Sona Abgaryan always knew she’d be an artist. As a child growing up in Berd, a small city in northeastern Armenia, she and her mother would spend hours recreating Matisse paintings and discussing Dutch painters. “I never pictured myself doing anything else,” said Sona, who studied classical painting at the Terlemezian Yerevan State College of Arts in Yerevan.
Since then, she’s found her niche in contemporary mediums like digital illustration and video and is currently a resident lab leader at TUMO. She’s led 15 digital illustration labs since joining the staff in April 2018. With her help, students hone their Photoshop skills and use the software to create digital paintings on topics such as pop art and impressionism. So far, one of her favorite labs has been leading students in the creation of digital diaries — a series of images capturing their daily musings.
Illustrations by Sona Abgaryan
For Sona, creating a safe and welcoming environment for students is paramount. “I want students to feel free to be authentic and express themselves,” she said. “Each of them embodies a world of interesting insights and possibilities and art is one of the best ways to channel them.”
Among her personal inspirations, Sona counts comic and pop art, rich color palettes and people — the ones in her life like her 2-year-old son and others in faraway places that she’s only read about. The topics of her learning labs come from brainstorming sessions with the Learning Labs team and conversations with students. “I learn so much from them. My students are always passing along information about the latest music and actors. There are even things that they do better than me,” said Sona, enthusiastically. “That’s why I don’t consider what I do ‘instructing,’ but rather a back and forth and free-flowing exchange of information.”
Illustrations by TUMO students
At TUMO, Sona leads new labs almost every month. She’s excited to implement ideas like creating much needed contemporary Armenian picture books and illustrating photographs of old buildings in Yerevan with researched facts and history. New Year’s is one of her favorite holidays — a connection to childhood memories and a time of renewal that Armenia shares with the world — so, TUMOians can expect a special holiday edition of her digital illustration lab.
Beyond TUMO, Sona creates analog and digital works of art as an independent, multimedia artist. “I can create art endlessly,” she said. “Whether it makes money or I have a job is secondary because I’m doing what I love.” Currently, Sona is working on a public exhibition of her work for May 2020.
Sona is a huge fan of competitive tennis! In another life, she’d be a tennis star the likes of Steffi Graf or Venus and Serena WIlliams.