Take a look below to learn about Bay Area artist Monica Garwood as she discusses her creative process, what keeps her going artistically and the ideas behind our release with her, "Stranger Things."
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born in Palo Alto and grew up in Marin County (just North of SF). I’ve been living in San Francisco for 8 years now.
What are your first artistic memories?
My mom is an artist so we did tons of artsy activities since I can remember. A favorite was a game called “Add-it,” where two people trade off drawing the same picture, each adding one more thing until the drawing is complete. It can get crazy pretty quick.
What was the best part of Art School?
Being surrounded by like-minded creative people is incredibly inspiring and kept me really driven. I don’t know that I would have had the fire to improve if was just trying to learn on my own.
Your artistic style is genuinely singular and totally your own. Did this take a long time to create or have you found it to be completely organic?
Thank you!! I haven’t truly thought about my “style” in a very long time so I think I can now say it’s organic. After Art School I had a very strict realistic style and a more abstracted cartoony style. The realistic style was holding me back and not letting me use enough imagination. The cartoony style didn’t age well; I would look at stuff I’d done a few months ago and cringe at it. Eventually I stopped thinking about style and just created a ton of work in a short amount of time (for an upcoming show) and I think everything sorted itself out. I like to create work with organic shapes and true to life forms but I still take a heavy hand in designing the composition outside of strict realism. I don’t deal with perspective, lighting, and shading most of the time. I like things simple in form with interesting shapes, colors, and patterns. I also let the medium do a lot of the work for me, which is why I love watercolor; it creates these amazing textures without having to do any real rendering!
Could you tell us about your Stranger Things release with us? The process and ideas behind it?
I was thinking about how much I love the kids in this show that I can’t help but root for them and just want them to have happy, normal lives. I would honestly watch a whole series of them in their day-to-day life, no Upside Down, just being regular kids. Obviously this is never going to happen, so I decided to create it myself, the calm after the storm (or before the next storm, which we know is inevitable). I pictured them all hanging out in the junkyard in Hawkins, trying to figure out together how to navigate life in the Right Side Up.
What's a typical day in the studio like for you?
Wake up, take my dog on a long walk or run in the Presidio, get home and reorganize my workspace (it’s a mess after each day). If I’m starting a new illustration piece with specific likenesses or details, I first do a lot of research for reference. I often do my sketching in the computer, then print it out and use graphite transfer paper to transfer the sketch to watercolor paper. If I’m doing a personal piece or fine art piece, I often skip the sketch phase and just start painting. I always do ink first, then watercolor, then gouache, otherwise one will bleed into the other. I listen to a ton of podcasts and audiobooks and luckily my dog reminds me to take breaks.
What's your favorite part of creating?
I love when I can translate what I see in my head to something on paper. I almost always get ideas visually and try to run with it, rather than making a list or lots of small thumbnails for ideas. I just trust my gut and it’s wonderful to get in the groove of painting and like what you are making!
When you're not creating, what are some activities you enjoy?
I love hiking all the great trails in the Bay Area. I used to hate it but since getting a dog it’s now one of my favorite things to do on the weekends. Also going to the beach, reading, traveling, and going to the MOMA, Legion of Honor, or DeYoung.
Any words of advice for fellow artists?
Stay hungry and keep working on your craft! Always try to get better. If you feel yourself getting stale, take a day off and go to your favorite museum. I’m always more inspired at museums than on Pinterest. ☺
"Stranger Things" by Monica Garwood will be released on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 1PM PST in our shop.