Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Linda Monfort and, as much as I don’t feel like it, I am a senior citizen, divorced, and living by myself in southern California. My life as an artist has taken me in many interesting directions. Many moons ago I graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in art with an emphasis in fashion design and graphic design. I wanted to move to the Big Apple and become a famous fashion designer but got married instead. My first real art job was working for the Navy as a graphic designer and I later worked at an ad agency as their art director. After that, I had a shop/art studio where I created one-of-a-kind copper enameled wall mirrors and paintings and kept doing some freelance graphic design on the side. After baby #2, I did freelance graphic design out of my home as well as some etched glass designs for spec homes and for my own kitchen cupboards. I painted murals in each of my children’s rooms and throughout our home. After my divorce, I tried to get back into graphic design but quickly found that I was a dinosaur because I had no computer skills. I did various boring jobs until I was hired to design custom large room size area rugs working with interior designers. After I saw how this business was run, I quit and went into business for myself. I did that for ten years until a slowdown in the economy. At the suggestion of a friend, I started selling my paintings on the Internet and have found this to be a great way to earn a living for about the last ten years.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I have to admit that working as a fine artist does take up most of my time. To relax I like to bake, visit with my friends and my kids and their families, go to art galleries and watch movies.
What would be the title of your memoir?
I Used the Gift God Gave Me. I have always known that I was blessed with the wonderful gift of creativity. Even though I sometimes struggled to earn a living as an artist, I couldn’t imagine my life without the ability to create.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. I especially like to study cloud formations — their ever-changing colors and shapes and wonderful amorphous quality mesmerize me. When I was nine years old my dad was in the army and we were stationed in Japan for a year. Every weekend my brother and I would get our allowance in Japanese yen and we would hop onto our bikes and head straight to the little village called Sata-zaki next to the army base. Joel and I would go to the main street where there were endless outdoor shops selling every kind of toy and trinket you could imagine. I remember how brightly colored and amazing they all seemed to us. We would then go to the Kabuki theater and peek in the windows and watch the rehearsals. I remember how beautiful the costumes were — the textures, patterns, and colors were delicious! I know these experiences contributed to my love of bright colors which I use in most of my paintings today.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is any one item carefully and deliberately created with love by one human being. Ideally it is one of a kind.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My grandmother was a woderful landscape oil painter and my mom was very crafty. She also taught me how to sew doll clothes for my Toni Doll when I was in grade school. That’s when I decided I wanted to become a fashion designer.
I would say that Mr. Watson, my 8th grade teacher, was the first professional who influenced my craft. My best friend Kathy and I designed and made a 4′ x 6′ mosiac mural in the front of the classroom while the rest of the students were slaving away. It was great fun! In high school I took a commercial art class and the teacher, Mr. Calderwood, was wonderful. He made me think about becoming a graphic designer. One of my college professors, Mrs. Bigelow, really influenced me as far as expressing myself through the use of acrylic paints while doing my fashion illustrations. Another professor, Mrs. Tanzer, showed me how transparent colors could be layered and combined while doing copper enameling, giving me my first taste of the ethereal quality of art. I also have to give credit to my graphic design professor Mr. Miller for teaching me the elements of design.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I knew I was an artist from the age of about five. From grade school on through high school I was always the best artist in my class and loved to draw.
How would you describe your creative process?
I can’t create without music playing full blast and, when I am creating, I feel like I’m on another plane. It’s like a natural high for me. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself in gear and start a painting but once I do, I’m in another world. If I feel a bit down my mood instantly changes once I start. I usually don’t think about what I am going to paint. It’s almost like I’m possessed; my hands and the brush just take over and, voila!, the painting emerges. When I’m done I feel drained of energy but usually happy with the end result.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Definitely Vincent van Gogh! He is my favorite fine artist. I guess you could say that I’m the typical artist stereotype, moody and somewhat mad at times so I feel a kinship with Vincent. I think my brush technique and the colors I use have been greatly influenced by his style.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My grandmother was also a wonderful seamstress. She created beautiful handmade quilts from scraps of fabric left over from the dresses she made. I have two of her creations and do treasure them. I also treasure the small wooden box my son Ryan made for me, the kitchen knife holder my son Sean made for me, and the beautiful handmade birthday cards my daughter Rebecca made for me.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I usually stall a bit by calling a friend to chat, baking cookies or going for a ride. Just getting out of “my cave,” as my kids call my home, seems to do the trick. Looking through art magazines also inspires me.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
As my brother always says, “Above ground!” Ideally, I would be selling my paintings and prints for thousands of dollars a piece and living in a fabulous log cabin in the woods with a wonderful guy.