The word “versatile” is used to describe a lot of things and people, but it won’t be a waste to use it on visual artist and illustrator Marlie Decopain. She’s designed storyboards for Nike, Time Warner Cable, Coach, Dove, Prudential, and even a Ricky Martin music video. Her professors at the prestigious School of Visual Arts (from which she graduated) taught her well you might say. But as she explains during our interview, she was born into it, thank you very much.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she immigrated to the United States when she was sixteen years old. She recently joined forces with the entrepreneurs behind the Haitian chocolate brand Askanya, and yielded a stunning design for their candy bar.
Kreyolicious: How did you become an artist?
I can’t say that I came to be an artist. Being an artist as always been a part of my identity. I’ve always loved to draw, and I drew all the time as a very young child living in Haiti as many young children do. But while some kids stop when they find new interests, I kept going. In my early teenage years a woman moved next door and told my parents that she was running an art school out of her home. Naturally my parents enrolled me. There, I continued improving on my drawing skills and also began painting seriously and exploring pottery. I was introduced for the first time to European art history and various drawing and painting styles. This is where I really got my foundation, in my neighbor’s home in Haiti. I moved to the US at 16 where my creative pursuits continued. I signed up for art class at the High School I attended and within the first few classes I realized that I needed more from the class in order to advance my craft. I spoke to the teacher and got moved to a higher level class. At that point I really knew that when it came to art there was no turning back for me.
Kreyolicious: People find it hard to grasp that visual creatives can experience blocks. But some do. Is that the case with you?
Yes, of course. I think any creative person can experience blocks. It’s part of the journey.
The wrapper design for Askanya, a Haitian chocolate brand.
Kreyolicious: How do you resolve those moments?
If it happens while I’m in the process of working on something I usually step away or put the piece aside and come back to it later or in a couple of days depending on my schedule. This allows me to look at the piece with fresh eyes and brand new ideas. If it happens before I even start, I typically turn to things that inspire me.
Kreyolicious: You attended and graduated from the School of Visual Arts. What were some of the most important things you learned while there?
Not only did I learn a new art form, but I learned how to be a professional. SVA sets high standards and demands a high level of skills and work ethic. I learned that being a creative isn’t the same as being a creative professional. Being a creative requires skills while being a creative professional requires that and much more.
SVA also taught me the importance of collaboration. While you might see your peers as competitors they can be great assets in building your career and your brand. Bringing your voices and skills together and cultivating one another’s strengths becomes an enriching experience for everyone.
Above: A storyboard Marlie Decopain designed for one of Nike’s campaigns.