Meet Mollie Garre

Meet one of the winners of our 2020 Billboard Competition!

Mollie Garre is a local San Diego artist who gathers inspiration from the beauty around her. For Mollie, art has always been an escape or a way to express herself through the hard pains of the real world. When creating her winning piece, “Our Journey Together,” for the 2020 “Joy of Being Outside” Billboard Competition, she saw the opportunity to create a piece of art that reflected the unique, colorful, and inclusive world she wanted her children to live in.

To learn more about Mollie and her artwork, take a look at the interview conducted below by local high school student, Klaryssa, in partnership with Mrs. Memarzadeh, EUHSD’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Do your own personal experiences impact the art you create?

From the time I could hold a crayon, art has been my escape, my reprieve, and also my connection to the world around me. I grew up as an older sibling to a brother who is non-verbal with autism. His way of communicating and connecting to other people (and the world around him) was through drawing. I spent my days doodling everything from social stories to things that made him happy (namely nuns from the Fransican order). We used drawing visuals in the car, in waiting rooms, during doctor appointments, and honestly through any transition. Drawing was also my way of letting my mind relax long before I understood what meditation was; I used art as my escape from the thoughts that weighed me down.

What is one of your favorite pieces that you’ve created and why?

I recently painted a woman with flowers flowing from her head. I loved the way the texture of her skin turned out, I love the way the flowers flow and engulf the entire piece. This piece was one that was entirely intuitive, and I loved creating her just because I wanted to paint her. The best pieces are ones your mind cannot stop creating in your head, and translates to a canvas.


What is your most meaningful piece and why?

The first piece that comes to mind is one with all sorts of impressionistic faces. It was the first piece I remember creating where I felt my own unique style come alive, it captured my feelings at the time (post 2016 election), and it was also used in a campaign to raise $2000 in 3 days to get a special training for my brother’s service dog. That small 11×14 painting has meant a lot, and moved me to make and paint as a full-time gig these last 3 years.


Who are your biggest inspirations?

My brother, Michael, is a huge inspiration to me. He always has been. His art is truly beautiful, it is loose, abstract, and fascinating to look at. My three kids also inspire me, they make me think differently about the world around us, they make me think deeply about the laws and policies that impact their livelihood, they force me to dig into feelings I wouldn’t otherwise have to face. Through all that I find myself painting the world I wish existed for them, and for my brother. I find myself painting people and experiences I want them to be exposed to and understand. I find art is my way of making sense of the world that exists and that I wish existed.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find there are a variety of different types of inspiration. There are things that inspire me to think, like politics. And then there is the beauty around me that inspires my use of color and pushes me away from the hard thoughts and pains of the real world. I once read something, and I wish I could remember the full quote, but the idea was, spend a day painting the world you are working for, and then take a break, and recharge. My art changes based on where I am mentally, sometimes I need an escape, and sometimes I need to paint what I’m feeling in order to get it off my mind.

What is your background? How did you become an artist?

I am a Clinical Social Worker (MSW), and started to use art with my clients from the first day of my first internship. I found even a pencil and paper in hand was a helpful way to start communicating with my clients. From guided mindfulness practice groups to parenting plans, some folks (not all) really responded–like me– to having something in their hand. My first exposure to guided meditation was in a group setting, while not a typical approach, I would implore folks to doodle their experience if they were not ready to close their eyes. Even the act of closing your eyes and letting go can feel overwhelming and painful, but to lose oneself in a pencil was a safe first step. After becoming a mom I started wanting art in my house, and not knowing where to start, or finding what I wanted, I started making it. And today I get the honor of filling people’s walls with art, painting murals, and making corporate illustrations. It’s been a dream that sometimes I can’t believe I live.

What does the Joy of Being Outside mean to you? What did it mean to you as a child?

The Joy of Being Outside was a perfect opportunity for me to draw what I want my children to live and experience. I want their world to be colorful and inclusive, I want them to see everyone as unique and special, I want them to see we all have our own distinct gifts and interests, and they are all valued. As a kid I always felt like an outsider. I had an unusual upbringing, and hard family circumstances as a kid that made it feel like I couldn’t relate to anyone, and I wanted this piece to capture the value in each person’s unique path.

What do you hope to bring to the community with your art?

A smile! When I first posted this piece of art on social media I would hear “oh, that looks like me!” and I thought, YES! I want us all to look up there at this mural and see ourselves, whether in appearance or interests. I want our kids to see how we can all walk together, we can all work together, we can be a community, all while on our own unique path.

What advice do you have for children or adults who are interested in learning more about or getting involved in art?

I did not have any fancy art mediums or professional training growing up, and with there being so much more access to all of that in this digital age, I don’t want that to confine people. I find rules are helpful and meant to be broken, but starting kids young and allowing them to just explore with a little inspiration is all we really truly need. Art as a kid, or frankly at any age, should be more about finding your confidence in yourself than it is producing perfect, profitable pieces. If your work inspires you to want to paint more, it will likely inspire others to do the same.