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An Interview With Nena Sanchez: It’s Never Too Late to Start Something New

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In Curaçao, there is scarcely anyone who has not heard of Nena Sanchez. She has become a household name synonymous with bright colors, joy, happiness, and all that is Curaçao. And those who know her personally can testify that that is exactly who Nena is. She is a proud “Yu di Korsou”, a self-made artist, always full of ideas and new creations. But Nena is more than an artist. She is a great businesswoman who can “sell water to Eskimos”, as she will tell you herself with a great smile on her face. Her life story is a true inspiration of how it’s never too late to start something new, to create your own personal work of art… life.

TEXT KORRA PIETERSZ-JULIANA, OASEAN VISION

Nena was born and raised in Curaçao. After enjoying a great youth on the island she spread her wings and embarked on her own adventure where she lived in Venezuela and the United States. After 25 years abroad, she returned back to Curaçao in 1994. She was again inspired by the beautiful bright colors of the Caribbean’s blue skies and turquoise waters. Wonderful little cottages adorned with vibrant tropical flowers, cacti, banana trees and palm trees, all served as living models for her paintings. The beauty and sunlight that she sees every day, became her source of inspiration and have marked her love for the bright colors that are the base of a very personal creation and unique style which has become her trademark. Her paintings of Dutch Caribbean scenery with fascinating bright colors in a figurative style, have a joyful personality of their own and are a delight to the eyes.

When you see Nena’s paintings, you would think that she has been painting her whole life. But that is not her story. Nena is a “late bloomer” as she calls herself, having started her career as an artist in her fifties. She has been publishing her own paintings since 1998 after she taught herself the skills of painting by experimenting with acrylics on different materials such as wood canvas and paper. Being the great businessperson that she was, she knew that selling only paintings would not be enough to grow her business. So she created Giclees (reproductions), a line of art cards, mini prints and posters, that are to this day collected by many. Today her paintings are found in private collections in Europe, Canada, North and South America, Asia and on the other Dutch Caribbean islands.

We interviewed Nena to learn more about what drives her and makes her the successful artist and business woman that she is.

KP: What was your life like when growing up?
NS: Absolutely marvelous. I had a very happy childhood and youth thanks to my wonderful parents. I was born on the beautiful island of Curaçao, the best place on earth to spend your childhood and youth. It is still a little paradise for people of all ages. I am a happy person and you can see it reflected in my artwork.

KP: You can indeed! How would you describe your journey into becoming the Nena Sanchez, successful artist and businesswoman we know today?
NS: A fascinating journey, the ride of my life. I started to paint first at home, I converted a guestroom into a small studio. It was more of a hobby as I never studied art. I taught myself to paint in that room. As a child I loved to paint but never imagined that painting was going to become such an important part of my life. After painting in that small studio for several years and realizing that people liked my paintings, I decided to open my first Nena Sanchez Gallery. I became the first local artist to have her own gallery. That was an exciting time and right away it became a success, but success does not come without sacrifice. For many years I painted 18 hours a day but as I was doing something that I loved to do, it was not a burden. I loved every minute of it and still do.

KP: Every journey teaches us lessons. What were some of the biggest lessons that you learned so far and that still impact the way you do business?
NS: There are many lessons. But the 8 biggest lessons to me are:

• Stay focused on what you want to achieve

• Setup your goal and focus on that

• Don’t listen to people that want to destroy your dream or business

• Believe in yourself and listen to your inner voice

• Work minimum 16 hours a day

• Take small steps at a time to move forward

• Save and invest in new ideas so you keep growing

• But the number one lesson is save, save, and save more, so you can continue riding when times get difficult

KP: Difficult times cannot be avoided. How do you conquer those moments of doubt that so often stifle entrepreneurs during tough times? What pushes you through?
NS: I am a very spiritual person. Without my spirituality I would have never made it so far. I do not start any project without consulting with my partner, and God is my partner. He pushes me through everything and is the best partner you can have. I highly recommend Him. I owe my success to Him for always guiding me in the right direction.

KP: What is the best advice that you received that you still follow today?
NS: Before you start anything, first study the market of what you want to do. Make sure you have enough money to survive for at least 2 years, in case the business doesn’t take off immediately.

KP: How do you stay creative business wise?
NS: Staying creative business wise is no problem at all. I am a very creative person and I see opportunities all over. My problem now is my age. Whatever I want to do has to start immediately and that is sometimes difficult to achieve.

KP: What are your non-work habits that help you with your work that you would recommend to others?
NS: I am always looking for new creative ideas to promote my art and my galleries. Even when I travel I am always visiting galleries to see what other people do in other countries. When you have your own business, your heart belongs to that business. The love you give to your business is what makes it successful. Love and the good care of people that work with you. Happy people make a happy business and happy clients.

KP: Many companies abroad are focusing more on the wellbeing of their staff. They are using non-conventional ways like art to incorporate relaxation techniques in an effort to invest in workplace wellness. What’s your intake on that?
NS: There is a wonderful connection between art and workplace wellness. Out of every 10 people I talk to, 7 love art. Most of them would love to learn how to paint and enjoy it too. People cannot imagine how relaxing painting can be. When I sit down to paint I forget everything. You are so involved in what you are doing that the hours go by so fast. So people with high-stress jobs can certainly benefit from art to calm their nerves and help them with getting rid of stress. It’s certainly better than stress medicine. I am autodidact, meaning that I taught myself to paint. And if I did it others can do it too. Everybody has talent. We are all creative, some more than others, but we are all born with creativity. You just have to dare to begin, by yourself or take a couple of classes. And if companies want to help their employees reduce their stress levels through art workshops, that’s even better! More companies here on the island should try it.

It’s never too late to unleash your creativity and learn something new. I talk about painting because that is what I do. It’s something you can do on your own at home or in the garden, or you can also join a group. It’s ideal for any one with stress, or for people that are suffering from loneliness. It’s also a wonderful activity for those who are going to retire soon or are already retired and don’t know what to do with their free time. It’s something I recommend highly. You will notice a change immediately in your health and wellbeing. Just dare to begin. If I did it, so can you.

Nena Sanchez
nena nenasanchez.com – www.nenasanchez.com