words by cheyenne bholla
Bela Caxarias, a 21-year-old graphic designer from Hamilton, started taking design seriously around two months ago. But it’s been a long journey coming to terms with her career goals.
At the age of 17, Caxarias set out by herself to travel to places like Colombia and Spain.
She had graduated high school a year early and decided it was time for a change in scenery.
“I knew that going straight into university wasn’t going to be good for me. I knew really young that it wasn’t my path even though I got good grades because I was really indecisive on what I wanted to take and didn’t really know where I saw myself.”
She was tackling the internal dilemma of figuring out what she wanted to do in life. People around her were telling her not to go into art because she got good grades.
She says travelling taught her a lot about life’s “firsts”.
Her first time paying rent. Travelling alone between cities.
“That kind of just gave me a different perspective of the world around me. It shaped the person I am today.”
Around October 2016, Caxarias was in Colombia. She remembers the struggle between the government and rebels, which resulted in violence.
One day, she lost power and was not able to contact her mom to tell her she was okay until around midnight when she finally got a connection again.
“To my surprise, she had no idea what I was talking about, even though she’s a huge news buff. It was because Kim Kardashian had been robbed that day in France, so every news outlet wrote on that.”
“I started to see famous people as distractions to real things happening in the world.”
This experience made Caxarias think about celebrity culture, “I started to see famous people as distractions to real things happening in the world.”
When she came back to Canada in March 2017, this steered her decision to choose journalism at Ryerson University over film school.
However, while she was in school, Caxarias started to realize that a more creative route is what she wanted. She would catch herself doodling during classes.
“I paid better attention when I was drawing, even though I looked super distracted when I (was) doodling.”
She has always loved to draw. But although she enjoyed sketching and painting in high school, she never considered it as a career path.
A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, while in social isolation, Caxarias bought an iPad and picked back up her love for drawing.
“I realized a lot of the things I enjoy doing are related to art, whether it was making videos, drawing or editing audio, I just liked producing more creative content than I did like newsy stuff. For some reason, I really felt in my stomach that I wanted to get an iPad and I wanted to make graphic art specifically, so I did.”
Among her first creations was a graphic she made for her sister’s birthday. It pictures them hugging with the phrase ‘i got u’.
She says it represents the fact that they will always be there for each other.
Caxarias has now been making prints for around two months, and she says she’s surprised by the amount of support she’s been receiving.
“I just started drawing and I feel like I’ve improved so much already just in these past six weeks, so I’m really excited for where I can take this.”
Though she originally wanted to pursue journalism because of her passion for politics, Caxarias now wants her artwork to convey political messages.
A goal for her is to use her platform and work to support movements like intersectional feminism and Black Lives Matter.
“If you follow me for my art, you’re going to see how I feel and my political opinions and ethical or moral values.”
Her favourite print she’s made so far, was a commissioned drawing of a Black superhero.
She said she enjoyed this piece because it challenges the lack of representation in conventionally white spaces, such as the superhero world.
“I think art is a really cool way to change the world and create these false realities that are more accepting to other communities and everyone in general.”
After she graduates in Spring 2021, Caxarias wants to start collaborating with other women in the field, especially Black and Indigenous women, and potentially starting her own brand.
She says her main goal is curating a space that empowers women.
It’s been a journey for Bela to land on graphic design, but she is still open to other creative endeavours.
“Overall, it’s just reminding myself that whichever artistic stream or creative stream I choose to go down, success is internal. I love creating art. I’m starting to love my art itself, in all forms.”