Dare and Darius Moreno are crossing arms for a photo. This image is pasted over a graphic of their artwork.

Dare & Darius Moreno: The Art of Visual Storytelling

Los Angeles based twins Dare and Darius Moreno talk about their individual creative careers as a writer and visual artist and how they collaborate to produce visual narratives with Dare Dollz.
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Darius, when did you start illustrating, painting and making art? Do you think art is a natural talent or something that needs to be nurtured?

Darius: "So, I started when I was really young. Maybe since I was like five or six, I've been drawing. We also come from a family of artists, my father was a painter and my grandfather also did illustrations. So when we were young, we would draw a lot of different things. Our dad and our granddad also helped us draw by illustrating for us and letting us colour it in. 

We went to art school for most of our lives too; from middle school up until high school and college. My sister was always in drama and theatre and I was always in visual arts. So I definitely was, I guess, nurturing my talent. I also think I was born with it, too, because of my family background. Our parents saw from a young age that we were very interested in art, so they really wanted us to push that passion. 

I definitely think that all kids are born with artistic talents in general. All kids can draw, but I think whoever continues to do it can end up being great. I also think anyone can start drawing at any point. It can be hard through social media and stuff, though, when you see all different types of art and all different types of people who are older or younger than you making amazing art. If people don't think about the competitive part of it and just think about what you're doing and what you want to create; I think that's what makes it special and different."

Dare, your creativity arches across many mediums like writing, acting, and designing. How do you balance your hunger to express and create in all of these realms?

Dare: "I think the key is to focus on one thing at a time. When I have a role, I'll focus on that for however long the production is. But right now, designing and writing is my priority. I think my key is to spread out creative outlets, because sometimes you might get tired of designing or drawing or writing, and then you might get tired of acting. So it's good to have different lanes to switch through when you're feeling overwhelmed by one. 

At first, I thought, maybe I could balance them all at once. But when it's just Darius and I micromanaging each other, I'm starting to realize I have to lock in on one thing because maybe that one thing, once you lock in on it and it becomes successful, will help out all the other aspects. So, if I only focus on Dare Dollz and it takes off, then it would afford me the time and finances to fund acting. Acting is definitely one of those things that you have to do because you love it, not because you think you're gonna be rich from it."

Photography by Nick Miller

As individuals, you both are extremely talented, what is your dynamic like when you join forces?

Dare: "With me being a writer and him being an illustrator we kind of go hand in hand. But, we both have our own separate things that we don't really indulge in together. If Darius is doing a painting, it's not something I actually have a say in. Maybe I'll give him a critique if he wants it, and he also critiques my writing even when it has nothing to do with him. I think when it comes to Dare Dollz, that's when we actually do mesh together and because we've been doing it since we were kids; creating stories, books and comics."

Darius: “I think our talents might have to do with the fact that we’re twins, but we're very complimentary toward each other. It's always pretty easy to work together because we complement each other on ideas. She'll be thinking something and I'll add to it or I'll be thinking the same thing. So it just always feels really easy for us to work together, which is great. But, we definitely do debate. One of us will be stubborn, I think I’m usually more stubborn about ideas. Whether or not she agrees with it, I'll hold onto my idea thinking like, okay, but we can't continue this until you see my side, but that's not always the case. When that happens we usually get an outside opinion. We'll ask one of our friends, our parents, what do you think about this? Then they'll tell us. I'm like, okay, well, the third person says, you're right, so then we're good.”

Dare: "I think it's also hard because we're both artists and artists are sensitive, so it can be hard to gulp things sometimes. You know, like, oh he's right, but maybe I won't see it until a day later."

How did Dare Dollz come to be? Was the idea of creating a comic book the original intent behind the development of your company?

Dare: "Dare Dollz started when my brother was making these figures out of clay one summer at our grandparents' house when we were bored. So it was literally born out of boredom. When I saw them, I thought it was cool and I was like maybe you should make some sets and take pictures of them on Instagram. At first, he was the only one creating the actual Dollz. I would help with the sets and stuff, but I feel like I'm really good with more of the designing of the sets and not as much the actual human figure."

Darius: "Yeah. After that, we started getting different opportunities. Actually - I think people assumed that because the Dollz were made out of clay, that we knew how to do stop motion. So people started to commission us to do stop motion for music videos. We were going with it. We didn't really know how to do it but we were going with it because, you know, a cheque."

Dare: "So we learned. The first commission that we did Stop Motion for was our first stop motion ever together. Darius had done one in college, but this was the first one we did together and professionally. It was crazy, but it actually came out pretty good. Now when I look at it, I'm very impressed with us. You know? And I think that it's something we would probably pursue again in the future when we have a production team because it really is an amazing art form."

Darius: “Later we sat down with some friends and really thought about what we want to do with Dare Dollz. We love stop motion, but that wasn't really our goal. I think our goal was to create a line of fashion Dollz, similar to Bratz or Barbie. But we also had a lot of ideas for adults. We wanted them to be like spies and have alter egos. So then we decided, okay, let's sit down and actually write a story about these people in this world and this universe.”

What is the importance of visual storytelling to you? When you create stories, who are you speaking to?

Darius: “I think as artists we're always talking to ourselves, trying to project something that we may not be able to vocalize, but it's something that we're feeling. We're always kind of putting ourselves in our work. So when it comes to Dare Dollz, we're thinking about our college years and New York City; the things that we saw. We want people to get perspective from the kind of experiences that we went through, but also the lifestyle. I want people to really feel like they can live this lifestyle through our work.”

Dare: "Also, I think we’re speaking to the Afro-Latino and African American communities. We’re really pushing a narrative of opulence and wealth in these communities that are mostly black in this world and showing how people can use it for bad but also use it for good. The Dare Dollz are the protagonists and heroes and they use all that stuff for good things. We also have a villain who uses it for bad things. It just feels like something that's really made for us by us. 

I also think it's going to be cool for people to see themselves in a spy world. We don't have a lot of spy stories with black people if you think about it. No Charlies Angels, no Double O Seven. So I think it's time to push narratives where people of colour are in the hero space."

Photography by Nick Miller

You’ve moved around in the states quite a bit. Do you find that the art you created in NYC presents itself differently than what you make in LA and other places you’ve called home?

Dare: "We’ve lived in New York, LA and DC, so we've only really been in big and overpopulated cities. I think that adds to our artwork because we're very much city kids. You can see it through our work because of how busy and maximalist it is."

Darius: "I think the difference between New York and living in LA now is that since we've been here, we've had more time to think out our work and take our time. When we were in New York, it felt like we had to move quickly because the city is so quick to put things out and think on its feet. Here, we've had a lot more time to really plan everything out and sit back. But, I think the influence of the work is always still based in New York City. Which I think is the most exciting city that we've ever lived in."

Dare: "We have more space in LA too, which is great because, you know, art is very messy. I think having more space lets us have more space in our heads as well to not overdo it."

How have the last few years affected your practice as artists and the production of Dare Dollz?

Dare: "I think COVID was one of our most successful times as people were relying heavily on artwork, animation, and illustration while people couldn't be present with live-action stuff. So people were relying on artwork to push their music, push their events, push whatever. So we were actually very busy and lucky during Covid, it was probably one of the best times for our careers."

Darius: "Most of the time we work inside anyways when we’re being creative. So it wasn't necessarily a bad thing to be stuck inside. I mean, the only thing that made it hard was just all the rules, like not going out and not being able to meet your friends and things like that; the social part."

Darius, you had expressed the pressure you sometimes feel from social media, how are you feeling about that now?

Darius: "Yeah, that's definitely how I was feeling and how I feel still sometimes to this day. What really helped me was meaning what I said and taking a break. I took a break for a long time from posting as often as I felt I had to. It was good to reflect on my old work and think about what it is that I want to do now and next. I’m on social media way less and am instead going out, going to art shows, talking to people, reading things, watching things, travelling and doing things that really inspire me. 

I definitely feel much more relieved and relaxed now. I don't feel the pressure that I was feeling because once I stopped posting for a minute, I was like, you know, this is still going to be here. You know, nothing is really going to go away. I can always just start doing these things again if I ever felt like I was missing out on anything. But, I don't. I feel much more comfortable with the place that I'm at now and am assured in myself.

Sometimes there are situations where I'll have to do something for business or an opportunity. I try to get it done, post it, and then I'll just get off. If I keep checking up on it, it's gonna drive me crazy to see how many people viewed or liked it. I also feel like at this point in my life, I don't have to conform to all the new social media rules. I kind of consider that stuff to be for younger artists and younger generations. I didn't really grow up with the video stuff, all I had to do was post my work. I feel like I still am okay with just doing that. 

I’m not a social media influencer, I’m an artist first."

What are you looking forward to as individual creatives and together through Dare Dollz?

Darius: "Besides working on Dare Dollz, I'm mostly excited about getting back into painting. I wanna just start. I haven't really painted anything for myself in a long time, so, once we're done with this launch, I wanna get back into working on my own personal work in a series."

Dare:In my individual career, I’m excited to take acting classes and practice my craft. I feel like we all have to continuously practice our craft because we get rusty and I just wanna be confident in what I do. I think it's important that I go back to school again because I've been out of practice for years and instead have been a visual artist and writer. So I'm excited to learn some tricks and dive back in.

Together I can say we're really excited for the launch of our physical printed comic book, released June 9th, 2023. We’re also excited to put out the third issue by the end of this summer. We're really just looking forward to what Dare Dollz is going to become. We've been working so hard on it for the last couple of years, so to bring it all together and not just sell merchandise or do claymation, but to say “Look, this is everything.” It is a comic book, a brand and an apparel line; I’m so excited about that for us together.”

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