Category: Thoughts With Mona

Bring the outdoors in

Location, location, location, it’s the universal rule of real estate and of city-living! City dwellers may sacrifice space and nature for their urban proclivities, but when the vista includes a brick wall or an alleyway, let us decorate it away! 

Botanical and Floral Prints --

Botanical and floral patterns have been growing in popularity, which means there are tons of options! Pro tip: think about what you want the space to feel like and then find the decorum that convey that feeling! 

Natural Materials --

Think of the patterns and color schemes you enjoy, and look to incorporate materials from the outdoors — natural wooden frames or wooden textures.  Pair these pieces with neutral palettes, and maybe some plants! 

Oversized works --

Don’t be afraid to go BIG with oversized art in your home. Large, framed photographic prints make excellent centerpieces! 

Posted on January 16, 2020

Art + Climate Change

When I saw the collaboration between the Prado Museum and WWF Spain for the COP25 climate change summit, my first thought was not about climate change. Rather, I recalled a lecture that I had taught years ago for Art History 1301:

In the beginning of the semester, it was not uncommon for my students to avoid making eye contact with me during a lecture —  eye contact meant that the inevitable and dreaded moment in which I would request their opinion was approaching. Similar to most people, my students struggled to proffer their opinion regarding a work of art. The fear of seeming ignorant and the thought of being judged by their classmates meant that, for at least the first three weeks of the semester, most of my students never looked at me. 

Breaking the silence

Determined to find a way to break the deafening silence, I stopped asking, “what do you think?” and instead began asking, “what do you see?” What began as a meager discussion  in hushed voices gradually evolved into a boisterous choir of students shouting about the obvious, e.g.,: “the work is broken”; “men are hunting”.

Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt from Tomb of Ti, Saqqara. Fifth Dynasty, c. 2450-2325 BCE.

Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo dates to the late 4th century BC.

Learning to SEE

These seemingly benign observations were actually quite remarkable and meaningful to me, as they provided me two points of insight: first, my students could in fact talk, and second, maybe like me in the beginning of my art education as well, they just needed to learn how to see a work of art in order to engage with it. When they came to this point in their discovery, I would task them with one of my favorite exercises: look at a work of art and break down everything you can see. Take for example, The Parasol (El Quitasol) by Francisco de Goya.

Step 1:

Identify the Visible Traits

I would ask my students to identify every visible trait they can see:

  • Figures
  • Fancy clothes
  • Umbrella
  • Trees
  • Blue sky
  • Dog
  • Stone wall
  • Lots of color

Step 2:

What Can We Deduce

Once all of the stand-out traits are identified and established, I’d follow up with what can be deduced from these traits:

  • The female figure is rich.
  • It might be spring time.
  • They seem happy.

Step 3:

Theories & Questions

As some students would begin to offer their theories, others would counter with questions:

  • Is the figure standing behind her a servant, boyfriend, another female?
  • Are they in the countryside?
  • Why is the sky dark near the wall, is it a storm?

We would then complete the exercise with a simple question: “do you like it?” In the beginning of the semester, the answer was typically a simple yes or no. As the semester progressed, their answers grew in complexity: the students went from “looking at” a work to discovering it, through education and inquiry. 

WWF + Museo del Prado: ``+ 1.5ºC Changes Everything.``

In many ways, I see that this method of guided education unto discovery is what the WWF and Prado are intending with their collaborative project. The juxtaposition of the known image and its landscape with the other, modeled reality viewers are being asked to see, question and discover their own truths surrounding climate change.

WWF y el Museo del Prado

All images courtesy of Museo del Prado / WWF

The Original

Joachim Patinir, Charon Crossing the Styx (c. 1515-24)

Joaquín Sorolla, Boys on the Beach (1909)

Diego Velázquez, Felipe IV a Caballo (1635-36)

Francisco de Goya, The Parasol (1777)

Climate Change Makeover

Retoucher: Julio Falagan

Retoucher: Conspiracy

Retoucher: Marta Zafra

Retoucher: Pedro Veloso

Visit WWF to view the art with an interactive slider, as well as learn more about conservation and climate change.

Posted on December 16, 2019

You LOVE that, but where's it gonna gooo?

Trying to make a place feel like home is no small feat. Let’s face it, unless you yourself have designed every aspect of the space you inhabit (#lifegoals),  you’re most likely working within the confines of someone else’s idea of “living”. So, how do you turn a space that wasn’t created with your needs, wants and taste in mind into a home? Well, you get creative! 

Now, if you are anything like me, you’re probably thinking “awesome, thanks for that, but WTF does that even mean”? It means, we work with what we got!

Nooks & Cranies --

Any corner can make an impact or be turned into a cozy, inviting reading nook. Try hanging a mixture of family photos and art in various sizes for an eclectic, lived-in look.

Bathrooms --

The bathroom may be the most utilitarian room in the house, but! Bathrooms have the potential to become your favorite room!

Um, what Introspective Thinker meets Alluring Romantic wouldn’t want to take a bath here? The two-tone scheme exudes traditional elegance while the assortment of found objects provides the charm. — Photography by Nathan Kirkman & Anna Knott

Sometimes less really is more, and this bathroom proves it! Marrying an elegant design scheme with a curated sampling of your favorite things, makes any space feel engaging and bold! — Photography by Douglas Friedman

Who said size matters? This bathroom packs a punch, visit Pinterest Addict to see exactly how this look was accomplished.

Unlikely pairings, traditional fixtures and keeping to a strict color palette makes this a Rollicking Idealist’s dream!  You know, sometimes MORE is MORE!   — Photography by Alison Gootee; Styling by Suzonne Stirling

Slanted ceilings --

Don’t let a slanted ceiling stand in the way of your wall decor options. 

No head room? Maybe, maybe not! By embracing the angles and taking everything up to the ceiling (note the flush-mounted light fixtures and floor-to-ceiling bookcase), this attic conversion feels bright and airy.

When it comes to art, size matters with fit. The right mixture of color, furnishing and angles transformed a nice work of art into a statement piece!

This proves that you should never allow the room to dictate what you can and can’t do with it! The key to pulling this look off was working within the confines of the space and following the slope!

Bookcases --

Add an offbeat touch to shelving by placing framed photos front and center. On a recent Pinterest deep dive into hanging ideas, I discovered bloggers Beth and Bill (BandB Build a Life) who have a great tutorial on accomplishing this idea with a binder clip hack. Full disclosure: I have not tried this, but it looks doable — even for yours truly!

Posted on December 6, 2019

So, you’re not sipping champagne with Gagosian, huh? No big whoop. Affordable art fairs are popping up across the globe — not to mention emerging art galleries, end-of-year student shows and platforms like Mona — finding amazing works of art that won’t break the bank is the new norm. 

That said, let’s get you ready for buying a work of art in the following spaces…

1. THE ART GALLERY -- Don't take it personally... it really is them not you!

Some (not all!) galleries and gallerists can be snooty, conceited, hoity-toity and just plain rude to inexperienced collectors, or to people whom they don’t consider to be “serious buyers”. The good news is that you’ll know almost immediately that you’ve wandered into one of these abysses, so don’t sweat it! Just move on to a more welcoming elsewhere!

Here are a few tips for dealing with a gallerist like a pro:

Look for the red dot --

If an artwork on the wall or on the gallery’s price list (which, by law, must be prominently displayed, though often is not) has a red dot, that means it has been sold.

Let's make a deal --

Found something you absolutely love and gotta have, but it’s out of your budget? Take a moment to collect your thoughts, figure out how badly you want it, and what you can afford to offer. Most galleries are willing to negotiate with collectors on higher-priced work, as the contract between the artist and the gallery may allow for it. The gallery may even allow the buyer to pay for the work in installments.

Go with Plan B or C --

So you love the artist but even with a discount and a payment plan, the work is still too expensive — time to get creative! For example, ask to look at  smaller works by the artist, or see if the gallery has works on paper rather than canvas. You may even consider an older work or study by the artist. 

2. THE STUDENT -- Let's help them pay off that student loan!

Art schools across the country hold end-of-semester student shows by M.F.A. candidates. These are my favorite hunting grounds for new artists and inexpensive art. Keep in mind that some shows will be held on campus, while others will be hosted in gallery-like spaces, often with guest curators.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of a student show:

Relax and be cool --

Unlike galleries, student shows are informal and often without price lists. In most cases the school will act as a go-between and takes no fee, so the artist receives the full price.

If talking about money makes you uncomfortable --

Grab the artist’s card so you can follow up in an email. This also gives you a chance to do some Instagram-stalking to see more of their work. 

3. THE AUCTION HOUSE -- Sit On Your Hands... TRUST ME!

For the uninitiated, art auctions, whether in person or online, can be a little overwhelming and a lot like watching live theater. 

Here are some important tips to consider before entering the arena:

Create a plan of attack --

Review the catalog before going in and create a plan of attack. For example, pay attention to the low estimate vs high estimate for a particular work you are interested in. Then ask yourself:

  • Is it love or lust?
  • Can I afford owning it? Remember some works might require framing, special transportation costs, insurance, or all of the above.
Set a budget --

Set a budget, know exactly how much you are prepared to spend. Don’t get caught up in the feeding frenzy! Auction houses are hoping that the excitement and thrill of the conquest is going to get your hands in the air. It can be helpful to bring a friend along to provide some gentle nudging, should you need it.

And for all that is holy --

Please sit on your hands and refrain from unnecessary nodding during bidding! 


Open studios are annual events in art districts across the country. In Houston, we have a number of great places to visit, such as Sawyer Yards in EADO. Open studios (in general) are where individual artists, and/or buildings that house multiple artists’ studios, join forces and hold an open house for a weekend. Open art studios are typically very informal and are often without price lists. 

Here are some tips to help you navigate open artist studios like a champ!

Nosey much --

You are not being nosy by actively looking through the stacks — artists want you to go through the space.

Ask permission --

Before moving or picking up a piece, ask permission. Keep in mind not every piece you see will be available for sale.

The 'In' Crowd --

You will likely encounter a few established collectors of the artist — they love going to open studios. They get to see what new works are in progress, possibly check on a commissioned piece, and,  take up a ton of the artist’s time. If this happens, you have two options: wait around or grab the artist’s information and contact him or her later.

Posted on August 29, 2019

There is only one way to avoid criticism:


With the 2020 Democratic primaries getting ready to kick off, we thought a trip down memory lane was in order. Afterall, it goes without saying that 2016’s Presidential election was one for the record books. From the east coast to the west, and everything in between, the country was divided in ways not seen since the Civil War. Social media was awash with calls for friends and family to ‘unfriend’ themselves, the spreading of fear and hatred. Sadly, we’ve been unable to heal those rifts, and if anything, they’ve grown deeper and more entrenched. 

This election season and those past remind me that history is a living and breathing thing, it judges us for our actions or lack thereof and provides a compass in times of uncertainty. I believe it is through our understanding of culture and art that we see not only where we have come from, but what we are capable of being.

The works below represent snapshots in time, moments for future generations to explore and judge us by. They highlight the fervor of supporters, as well as the divisiveness that remains pervasive in our society.

David Horsey, Top of the Ticket, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2016
Rick McKee, The Adventures of Bernie Sanders, Augusta Chronicle, April 19, 2019
Steve Sack, When Joe Biden Speaks, StarTribune, August 14, 2019
Théodore Géricault, Raft of the Medusa, Museo del Louvre, 1818-19
Diego Rivera, Exploitation of Mexico by Spanish Conquistadors, Palacio Nacional de Mexico, 1929-1945
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, 1793
Yu Youhan, ‘Untitled (Mao Marilyn)’, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2005
Goya, The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Executions”, Museo Nacional del Prado, 1814
Paul Revere, The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1770
Felix Nussbaum, In the camp, German Historical Museum Berlin, 1940
Glenn McCoy, Based on The Problem We All Live With, TalkingPointsMemo, February 15, 2016
Do Ho Suh, Karma, Art21, 2003
Wang Guangyi, Coca Cola (Great Criticism Series), Tate, 1994
Rick McKee, Drones vs Torture, Augusta Chronicle, December 10, 2014
Sabo, She knew, artnet news, 2017
Posted on August 29, 2019

From time to time we all feel the inextricable urge to shake things up. For some it’s trying out a new hairstyle, going vegan (good luck and godspeed), or maybe a new cocktail—for me it’s revamping my art!

No. 1: Have a plan

I beseech you to learn from my countless screwups and have a plan for your shake up. Otherwise, you’ll most likely find yourself staring at a wall that now resembles Swiss cheese, having wasted both time and money. So do yourself a favor, and ask the following:

  1. Do I want to accomplish a certain look, feel, or both?
  2. Do I want to focus on one or multiple rooms?
  3. Do I want to repurpose, or start from scratch?
  4. Do I have a budget?

No. 2: Go naked

Who says you need a frame around a work of art? This is your collection, which means have some fun and express yourself!

Changing out frames gets super expensive, so why not try some different and affordable alternatives? Once you’ve established your priorities and purpose, the fun really begins. Word to the wise: just make sure whatever method you choose won’t damage the work.

Source: Heather Day
Source: HonestlyWTF

No. 3: Break the rules

Besides going naked, breaking rules is my favorite thing to do! Art is all about expressing yourself, so enjoy trying out new things. Think outside the box and try something unconventional!

Posted on August 6, 2019

Seriously, it's all science's fault!

Let’s be honest, nothing truly prepares you for that first job. If you’re anything like me, you dive in head first and learn as you go.

When I started my consulting company, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, because I had been working in the art world for a number of years before going out on my own. When I landed my first corporate client, I had no fear, no hesitation, no “OMG what have I gotten myself into” moments.

What could go wrong -- EVERYTHING!

When I tell you it couldn’t have gone worse, I mean it couldn’t have gone worse. Perhaps if the secretary pool had pitchforks readily available, it could’ve been worse. And before you think I’m just being dramatic, let me explain what actually happened. This was a BIG project, it covered 3 floors and over 50 works of art. I worked for months with both the company’s interior designers and Vice President of Facilities. So when installation day finally arrived, my only real concerns were the works wouldn’t all show up or we’d break something. God I wish we had just broken something!

The day started out normal.

The crew began working on the lower floors, slowly making their way up to the executive level. The crew had maybe installed a total of 3 works on the executive floor when we began hearing rumbles. Unlike most revolutions throughout history, ours began silently through email and group chat. 

It started with an executive assistant who became visibly upset when a painting was installed on the wall in front of her cubicle. She felt the work was offensive and refused to work across from it. Before I could say or do anything, we noticed a small group of female employees making their way toward us. And that’s when demands for all the work to come down started.

Men At Work No. 6, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

My massive mistake!

I was at a complete loss. It’s not like we didn’t get approval for all the work. It had been seen by a number of people and not a single one expressed a problem with it… So what had I missed? Looking back, I now realize that everyone who approved of the collection were either males or had been in the oil industry for years. For them, the works conjured up memories of time spent in the oil fields. They focused on the figures sun-burnt skin, the details of the machinery, and the equipment, dirt, and sweat-drenched clothing.

No one, including myself, had considered what the larger audience would think about the collection.

Men At Work No. 2, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)
Men At Work No. 9, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

For the female employees and those new to the industry, the works offered no emotional connection. Rather, they served only to reinforce the “good ol’ boy” mentality of the industry. And highlighted the disconnect between themselves and those they reported too.  What seemed like a perfect marriage between artwork and company turned out to be anything but.

I’ve always known artwork had the ability to stir strong feelings within all of us. And each and every one of those feelings are valid.But I have to admit: just how strong was somewhat surprising.

Ultimately, we ended up removing all the offending works and brought in works that spoke to everyone. At the time, I felt like a massive failure—after all, I was the “art professional”. Looking back on this experience, as painful as it was, I realize now it planted the seed for the philosophy behind Mona Loves Gustav.

Posted on February 7, 2018