In just over a decade, Mabel Garcia has gone from doodling on Post-It notes to having her own art business creating custom portraits, particularly specializing in weddings.
Weddings have been an inspiration to Garcia since the beginning. “The first doodle I made on a Post-It was a scene from my sister’s wedding,” says Garcia, who moved with her family to Edmonton from the Philippines in 2008. “That was the last big family event we had right before we moved to Canada.”
That doodle turned out to be an extra-special memento. When the Garcia family applied to migrate to Canada, that sister was over the age limit to apply to come with the rest of the family. However, deciding that coming to Canada would be a positive change in their lives, they were willing to take the risk of separating the family by geography. “We remained hopeful that even though we are facing quite a lot of unknowns, we will all be together again,” she says.
Garcia now runs I Love the Moon, her custom illustration business, and credits her art for helping with integrating into life in Canada. “I wasn’t really sure how to connect and make new friends when we moved here. I just turned 25 and really didn’t know anyone outside of my family and work,” she explains. “I started using social media to share my work and was able to connect with a lot of women, creatives, and entrepreneurs in the city. The support I’ve received from the community has been overwhelming.”
Her art has also helped Garcia stay connected with her friends and family who are far away, including her sister back in the Philippines, now a mother of two daughters. Again using the medium of Post-It notes, Garcia would doodle mini-portraits of her loved ones during her breaks at work, and send the illustrations to them digitally. Those illustrations started showing up on social media as profile pictures, and friends of friends started asking about getting their portraits made. “I guess it was a way of me trying to cope with a big change in my life; making portraits made me feel like they were close by,” says Garcia.
In addition to weddings, Garcia also creates other kinds of custom portraits like families, pets, couples, and individuals. The majority of Garcia’s clients are women. “If they are not getting a portrait for themselves, they are getting it for someone else because they are their best friend, sister, mother, grandmother. They are always someone’s special person in their lives.”
Garcia describes as
artistic process as “intimate.” She uses reference photos to create the portraits, but asks
clients for a lot of details to help her make the end result deeply personal.
“I also ask what the mom’s favourite necklace is, or the kids’ favourite toy.
If they want their
furry friends included, would they like to include their dog tag/collar in the portrait? I get to know the couples and families that
I illustrate, which makes it even more special to me.”
Art is still a part-time endeavour for Garcia, who works full-time as an administrative supervisor at a university and creates her custom portraits on weeknights and weekends. Her goal is to be able to go full-time as an artist. In the meantime, Garcia will continue to celebrate love with her work. “Each custom portrait that I make is a celebration of love. This is what weddings are all about!” t8n