Creating Space for Intention & Imagination, with Monika Kralicek


Interview led by: Walter Cabal  |

Howdy Maker’s Movement Readers! Walter here from Cabal Crafted with the last of my Tuesday interviews with select contributors from Issue 3: The Blues.

Today we’ve got Monika Kralicek, a mixed media artist living in Portland Oregon. Her work is full of the impressionism of a memory and the tones, strokes, and colours of nature. We touch on natural landscapes and art, the simplicity of life’s fundamentals, and encouraging others even when they’re not feeling blue.

Monika, I just wanted to say that as somebody who spends time outside, I find you’ve really captured the “spirit” within natural landscapes. There’s an impressionistic poetry about all of your work that's really almost effortless. What’s inspiring, too, is that you’re largely self-taught. Can you share with our readers a little bit about how you found your way to where you are as a multimedia artist? I'm so interested to learn about your journey, especially with deciding not to go the "degree" route.

I loved the idea of going to art school (still do!) but college right after high school wasn’t really an option for me. I wanted to travel so badly, and not just vacation travel, I needed to move around. From ages 18 to 23 I moved every 10-12 months, often solo, living all over the US. I always worked and really got to know whatever city I stayed in. I’m also a social person, an extrovert; I collected experiences, stories, and impressions from everyone I met. All of this influenced me creatively. I continually painted and sketched, but I never had an intention with it. 

Art is a rare thing we’re driven to, no matter the purpose, but it’s often better when there is one. Anyway, something clicked for me a couple years ago when I picked up a palette knife; it was amazing to have a simple tool completely transform my artistic vision and practice. The process was suddenly new and fascinating, it’s like I realized everything I still had to discover. It means a lot to me when you say I’m capturing the spirit of natural landscapes, because infusing the geographies of my life into my work is essential, and the longer I live in the Pacific Northwest, the more it seeps into my work. 

I love that these interviews have featured both formally and informally taught artists. I hope our readers can be encouraged that there’s a broad road to approach art from. I know you recently released a new collection of works on your website on January 23rd. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s unique about this collection?

I started painting these raised horizons because they allowed for a balance between what’s felt and imagined and what’s seen. I wanted to explore colour and texture but also provide an anchor in each piece. I love that these abstract landscapes have strokes that resemble trees or something familiar, but the rest of the composition breaks down. To me, the most important art is emotional and allows room for imagination. That’s been my goal with this series… I hope I’ve gotten that right, I feel like I have.

That’s what I mean by visual poetry, there’s breathing room to grow some wonder in your work. Can you tell us a little bit about how your surrounding culture influences your art? Do you think there’s anything uniquely tied to either Oregon, or Portland, or North America? If there is, please explore that with us.

Walter this is tough one, if asked how my area geography influences my art I could easily tell you about what I love and it’s influence, but maybe that’s obvious? I do think it’s important to take inspiration from everywhere and let your experiences continually inform your work, but talking about the culture of my area and the US is something else. I couldn’t pinpoint its influence because often I have to ignore it. There are huge divides socially, politically, and culturally here and I don’t want that to touch my art. I still feel like a ‘young’ artist in that sense, I want to protect my work and process while it’s still in its infancy.

I hear you on wanting to keep some of the dividing characteristics of the culture from your art. It seems like you’re interested in your work bringing, instead of taking life. I know one of my favourite characteristics of your work is how, at least for me, your tones and forms seem to find a way to point toward natural landscapes, earth, ocean, the movements of wind, and so forth. Even as someone who’s from Oregon, there’s a stroke that you have that reminds me of one of my favourite Japanese painters. Can you share with our readers a little bit about why you gravitate toward these very elemental foundations?

I’ve heard that before, and I love that! I’ve been trying to focus on the negative space in my work… maintaining the simplicity. Since I can remember, whenever I’ve really looked at my surroundings, the scene breaks down into simple blocks of shapes and colours. I’m always chasing those minimalized abstract images. It’s been said so many times, but less really is more. I want to leave room enough in my work to invite others in.

Many artists especially the ones in this set of interviews have tended to juggle multiple endeavours at a time, Social Work, being a Mother, family, etc… What other endeavours do you juggle in addition to your art?

That’s the life of an artist, modern or ancient, isn’t it? I have a full-time job that I really love and that takes up most of my time during the week. I’m also married to a rad guy and we have a pretty busy social life (did I mention I’m an extrovert?). We volunteer together on the weekends, try to get outdoors, and travel. My artwork has been overtaking some of these extracurriculars little by little, but mostly I’ve just been learning to live with 6 hours of sleep a night.

Your piece in the newest issue of Maker’s Magazine is called “Solitude”.  For someone who has such a huge following on Instagram, what’s your relationship with solitude? Do you “have to get away” from Instagram, or do find it comes naturally? 

I have to get away all the time! I love people and I share on Instagram in the same manner that I would share with you in person--open, honest, and conversational (at least I hope it translates that way). I get energy from it, but I need time for quiet contemplation. Creatively speaking, I think we all need time to be by ourselves, slow down, and process everything we take in. There is a constant stream of information we’re exposed to daily; it can be overstimulating and totally draining, right? Tuning out and taking breaks from this is necessary, even for an extrovert. 

I spend quite a bit of time in solitude as a discipline for my own spiritual development and for my total well being; I’m sure painting affords itself a level of solitude, too. Do you find any spiritual comfort in the solitude of painting? It seems like these blues interviews have always had a tinge of spiritual insight, and it benefits our readers to hear from the artists themselves.

If I could do one thing forever it would be painting. It touches and influences every part of my life, much like my spirituality. We live in a beautiful, vibrant world that was created just for us; I believe that. I try to take time every day to breathe that in. What I’ve been learning from my art practice is to take time to listen, even if it’s difficult to make the time or you disagree with the voice. Art connects--The Blues issue is a perfect example--each contributing artist comes from a different path and belief system but we’re together creating, and that’s a beautiful thing.

As you know, this month Maker’s Movement is washing its feed in blue, and diving into all the different intersections of the concept. Aside from the colour and the music, it seems we’ve been gravitating toward sharing stories of the emotional aspects of Blue. If you’re comfortable with it, can you share a little bit about a time of grief, loss, or mourning and how that’s shaped some of your artwork / process / way of thinking about art?

I’m going to dive in deep… I’ve felt completely lost and alone at different points in my life, and with it comes a numbing sadness. When traveling around by myself in my early 20’s, for example, I knew it was something I needed to do. I was determined to find my independence and be brave. It was exciting pushing myself to do things I was scared of, but then there would be these moments I would spiral. I could be surrounded by dozens of people and feel totally isolated or frozen. I still experience that and sometimes it takes me by surprise. I have to let the emotions wash over me till they disperse, frustrating as it is. On one hand, that makes it difficult to explain; it’s not so much a sadness of loss or mourning, but more of nothingness.

I know it all ties together. Fear and walking into the unknown, loneliness and the experience of solitude, and the common human experience of feeling lost because of uncertainty. I relish my solitude, but I need an anchor to combat that fear of floating away into the vast open space. I’ve explored that very literally with my paintings, anchoring every open space with something that provides a contrast. I don’t think I’ve been able to translate that thought into words till just now… wow.

Thanks for reflecting so deeply! Our readers have learned something about you and you’ve learned something about your own thoughts, too! Double win. Is there something you’ve learned that you can share with our readers to encourage them in their own trek through the dark parts of their own lives? For example - any images or ways of framing? Our hope is that the readers have a deep well to draw from through all the different artists and may be able to find someone who they jive with.

It’s simplistic, but my parents have drilled this into me: never, never, never give up. It’s important to take risks, get lost, go at it alone, and it’s inevitable to experience hardship, heartbreak, trauma; the list goes on. But throughout everything, no matter if it’s an experience you put yourself through or someone else puts you through, just keep going, keep trying. We’re in this together. 

I'm super inspired by what your parents have shared with you, those sound like solid words, and wise ones, too. I know some of our readers might feel like where they're at is the absolute end of the line, and have battery energy (on a scale from 1-10) of like -20. For the readers who are struggling to find a way "through the blue," I feel like that end portion "we're in this together" rings with something solid also. And even though we're in this together may sound "simplistic" too, there really seems to be something of value there for people to hold on to. Can you expand on that thought about "being in it together" some more? Maybe even how you've been able to show others that you're in it with them? My thought is that the readers may at the very least feel like you (The Awesome Monika Kralicek) is there personally cheering them on.

I think it sounds simple too because the most fundamental things in life are simple. We need companionship and friendship, and the best people you could surround yourself with are those that encourage you. I think it's important to remember that encouragement is not just for those are down or feeling low, but that everyone thrives on it. 

Whether you're soaring on a high or needing pulled up from a low, when someone else reaches out with a word or gesture of support, doesn't it give you a little boost? It does for me, so I always want to give that back. At the very least, it serves as a reminder that we aren't alone. The effort it takes to be compassionate and kind to one another doesn't have to be large, but you never know when the word said at the proper time will make a difference. We need that now more than ever in our community.

I hope our readers take in the sturdiness in those words. Thank you so much for your time Monika. You really had some encouraging things to say for our readers, and thank you for being your wandering, imagining, and energetic self. I find that your work, and the way you've opened up may give our readers yet another artist to add to the diverse pool of artists that are finding their way "through the blue." We need the energy and the creativity you have in our divided world. Thank you for sharing your mind with us.

Walter thank you again for including me in this series, it was an honour! I've personally learned so much from people I admire by reading through the thoughts shared... it's obvious you had taken the time to get to know each artist's work and engage thoughtfully with them, what a skill! I appreciate how personal your questions were; they really pushed me to reflect on aspects of my work that were a bit buried in my subconscious. Thank you again.

And that’s our series, folks. Please feel free to check out and participate in the #embracetheblues initiative we have going on. You can search the hashtag #embracetheblues on Instagram, and also read up on how to participate right here on the website. There are so many more stories to read, artists to draw from, and encouraging ways of seeing life to drink up. For those of you that have read these interviews, I hope you’ve learned and taken away as much as I have. 

Massive thank you to Walter Cabal for sharing this insightful series of interviews with the Maker's Movement community. Walter's clearly got a gift for storytelling, and we're thrilled to say that he will be joining us as a regular contributor on the platform. So many more stories to tell and dialogue to be shared.