July 6, 2021

Design Feast’s Makers Series—113th Interview: Mabel Ney’s Sensibilities as a Designer, Her Springboard to Further Grow as an Artist

It was on a poster for Munich’s Die Neue Sammlung (considered to be the world’s oldest design museum) that I discovered this memorable quote: “Design is art that makes itself useful.” Mabel Ney embodies the substance and spirit of this statement, for she’s both a UX Designer and Painter. The former naturally feeds the latter and vice versa. Here, Mabel tells more about her evolution—in design and art:

1. You’re a User Experience Designer turned Artist. What were top convincers here?

Drawing has been a way of processing research, user flows and requirements. I felt I was missing drawing skills—and started taking classes and going to art meetups. My husband and I had gone to art school in our college years, and felt the art meetups helped keep us motivated to draw again. We both wanted to find more time away from tech and more time with traditional art.

2. You made what’s called a “career pivot”! When did you start having this idea? And how did you commit to realizing it?

My pivot was part of my retirement plan. I wanted to paint and draw more, and take more classes to improve my skills. As my husband and I worked with our financial planner, we expressed how important it was to us to travel and take art classes. 

3. What were a few critical to-dos, from the emotional to the practical, you did when embarking on your new career?

I tried to put in 6–8 hours of drawing a week. I started with Post-its in meetings, at home, or in coffee shops. I moved on to sketchbooks and a plein air setup or home studio setup for pastels on the weekends. I attended as many meetups as I could and got hooked on portrait sessions. I was fortunate that the other artists at the meetups where very supportive and willing to share their process as well as where to find shows and more meetups. I definitely had days I thought I pretty much sucked but tried to find something I learned and move on.

4. Is there an artistic encounter or creative event that you keep recalling, even inspiring you?

An instructor said not to treat every drawing as a …

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