing for the past few days every night. The more I do it, the more excited I get to paint. It’s hard sometimes when you feel frustrated and there’s nothing coming to you, but I always try to find another way to go around it. I think creating in a different way always gets me back to that place where I know I can start doing my work again.
Was there ever a time where you felt pressured by friends or family to pursue a more traditional career?
Not really. I was always very determined to go into law, which is something my parents were very excited about too, but the moment modeling came around, we obviously didn’t plan it.
I started getting scouted by casting directors and agencies and I would always say no. [My parents and I] were so skeptical for a while, but finally decided to give it a try. It happened so quickly and so drastically that we didn’t really get a chance to stop and think. My parents have always been so supportive of everything I do. Modeling has been great, and it’s still going on and obviously neither my parents or I know where it’s going, and same with art. They know I’m super passionate about it and they definitely support me 100% with whatever I want to do, but both careers are very risky so eventually I would like to get my degree. Maybe law degree, maybe something else, but yeah I’m definitely going back to college, just for myself. It’s not something my parents would ever force me to do, but it’s actually what I wanted to do back then.
You travel a lot for work, do you do artwork on the road?
When it comes to bigger pieces or canvas pieces, yeah, I do have to be home. But I’m lucky enough to have LA and New York be my main destinations when I’m traveling, so I have my canvases and my paintings in both places, which is great. When I’m traveling, I have a little sketchbook with me. It’s hard to keep up because I actually finish every sketchbook within a week and a half. I think I have like four of them I completed in the last month. When I travel, I usually just do my ink work, illustrations, or little doodles or ideas.
What does an average day look like for you?
It’s kind of hard to say because I just got to New York a few months ago, so I’m still getting a hold of how it goes. If I’m not running around from casting to casting or working, I’m training – I work out very often. At the end of the day, when I’m done, I come home and cook myself a meal – I like to cook a lot. Lately I’ve been doing my embroidery, so I’ve been working on that. I like cooking, I like walking around the city, it’s amazing. It’s so dynamic, it has so much energy.
Do you find it different from LA in that way?
I find it extremely different. I never got my driver’s license, so it was tough to get around LA, I had to take Ubers everywhere. That’s what’s so different about New York, everything’s walking distance or I can take a subway or an Uber if it’s an emergency. I love walking around and having stores around me and being able to meet people so easily. I love that about New York a lot, such an active city.
Photographer: Rowan Papier
Photographer Assistant: JP Herrera
Stylist: Julien Alleyne
Hair: Katsumi Matsuo
Makeup: Rommy Najor
Model/Talent: Rubina Dyan @ The Lions
Studio: Red Hook Labs