Dina Rodriguez makes art that entertains, engages and inspires people by promoting mental health, body positivity, and cannabis. She travels the country giving talks and workshops guiding students on the art of making a living from your passion.
Q: How did you get your start?
A: I was a graphic designer. I also called myself a production monkey. You have no creative say in what you do whatsoever; it’s very soul-crushing. I did that on and off for like 10 years, and then I realized I had gotten so far away from what I actually wanted to do for a living, which was draw. And if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. So it took me a while to get it back.
I got into hand lettering specifically because, what’s easier: drawing everything in fucking human existence, or drawing 26 characters? And it’s only in the last year that I actually started drawing people and things again, and going outside of lettering. It took five years for me to finally get to doing the thing I wanted to do when I was a little kid.
Q: When did you start incorporating cannabis into your artwork?
A: About six months ago, when I did “Pass Joints, Not Judgment.” It was based out of my fear of being judged because I smoke weed — I was so afraid of the stigma, and how people would see me. Like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly be a successful female entrepreneur if I’m also smoking weed every day.” I think that was really the piece that launched me into feeling more comfortable with myself, and more comfortable in cannabis and seeing that it’s not a bad thing.
Q: Did you notice a difference in your online presence?
A: Yeah, a huge boom: 3,000 followers in less than a month, tons of product sales. It was the first piece that I put on a T-shirt, and it sold out in two days, which was pretty cool considering I had never sold apparel before.
Q: Has incorporating cannabis into your artwork been entirely positive? Or have you received any pushback?
A: I got a couple messages like, “Oh, you’re doing cannabis work now? Unfollow.” Why do you need to tell me you’re unfollowing me? How egotistical are you that you want me to care about your one unfollow? That was really the majority of it. I thought it would hurt my corporate client work, but I still get inquiries all the time — apparently, no one cares. So that’s cool.
Q: Has the Oregon cannabis community influenced your art?
A: I think the fact that it’s recreationally legal here makes a huge difference. And being inspired by people like Ladies of Paradise, who do a lot of feminine cannabis spin with their audience, makes me want to use pink a hell of a lot more, and be a little bit more sexy and risqué with my work. But I think that’s the extent of it. It’s just more noticing things, like if I go to Florida, and I post a cannabis piece, it doesn’t get as much engagement than if I’m geotagged in Portland, where it’s recreationally legal.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: Everyday life, TV, memes, Instagram. You can’t help but be inspired. I try not to let other art influence me, because I don’t want to get into a copyright battle with anybody. There’s a couple of people, like I love Killer Acid — I have a piece of his in my living room — he does a lot of weed and cannabis work, but what I do is so different from him. He was definitely an example of that this could even be possible.
Q: What are your weed-smoking habits?
A: Daily. Usually sativa during the day, and indica before I go to bed. Sometimes I just forget because I’m too busy working. I can’t smoke weed before like a meeting or anything like that, but I definitely have designated art days. I can’t write a sentence if I’m stoned, but I can draw a couple of super-sexy ladies, that’s for sure.
Q: Flower or concentrates?
A: Mostly flower. I like vape pens a lot for on the road, when you don’t want to carry a lighter and a bowl and a piece and all the things with you. And also cleaning is a pain in the ass. So flower for home use. And a pen for literally anywhere else.
Q: How about CBD?
A: I love CBD. It balances me out when I smoke too much of anything else. The second I have paranoia, I take a couple of puffs of the CBD pen and I’m fine within a couple of minutes. It’s great.
Q: Along with weed, your work celebrates body positivity and the creativity of the soul. And your message is partly that you don’t need anyone else’s permission.
A: It’s about mental health, body positivity and talking about things that are important to me. It’s also teaching people how they can do that with their art as well.
Q: That they can make a living from making art?
A: Yeah. It just has to come from your personal experience. You can’t copy what other people are doing. You can’t remix it. It has to be something that you believe in, that you struggle with, that comes from your own universe, for other people to be able to relate to it.
Q: Can you tell us about one of your favorite pieces?
A: I like this one that’s all about body positivity and self-love, “You Deserve to be Loved.” Minnie Puff, the model that I based it off, is plus-size; she’s adorable, and I was the first person to ever really tell her that she could be a model, that she was beautiful enough that she could get paying gigs. I made the piece for her. She didn’t ask me to do it. I just wanted her to see herself the way that I saw her.
That’s one of my more popular pieces, but it’s also one of my more emotional pieces, because I feel like we all deserve the love that we keep trying to give everybody else.
Q: What do you have coming up?
A: I have a new 420 apparel line — leggings, a crop top, T-shirts and a bathing suit. One piece coming at ya, some naked Dina on the ‘gram coming. Um, so that’s going to be fun. Everyone needs more naked Dina in their life. [Laughter] I do think there is a sense of empowerment that comes from taking those kinds of photos.
People ask me, “How do you feel more comfortable in your body?” And I’m like, honestly, just surround yourself with people who look like you, like your friends, and the people you follow on Instagram. And taking a risqué photo, to give to your partner can really make a huge difference. So you can actually see yourself the way that maybe your partner or someone else sees you.
That really made a huge difference for me. Like, “Oh, stretch marks, they’re fucking normal.” And if you see all these beautiful women who are still like a 10 even though they’re 30 pounds overweight, and have stretch marks, you’re like, “Well, maybe that’s not as weird as I thought it was.”
Mike Glazer and Mary Jane Gibson also interviewed Dina Rodriguez for an episode of their Weed+Grub podcast. You can listen to the interview here. Follow Dina Rodriguez on Instagram, and visit her site lettershoppe.com.