Inspired by nature and animals

Posted: February 24th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Feature, Top Story | No Comments

By Lucia Viti

Monica Hui Hekman is an artist who successfully “dabbles” in a myriad of mediums. The painter, sculptor, seamstress, computer graphic artist, silver/metal-smith and poet manipulates everything art for the “challenge of learning what I’m good at.”

Touting a coffee-table book titled “Animals on Land: Portraits & Poetry,” Hui Hekman is on a mission to emulate joy through her artistic endeavors.

“I find great joy in creating with my hands and connecting people through my art,” the 33-year-old City Heights resident said. “I love working with different mediums and I’ve dabbled in everything. Whether it’s paper, paint, fabric, clay, wood, metal or computer graphics, I’m constantly challenging myself to think out of the box to expand my skill set. I’m always discovering what I’m good at.”

Hui Hekman considers herself a junior scientist, believing that it’s important to feed one’s sense of wonder for exploration and discovery.

Monica Hui Hekman wears one of her earrings, part of a collection of animal-inspired jewelry, artwork and fabric collages. (Courtesy of Monica Hui Hekman)

Inspired by nature and animals, she enjoys learning characteristics and behaviors that enable subjects to “thrive in their environment,” she said. “Maybe then we can learn how to respect our planet and the sentient beings we share it with.”

Her love for animals is exquisitely portrayed as fabric collages in her book. Noting that her fascination stems from the shapes, sizes and personalities of these creatures, Hui Hekman added that although “humans are but one kind of animal among countless species; animals, whether a fuzzy kitten or ravenous shark, deserve my respect and spark my curiosity.”

As with all of her fabric collages, Hui Hekman researches the subject, sketches, and forms a ceramic sculpture used as a reference for computer illustrations that become patterned as a collage, printed out in pieces, attached to fabrics, cut accordingly and sewn together using a sewing machine. She learned to sew from her grandmother, who was a seamstress.

“Each time I pull a subject into a different physical space, whether it’s 2D, 3D or digital, it’s translated in a way I wouldn’t expect,” she explained. “And with each translation, I lose a little more control and the art takes on its own unique look. That’s why I chose to combine drawing, sculpture, computer graphics and sewing to create each book illustration.”

Hui Hekman plans to publish two additional art/poem books: “Animals In Flight” and “Animals Underwater.”

Encouraged by her parents, Hui Hekman said her passion for art began at an early age. Birthday presents included reams of computer paper for drawing as much as she was inclined to do so.

“My father, a mathematician, appreciated and collected art,” she explained. “I drew a lot and loved to sew with my grandmother. I still gravitate to both activities; they’re therapeutic. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family and friends who supported my passion for the arts.”

Hui Hekman graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary computing and the arts from the UC San Diego. She worked as a designer for Whole Foods Market in La Jolla, followed by a stint with University Readers, an academic publishing company, designing book covers and marketing materials until the yearning for fine art outweighed her status within the corporate world.

“I missed working with my hands,” she said. “I missed the focus of finishing a project that would incorporate all of my skills, so I embraced my art full time. I surrounded myself with other artists at Glashaus Studios so I wouldn’t feel alone.”

Glashaus Studios, located in San Diego’s Barrio Logan, hosts 21 art studios for glass-blowing, ceramics, mixed-media, painting, sculpture, jewelry and woodworking artists.

Hui Hekman’s work in Glashaus Studios expanded to metalsmithing, a skilled craftmanship that she describes as being both folk art and fine art. And true to form, not a single piece of jewelry is crafted from prefabricated elements and everything is inspired by plants, animals and landscapes. Themes include desert landscapes, ocean waters, whales, cat eye succulents and beetles. Her first ring was modeled after the Fig Eater Beetle.

“Fig Eater Beetles develop into adult beetles from larva underground when all of a sudden, they’re flying around — aboveground — everywhere,” she said. “When they can no longer fly, they land on the ground and most likely get stepped on. People often have a visceral reaction to them as icky and a bit creepy, but I think they’re beautiful. I love looking at the beauty in all things.”

Hui Hekman added that while City Heights is a growing artistic community, next-door neighbor North Park is exploding with a multitude of venues that support artists.

Hui Hekman’s measures her artistic success by her ability to connect people with an environment that she considers precious.

“Life must be experienced with our eyes and our hands,” she concluded. “We must live out in the world, not through TVs and computers. Discover the little things. Nothing should be taken for granted. Everything is precious.”

—Contact Lucia Viti at

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