In her short 27 years of life, artist Monica Garza has managed to squeeze a plethora of experiences in. From traveling through Korea, to teaching English, to pursuing art as a career, it’s evident that she’s always up for something new. But how does one manage to go from college grad to optometrist assistant to full time artist? Free-spirited Monica Garza opens up about her inspiration, goals, and whimsical nature.
Born in New Mexico and raised in Georgia, Garza always knew she wanted to be an artist.
“When I was a kid it was my dream to be an artist,” she said. “Since I could think of a profession, that was my goal.”
In pursuit of that dream she attended the California College of the Arts where she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing. However, becoming an artist was not on her radar following graduation.
“I took a break because when I was in school it just seemed so much about networking,” said Garza. “After school I felt like I wasn’t ready to do the networking. I felt like I wasn’t sure about doing art anymore. I wasn’t 100% sure about the industry.”
During her three and a half year break from making art, she filled her time with a variety of things. After moving back to Atlanta, she took a job as an optometrist assistant. This seemingly random job was necessary in her pursuit of another dream she had.
“I really wanted to travel,” she said. “My mom is Korean so I have family in Korea.”
After saving up money for six months and waiting on her Visa, she moved to Korea. While there, she began to teach English. However, after two years she quit her job and began traveling around Southeast Asia. Six months later, she moved back to Atlanta.
She then found herself living in New York, attempting to pursue a more creative profession, but instead fell back into teaching English.
“When I was doing all of that, I hadn’t really made a painting in so long,” said Garza. “I felt so empty, and I actually hated teaching English. And I just wanted to do my dream.”
Now, settled in Atlanta, Georgia, she is finally able to pursue art full time.
“I just start making stuff right after breakfast,” said Garza. “I usually work on two to five paintings at a time. I don’t have patience to wait for paint to dry. I just need to knock out all my ideas as fast as I can. I paint maybe six to ten hours a day.”
From dreaming as a little kid to being an artist, going to school for art, and now spending the majority of her time doing it, it seems as though everything has come full circle. But where did that spark to pursue art come from in the first place?
“My mom used to have a boutique when she was about 20 or 21, when she was in Korea,” said Garza. “She would make her own clothes. So when I was a baby, she would make me clothes. She inspired me because I thought she was the best artist. So then on my own I would just draw and see if I could draw what was in front of me. I’m just naturally good at drawing, so I kept going.’’
Now that she is pursuing art full-time, she is able to make more of the things she has always wanted because she now has the time.
“When I was working and making art it was so stressful,” said Garza, “but now I have the time for my art.”
Garza has recently expanded her artwork into the fashion world, collaborating on a collection with tee shirt brand Rad. [Check out the full collection here] "Rad recently expanded to the U.S. and so they hit me up to use some paintings," she said. "I thought it was a good way to provide artwork in a very inexpensive way."
[from her RAD.co collaboration]
Her next step in her art career is to display her work in a gallery, but that has proven to be difficult.
“That was my dilemma when I started doing this,” she said. “I want to be in a gallery, but how do you do that? How do I get myself out there?”
Currently she is waiting on the possibility of showing her work in a gallery, but is continuously creating art.
”Right now my goal is to just continue doing my art and just be able to do it forever,” said Garza. “I would love to be Frida Kahlo and just do it forever.”
Aside from painting, fashion is a big part of her life as well.
“When I was in college, I took a sewing class,” she said. “I love fashion. If someone offered me to design, I would, if the opportunity arose.”
While she has a distinct love for both art and fashion, she has recognized where the two creative outlets overlap.
“I really feel like fashion inspires my art,” said Garza. “I feel like when I put an outfit together, it’s like putting a painting together. Whenever I’m thinking about colors, it’s like making an outfit. Even though all my girls [in her work] are naked, sometimes they have socks or a shoe and I think about color. Sometimes I’ll look at the runway stuff and it’ll indirectly inspire me.”
So why nude paintings with just one sock?
“When I look at my paintings, it’s super personal and I feel like it’s kind of my diary,” she said. “So when I’m painting these ideas that I have, it’s because it’s something I do or did in my life. If I put a sock, it’s kind of like throwing a little bit of fashion. I don’t want to put a full outfit on my figures because it’s too much fashion. I want it to be about the figure and the shape and colors.”
Though she may hold back fashion from her paintings, she does not do the same with herself.
“I really love fashion so much,” said Garza. “I have a couple styles. I have a sporty style, and I have a casual style, and my dress up style. I love a full jumpsuit - dead to toe all Nike or Adidas. It all has to match. I don’t really like logo tees; I like plain tees. My favorite colors to wear would be white, black, and beige - neutral colors.”
In summary: sporty and trendy.
“ I guess if it’s trendy I like it,” said Garza. “And I’m 27 but now I try to dress more mature.”
With so many experiences under her belt, she has some advice for her younger self, and other aspiring artists.
“Practice makes perfect,” she said. “Keep going. I was a terrible student the whole time I was in college. I guess if I could go back and do it again I would network harder.”
However, with such a free-spirited soul, she can’t be too hard on herself.
“But life just works itself out anyway,” said Garza. “Live your life.”
Check out Monica Garza’s artwork at monicagarza.com and follow her on Instagram @monicakimgarza
By Hannah McCauley
Photographs provided by Monica Garza