Vanessa Colunga’s art is filled with images of monsters, aliens and the stuff of nightmares. But her art transforms nightmares into works admired and appreciated.
Vanessa says, “Scrawling out stick figures for my parents and grandparents is one of my first vivid memories as a child.” People always ask her how long she’s been making art and she always gives the same response, “I think I must have left graffiti in my mom’s womb”.
It helped that she had supportive parents. Tobias and Colleen Colunga let her and her brother, Jasey, draw on the sheetrock in their unfinished basement. Jasey is now an artist as well.
Though art is something she’s always enjoyed she didn’t always believe she could make a living at it. While working at a local Walmart throwing freight, she continued to draw. People asked for portraits of favorite singers or actors and she did commission work of children or grandchildren. Despite getting paid for her work, she still hung on to the job at Walmart, “I would bring my drawings to work and people would go nuts over them. It was humbling to know others enjoyed my art. They would ask, ‘What are you doing here?’. I would always say, ‘You can’t pay the bills with doodles.’”
In 2013 she decided to explore her own artistic leanings, “Not just draw another person’s toddler, but actually create something that I would enjoy. I’ve always been the creepy, odd girl. I like weird things, and have a jar of dead bugs to prove it!”
She entered the 24 Hour Art Show hosted by the Hive Gallery in Ogden. Each artist had 24 hours to create something and display it for the public. She painted Edgar Allan Poe. “The gallery owners, Christian Coleman and Emily Edmunds, were impressed by my work. They invited me to display more of my art and told me to start prepping for a solo show. I decided to go with a theme, The Creepshow.”
Her show was made up of classic movie monsters and she worked in something new for her, a mixed media focusing on India ink. She painted on wooden boxes her dad and her husband, Brandon Dowling, made for her. She uses a wide variety of mediums to create her paintings including; acrylic, watercolor, distressed inks, charcoals and pens.
Her first solo show was such a huge success that she decided to continue along in the same genre. “My slogan quickly became, Colunga Art, adding a touch of creepy to fine art.”
Vanessa says, “I am now an artist full time. I was wrong, you absolutely CAN pay bills with doodles. I love a quote by Ani DiFranco that says, “Art is why I wake up in the morning.” It’s my motto now.”
You can find Vanessa’s work at Pandemonium Art Gallery at 155 Historic 25th in Ogden or at local craft and farmers’ markets. Visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/colunga.art or in Instagram at www.colungaart.com.
Story by Connie Lewis