Everything changed the moment Gabriela Horikawa took a break from her 9-5 as an interior designer in San Francisco and settled in the seaside town of Moneglia, Italy. With a population just shy of three thousand, the quaint town, and more precisely Gabriela’s grandfather’s 19th-century home, provided inspiration that would push her work to new heights.

Now, photographs from her trip stick on her studio wall with blue painters tape, serving as a reminder of the equally blue coast, Italian architecture, and her time abroad. With her weapon of choice, the palette knife, Gabriela brings Moneglia and other European cities to life with recognizable, ultra-texured strokes.  These choppy palette strikes compound into buildings and figures, in a way that reminds me a bit of the impressionists (think Monet and Renoir), but with way more movement and abandon.

Gabriela Horikawa working with a palette knife.

Gabriela Horikawa working with a palette knife.

As one of our earliest artists on Vango, I’ve watched her work develop for three years, all the while wondering where she learned her clearly professionally-trained technique.  When I learned I was wrong, and that she was in fact self taught, it made me happier than most things. Here’s a look into Gabriela’s self-made world…

V: What is your philosophy around creating art? How do you approach it?

G: Art evolves every day with the artist, the outcome is different from the art created years ago to the art I create at the present time. It is a representation of what we are at the moment it is created.

V: As a self-taught artist, what is the greatest lesson you have learned?

G: Be original.

V: When did you gravitate toward using a palette knife, and why?

G: I have always loved the thickness, movement and dimensional aspects translated on to the canvas through this tool. The mystery of not knowing what the outcome will be inspires me to create this type of art.

palette knife

Palette Knife and paints, Gabriela’s main tool.

V: How long did it take to perfect this technique?

G: 5 years

V: Take us through your process from idea to finished product, what happens?

Inspired by an idea, development, get a feeling for the final result and what I try to express on each painting. Execute without thinking until I feel the painting is finished.


The original quick-sketch.

Work in progress.

Work in progress.


Finished piece (with resident studio pup).

V: Your work has a global appeal, how has travel come into play in respect to painting?

G: I always think of places as a background for scenes of the past and present. The landscape, architecture, buildings will always be the same, but the only difference is the generations of individuals walking the very same streets.

V: There is both detail and urgency in your pieces, where do those elements come from?

G: This depends on the relationship I develop with the art itself throughout the painting process.

V: How many hours would you say it takes to create your average piece? 

G: It’s hard to say, since the creative part takes quite a while as opposed to the actual work that it takes to finish a piece.

V: What single moment has influenced your work the most?

G: Taking a break from everyday life as an interior designer in San Francisco, and living in my great grandfather’s house constructed in the 1800’s (same space, furniture, and objects) located in seaside Moneglia, Italy.

italy photos

Gabriela’s studio walls covered in photos of Moneglia, Italy.

What’s one thing in your studio you would consider priceless?

G: All my photos from Moneglia, Italy.

V: What is currently inspiring your work/what are you working on now?

G: Japanese calligraphy and drawings, I am exploring black and white strokes.

Early stages of a new piece.

Early stages of a new piece.

V: Words to live by?


See more of Gabriela’s work available on Vango, and follow her to stay in-the-know on her art.

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Also published on Medium.