Local artist Monica Tovar doesn’t know how she became interested in art because it happened so early in her life. “As long as I remember, my family always told me I am an artist,” Tovar said. “I believed them, so I have always been an artist.
When Tovar, native Venezuelan, was just five years old, she began establishing her identity by accomplishing several milestones. She entered a drawing competition at school where she won a scholarship to study art at the Sofía Ímber Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas. Then, while studying at Sofia Ímber, she participated in a competition called “This is How The Children of The World Paint,” hosted in Japan in 1999. It was the very first time she worked with paint. That same year, she completed her first collection: a series of tropical landscapes.
At age 12, Tovar began earning money for commissioned work; her first was a mural. And all the while she was working, she was studying and learning. “At the Sofia Ímber, I learned some painting,” she said, “but our teacher wasn’t actually a teacher; she was an art critic. I took different classes for different styles. I went to the Martini Academy of Art and Journalism for three years while attending high school, where I learned anatomy and ink mostly.”
Tovar taught herself how to paint with oil, and later she went to architecture school. “Even though it’s a different field, it improved my art skills in many ways,” she explained. “It helped me see perspective in a deeper way.”
Interestingly, Tovar’s favorite teacher is an architect, Alberto Sotillo. From him she learned to be herself and not to be afraid of the social implications of being an artist. From her own self-study trial and error, she taught herself to be unafraid of making mistakes, rather to learn from them. She believes that in art, as in life, perfection is not the goal—that consistency and hard work are the goals.
“A work of art must possess honesty and truth at its heart,” Tovar said. She went on to explain that in her perspective, design is there to sell and to be comfortable for the consumer; architecture is there to be comfortable and habitable; but the purpose of art is to express truth with no filters.
In a series of portraits Monica has been working on, she sketched local musicians in graphite. Pictured above: Top Row – Ben Hughey, Derrick Ludaway, Cohner McCurry, Billy Martini Bottom Row – Frank Weber, Chip Larkby, and Jevon & Mike Daly
“While in our daily life we engage ourselves with acceptable social interactions and practice political small talk with strangers and with family,” she said, “in art we see ourselves the way that we truly are and the way that we think when we are alone.”
In fact, Tovar defines a great work of art as a creation that has meaning and reflects hard work married with technique. “Laziness never made anything great,” she said.
Unlike many artists, Tovar doesn’t rely solely on inspiration for motivation. She says that though inspiration is nice, it doesn’t provide enough substance for a working artist.
“It would be like only loving your partner the days that they make you feel in love,” she explained, “and on the other days, you forget about them. If you love your art, the muse should find you working. I drew a broken bottle with a sea inside years ago when I was 15. I loved that drawing because it had meaning to me, but also because I worked hard with it. Talent happens when creativity and consistency meet.”
Tovar considers herself a surrealist, mostly painting about her life experiences and what she sees in the world. Many of her paintings are also dream-based. When she paints about her life, she attempts to relate her work to others by imagining that they have experienced similar situations of similar things. This exercise, she believes, allows her to feel more connected to others and not alone in the world.
“The way you look at the stars, and you know many others have looked at the stars and are looking at them now or will in the future, it’s a warm and rewarding feeling,” she said.
Along with surrealism, she also enjoys painting or drawing portraits. She looks deeply into her subjects’ expressions to discern their way of being before painting them. She attempts to trap their personality in a picture because she believes that is a way of “preserving their magic.”
Recently, Tovar produced a collection of local musicians’ portraits that she really enjoyed. She also produced a collection of coloring books entitled Local Cats, which, to her surprise, was very well-received.
“It started as a fun project,” Tovar said. “I don’t see myself as a cartoon artist, but every now and then I try to come out of my comfort zone and try something new. I never dreamed they would be so appreciated.”
Just as Tovar has no recollection of herself before art, she knows that she will always paint and draw (“not painting for me would be as difficult as not speaking”), yet her mission has expanded most likely because of the impact of her initial exposure to the training and education she received as that five-year-old little girl.
Winning a place at the Sofia Imberg opened her eyes to a world where she felt she belonged. She confesses that she never saw so much beauty and culture in a single place before that place and was moved at a very young age.
“It wasn’t only that I, myself, was there,” she said, “but more so that very talented people wanted me to be there. I will forever be grateful for my mom who took me there every Saturday, even though it was a two-hour drive from home.”
Now, along with creating art, Tovar is committed and compelled to share the experience. She teaches children to paint and is currently developing an art camp for children of low-income families in Caracas, scheduled for summer 2022.
“With teaching, which I love with all my heart, my mission is to help kids find themselves and hold on to beauty,” Tovar said. “I think that a child who knows and appreciates the beauty in the world will grow to make the world a more beautiful place.”
Learn more about Monica Tovar on Instagram @tovart25 and on her website tovart25.com.