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May 24, 2024 —

Meet the Maker: Gina Maldonado

Artist and illustrator Gina Maldonado's passion for flora and fauna is distilled into her joyful work, which captures the vibrant exuberance of the natural world
Gina Maldonado in her Hong Kong studio with her colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints
Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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Hi Gina, how would you describe your work? 

I’d say that it’s vibrant and joyful, inspired by my love of nature. All of my designs are hand-painted with a strong attention to detail. My style is maximalist, combining influences from Eastern and Asian cultures with my own design sensibilities. My colour palette is inspired by my Latin-American heritage, with warm pinks, deep blues and greens, and shades of lilac being my most used colours. 

Gina Maldonado in her Hong Kong studio with her colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints

What inspired the idea of setting up your business? 

The idea for my business came organically. I struggled to fit in the traditional office environment, working long hours left me feeling unhappy, especially after experiencing bullying. When I moved to a new country I decided to find a job that gave me more flexibility and control over my time. I started making art on the side while working as a freelance interior designer. With online classes and practice, I built my portfolio and when people started to approach me to commission art, it felt amazing! So I decided to work with an art agency to broaden my opportunities. Eventually, I realised I wanted more creative control,  so I left the agency and took full charge of my business. 

How did your career begin?

It began after studying architecture and interior design in Colombia, Mexico and Italy. I gained valuable experience working as an interior designer in Milan and later in Hong Kong, designing interiors for homes, restaurants, retail, and events. My entrepreneurial spirit dates back to my university days in Colombia, where I sold gummy bears, and hand-made bags to my classmates to buy my first laptop. I think these experiences nurtured my ability to think outside of the box, driving me to carve my own unique path in the world of art and design. 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints with tabby cat inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Where do you find creative inspiration? 

I’m a very visual person and find inspiration anywhere. I love exploring local markets, studying plants, and I’m fascinated by textiles from around the world. Growing up in Colombia, I was surrounded by lush nature and beautiful handicrafts. In Mexico, I was drawn to artisan crafts, hand-painted furniture, and handmade tiles. Museums are also a great source of inspiration, from ceramics to jewellery. When I travel, I love discovering new cultures and ideas. And when I’m home, Pinterest is my go-to for finding inspiration. 

Describe a typical working day…

I’m a morning person, usually rising early. After breakfast, I go for an hour-long walk around the parks in my neighbourhood. I love to check in on the trees and plants on my way, to see if they have flowers or fruits. Back in my studio, I start to tackle my to-do list. I prefer working on new ideas and painting in the morning and early afternoon when the sunlight is bright, and replying to emails and preparing my posts for social media in the late afternoon. Every day is different, as my priorities change from week to week. 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

What’s the ethos behind your business? 

The values in my work are a reflection of my personal beliefs and focus on respect for nature, sustainability, and craftsmanship.  

I love creating artworks with skill, precision and attention to detail. I hope to inspire a deeper connection between people and nature with the themes of my art and also by using ethical, high-quality natural materials for my products, while supporting initiatives that protect the environment and reduce plastic waste. 

Tell us about the space you work in… 

My small home studio in Hong Kong is a tiny but functional space that showcases my passion for art and design. Using my interior design skills, I’ve transformed a second bedroom into a studio with clever storage solutions for all my art supplies. I have a tall desk for standing work and a larger table that I use for painting. I have lots of plants on the windowsills, framing the view of buildings outside. I kept the walls white to make the room bright, and hung some of my artwork and mood boards for inspiration. Trinkets from my travels and design books from around the world add personal touches to the space. Despite its small size, my studio is packed with personality. 

Gina Maldonado in her Hong Kong studio with her colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints

Tell us about your neighbourhood… 

I live in a traditional neighbourhood on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, where most of my neighbours are Chinese. There’s a mix of new and traditional shops and businesses, and I often see people practicing tai chi, or sword and fan dancing in the parks. There are also more unusual characters, like an elderly man who zooms around on his wheelchair while playing traditional Chinese music from speakers, a tattooed cyclist followed by his dog covered in fairy lights, and a man offering haircuts under a tree. My neighbourhood is a vibrant and eclectic mix, with something interesting always happening. Although I don’t speak Cantonese, I still connect with my neighbours by exchanging friendly waves. 

Is there an element of your work that you love the most?

I love having flexibility and control over my time, and the variety of tasks each day brings. I thrive on the constant change, which keeps my mind engaged. One of the most rewarding aspects is connecting with clients who value my work and are excited to collect it. 

I love having flexibility and control over my time, and the variety of tasks each day brings…”

 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

How valuable is the online community to your work? 

I wouldn’t be able to do my job without all the artists and creative people I’ve met online. The online artist community has been essential to my work. I’ve connected with countless artists and creative individuals who have provided invaluable support and guidance. Their generosity in sharing knowledge has allowed me to learn and grow in many aspects of my business. The online artist community is truly exceptional and has played a crucial role in me being able to make my business work. 

Working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges? 

Working independently as an artist and business owner is both exciting and challenging. I love having the freedom to manage my time, work on my creativity, and experience the joy of bringing my ideas to life. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when my skills, knowledge, and taste come together to create something beautiful. However, there are also challenges, such as dealing with self-doubt, learning to promote my work authentically, and finding a balance between the creative and business aspects of my work. Over time,  I’ve learned to navigate these challenges better, but it goes up and down. 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

How do you approach your own marketing and PR? 

My marketing and PR strategy focuses on creating a genuine connection with my audience by sharing my passion for art and nature. I engage with my followers on social media by sharing photos of my artwork and creative  process, write a personal newsletter talking about my inspirations and travel experiences, and reach out to relevant blogs and publications that I think would be a good fit to showcase my art. It’s something I’ve had to learn on the go, reading books, and through trial and error. 

What have been your business highlights so far? 

Two standout moments in my career have been collaborating on a festive Christmas campaign for the prestigious Peninsula Hotels and designing my bespoke collection of silk scarves. Both projects allowed me to showcase my  creativity and passion for art, while flexing my business muscles. These highlights have served as a reminder of how far I’ve come in my journey as an artist and business owner.

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

What’s one thing people would be surprised you do in your job? 

People might be surprised by the diverse skills required to run a business, from web design and budget negotiating to photography and video editing. One unexpected task I took on was modelling my silk scarves, as I’m not usually someone who likes to take selfies. With a limited budget, I created a mood board, and art-directed my husband to take the pictures. He doesn’t know anything about cameras so I had to run in front and behind the camera to check that everything was going according to plan. 

Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies? 

I love making things with my hands that engage different parts of my brain. Besides painting, I also love crocheting, embroidery, and I’m learning to sew clothes. Each craft has different challenges, and when I feel stuck in one, I switch to another. It’s fun to make something from scratch and find creative solutions to fix any mistakes. Plus, it gives me an excuse to browse craft stores for inspiration and new materials! 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

What is the most important lesson that running your business has taught you about life? 

Running my business has taught me the importance of trusting my instincts and believing in my vision. While it’s helpful to learn from others, ultimately, I am the only one who truly understands my goals. I think this lesson applies to life as well; trusting yourself and following your unique path leads to a more authentic and fulfilling life. It’s really important to value your own perspective and not be swayed by others’ opinions, as everyone has their own limitations. Embracing self-belief and staying true to yourself and your vision can lead to success in both business and life. 

Any good advice for independent creative businesses who are just starting out? 

Believe in yourself and be proactive. Reach out to potential clients and publications, as you never know who might say yes and open new doors for you. Hiding your talent or waiting to be discovered is a waste of time, so put yourself out there and embrace opportunities as they come. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. 

“Hiding your talent or waiting to be discovered is a waste of time, so put yourself out there and embrace opportunities as they come. Don’t wait until everything is perfect.” 

Colourful, nature-inspired paintings and prints inside Gina Maldonado's Hong Kong studio

What does the next year hold for you?  

Currently, I’m exploring new partnerships to license my art for various products. While these negotiations are ongoing, I’m also excited to be working on new collections of original art that combine decorative and botanical elements with my passion for flora and fauna. I want to share my creative process and passion for nature with people, inspiring them to appreciate the beauty of this planet. I’d love for people to join my mailing list to get an in-depth look into my creative journey and to get exclusive access to new art releases.  

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS


Describe your work in three words: 
Joyful, maximalist, colourful

What are your creating rituals? All supplies on my desk, a cup of Earl Grey tea and a podcast ready to play 

Tea or coffee? Tea 

Mountains or sea? Sea 

Night owl or early bird? Early bird

gina-maldonado.com

@ginamaldonado

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