Storybook Murals Weave Together Women, Politics, and Nature

Don’t let the simple beauty of these murals and illustrations fool you—Andrea Manica’s work is brimming with meaning.

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Mar 9 2017, 4:47pm

There is something so charming, warm and inviting about the work of illustrator and mural artist Andrea Manica—with her use of clean lines, pleasing color palettes, and a recurring focus on flora and fauna, femininity and classic patterns. Though her work may be satisfyingly simple, she's accomplishing much more than simply turning a bare wall into a painted delight. Manica's work has a clear message—art should be inclusive and accessible to everyone and anyone, and hopefully brighten one's day.

"For me it's not about taking over spaces or making my mark, it's about making something beautiful that tells a story," Manica tells Creators. "It's interesting to me to think about art and graffiti and being a paid mural artist—I've gotten more interested in doing walls for free, so I can just experiment and make whatever image I like. I've (gone) back to the fun of it, making art for me instead of trying to please anyone."

Kraton Tigers, acrylic, Yogyakarta Indonesia, 2017

The 28-year-old Kitchener, ON native has been beautifying public spaces both at home and abroad (Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, and the United States). Manica began painting after graduating university, beginning with an electrical box through START, followed by the formation of an all-girls mural collective (the Buck Teeth Girls Club), where she worked on murals for local businesses. "I then got asked to paint garage doors in laneways in Toronto, and gained the confidence and knowledge to pursue walls on my own," Manica explains. "I don't know if murals are my favorite kind of art to make, (as) I like variety. I had always wanted to find a way to make art on a large scale, but painting on a canvas never interested me. I like (the fact that) murals are public art for everyone, made in places where all people can see them no matter who they are."

Pulse Orlando commemorative mural, acrylic, Toronto, 2016.

Her relatable and revealing comic and zine work began as a way to self-entertain, but has now taken on new meaning. "(They) started as kind of cutesy jokes but have become very personal and more serious. I feel like they are a release for me. I used to journal a lot and write poetry, and I feel like my comics are a similar way for me to cope with big things in my life, and I get to share them as little pieces of art," she says.

Swans, acrylic, Hamilton, 2016.

Manica's work often dips in subject matter near and dear to her heart, such as the tribute mural she painted in honor of the victims of 2016's Pulse shooting in Orlando, FL, or the street sign she designed as part of The Street Talk Project that addresses public harassment that women face.  

"I think that we can't ignore the world's problems when we make art. Sometimes I see art that has no real story to it, and it bugs me. It's ok for art to just look cool, but there is a possibility for it to heal you and for others to see the world differently because of what you've made. That's a really amazing thing to think about!," says Manica.

Tunnel of Love, gouache and ink, 2016

Through her various influences—"women, politics, nature, activists, poetry, other people's art, music, personal experiences, and feelings"—Manica acknowledges how thankful she is for the community of other female artists (such as collaborators Caitlin Taguibao, Nicole D'Amario and Melissa Luk, to name a few) that she is part of.

"I have felt excluded as a woman artist, but as a Cancer I feel like I have always had a complex where no one understands me. From a young age I decided to create my own world. To be honest, I never felt that I would be successful with my art, I didn't think that anyone would like it. So I created it for myself.  As I went along and met other women artists, I wanted them to be a part of my world. I wanted a space where we could make meaningful art that meant something for US. I value my friends more than anything, my women and queer artist friends mean everything to me. We want to build each other up, give each other opportunities, help and encourage each other. Even when I am on the other side of the world, their strength makes me feel strong."

Manica painting in Yogyakarta Indonesia 2017

Parkdale Fence, community garden, acrylic, Milky Way, Toronto, 2015.

Process shot, acrylic, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2017.

Flowers and Fruits, risograph print, 2016.

Home, ink on paper, 2016.

The Flowers Don't Want To Be Picked, aluminum, Kensington Market, Toronto, 2015.

Andrea Manica is a graduate of OCADU's Design in Illustration program. To see more of her illustration and mural work, give her website and instagram a gander.

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