Paulina Sotto doesn't like to complicate things. "Even the way I dress, I'm super simple. Everything about me is simple," she says about her go-to shirt, jeans and sneakers look, "much like my work." For Old Navy's Never Basic Tees collection launch, the 24-year-old abstract painter translates her love for lines and squares (her favorite shape) into playful prints that work with any shirt silhouette. We talk to Paulina about the short but sweet collab and what it's like doing non-figurative traditional art in the age of digital illustration and collage.
Paulina beside one of the four designs she created for Old Navy.
How did you get into abstract art?
My lolo is Arturo Luz, he's a national artist and an abstract painter. I've lived with him all my life but I've never really thought about following in his footsteps. I didn't think it would be possible. It started last year—last December, actually. Literally out of nowhere I woke up with an idea of using lines, and I started sketching and putting it on canvas—but it was just for fun. I just graduated last year and I didn't want to work right away so I had a lot of free time. So I would paint abstract paintings for fun, and then someone asked if I was selling my work and it sort of became my career overnight.
Some of Paulina's paintings she posted on her Instagram.
Did you love drawing when you were young?
Yeah, but the typical flowers with smiley faces. I would give those to my lolo and he'd put it up on his studio wall—he had a whole wall of all my drawings. But they weren't really like childish drawings. Growing up I didn't think I was artistically inclined so I didn't pursue it. But when I was fifteen, I was put in art class and my teacher sort of made me realize that I could draw. So I started painting portraits, doing it for fun, and giving them as gifts to my family members.
I noticed that your color palette is quite similar to your grandfather's, is that something conscious?
I grew up surrounded by his paintings so I'm really accustomed to those colors. There's a lot of neutrals. His favorite color is ochre, my favorite color is ochre. So I think, aesthetic-wise, when it comes to paintings, we have the same style and taste.
What is the satisfaction of doing abstract work?
A closer look at her logotype tee.
Lines are so underappreciated. When you look at all these drawings on-trend now, you know how they're always so loud, so graphic, and there's so many elements to it. People really underestimate lines, but all those elements we see now are made up of lines, colors, etc. And it's just going back to the basics. I dunno, I'm just really like my lolo, and I'm really attracted to simple things. I'm a really simple person.
What was your inspiration behind the prints you did for Old Navy Never Basic Tees event today?
They actually gave me a theme to work around. They said, "California, American, graphic and bold". I was telling them, "I'm abstract! I won't be painting any sunsets or anything." But [they said] that's what they really like about my work. They just told me to channel my work into the stencils, and that's what I did. If you look at my work it's very geometric, a lot of lines, I use lines for everything, and I just translated my work into what would look good on a shirt. I tried to make something that's very me but shirt-design friendly.