Five-year-old Valerie Quinonez first saw her mother’s sketchbook one night after her college art class. Within its pages, Quinonez saw a world unlike any other. Transfixed by her mother’s creativity, the young Quinonez instantly fell in love with art.
She began drawing what she saw around her, and within her blooming imagination. Some of her best subjects to draw were her favorite cartoons growing up, Garfield the Cat in particular. Even at such a young age, Quinonez was enamored with the idea of creating art for a living. “I wanted to become an animator, mostly because that was a job involving art, and I liked doing cartoons,” said Quinonez.
As she grew, so did her attempts at more complex characters and sense of atmosphere. Quinonez wanted to do more than draw and paint lines, she wanted to establish depth and narrative. “Things that I love, that I convey more in my drawings than anything else is dramatic contrasts,” said Quinonez. She understood appropriate layering was the key to achieving that goal. Capturing the grander gestures, large and small, far and near, became the focus for Quinonez’s work. Her enthusiasm and determination for development was boundless.
When Quinonez arrived at Buchanan High School, she sought out the proper channels and mentors. With the guidance of art instructor Albert Van Troba, she absorbed every lesson, honing her skills in familiar, and new mediums. Using various charcoals, water-colors, pastels, and oil paints, her talents grew alongside her confidence throughout the next few years. As she continued to work on her lessons, she could see that her abilities were ready for greater challenges. For Quinonez her skills developed through testing herself. And for Quinonez, nothing would keep her from embarking on this
journey, least of all herself.
With graduation approaching in 2005, Quinonez knew that she was destined to pursue greater opportunities for her artwork. She began researching various art schools, and programs within reach. “I went to a portfolio day at an art college, and it’s very competitive, a lot of people know how to do art,” said Quinonez. While it was a great experience, she could see this was not the most practical, or successful route to her goals. Resolute in chasing her dreams in artwork and animation, Quinonez decided first to invest in local classes. Attending Fresno City College and Fresno State, where Quinonez really began to define herself as an oil painter.
Maturing as an artist:
Art is a universal language, capable of portraying some of the most complex concepts, without the use of a single word, “An image could breathe out a lot of different things, images are very powerful,” said Quinonez.
Just as she was inspired by her mother’s early work, so too Quinonez has hoped to encourage others that view her work. Art is an engaging and thought-provoking vision, and as an artist Quinonez seeks out creavitiy.
“You have to have an inspiration, what do I want to draw, or paint. And sometimes, there’s nothing,” said Quinonez. For a time, Quinonez struggled to find a worthwhile muse. “Really, everytime I did it, it was something I liked. And as I went on, I realized that’s never the same thing,” said Quinonez, a self described “image junkie.” She would search tirelessly for new vistas of imagination, researching new locations, people and things, “More or less, it’s always different. It’s different people, different things,” said Quinonez. As she became more comfortable with her artistic expression, the clearer her
She could see and understand her own rhythm in completing broader and more diverse projects. Developing a strategy was integral to seeing an image through: from being a concept onto a physical presence.
“You have to always think about how you layer it. You have to think about how to—whenever you do a piece of work—is if you have an idea in your mind. How to have a solution to get to it,” said Quinonez.
What art means to the artist:
Quinonez’s artwork is very close to her, like a child to their mother. Every piece created is significant and reflective of her. Quinonez matriculously invests a bit of herself within every detail: the intricate blending of values, delicacy of every brushstroke, and narrative focus within each unique perspective. These pieces are expressions of the world and emotions around her, and her subjects.
The beauty of art, for Quinonez, was that it rested within the eye of the beholder. It is a subjective matter, something beautiful to her she could share with others. While being an artist can sometimes become isolating, Quinonez enjoyed involving others. She encouraged constructive criticism, enjoying the different perspectives of others about what they saw within her work. “Art is like anything else, something to make you look at life in a different way,” said Quinonez.
It is the grandest expression of emotional synchronicity for Quinonez, While there are many forms and walks of life, art has a way of touching each person the same way, for different reasons. The beauty in it, rests in the eye of the beholder. And to understand what that is, and creatively draw people
into it, is a quality Quinonez admires in other’s work as well as her own.
“An artist goes through life, like anybody else; up times, down times, always looking for that inspiration that keeps you going everyday,” said Quinonez. Although each of us has a unique story and struggle, an artist has the ability to encompass every shared emotion, and portray them on canvas. Quinonez’s goal is to create art that everyone can enjoy and appreciate.
Along-side her art, dance became a thriving cornerstone for Quinonez, and one of her strongest subjects and inspirations for her creativity. While studying art, Quinonez also began taking dance lessons. She joined the all girl salsa team at Diana Studio in 2005, as well as enrolled in beginning ballet with instructor Stephanie Powell at Fresno City College. Quinonez continued to study Salsa, Ballet and periodically flamenco with Jasmin La Caris and her dance company over the next four years. Quinonez also danced under the direction of Armando and Adriana Gurrola, in The Fresno State Salsa Performance Team from 2009 unto 2011.
Outside of school and classes, Quinonez spent the next four years attending weekends learning Argentine Tango at Studio 65. On many Sunday nights, Quinonez studied the dance lessions, practicing with owners Guy Ashby and Kathy Page.
Quinonez fell in love with the fluidity and remarkable ranges of motion a dancer’s body was capable of. Like art, dance was a powerful form of expression; it was fast, dynamic and engrossing to watch. Quinonez wanted to capture that raw element of emotion, incorporating rhythm and dance in her art. “I like dancing, scenes of dancing like Bachata and salsa…I want to create more of a narrative behind it, bigger scenes, show more of a world,” said Quinonez.
Her pieces are a reflection of just that, the subtleties in emotions that convey more than any words could, capturing those powerful moments in life that may pass us by in an instant, “It moves so fast, and you can’t tell it to stop and stay still,” said Quinonez. As a dancer, Quinonez understands the accents in a dancer’s steps, the rhythm and connection between partners, and the character of the each melody behind live performances. Utilizing her dance experience, Quinonez establishes a profound
narrative within each unique piece.
Visions of the future
Due to her dedication and vision, Quinonez soon found herself recognized as an artist within the community. She began receiving commissions for charities and other events in 2012. Initially working seasonally as a face painter for The Big Fresno Fair, Quinonez later became a cake decorator for Crème Del La Cake in Fresno, California. The following year Quinonez participated in Fresno’s popular Art Hop, first exhibiting at Broadway Studios on 1416 Broadway Street in February. And again at Sheer Bliss on 764 “P” Street on May second, 2013.
During the summer, 2016, Quinonez helped organized the Women’s Art and Music Festival. The event was Held in the Tower Theatre in Fresno’s Tower District. As a co-representative of the Arts and Band Committee, Quinonez focused on promoting awareness of gender based violence. Through positive messages of hope, strength and unity, showcasing local female artists, and performers.
Quinonez has also planned to submit other works to exhibition in the upcoming Art Hop in Davis, California.
2019 & 2020 lived in San Francisco and painted an under the sea painintg inspired by her trip to Hawaii & found living in the Bay Area inspiring as well.
Currently living in Sacramento California with her Husband Adam and is enjoying painting abstract art at the moment.
Written by Royce Dunn