Monique Rollins is a contemporary abstract painter from Wilmington Delaware, who creates stunning large-scale pieces that playfully utilize a wide range of mediums. From vibrant oil paintings and monochrome charcoal drawings to complex paper collages, Rollins embraces her flow state and improvisation to communicate her story when realizing her pieces.
Rollins truly believes in art’s power to help us heal, unite, and communicate complex emotions that we can’t express through words. Through her creations, Rollins playfully depicts the complexity of the human condition using lines, color, and forms.
Rollins has showcased her work around the world for over a decade now, and she still strives to evolve and one-up her art. We had the opportunity to connect with Rollins for a conversation about her work before she travels to New York for the Volta and Clio art shows.
Read on to find out more in an exclusive interview with Monique Rollins.
You have talked about how the mind, body, and soul all come together when we enter a creative zone and how it is healing. Can you tell us why you believe it is important to explore art and pursue creativity?
-I think so much can be said through art that cannot be said with words. More feelings, emotions and expressions can be communicated, highlighted, and understood through art rather than verbal communication or a written publication. The power of communication and converting the human experience happens immensely through many forms of art. This power and magic of communication is something I think is very important and needed in current times. Art has given my life a direction and passion that was missing before, and I feel so lucky to have that in my life.
Can you tell us who Terry and Jody are as well as their importance to you?
-Terry and Jody were my inspiring and inspirational high school art teachers. I learned what it truly meant to be an artist firsthand from Terry. During my junior year of high school, I switched to a new school, and Terry helped me catch up on curriculum so that I could be on the same level as my peers. He gave lessons on color theory, painting, and drawing, and he also worked on his own paintings in class so I could observe and learn from them. It was incredible to watch his thoughts unfold by putting down and picking up colors and creating forms that evolved. There are things I learned from that junior year art class that I still use in my art all the time, particularly in my drawings and paintings. Terry pushed the importance of drawing, learning how to look at things, and understanding what you're seeing to be able to duplicate it visually. Terry loved color and was very passionate about multiple subjects for periods of time. It was such a pleasure to be able to witness his investigations as they grabbed his attention and turned his studies into paintings. He has a gift of communication both visually and verbally when it comes to his students.
Jody was a sculpture teacher who I never actually had as a teacher, but she was extremely inspiring and helpful in my development. One story with Jody left such an impact on me. We were having a junior prom late in the evening at school, and I saw Jody there working in her art studio with her children. Watching her work all day at school then go to her art studio to work at night left a huge impact on what it means to be a female artist, mother, and teacher.
You have spoken about how refreshing it is to move between the creative processes of working with charcoal drawings, oil/acrylic paintings, and collages. How does your approach to a piece change when exploring these different mediums?
-When I'm creating my charcoal drawings, I use a much more limited palette because these works are not particularly focused on color and mood. These drawings focus more on energy, lines, and dynamic excitement. I like creating a conflict with line and form, a kind of organized chaos that allows for play between the different elements of light and dark.
I used to be very into building luscious forms with color in my paintings, but this approach has changed over the years. Now, I feel I am making a more mature and essential statement, as I want to draw into the paintings and communicate the energy of my lines.
What historical art figure has been the most influential to you?
-I do love Tintoretto and Veronese. I wrote my Master's thesis on a series of Tinoretto’s paintings that are currently displayed at the Marciana Library in Venice. The dynamic between the Masters of art and art students in a studio during the Italian Renaissance is what truly struck me. Artists were commissioned a piece and usually the Master would paint the difficult parts like faces, while the students worked alongside them painting other parts of the work. Today, an artist can produce their works alongside the help of a factory. I love this close, mutual learning technique that existed during the Renaissance period.
I would love to hear about your process and the kind of thoughts that are flowing when you are working on a piece.
-There is a lot of flow where there isn't much thinking involved. I very much embrace the flow state and the improvisational moment of creating. Recently I completed a piece for a friend of mine, and I felt more inspired than I have ever felt in my entire life. He asked me to create a piece that captured the feeling of a special day he had as a child. After hearing the full story of this special day and the song he wrote about it, I was overwhelmed with inspiration. The flow state took over and I just felt like the universe was guiding me through the work; I actually don’t even know what I was thinking about when I was creating this piece for him. This piece would go on to be called Blue Water Day.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are looking to develop their style?
-Don't worry about trying to find your voice or wait for inspiration to strike, you just need to create. Also don't judge yourself or what you're creating, just keep working. Keep putting time and work into your investigations and your voice will shine as you're developing. People can get into a bad habit of judging themselves when creating, but this only hinders your own creativity. Nobody can sit down at a piano for the first time and play a piece from Bach, so why attempt a painting and immediately expect it to be a masterpiece? Just focus on enjoying the journey!
What are your future goals as an artist?
-I want to keep changing and evolving my work. I love getting out of my comfort zone and want to continue trying new things that I haven't explored before. I don't want to keep painting the same style of pieces for the rest of my life. My plan is to keep working to get to the next level, whatever that is, as I am continuously trying to improve myself. There is so much more I want to communicate through my work.
Can you speak about your studio space and one of your favorite things in there?
-I love my studio space. I feel like it's a creative space where I am my full self, someone I cannot be anywhere other than in my studio. It is a magical and sacred space that allows me to be my true self. I love listening to music in my studio, so my favorite thing in my space would be a playlist. I can sometimes overthink how I will start a piece or how I'm going to evolve it, but once the music comes on, all these thoughts give way to peace of mind. Using another art form like music allows all thoughts and things to fade away so the creativity can just happen.
I'm just taking a shot in the dark here, but from observing your works, I can picture you listening to jazz in your studio…
-That's funny you say that because my drawings are very connected to jazz, particularly the moment of improvisation. Jazz musicians play effortlessly through the movement of the piece, improvising in the moment and allowing everyone to take their turn. That improv is a fresh expression of the artist's voice, and there is something so inspiring that depends on that very moment. I love to embrace that intuitive improv moment with my drawings because it can be so beautiful and lyrical.
Do you have any shows coming up, and what works will you be showcasing in them?
-I will have pieces on display in Alessandro Berni’s gallery at two different shows coming up in New York. The first show I'm attending is Volta, which runs from May 17th to May 21st. I am debuting more recent works at this show, including one of my recent large charcoal drawings and some smaller scale oil paintings. I will also be featured in the Clio Art Fair from May 18th to May 21st, where I will be showing two smaller oil paintings. The oil paintings I'm showcasing were inspired by natural landscapes and Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese concept of forest bathing. When we weren’t allowed to socialize with friends during the pandemic, which in turn forced many people to get outside and find joy in nature, landscapes became a common theme in my work. Nature is so powerful, healing, and inspiring for me and my art.
You can learn more about Monique Rollins and follow her journey via these links: