Monica Mangan is a self taught acrylic painter based in Morristown, NJ. She first picked up a paint brush in 2020, creating a colorful peacock which became the foundation for her style development and creative journey. Daily painting and a commitment to self growth resulted in a prolific and eclectic collection of experimental work. Monica attributes her new found enthusiasm for painting to untapped emotion and creative energy that quickly began to manifest on canvas in the calmness of painting.
With a tendency towards abstract realism, Monica's art represents a liveliness and a presence, evoking feelings of freedom through transformation. With bold color contrast and dynamic composition, Monica flirts with classic form and stability, experimentation and spontaneity. Her passions for music, the beauty of the human form and nature as a colorful sanctuary are strongly present in her body of work.
A fitness studio owner and trainer, Monica has channeled her entrepreneurial spirit into her art, with a growing list of collectors and retail shops featuring her work. She has sold more than 200 paintings with a strong base of commission collectors and an impressive momentum in the arts community.
Q: What town do you live in? Where is your studio/place of work?
A: I am one year new to Morristown, having lived in Maplewood for 27 years. I have a studio in my home, one of the reason I moved!
Q: What kind of art do you create/what do you do in the arts?
A: I’m an acrylic painter (so far)!
Q: What is your art background/education/
A: I have no background in visual arts, no training. I picked up a paint brush for the first time just before the pandemic and began painting every day because I loved it. haven’t stopped.
Q: How do you balance your time in the studio/in the workplace with other commitments?
A: I own a fitness studio in South Orange where I spend long days training clients. After work, I generally get a workout in before going home to paint. Weekends definitely include a lot of painting time as well, especially during the day when the lighting is magnificent in my studio. Painting takes up a substantial chunk of my time.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being in the arts? Least favorite?
A: I love visual expression and the way my brain works differently now that I’m tapped into my creativity Painting has been an incredibly calming, healing and fulfilling part of my commitment to my mental health. I don’t like the social media pressure that has become a necessary link to exposure. It’s a time consuming necessity that I’ve tried to make a part of my creative process. My Instagram account was recently and mysteriously deactivated and it’s actually felt so liberating.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I just finished an exciting corporate commission project for an April launch; (4) 40 x 40 oak trees, one for each season.
Q: Has your practice changed over time? Why/How?
A: I’ve only been painting for three years so I’m still riding on a big learning curve. I’m always experimenting and have so much to learn. Now that I have a studio, I’m able to work on an easel and multiple, larger pieces. All of my early pieces are quite small because I spent my first two years painting on my dining room table.
Q: What inspires you? Who are your favorite artists/ artwork? Favorite museum/ gallery (outside of Morris County
A: I am inspired by nature, especially trees, music and the beauty of the human body. I spend a lot of time in the woods, and think I have a keen perspective on body movement because of my fitness training. I’m an avid music enthusiast so music is also a source of great inspo. I’m a member of MOMA and the MET and I attend a lot of pop up shows in the city. Poking around Chelsea galleries is favorite way to spend a day.
Q: What are a few of your big artistic career goals? What is your dream project?
A: My dream has been to have a solo show and that is actually happening with the launch of this corporate venture project in NYC. I’m only showcasing a select few pieces so I hope to expand upon that with a larger solo show at some point in the near future.
Q: How do you stay connected and up to date with the art world?
A: Instagram is the easiest way to stay daily connected in real time. I’ve also made an effort to make connections in the local arts community to stay informed informed of opportunities dor exposure. Nurturing relationships with other artists has been easy when there’s the instant connection of passion for art. I really try to support other artists because I know how hard it is to make a go of it in a saturated art world.
Q: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A: What I hear most is that people are surprised that I started painting at 55 and that I am self taught. A friend who has studied art told me that she was certain the ghosts of a couple of the great Masters jumped into my body while I was sleeping one night. That made me laugh because art is so subjective but it was a generous compliment I wish was true!
Q: What do you want others to know about your art practice/artistic themes/stylistic choices/materials you use?
A: People react to a piece of art - the work itself or a photo of it. They like it or they don’t, but it’s a visual reaction What people don’t see is dedication, the commitment to learning and the countless hours experimenting and making more disasters than satisfying art. The prolific work I have created in a short amount of time is the result of a tremendous amount of time spent learning, practicing and finding a place for myself in the arts community. This has been nothing short of an “all in” commitment to myself. As far as materials, I really just use the basics. Acrylic paints, brushes and a few palette knives. I’ve tried a few mediums and could definitely use some direction and time experimenting with more.
Q: Where is your favorite place to find visual arts in Morris County?
A: I’m a member of the Morris County Museum and I can walk there which is always a great destination goal! I’m fairly new to Morris County, so I’m still discovering new places to find art. I think Morris County could use an Art Collective Gallery, don’t you???
Q: Where can people see your work?
A: My work is featured at “Just Jersey” and “Baklava” in Morristown and “No 165” and “Yellow Rose Vegan” in Maplewood. In May, I will have a selection of art at “Artistry Salon”in South Orange. Two of my pieces are currently at the MCAN group show at the Morris Library. I’ll be at the Maplewood Street Festival on May 7. My solo exhibit is in New York City at “The Macallan” this month where my art will be featured in the corporate tasting room.
Q: When you are working through problems in your arts practice, who do you talk to? What is the best piece of advice you've been given? What advice do you have to give other artists?
A: My husband Coleman is my greatest supporter and my go to advisor. He’s got a great eye and I (almost always) trust his advice and input. He sees things I don’t and helps me maintain perspective when I get really frustrated with myself. I don’t have a mentor or coach. I’ve got a lot of learning ahead of me so my mentors are other artists who have experience that I don’t who are willing to share what they know and answer my questions. One piece of advice that really changed my painting perspective is to look at negative space. This has been so incredibly helpful. My advice to other artists would be to just have fun and try not to take yourself and your art too seriously. Surrender to the process of creating and not the outcome. That’s when the best work happens.
Q: What was the weirdest/worst “survival” job you ever had?
A: Just out of college I worked for Parade Magazine for an evil boss. My job was to fact check fine print advertising claims. My hours were long and the pay so poor I cut every possible corner to live in NYC and survive. Even at that, I was so miserable because of the way I was treated I quit without another job. I hated the abuse more than I hated the idea of having no job. The boss convinced me to stay and was a bit nicer thereafter. I felt like it was a win for me because I showed her I wasn’t going tolerate her abusive treatment.
Q: What is the perfect food?
A: a perfect meal for me is one that someone else has shopped for and made for me, that I can eat while I’m doing something else and that is also very healthy!
Q: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a writer - no specific idea what type, I just loved to write. I had pen pals all over the world and was constantly writing letters. I also thought it would be really cool to work in the post office because I was fascinated with how mail was distributed globally, and I had a large stamp collection.
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
A: photo albums of my kids! Also, my passport is a treasure. My husband is an international pilot so I am always passport ready for travel.
Q: Are you an early bird or night owl?
A: that’s an interesting question. I am an early bird because I’m a fitness trainer and my workday starts at 6 AM. I’ve become more of night owl as well because I lose track of time at night painting. This schedule translates to definitely not getting enough sleep.
Q: What place would you like to visit?
A: As a pilot wife, I am so fortunate to have the ability to travel all over the world on United. There are so still so many places on my bucket list, even close to home - including Chicago. I’d love a visit to South Africa.
Q: What superpower would you have and why?
A: I wish I didn’t need sleep because there aren’t ever enough hours in the day!