Updated: Jul 29
Written by Enjonai Jenkins
Meet Marie-Ange/Mar of Art by Lunamar – a mixed-media artist whose artistic passions led her to the Tampa Bay area. Although Mar arrived in Tampa only seven years ago with a scholarship in hand to pursue her dreams, her artistic journey began long before then. Mar was born in Trinidad and Tobago to an art teacher who nourished and encouraged her daughter’s creativity from a young age. Mar continued to cultivate her craft through her high school years and credits the culture of her homeland as the inspiration for most of her work, but took the opportunity to attend college in the States to start anew.
Photo by D' Smith Photography
Tell us a little bit about your early artistic journey.
LM: This is your chance to get your reader excited about the guide and appreciate the real value behind reading the post in its entirety. I’m from Trinidad and my mom was an art teacher. So when I was small, she used to do fun little art stuff with me. We would take recycled stuff from outside and make it into cool and funky stuff. And then I continued and I did art in high school and I kept using it – kept coming back to it. I felt like art wasn’t a good career path, so I would stray away from it. But every time I tried something different, it just didn’t feel like that’s what I wanted to do. So I always came back to art. When I went to college, I stuck with it… Now it’s my full-time job, and I love it.
Of course, having that background with your mom – doing the recycled art from a very young age – I’m sure that you have some sort of inspiration from your roots in Trinidad. Would you say so, and if so, in what way would you say?
LM: Yes. Yes, completely! So in Trinidad we – I would classify our culture as very colorful in every way possible. We are diverse culturally, ya know…We are a bright culture. We have our Carnival, and that is bright colors and everyone’s included. So when I first started my big pieces, that’s what I wanted to portray. So I did 8-feet paintings with naked people of different races, and it was all themed on love. So I had it very inclusive – it was LGBT and it was great. And that’s kinda what started my colorful journey… And that’s what I get from Trinidad and that’s how I use it in my artwork.
Trinidad’s cultural inspiration did not keep Mar’s art confined to a certain style. She attributes this constant evolution to her desire to try new things and her academic education. Mar has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, combining her natural love of art with a degree that would provide for her once she graduated – at her grandma’s insistence. Mar credits her graphic design degree with becoming the self-sufficient entrepreneur that she is today.
You work with charcoal and watercolor, what are the other mediums that you create with?
LM: I’m a mixed medium painter – I use everything. I get bored really fast, so I switch my mediums all the time. My final series that I did in school was with metal – it was with liquid iron and I oxidized it, so it got rusty. Then I layered it with oil painting. Then I got bored with that, so I switched to mixing oil paints with spray paints. Before that, I worked with watercolor – I’m always switching. And I feel like that leaves for openness and change. I think when artists get stuck with one medium, it’s hard for them to break out of that. So I feel that constantly changing and creating in different mediums allows me to keep doing that.
How did both of those art degrees play into your artistic journey?
LM: That [graphic design degree] really helped with coming to be an entrepreneur because what opened for me was not needing anyone else to do my advertisements, my business cards, my Instagram… I can take my own pictures. I can edit them myself. So it really helped me holistically with becoming full-time and not relying on anyone else to do so.
Her time in Tampa not only revealed how lucrative an art career in the States could be, but it also welcomed her first child, Luna. Instead of using Luna’s birth as a distraction or an excuse not to follow her dreams, Mar leaned into being a mother and pivoted her baby into the perfect rebrand.
LM: I moved here… I got a scholarship in school, so that’s kinda what brought me up here. It was a great opportunity and then I just stuck around. I tried to get my work visa, which I did. I worked for a year and then right out of college, I had a little surprise – which was my baby. I did not know I was pregnant. I found out five months in. You know, I just went with the flow. I had to stop my art for a year to focus on her. Then I rebranded myself using her. So her name is Luna and my name is Mar, that’s why my art is Lunamar. Because when I rebranded myself, I would have to bring her everywhere with me. I would have to paint with her, she’d be there crying and crawling all over the paint – that’s why she’s a big part of where I am now.
Do you feel like you developed the sense of motherhood and your career path at the same time?
LM: I think that her coming into my life forced me to have to take my career more seriously. Whereas when she was growing inside me, I was still in school – I was in college. I was in Tulum partying! And then when I realized – oh wow, I have a whole being that I have to take care of – I thought to myself, okay I need to really focus and get my business going, get my money coming in, get my career going. So I think she is the reason why I’m actually where I am today. And better, because I had to provide for her and me.
All of Mar’s experiences have led to the artist that she is now. Her graphic design knowledge has helped her to curate her personal Instagram page into a successful promotional portfolio that helps gain recognition and opportunities to expand her art to a larger scale. Motherhood has as shifted her artwork towards less provocative subject matter and has even inspired her upcoming series. Marie has even evolved her large-scale artwork into a new form. Her newest passion? Murals!
Where are some of the locations where you have your murals at?
LM: When I started murals, I didn’t know anything about it. What I did was, I started practicing in schools. I am the resident artist for Tribe – it’s a nonprofit community center. I would donate my art and time to them and, in turn, that allowed me to be able to practice. Some of the schools that have my art are Broward Elementary School, Seminole Elementary… That’s kinda where I started practicing before I started taking real jobs. I just recently finished a dentist's office for kids called The Heights Dentistry – that’s where I did my last mural. I’ve come a long way, but definitely donating that time to the community is always good because you give back and you get a lot in return from it.
When you first started you were doing more of the naked paintings and big paintings like that and it seems like some of your transition is now to elementary schools and dentists – did your daughter have any role in that as well?
LM: Yes, 100 percent! When you take your degree in school, a lot of the time, the fundamentals and the basics of learning is starting with the figure. And you learn to paint naked, you learn bodies, and they push that a lot in school – the face and the body… and that’s normal, that’s everyday art school. So being in that culture and not having a child, I was like, Okay, yes! Nudes – it’s hot, it’s sexy. And then when you have a baby and your community changes, it’s like, are every mom and dad gonna have some tits on their walls? No. So then I had to change my art and make it open to everyone. Sometimes when you go to certain art shows, they’d say like ‘family-friendly.’ So I feel now I’m more inclusive of everyone and every age and I think it’s better for me to be that way. So yeah, if you want naked people, I can paint them but that’s also not all that I do now.
Does your daughter help with any of your paintings or any of the art that you do?
LM: I haven’t told anyone about this – I haven’t posted it on Instagram at all, but the next series that I’m working on is where she makes the background of the pieces. I will put the paint and she will just walk around – she loves paint. She will sneak and hide and go into my paints – she’s done it before – and make messes. We have to hide my paints from her because she loves them so much. My next series is where she makes the background and I use that as a base of my piece. What I do over it, I’m not sure yet, but that’s gonna be my next series where I include her in it.
The last question I’d like to ask is what’s your take on the Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater art scene?
LM: I think that Tampa art is amazing – it’s growing. I think we’re in a place where the artists that are constantly grinding and working on themselves. They can be really big in the next few years. I think we’re up and coming and I think that it’s just a process that you have to stick at right now. We’re not oversaturated like New York where you have to fight for a spot. So who is in the art scene right now, I think that if they keep at it and keep building with whatever you do in that art world, within the next few years you’re gonna be up there – you’re gonna be one of those artists.