From Memories to Masterpieces: An Interview with Artist Tess Ramirez

In this exclusive interview, we meet Tess Ramirez, the New York artist known by My Father’s Daughter. Drawing inspiration from personal memories and experiences, Tess creates captivating artworks that reflect her upbringing in a creative environment. Her father, a significant artistic influence, played a pivotal role in shaping her creative journey. Following his passing, Tess rediscovered her connection to art, finding purpose and authenticity in her work.

Tess’s collection of artworks, inspired by hotels and restaurants, features matchbooks and keys that hold personal stories and histories. Through her art, she skillfully captures the sense of community and pride associated with these establishments.

Join us as we delve deeper into Tess’s artistic journey, exploring her inspirations and her unwavering commitment to using art as a catalyst for positive change.

Could you please share your background and tell us more about where you are from and your journey in the world of art?

I’m a New York gal through and through! I grew up in Westchester until my Mom moved to Manhattan. I now live in Brooklyn with my fiancé and our 4 year old dog, Oliver. 

As the daughter of a graphic designer and museum curator, my introduction to the art world started very young. From the time I could hold a crayon, my parents were always encouraging me to draw (this doubled as a very successful distraction method for a fussy toddler). Some of my earliest memories are drawing on paper table covers at restaurants with my parents and visiting museums with my Mom. My Dad never had “formal” artistic training, and taught me the way he learned – through careful observation and consistent practice. As I got older, I started enrolling in art classes and eventually attended the Rhode Island School of Design’s Pre-College Intensive (although I ultimately decided to attend a Liberal Arts College when I graduated High School). I don’t think there’s a single “right way” to be an artist. You learn by doing! 

Who are your biggest artistic influences and what motivates you to create?

This probably comes as no surprise but…my Dad! For a long time after he passed away, I shut down my creative side. I think it was easier for me to compartmentalize my own grief that way. I think I started to turn a corner while working with a therapist who encouraged me to give his death [and everything we had been through with his illness] a meaning and a reason. It’s definitely not a straight line from grief to motivation, but I feel more connected to my Dad and (forgive this next cliche) my most authentic self. 

Your portfolio showcases a remarkable collection of artwork inspired by hotels and restaurants, particularly in the form of matchbooks and key collections. Could you share the story and inspiration behind these captivating creations?

I’m a serial travel ephemera collector – a habit I definitely picked up from my Dad. When we traveled as a family – even if it was just up the street to our favorite local restaurant – my Dad always carried a sketchbook with him. He would stick business cards, wine labels, postcards, and receipts between the pages as a record of that experience. He also collected matchbooks wherever he went – a collection I inherited after he passed away. During the pandemic, I was home with my Mom and decided to go through the hundreds of matchbooks and group them by country, city, or state. As I started pooling them together my Mom narrated. That was a bit of a lightbulb moment – seeing how these small objects can tell a story or personal history. 

What I love about restaurants and old/historic hotels is their role in the community. In most cases, they have grown together and influenced each other. There’s a collective sense of pride among their regular patrons that I find really inspiring, and it makes for a really fun subject. A sketch of Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle will mean something wildly different from one person to the next, just like a matchbook from L’artusi might hold more meaning from one person to another. It’s a shared love, but also deeply personal. 

When it comes to creating a painting, what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the process?

Coming up with the concept and composition! I’ve been known to stare at the same canvas or piece of paper for weeks before actually putting paint to paper. 

Can you share a glimpse into your daily routine? What does a typical day in your life look like? Do you have a preferred time of day when you feel most inspired and motivated to create?

Not as organized or consistent as I would like. Every day is truly different. Right now I am still at the stage in my business and artistic practice where I’m wearing all of the hats. Some days I’ll be on the computer from 9am to 9pm answering customer emails, fulfilling online orders,  following up with clients…other days I’ll be at the studio working on commissions or experimenting with new mediums and subjects.

I have a somewhat maddening habit of coming up with new ideas when I’m in the middle of a project – I think every report card I had in elementary school said, “Tess likes to start new projects before finishing old ones.” And while this might not be the most productive way to create, it’s definitely when I come up with the most authentic [and to me, exciting] ideas. I’ve been learning to accept these creative distractions and go with it, as long as I’m not on a deadline!

It’s fantastic to hear that a portion of the proceeds from orders placed on your website goes towards supporting the Alzheimer’s Association. Could you please provide more details on how people can contribute and support this cause through their purchases?

I first started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association in High School while my Dad was living with the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is such an incredible organization, and its been wildly humbling and rewarding to have experienced the full ark of their services. 

I’d encourage anyone who has cared for, loved, or lost someone with Alzheimer’s Disease to get involved!! The organization has individual chapters in every state, with both fundraising and advocacy groups – so its very easy to get involved in the way that interests you! I’m currently serving as Engagement Chair of the NYC Chapter for the organizations annual fundraiser, The Longest Day, which takes place every year on the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year). If you are interested in participating in any upcoming fundraising event, or would like to start your own, you can email me at  Donations can also be made year-round on the Alzheimer’s Association website, or through my individual fundraising page.

Is there anything exciting and new that you’re currently working on? We’d love to hear about any upcoming projects or ventures that you’re involved in and are able to share with us.

So many!! I will be releasing a small batch of hand-painted lampshades in April. I started playing around with painted lampshades when Covid cancelled my Christmas and New Years plans, and ultimately became a woman obsessed! I ended up sourcing vintage lamp bases for most of the designs and love the way they turned out. I have always been interested in interior design (home decor is my absolute weakness when shopping), so this was a fun way to dip my toe into a new product category.