By Kimberly Rebman
Photos by Steven Kovich
You may have passed her gallery on the way to the beach, seen her name and curiously wondered who she is and what she represents in the artist community. St. Pete Beach artist Gabriela Valencia is a painter, but there’s more to her than just a brush and a palette. Far more.
She is strong. She is fearless. She is ambitious. She is passionate. And yes, she IS pretty darn talented.
Gabriela Valencia exuberates an enchanting spirit and every part of its essence is absorbed like a sponge into her colorful masterpieces.
Originally from Guayaquil, Equador, the exotic beauty traveled to the sunny beaches of Florida for vacation with her at-the-time beau, whom she eventually married. Their union wasn’t meant to be, but Valencia loved “The Sunshine State” so much that she decided to stay, regardless of the failed union. In 2008, the artist had officially made Florida her new home.
The transition, for the most part, presented few difficulties. According to Valencia, Equador’s climate is very similar to Florida’s. And really, how hard is it to adjust to award-winning beaches, breathtakingly beautiful sunsets, and an ever-appealing laid back lifestyle distinctive to our west coast community.
One drawback of Valencia’s relocation is that her family still resides in their native homeland, so she must find the time to visit when she can which isn’t always easy. However, the artist claims that the hardest part of her move has been overcoming the language barrier. “I really didn’t care to learn English and it hasn’t been easy to learn. It still is a challenge,” confides Valencia. Thankfully for this St. Pete Beach painter, the language of art is universal. With a swirl of color on her apron, Valencia creates from her heart; each stroke of her brush are like words in a book. Her paintings speak, and sometimes, with great emotion. Valencia’s moods are reflected in her art. “You paint how you feel,” expresses the artist. “There are feelings behind the colors in my paintings. I used to paint in dark colors, which meant I was sad. But now I use beautiful, natural and more vibrant colors because I am happy.” And happy she is. Since Valencia’s mood guides her art’s colorful expression, you will notice many of her paintings are vibrant and richly chromatic.
When it comes to artistic influences, Valencia is greatly impacted by nature, specifically anything having to do with the ocean. Marine life is very inspirational to the artist; many of her paintings feature colorful fish, seashells, coral and even the occasional mermaid. Valencia also incorporates strong feminine energies into her work. “I feel that women are related to nature, such as shells and underwater life. There is symbolism,” explains Valencia, in her smooth Ecuadorian accent. This connection between the female form and the ocean has been depicted often in many different works of art. For instance, one of the most famous portrayals of woman intertwined with the sea is “The Birth of Venus,” by Sandro Botticelli. The masterpiece shows a beautiful goddess emerging from the water in a large shell.
Though Valencia’s women of the sea paintings provoke a powerful message and are quite lovely to gaze at, some of her most adored pieces do not feature any kind of feminism whatsoever. In fact, Valencia’s most popular piece is a simple beach scene with sea oats, white sand, and cerulean blue water. The painting is simple, yet reveals a true classic portrayal of what our version of paradise looks like.
One of my personal favorites is a surfboard Valencia painted. Using the most serene shades of turquoise, the artist created an underwater showpiece. Two colorful fish, almost in the form of yin and yang, consume most of the board’s space; at the bottom, vibrant red coral rock. Valencia explains that the one-of-a-kind piece could either be hung and displayed on a wall or propped vertically in a corner.
It is no surprise to me that Valencia is markedly skilled at her craft. After all, she certainly has had the practice. At the tender age of four, Valencia’s grandmother gave her paint and a brush. Years went by and she eventually attended a high school specifically geared for art and design. According to Valencia, Equador was lagging behind in technology; therefore, the young artist went on to obtain a degree in advertising at the local college. “It was close enough to an art degree, but it was just not my thing,” she confided. Over the years, Valencia has fine- tuned her talent through various workshops. Additionally, the artist studied music. In fact, when asked what Valencia would be doing if she wasn’t painting full time at her studio, she answered without hesitation, “I’d be teaching violin or playing in the orchestra. I just love music .” And if she couldn’t do either, Valencia would be cooking.
Rumor has it, her ceviche is pure heaven.
Currently, Valencia commits to her biggest passion: painting. And if she isn’t at home or in her gallery creating, Valencia is teaching art to high school students after school in nearby Pinellas Park.
Her main aspiration outside of the creative world is to bring women in the community together. Valencia’s newly organized group, Worldwide Empower Sisterhood, allows fellow females to meet, share and bond. The artist encourages women to sit with one another and communicate their dreams, wants, and goals. Most importantly, women are able to create new friendships.
Valencia evinces fervent emotion when it comes to discussing the mission of the group. Worldwide Empower Sisterhood has been long in the making. When Valencia was younger, she wanted to communicate with other females, in the hope of helping them to become more confident and to provide them with support. After the artist’s divorce, she felt the need to become mentally stronger. “My group allows females to get support from each other. Also, women often don’t know their passion. They need help from one another to discover it,” explains Valencia.
She also hopes to host bonding workshops in which women can come together and learn skills from one another. For instance, a sculptor could help teach her female peers on how to create with clay, whereas Valencia might pass out paint brushes and share her experience with canvas and colors. “I want to give women a chance to inspire, encourage and build strength.”
At the moment, there are approximately 10-12 women in the group, but Valencia is hopeful to see the number grow. Worldwide Empower Sisterhood’s kick-off meeting was held on Jan. 22, 2017, though Valencia officially started a page for the group on Facebook earlier last year. Most of the get-togethers will take place on the beach, a favorite spot for Valencia. “We can sit on the sand, look out at the ocean and just talk,” the group’s founder says warmly with a smile.
Valencia wants women to know they are never without a friend, even in their darkest of days. She urges her fellow females to come and visit her, especially when feeling depressed or lonely. “Come and sit down with me. I have food in my kitchen if you are hungry, or I can offer you a hot cup of coffee or tea. We will talk and you will not be judged. I want women to know that I will be there for them and that my couch is always open,” assures the painter.
Staying upbeat and positive isn’t always the easiest thing to do, admits Valencia. Yet, it is necessary. In our hectic day, mustering a simple smile can prove to be difficult, and even more challenging is trying to keep that smile in place as the hours go by. Valencia finds a way to make it happen, especially when it comes to sharing a happy aura with friends and fans. Her enthusiastic spirit influences various aspects of her art in the most beautiful and meaningful of ways. Whether she is painting a colorful seahorse or a woman in a sundress walking along the shoreline, Valencia’s art exudes soul and charm.
“I communicate my message through art,” explains Valencia. She goes on to state that the way one sees things around them- through nature, people, animals, etc- reflects directly into the way they manifest their art. “If you are open to what is around you, you will see things. To be an artist, you NEED to be open; you know, to receive everything.”
Valencia’s strong emotional awareness of her surroundings is what makes her an inspiration to so many others in both skillfulness and spirit. She is much like her paintings- beautifully expressed on canvas and full of soul and meaning deep within.
To meet Gabriela Valencia in person and see her work, please visit her gallery/studio at 427 75th Ave. in St. Pete Beach, FL
Days/hours: Tues-Sat. 10:30-5:00, Sun. 10:30-4:00
You can also reach her via phone at 727-560-7498, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view Valencia’s work online, go to www.gabrielavalenciafineart.com
If you would like to learn more about Valencia’s group, Worldwide Empower Sisterhood, visit the Facebook page at