Gulfport gecko artist Monica Watson on leaving Tampa McMansions, being a retired working artist and her garden

Seven questions with this week's featured Art Gecko artist.

click to enlarge Monika Watson Art Gecko artist Gulfport - via Monika Watson
via Monika Watson
Monika Watson Art Gecko artist Gulfport

It's Gecko Season, and if you live in Gulfport — or if you've caught GeckoFest fever — you know what that means: It means from now until Labor Day, Gulfport goes a little gecko-crazy. It started as a one-day festival at the end of summer — GeckoFest and Mullet Mutiny— to draw in shoppers and help businesses. But then it was too big for one day, so next came GeckoBall, where the uber-laid-back Gulfportians show their Jekyll side (yes, you read that right) and get fancy with elaborate costumes and compete for top honors. Next, there was the GeckoCrawl, some sort of elaborate bars-and-card game that involves a passing knowledge of poker and the ability to consume mass quantities. Finally — at least for now — there's the Art Gecko Art Show. Art Gecko involves Gulfport artists making geckos and displaying them at local venues. Gecko supporters (that's "locals and people who really love Gulfport" to you and I) bid on the geckos, and after Gecko Season ends (with GeckoFest, an all-day and most-of-the-night street party), they get to take their geckos to their new home (think of it as an "adopt a gecko" program). This year, we're asking each of the gecko artists (gartists? geckotists?) seven questions. This week, Monika Watson shares her thoughts.

How did you start making art?

Ever since I was a toddler. For example, I engraved the living room furniture with my designs.The ensuing punishments failed to put me off art.

You have a wonderful collection of art in your home that clearly spans many years of creativity. Do you have a "day" job or do you support yourselves on your art (and if so, how)?

I have a lot of art in the house, my own and artist friends I have collected over the years. I am very happy when I work, on art or in the garden.I don't have a day job, being "retired" now but working as ever. For more than 30 years I did many art shows across the country, hard to do but it enabled me to do my art and make a living.

Why do you live in Gulfport?

I used to live in South Tampa but when the McMansions came, I moved to Gulfport. I love it here.

click to enlarge Art Gecko artist Monika Watson - Monika Watson
Monika Watson
Art Gecko artist Monika Watson

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make art a career?

Decide what you want most to do and then do all the things to make possible this one thing you want to do.

What's your favorite piece of art that you've ever made, and why?

My "Night Garden", a large piece I had made for a particular house that I did not buy. I know I will never do a piece like that again. I have a lovely garden, a bit wild but it is Zen for me.

How could the Gulfport art community best grow?

Gulfport grows by leaps and bounds, I have been here17 years and the changes are amazing. Small fears it may be growing too much too fast.

Just for fun: You are mayor of Gulfport for a day. What three things do you do?

I would hug a tree!

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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