Daily moments provide the catalyst for artist Sonia Colonna-Mathis
The three artists, clutching paint brushes, gathered over the blank 4’ by 4’canvas. Almost as if someone said “go!” all three began to paint at the same time. And in under three hours they stepped back to survey the results of their collaboration: between the loose ink dripped and poured onto the canvas, the empty spaces were filled with detailed sharpie drawings, three-dimensional recycled plastics, and strokes painted with toothbrushes.
Almost every month, Sonia Colonna-Mathis, artist and owner of Stinger Studio, collaborates with fellow local artists Hyunsuk Erickson and Doug Nagle to create art that unites their different signature styles and techniques. Sonia says, “It’s always a little surprising when you back up and see three people working so frantically and having to work with each other so fast and so intuitively; it’s amazing to see that we actually pulled something together that was finished.” For Sonia, this is blissfully routine; each day is often a spontaneous experiment in creating art.
A Family of Artists
Collaborating with talented artists is familiar territory for Sonia. A few weekends ago, she spent the day painting with her husband Carlton and her kids, Carson and Luna, using acrylic ink and water. They titled the highly textured work of layered art “A Fine Mess.” Budding young artists, the kids are quickly learning the value of creativity and self-expression. Sonia hopes that by creating art “in a way that’s healthy for them, good for the environment, and good for them, that they can cope. It’s a really a good way of coping with whatever is happening in their life.”
Sonia remembers sitting at a canvas, painting a giraffe for an upcoming birthday party, when Carson, only two at the time, came into the room. Suddenly, Sonia saw a little hand reach up and begin drawing with her on the painting. “Hey! Get your own canvas!” she laughingly told him. Always one to encourage art, Sonia then set her small toddler in front of his very own blank canvas and watched as he reached for a large brush with three different colors. In minutes, Carson had created a stunning work of art, a cherished painting that today hangs in their living room.
Inspiration and Technique
While painting with her kids is always an inspiring endeavor, Sonia draws a good bit of inspiration from quietly watching nature and the quirkiness of animals and bugs; nature resonates in many of her paintings. Frogs, butterflies, owls, and beetles artfully creep into many of her pieces. Sonia began working with oils while completing her BFA at the University of Texas and then later transitioned to acrylics as she became more mindful of toxins. She discovered that painting with acrylics and then adding in pastels allowed her to use color-on-color and build thin layers to create the same rich effect as oil painting in her work. In turn, Sonia says, she was able to “work faster and make decisions more boldly, so the paintings were changing and getting a little bit brighter.”
Sonia creates much of her art in her studio. Launched two years ago in November, the goal of Stinger Studio is to inspire people, to allow them “to come in and connect with something enough to where they know they want to live with it.” Sonia says, “I love that. I love what it means to the people that buy the art, and I love what it means to the artist that’s created it.” She recognizes the tough decision buyers face when investing in a piece that will most likely be part of their daily lives for several decades. Sonia pays particular attention not only to the work created, but also to the details involved in framing each unique piece; it’s not unusual to find her doubling or even tripling frames together, a subtle effect that enhances the artwork.
Every other month, the studio hosts an inspiring new event highlighting a series from a local artist or group of local artists. During July and August, the studio is debuting “To Be or Not To Be … Nude,” a Shakespearean take on figurative art. Sonia explains, “There are so many artists who prefer to work figuratively, and, well, they’re all painting nudes! And there’s nowhere they can hang them and certainly not sell them.” The event will give over twenty figurative artists a comfortable place to present their breathtaking work. And later, in early fall, Sonia has planned a showcase titled, “Social Graces and Interworkings,” an intricate display of her most recent work involving “all the stuff that’s happening in [her] brain.”
To Sonia, art is important because, “For the artist, it allows them to understand better who they are and how they heal and connect with other people; for most everyone else it, in a lot of ways, it’s a reminder of the places they enjoyed and things that shaped them into the people that they are—things that touch a nerve for their spiritual growth and their social development.” Sonia is keenly aware of the daily impact art has on humanity. In continually discovering new and inventive ways to introduce, create, and inspire art in everyone around her, Sonia is a part of that impact.
By Meredith Morrow
Photos by Rudy Ximenez