Colombian native Monica Londono Florez found her voice through painting. She came to Trinidad eight years ago to learn English —and got more than she bargained for.
Apart from becoming more familiar with speaking English, she found love and decided to stay in Trinidad. Married and the mother of a three-year-old, Londono Florez spends most of her time using art as a way to express her feelings.
She said, “To be an artist you need the perfect time to do whatever you feel to do. You need to be able to feel because it is not every day you feel to draw. There would be images, ideas in my mind that I want to make real, and that to me is an artist; someone who gets in the moment. I love nature, colours and the ability to create things. I would describe myself like that. It depends on the moment, it depends on how you feel.
“For me, an artist is able to bring to life the things they feel inside,” she added.
Londono Florez came from a relatively large family.
“Growing up in Colombia, it was difficult for my family to make ends meet,” she said.
“I came to learn English in Trinidad since one of my cousins was living here. I came here to study languages and have been in Trinidad since 2006,” she said.
Londono Florez loves to work with her hands and, apart from painting, she makes jewelry.
“Now I have a child; my little baby is three years old and being a full-time artist can be challenging, juggling all the responsibilities. One of the key things any artist should do is organise. Put aside two or three hours in the day to focus on your craft and do it,” she said.
“Not every day you feel like it, but I take my time. I may take two to three hours to do a necklace; I might take more than one day to do a painting, sometimes it may take more than a week. You just have to have that structure because there are days I would complete a necklace in half an hour because the ideas are coming rapidly; then it may take weeks. The key to any successful business is organising your time,” she said.
“I love to work with my hands and that makes me so excited. Apart from jewelry-making and painting, I also decorate houses and other special occasions,” she said.
Londono Florez has had a passion for art since she was six years old and now, at 32, she says the love for it has grown tremendously.
She said, “There are so many different kinds of artists out there, but for me I love people, I love things; so whatever I see around me, that inspires me and my creativity.”
“In the beginning, I never thought I would be able to sell the things I made with my two hands. What I made I use to throw it away, but my sister would rescue them and say to me, ‘I would not let you throw it away, I would keep them’. At that time, I did not know that this would be something I can make money from,” she said.
“My business is currently based at my home in Chaguanas. Many jewelry pieces I make usually one or two, I don’t make like ten or more because I want the pieces to be unique. I first started showing my work to family and friends and from there I branched out. I work from home because as a new mom I have a lot to do, however as time goes along I would probably open up a store in the future,” she said.
To aspiring artists who want to make art a full-time career, Londono Florez said, “Be secure in yourself and your talents. You have to believe in yourself. Sometimes we can do things, but we are afraid to show to people what we are able to do. That should not be. Whatever you like to do, you are going to want to be the best so don’t be afraid. I say do what you like because doing what you like that’s when you go up.”
Londono Florez has never shown her work in an art exhibition, but says she would definitely be open to it some day.