Mabiee: A life as passionate as her paintings
María Luisa Sánchez Bermejo returns to the galleries ready to conquer the world. She’s already done it once and here she is again, with more energy, more strength and even more convinced that this time she can do it – she doesn’t have the slightest doubt.
Mabiee, as she signs her paintings and prefers to be called, has never followed convention, even as a child. Despite growing up in Campo de Criptana, a small, conservative village in Castilla La Mancha, (Ciudad Real, España), she was never afraid to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it was the open horizon of Castilla La Mancha, or her rather unconventional parents which made her path so different to that of other children and teenagers her age. She has always been different, always knew that her artistic talent needed to break free and overcome barriers in order to express the best of her.
Her paintings mirror her passionate personality; dynamic, full of life, rebellious. At first shy, hesitant, searching… Conscious of her innate gift but never imagining that she could make a living out of her paintings. So, she found a different outlet: the catwalk. As she walked the runways and made her way into advertising, she didn’t once drift from her passion, never once stopped painting and learning. Even while appearing on the most famous catwalks for the biggest brands and designers, her ‘Visitor Pass’ always reminded her that this wasn’t her true calling. Until, one day, her determination, passion and pure coincidence lead her to one of the richest men and sponsors in the world, who taught her to value her art, believe in it and to give her all to make her passion her career and her life.
Since then her canvases filled with even more light, more conviction and more pride. She came alive with her paintbrush in hand and a head full of rejuvenated ideas. A hot spring of creativity. However, sometimes life gets in the way, things we can never plan for. The illness of her second child required her constant care and attention, it changed her priorities and her first concern was to be at his side. And there she was.
A digression that, fortunately, a few years ago, ended happily with her child’s recovery, signalling a new era in Mabiee’s life. A new beginning. A second opportunity to believe in the value of her art. Five years ago, she returned to her home town, Campo de Criptana, and decided to commit to her passion, working towards her first, ambitious, goal; a national and international solo travelling exhibition. An exhibition in which Castilla La Mancha, along with her fondness for the human body and nudity, would be ever present. The thing is, for Mabiee, nothing is impossible, nothing too difficult, she works intensely hard and lets her experience and positive spirit guide her.
Now, Mabiee returns to the galleries and exhibitions, full of life and energy. Her paintings reflect her life, and her life, her paintings. Here in Seville, alongside her two children, who have given her the strength to keep moving forward, Mabiee invites you all into her world of passion and art, that she herself narrates for us.
“At 5 years old my father gave me my first portable easel and my first paint box” With her easel and paint box in tow, both of which continue to have a special place in her heart, Mabiee would head up to Sierra de los Molinos (Windmill hill) to paint amongst nature. She adored it! Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes, once envisaged the windmills of Mabiee’s home town, Campo de Criptana, as giants awaiting a daring ‘Quixote’ to defy them with his sword . Our artist dared and captured them with a stroke of her brush.
Growing up in a large family, the youngest, far from being able to pronounce her name, Maria Luisa, opted for the simpler and unforgettable Mabi. And from there Maria Luisa took her artistic alias, Mabiee. Her father, Juan Bautista, owned a paint shop, meaning that she grew up amongst paint pots, spending hour after hour organising and reorganising, experimenting, and creating new colours. Her parents were so sure of her unique talent that, unbeknown to her, they presented her paintings in competitions, where they won.
Mabiee had her first teachers in her small village, the painter Isidro Antequera, who then was the director of the Municipal School of Drawing and Painting. And later, Francisco Valbuena at whose side she discovered how to control different strokes, and how to capture an idea and make it tangible.
“I was born with a flair for painting” It was never a hobby, it was even more than a vocation; it was her gift. Very few people are able to paint without technical knowledge or training, as Mabiee did from such a young age, with an agile, flowing hand and such free imagination.
Our painter is one of those who has always wished they were born with a talent for science, or for medicine, but no, art was always her calling. The thing is, artists have to face many prejudices day after day. Fortunately, Mabiee was able to brush them off with her care-free attitude. “I quickly out grew the village”, at least for what she wanted to dedicate her talent to.
The human body, naturalness and nudity inspire her, an interest that was particularly difficult to express in such a small village 30 years ago. So, she left to study an Artistic Diploma at Ciudad Real’s School of the Arts. From there, at only 16, she headed to Madrid to study Fashion Design, all the while painting non-stop. At Madrid’s School of the Arts, her teachers encouraged her to study fine arts, which she would finish studying, along with Interior Design, years later in Tenerife. She lived on the island for five years with the father of her first child, with whom she shared 10 years of unity. Speaking from the heart, Mabiee expresses just how much she loved him, a man who came to form an incredibly important part of her life, just as the father of her second child does.
“I never thought I would be able to make a living out of my paintings”
Mabiee, like so many other artists, never truly believed that she would be able to make a living out of her paintings, despite her obvious talent. Often, it is difficult to recognise the power of such a gift when we live a life that doesn’t allow us room to dedicate to feeling and expressing our intense emotions. Fearing that her talent wouldn’t put food on the table or pay the bills, she looked for work in other areas that would still allow her the time and means to perfect her passion.
“Of course coincidences exist. You never know when or where, but there are there” The first came about one summer, she was working in a convenience store to earn a little pocket money, when a professional photographer walked in and, seeing modelling potential in Mabiee, he left her his card. Honestly, she thought it was a joke. However, she checked him out and it turned out to be true! He was a professional photographer working for an acclaimed modelling agency in Madrid. She went to Madrid, shot her first portfolio, trained and from there until 16 years later, she strutted the catwalks and appeared in prominent advertising campaigns for renowned fashion houses. It was an amazing opportunity that opened many doors for her future career and was crucial for her artistic aspirations.
This long chapter of her life was not at all what she had planned as a young adult whose only desire was to keep painting. But coincidence lead her to one catwalk after another, providing her with the means to earn a living. However, as always, Mabiee had her mind set on her painting. Every fashion show she arrived at, she handed her card out to everyone she could, telling them her story and passion.
“Carlos Slim believed in my work and he made my dream an even better reality.”
And here comes the second huge coincidence. Mabiee met Carlos Slim (Mexican engineer and businessman, and one of the richest men in the world) which marked a turning point in her life. It all happened in Madrid in 2000. As usual, she gave her card to a fashion show guest who expressed interest in her work and asked to see one of her paintings. She shared her dreams and her aspiration to do a solo exhibition abroad; she told him her life story, and he instantly had saw the potential in her talent.
Mabiee, having no idea who this man could be, searched his name on the internet and discovered the person promising to make her dreams reality, was, in fact, one of the richest men in the world. And so it happened, Mabiee exhibited her art in style in Mexico City in 2003. It was here when her art sponsor, Carlos Slim, taught her to believe in her art: “If you don’t have faith in your worth, no one will, and you are worth it.” And so, looking at her work from a new perspective, she finally saw its value.
After all these experiences, Mabiee has no choice but to believe coincidences and truly kind-hearted people. Mr Slim was a timely and advantageous patron who marked a turning point in her professional career.
“Felipe Gonalez’s portrait is almost anecdotal” Although almost incidental, it did happen. Mabiee was commissioned to do a portrait of the then President of Spain (1982/1996). She painted from a photograph. It was given as a birthday present and she was informed that it was very much to his liking. A few years later, she was given the opportunity to meet him personally.
The important thing is that, following her exhibition, many doors were opened to Mabiee and she achieved her goal of becoming a mature and confident painter. Since then she has sold many paintings in Spain and internationally, she has received numerous commissions and has put on more solo exhibitions. However, she didn’t give up modelling. After all, it was the perfect way to spread the word about her paintings, while meeting more potential clients. She continued like this until her second son, Alberto, was born.
“For six years I put my life on hold, I stopped modelling and painting and dedicated my heart and soul to my son, Alberto.”
At only 4 months Alberto was diagnosed with critogenic focal epilepsy, which was incredibly hard for Mabiee and her family. For the first six years his life, Mabiee gave up everything and dedicated her life to him. Six years in Madrid without working, painting or fashion shows. Devastating and terrible years. “It was a matter of starting over again with my painting and my inspiration.”
Fortunately, this period had a happy ending. Five years ago, doctors began reducing Alberto’s medication and the seizures ceased. Mabiee was able to get her career back on track, returning to Campo de Criptana where she decided to take up her painting with a mix of excitement, fear and doubt. She didn’t know if she would be capable of painting with the same passion and skill as before. It was a matter of starting at the beginning with her paint brush and finding new projects.
As expected, she didn’t need much time or audience before gallery owners, and the world of art in general, realised that Mabiee still had her much admired essence. A painter who made a spirited come back with renewed energy and inspiration that her children give her every day, with a gut feeling that she must paint her beloved children. Naturally, that painting will never be sold.
So, that is how Mabiee got to where she is now. She has made her dreams reality once more, a travelling exhibition around Spain, Europe, and further afield. Exactly the same as her life and personality; always looking forward to open skies, just like those of her home, Castilla La Mancha.