An Interview with Armela Rea Mariano
by Oscar Perez
Armela Rea Mariano, is a local artist from the Philippines who writes, sculpts and paints! Her story will inspire you to take a leap a faith into that dream you have been trying to pursue! I caught up with Armela in late February to talk all about art, inspiration, community, and her experience so far in this world of art.
Oscar: Armela, thanks for taking some time to meet with me today! What are you up to currently?
Armela: Hi! Well right now I have been working on my handmade jewelry business and I’m getting ready for the Hecho-A-Mano Market in March!
Great! Tell me, when did you first know art was something you wanted to do? What’s your first memory?
The first art memory I have is of me being a toddler and walking into my dad’s office to vandalize his table! Ha-ha! I would draw stick-figures of people with white-out.
Ha-ha! Awesome! How about school? Did you study art?
Yes! When I was in the Philippines I started drawing anime characters in elementary school because that was the popular style at the time! I ended up doing that through high school. I then came to Laredo and studied Art here at TAMIU.
So what did you do after you got your degree?
Well this sounds cliché, but it’s true what they say about the “starving artist.” When I graduated, this reality hit me. I was applying for jobs that revolved around art but it wasn’t going anywhere. I got really disheartened so I ended up studying for nursing and stopped creating art.
Oh wow! How did you end up getting back into Art?
When I was working as a nurse I realized it wasn’t really what I wanted. I wasn’t happy. I had to quit nursing and in 2016 I started my business with handmade jewelry. It was then that I started doing art again and this included art for myself as well. I started participating in shows.
What was an obstacle you faced when getting into doing art full-time?
When I graduated school with an art degree, I did not find a job. I had to choose between art and nursing. I stopped creating art. It was a hard transition.
Once you started creating art, did you have a certain style?
You can say that during school I developed an art style. I was told that my art felt organic. My style has changed from then to now. I now use all types of medium and am now sculpting with polymer clay.
That’s great! What helped that style evolve?
Practicing every day. It helped me figure my style out by trying new things. You really don’t know what type of medium you are good at if you never try it.
If you had to choose one medium to use going forward which one would it be?
I can say that it would be clay. It’s more about the logistics of creation. I can carry clay with me anywhere I go and I like that I am creating with my hands. It relaxes me.
What inspires your work? Where does it come from?
My own personal life experiences inspire me. When I’m going through “something,” I channel that energy into art. I get inspired when I’m depressed. Ha-ha! I don’t know if that’s a good thing but I get motivated by it! I channel that energy and it manifests into something real.
What’s one common theme you see in your art?
Most of my art is about the human condition. I’m very fascinated by the idea of decay, death, and heartbreak. Most of the human emotions that we try to suppress have been shared in my art. In this way, the people that look at my art can reflect within themselves. It will connect with people and start a conversation.
Do you have a routine for creating?
Before I make something, I obsess over the process of how I will make the piece. It can be days and days of envisioning the steps. Once I get into a certain emotional state, I create the art. I don’t sketch the pieces, I just start creating.
What’s the biggest obstacle in creating art? How do you get past it?
I can say that it’s myself! Ha-ha! I procrastinate and at times I can be lazy. To get over it, I look through other artists’ work and it inspires me to get going.
What’s the one art piece you created that means the most to you?
It was an art piece I created in 2007. The piece is Untitled and it’s about an individual with a loose rope around his neck. It tells the story of trying to move on but not being able to. I was going through heartbreak.
When did you first start sharing your art publicly? What was the initial reaction?
Back in college I started posting my art on DeviantArt.com. It was nice having people share how they appreciated my art. I like getting people’s feedback on my work. I also had blogs to share some poems.
That’s great! Tell me, what’s the toughest feedback you have received?
A classmate back in college told me that I signed my name too big on my canvases because I was showing off. I have to say that it really got to me! It impacted the way I sign my art.
Do you think artists should change with the feedback they receive?
If you think that the feedback and the ‘change’ will be beneficial well then you may want to open your mind to the feedback. However, if the feedback is criticism for criticism’s sake or just to bring you down, then don’t listen to those people.
On another note, what’s the best feedback you have received?
I remember doing a performance art piece during our Senior show in college when all of a sudden I was overcome with emotion. I remember a classmate of mine shouting, “You can do it,” and later on telling me that I had a beautiful mind. That was really touching.
What’s one piece of advice you would give an artist who just started?
Aside from doing what you love, you should be who you are. It’s not a requirement to have deep meaning for every art piece so just create your art and keep creating.
That’s great advice! Tell me about our local art community and what’s your involvement in it?
I started attending a local event by the name of Art Bazaar. It was there that I met a local artist, Sandra Gonzalez, who introduced me to Hecho-A-Mano market. It all started because I had sold her a piece of jewelry and she suggested to sell my work at this market. This was 2016.
How important has the community been to your work?
I can say that meeting other artists inspires me. I get ideas from them and it lets me know that I’m not alone in this pursuit of art.
What’s your dream with art?
I think the goal is, “do what you love.” It’s cliché, but they say, “if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.” Making art is a form of self-satisfaction and therapy. I want to make sure I continue doing that.
Great! Thanks for sharing that thought with us! Where can we find your art? Do you have any shows coming up?
I have an Etsy shop: ArmelaReaHandmade, where I sell my handmade jewelry as well as my Facebook Page: ArmelaRea.
As far as finding it locally, you can find my work at the Hecho-A-Mano market. For shows, a friend of mine and I want to have an art show but it’s something we are working on so I am working on expanding my portfolio right now.
Armela, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. Your story will inspire people!
Don’t forget to go follow Armela’s Facebook page to keep up with her work as well as her Instagram @ReiMariano to keep up with her story.