We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Louise and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I’m a certified workaholic, and a very early goal of mine was to be able to work around an active lifestyle in order to subdue the need to constantly be working. Living in the Southwest Colorado mountains, skiing, biking, hiking, and riding motorcycles are all very big parts of my life. So being able to work at unusual hours in order to catch any and every powder day or flower covered meadow is very important to me. I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect balance by any means, but I’m constantly working towards it. Being your own boss means that deadlines don’t fall on anyone else, so I’ve certainly missed a few epic ski days or group rides at sunset to finish a project, but it’s tough to have a ‘perfect’ balance when I also love the work I do so much. Because of the nature of my work – doing murals and graphic design – I have chunks of time where I’m working non-stop, but then blocks where I’m playing just as much. During the times where I start to feel a little overwhelmed, I’ll forget the deadlines and take a forced day off. This always helps reset my creative juices and gets me back on track, and usually helps a deadline be achieved in a more thoughtful manner. I believe my work-life balance changes frequently, and it’s a constant evolution towards some sort of 50/50 goal. Whether this goal is ever actually attainable is something I’ll report back on!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I get my drive and ambition to learn every trade under the sun from my grandmother and my namesake, Monica Guidobro. As a teen, living in Chile and coming from a Spanish aristocratic family, she was not allowed to further her education, but had a yearn to learn. She would hide under the kitchen table to study from her older brothers tutors, and was the first woman in Bolivia to get a motorcycle license. Inscribed on the license under endorsements was “todo lo que ella quiere”, meaning whatever she wants. These stories of my grandmother and my inherent drive to learn it all has been the force behind everything I do today. A project I’m most proud of is a 1967 VW Microbus that I painted, with incredible instruction from start to finish. Despite not being paid to do the legwork of getting the body prepped and primed for paint, I wanted to be there to learn what it takes, so I spent an extra 6 weeks on this part of the process. But I learned how to do auto body repair, and every step that it takes to paint an entire vehicle. With any project I take on, I dive deep into the knowledge and understanding of the process, and immerse myself in the education of the trade. If I am faced with a process I have yet to learn, I find a professional and study it until I feel confident in testing the tools. I’m lucky to come from a family of creatives, all yielding their wealths of knowledge when needed. While I call myself a muralist and graphic designer, what sets me apart is that sometimes I paint cars, or do sign painting, or weld a sign together out of scrap parts, or build furniture, or build a yurt to live in, or design books, or draw posters, or paint a motorcycle, or…. the list goes on and on. I truly hope for the list of tools and trades I learn over my lifetime never stops.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Durango Colorado has an endless list of things to check out. At the start of the trip would be breakfast at Oscars, a classic diner with all the posters from Durango’s Premier Winter Celebration: Snowdown (we’ll get to that in a minute). We’d then set out to the Fort Lewis College for a quick birds eye view of the entire town. From here I would explain all the next adventures, and point out their locations. Towards the east we’ve got Mesa Verde, a national park that “protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the United States”. After day trip there, we’d spend the next day strolling the downtown area and hit Durango Coffee Company, for the best mocha ever. We’d stop at ‘Studio &’ to see some local art, Toast Records & Tapes for some music, and get lunch at the Himalayan Kitchen. Take a walk on the river trail to work off the chicken korma, and loop back to the downtown area for more tastes and drinks at Eolus, el Moro, The Office, and The Bookcase & Barber. After this day in the city, we’d head up into the San Juan mountains to see my house (a yurt that I built and live in) some old mines, and spectacular views from 13,000 feet. After the lack of oxygen gets to my friend, we’d stop at the best highway dive bar in the country – The Olde Schoolhouse. With pizza made from scratch to die for and never ending beverages, we’d probably have to sleep on the pool table after close. We’d also head to Purgatory for either lift access downhill mountain biking, or epic views from any side of the mountain on skis or boards. We’d spend an afternoon riding horses on Lime Creek Trail, and ice skate at Andrews Lake. If my friend wasn’t completely exhausted yet, we’d also have a karaoke night at the makeshift/DIY venue Channel 37, which sees all the likes of creatives for any number of gatherings downtown.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d have to say that Stacy Maloney, owner of the Olde Schoolhouse Cafe & Saloon is huge inspiration for me. Her work ethic, positive attitude, and drive to get shit done whether you’ve got help or not are all lessons I’ve learned from her. I also grant a lot of credit towards my high school art teacher at Durango High School, Mrs. Krista Karpel. When I said I wanted to create something, she never held me back, and always provided the tools to make it happen. She propelled my art career by giving me freedom, guidance, and grounding.
Instagram: @nvrbmd @monicalouise.design