Photography by YUVIE STYLES.

Mexican-born muralist Mariell Guzman isn’t afraid to be bold. In her hands, drab public spaces transform into bursts of color inspired by folk art in her hometown of Monterrey. Her murals have grown faster than cacti in the desert, sprouting across North Texas and cities like Miami, Memphis and Oklahoma City. The work is so bright, it caught the attention of Pepsi. The Lakewood neighbor was chosen to represent Dallas in the brand’s Taste of Your Texas campaign highlighting four of the state’s trailblazers in art, food, music and sports. As part of the campaign, Guzman collaborated with Pepsi on a new Insta-worthy mural inspired by Texan and Mexican landscapes. Look for the abstract work of agaves and sunsets at Pepe’s & Mito’s in Deep Ellum. 

Have you always been an artist?

I grew up in a really creative family. I’ve been painting since I was little. Everyone starts off drawing, but if they never take an art class, they usually stop. I never stopped and made it into a career. I went to art school, but I didn’t think I would be a muralist. 

What are the challenges of being a full-time artist?

I went to UT in Austin. I took all the art courses, but I had a few credits left in math and government. They let you walk and take them online through community college. That was my plan, but I got an art internship, and I was so busy, which I never expected, so I haven’t had time to finish. I would love to go back as an alumna and talk to students. I feel like I have a lot of advice. I was them just a few years ago, and I didn’t feel prepared. They honestly didn’t teach me any of this stuff. I read a lot of books and listened to a lot of artist interviews or podcasts. A lot of them give good advice about how to price things, how to avoid certain client situations and how to avoid getting screwed over. 

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

Don’t let people intimidate you, especially if you really want to do it. Don’t try to change your style if it’s not trendy. Do what feels true to you. It’s intuitive, and you can’t force that. If you do, you’re not going to feel as fulfilled. When I first got started, I couldn’t figure out where my work belonged. I couldn’t find the audience yet. I remember feeling frustrated. I kept making and making and getting more people to see it. I made room for my work here, but it took me like two years. Ask for help. I still message so many artists across the U.S. I ask, “What do you think I should do? How much do you think I should charge?” 

How would you describe your work?

My work is very colorful. That’s a big thing that drives it — the power of color. It can inspire a lot of people when they’re surrounded by it. It comes from my heritage — the colored houses and the folk art (in Mexico). In terms of style, I do more abstracts. I like to go in a whimsical theme. It makes you imagine things in a new way. 

How did you partner with Pepsi? 

They found me on Instagram. They liked the fact that I was a woman, Latina and a muralist. They want to be long-term partners, so we’re doing the mural. Deep Ellum was obviously my first choice. It’s been one of my dreams to have a mural down there. It’s a mural Mecca in Dallas. I love how diverse the community is. It will be cool to have a permanent impact. 

Have you ever experienced gender discrimination?

My field is very male-dominated. That was kind of intimidating getting into it. When I’m painting a wall, if I’m there with my boyfriend, people will be like, “Looks really cool, man.” He’s like, “It’s her. She’s painting.” We laugh about it. People never assume women are the artists. I know this girl. She’s an artist here in Dallas. She made a shirt and hoodie that says on the back, “I’m the artist.” You literally have to label it. Why do you doubt that I could have done this?

What was it like moving to the States?

I remember not knowing what it would be like in a new culture. I knew English because I went to a bilingual school, but it was the basics. I couldn’t carry a full conversation. It was scary starting over. My mom had to find schools and navigate around when you had to print out MapQuest. I was worried about getting the same opportunities as everyone else because of the language barrier. I knew I had to adapt and learn as much as I could to integrate.

What do you love about East Dallas?

I moved in with one of my oldest friends. We love how peaceful it is over here. We’re right next to the lake. It feels like you’re not in the city. 

Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.