The Artful Elite is proud to present the works of Mónica Zúñiga, a look at the warmth and charm of her painting and mixed media style. I first met Mónica through Flickr.com sometime late last summer and am so proud to know her and call her friend.
There is magic in Mónica's work that is evident the first time you look at the sparkle in the eyes of the girls she paints. Her caring spirit is positively contagious and is well conveyed in her paintings and mixed media pieces. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to have a look behind the scenes of this talented, cheerful artist and find out what inspires her to create.
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Click on any page of Mónica's blog Hands and Heart and you will find it difficult not to be captivated by a pretty face.
Mónica, please tell us how you first began painting? Did you go to school or are you self taught?
Actually it is a mix of both, I took many pencil drawing and oil classes among other techniques which had nothing to do with painting but years later I am so happy I did because I can use those techniques now that I found mixed media. I wanted to finish my paintings faster so I decided to try acrylics. I found it a bit challenging at the beginning especially for painting faces but I kept on practicing and now I love it! Each time I paint a new piece, It is incredible how I find new ways to apply acrylic and mix it. I keep on learning but I think this is a life time journey!
I cropped in on this piece just a little bit to show off the collage effect with the overlapping text and the butterflies on the left side. This is such a gorgeous effect that looks like maybe a stamping technique was used? Can you tell us how you achieved the look?
I am a stamp collector and I love using them in my works. This piece contains layers of acrylic paint and acid free inks applied as collages, when you are using different stencils and stamps you can obtain different interesting figures to create a story and add depth to your piece!
The human figure is most dominant in your work no matter what the medium. Did you always paint girls or did you paint something else at first? I love dolls in all their glorious forms which is probably one of the reasons why I am so drawn to your pieces. What inspires you to create the human face and form most of all?
I love creating little stories and every story has a main character. My characters love to express what they are feeling. Call it the sun, a flower, a star, even butterflies have a face in my world and they all have different personalities. Sometimes you can tell how someone is feeling just by looking at the face. To me it is our first way of communication and I believe that expression is essential to give life to a painting.
As I look at this piece it looks as if it has some digital quality to it in the brightness of the wand like a lense flare effect was added. Her dress is a harmonious combination of paint and sheet music. How are you able to combine digital technique with your painting? Do you paint first and then alter it or are you somehow able to transfer the digital effects to your canvas? It is absolutely beautiful and gives your work such a unique style all it's own.
I love shining, sparkling and bright lights! I love the idea of higher states in which everything is lighter and loving. I am always looking for new ways to express that. In this piece I used Photoshop to enhance the light The Stars Maker has in her wand. After I painted her I took a photo and altered it digitally. Digital creativity or digital art is something I am learning on my own when I have some free time. I think it´s a step forward for artists because everything is growing technologically and I consider it important to keep on developing in this interesting area as well.
What medium of paint do you like to work in and why? I am curious about the glittery look of some of your paints. What are you using for this?
I love experimentation and I am constantly looking for new products to achieve new textures. The main thing for me is that the product has to be kept friendly with my skin and the environment, so I always use these kinds of products. My favorites are acrylics because I can do so much with them and I don´t have to worry about using my hands which I love to do!
In this piece for The Sourcerer and in many other works I use a special glitter which contains little stars and I have to say it is one of my favorite products of the ones I have! I love it so much. It is made here in Mexico city and for some works it adds that extra special touch I want! :)
Who can resist your kitty cats with their whimsically curly tails! I know you have a cuddly feline of your own. Is he your inspiration for painting cats? What made you decide to put curly, swirly tails on them? What draws you to cats in particular as a subject?
I have always had cats in my house since I was a child. I had a Siamese, "Tommy" for over 15 years and one day he disappeared. Some expert told me he was old and went on to die somewhere I couldn't see him. This affected me so badly, I just started crying right there! For many years it was only him and I in my house so I wanted to paint him... I am constantly pushing my self to be original, so, in the pursuit of an original image of my cat, I began drawing and painting cats and that's how my kitties were born! I just love them! >°°<
I just love this piece and thought I would show it off as one of your workshop showcase pieces. You have participated in many workshops that have allowed you to experiment a great deal with different mediums like clay and cloth. How do you like working in these mediums? Have you worked with a variety of different clays or just one? Is there one that seems to work better for you than the others?
At first, trying diverse things made me think I couldn't focus! Lol! To tell you the truth I couldn't fully understand why I did it until years later. I used to collect many things without even knowing what they were going to be used for!
Trying different things has opened my mind to see with a different perspective. For a little example, learning how to sculpt an eye, nose, face, helped me understand better how to draw it or paint it. Creating a character with clay has become a secondary favorite for me! I just love it, it helps me to relax and when I get saturated from painting I can go to it and still be creative! My favorites are air dry clays like DAS and creative paperclay but this last isn't sold in Mexico. I do hope this changes soon!
I noticed that you have started to branch out into other doll forms by taking workshops in clay and cloth which I love watching the progress of on your blog. Do you find you enjoy the clay and cloth as much as painting? Do you have a preference on what type of clay you like to use most? If so, why do you prefer it over others you have tried?
I just love art dolls. They are intriguing, mysterious and full of textures with attached little pieces of wonderful symbolisms. They mean freedom to me. This kind of art is relatively new for me and thanks to technology I can be at my studio and take wonderful workshops to learn techniques on line! I love the idea of creating original faces so using clay to sculpt them is just wonderful and besides I can paint them, so here again everything I've learned is used!
You are a talented and inspirational artist who has touched the hearts and creativity of many with the warmth of both your paintings and creative writing style. Do you have any future plans to teach workshops of your own?
Thanks so much dear Kellie! One of my goals as an artist is to be able to inspire others somehow. That is the main intention of my blog Hands & Heart! I will pass on the knowledge that I am attaining so others may have an easier journey. I will create workshops to teach in person and on line for different levels and talents.
I really have enjoyed watching the many wonderful things you have created from the workshops you have taken. In fact, your journal pages have inspired me to learn more about collage techniques for myself. Have you discovered anything about yourself while creating it that you would like to share with us here?
Collage is a strong expression, so direct and abstract and sometimes you fall in love with an image that you just have to use it somehow! Collageis theperfect way to do so and still make something unique! I use journals to unburden myself, it really helps me to do so!
I just grab my box full of pre-cut images and pick that first image that calls me at the moment. I apply whatever paints are around and paint carelessly. Then I use my stamps and markers to write what I am feeling... after doing so, I feel so relieved just to find out it is a lovely piece of art! I think everyone should have an art journal as a true friend and confident! Lately I've seen great pieces of collage art in art galleries, works in paper, framed beautifully and they look amazing!
I believe that success is not measured by material things but by the amount of joy we feel. Looking at your work I would consider you to be a successful artist. Would you agree? How would you define success? What advice would you give to others who are interested in learning how to paint and support themselves with their art? What do you think is the greatest thing you have learned through your creative process so far?
Success is something personal and one should define this as best as possible because it is different for each one of us. I am so grateful to be able to do what I love, to be able to keep on learning, to be able to inspire and that people appreciate what I do. So, yes, I consider myself successful because all those things are also the things that I want!
In my journey I had to learn a lot of things by myself besides just painting to make a career out of this. I consider that I´m still learning for each day there is something new to attend. My most important advise is that you consider what it is that you love to do the most and then make a decision. Once you have decided, believe in your self strong enough to get there. You will begin by taking one step at a time. Be patient with your self and be courageous. Although some artists may inspire you, be original. Other people will appreciate it and so will you!
Share your message with the world without fear for there is someone out there waiting for it. Finally, know that this is an endless journey in which you will always be learning and remember that because it is progressive, it feels great to keep growing up!
Mónica, you are a dear, sweet lady and I want to thank you again for being part of this interview. I wish you all of the best life has to offer and continued success in your creative ventures. Blessings to you.
You can learn more about Mónica and her work by visiting these links: monicatlink on Flickr, Hands and Heart, and Colors Within My Soul to name a few. If you are interested in purchasing work you can visit her shops on Zazzle, her Etsy shop Art Hands and Heart and also on Lollishops.
Disclaimer: All images posted in association with this post remain the sole property of Mónica Zúñiga. Any reproduction or distribution either wholly or in part without her express written consent constitutes copyright infringement. Please respect her art!