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The Monster Mash(up) 

Artists find inspiration in untold places -- for The Monsters Studio owner, Ceara Avila, her muse often sits on the scuffed metal shelves of Goodwill stores.

“I get my original paintings almost exclusively from Goodwill, and I seem to live in a good area for it, because I almost always find at least one painting I can use when I go in,” Avila says.

click to enlarge According to Avila, the taunting laugh of the dog in Duck Hunt is enough to qualify it as a monster. - COURTESY OF CEARA AVILA
  • Courtesy of Ceara Avila
  • According to Avila, the taunting laugh of the dog in Duck Hunt is enough to qualify it as a monster.

Her true trash-to-treasures “gallery” of ghouled-up works remains in its infancy at just under a year old. Most of that time has been spent stockpiling enough works to keep up with demand. Last year Avila took a handful of paintings to a friend’s booth at the Rocky Ripple Festival, and she sold about half of them. So she made more, and then more. After posting her monster mash-ups on Facebook and receiving offers to purchase them, Avila knew she was onto something good -- and fun. That’s when she opened an Etsy store and so The Monsters Studio was born. This Saturday (Sept. 27th) Avila will celebrate her business’ beginnings by having her own booth at this year’s Rocky Ripple Festival. She’ll be one of more than 30 artists and creative folks hawking their handmade works of art at the daylong event.

The Indy native says modestly she doesn’t really consider herself a painter and that her work “is really just for fun.” Though the BFA she earned from the Herron School of Art and Design, as a photography major, proves otherwise -- at least in terms of her artistic abilities.

“I took one painting class as an elective my senior year,” she says. “It was a water color class; it did not go well.”

Avila credits her abilities now to the required drawing classes she took at Herron. Humbly she also lauds her husband Erik for hatching up ideas for some of the creepy creatures she slips into her paintings and for turning her onto the work of Chris McMahon, an artist who similarly embellishes existing artwork.

“I took one painting class as an elective my senior year,” Avila says. “It was a water color class; it did not go well.” - COURTESY OF CEARA AVILA
  • Courtesy of Ceara Avila
  • “I took one painting class as an elective my senior year,” Avila says. “It was a water color class; it did not go well.”

Her creative process involves sitting with a painting for a while, studying it to try to imagine what character would “live in that world.” She then uses acrylics to rehome the appropriate monsters into their new digs. Some of the figures lurking on the canvases she’ll be selling this weekend include zombies, E.T., a Tauntaun, a Storm Trooper, Bigfoot and Giant Octopus. Although lately she’s noticing some of her additions are less menacing.

“I do mostly monsters or villains, but I have started to add more friendly characters to some of them,” Avila explains. “It just depends on the painting.”

click to enlarge Ceara Avila embellishes castoff thrift-store paintings with monsters and other whimsical characters. She's one of the more than 30 artists who'll have a both at this Saturday's Rocky Ripple Festival. - ERIK AVILA
  • Erik Avila
  • Ceara Avila embellishes castoff thrift-store paintings with monsters and other whimsical characters. She's one of the more than 30 artists who'll have a both at this Saturday's Rocky Ripple Festival.

She gets the most reaction from pieces with characters that look as if they belonged in the paintings in the first place. But even that depends purely on personal interpretations.

“Like with the Duck Hunt Dog painting, for example, The dog from the Nintendo game Duck Hunt might not exactly be your traditional monster, but so many ’90s kids, like myself, remember his evil laugh every time you missed your shot and the duck flew away,” she says. “That made him enough of a monster for those who remember playing that game.”

Avila’s pieces are popular, but to date she can’t boast that one of her TMS paintings hangs in the great room of someone famous.

“Not yet anyway, but a girl can dream!” she says.

You can check out her fiendish framed (and unframed) works Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the 15th annual Rocky Ripple Festival. Turn off Westfield Boulevard at 53rd Street and go over the bridge –- the one and only bridge in and out of Rocky Ripple –- and head to Hohlt Park at 840 W. 53rdrd St. You can’t miss it; Just follow the tunes. Admission is free and there will be music by various local artists, including Kendall/Purdy Project, Liquid Groove, the Sax Pistols, HyRyder and Kenneth Yerian & David Linder, to name a few. Food, drinks and family fun will round out the event’s offerings.

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Jami Stall

Jami Stall

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Jami Stall, editor of award-winning Sky Blue Window, loves discovering all the arts and cultural activities around Central Indiana. When she isn't writing or shooting pics, she's out and about meeting the people and enjoying the events featured on SBW.

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