Colorful Conjunctions: The Cartoons of Munguίa

by Kim Maxine Frost

Toonpool artist Munguίa combines a painter’s command of color with the bold, curvaceous line work and playful humor of a master cartoonist. This is a beautiful, shimmery, decorative style with echoes of Picasso and Klimt, folk art, even ancient mosaics. It’s interesting in itself, but that’s just the beginning. There is always a parody, a joke, a surprising connection or a deeper meaning. His dreamlike scenarios carry you back to childhood, when two unlikely words strung together could call up an instant picture in your head. Or the expression on a dog’s face could put you in a dream. Munguίa encourages the fantasy – and unleashes a gorgeous world of zany, serendipitous delight.

Hawaiian Pizza

A surprised-looking pizza chef catches a wave at sunset on a huge slice of ham-and-pineapple pizza, in Hawaiian Pizza 2. His teal-blue color makes him pop against the red-orange sea of tomato sauce. The waves are foamy with sliced tomatoes, and after a moment it becomes clear what those clouds are – Midas-touched dollops of mozzarella. Like the surfer, we’re carried along by the wave’s red curve and the edge of the pizza slice, to a surprise at lower left – the setting sun frames a tiny bikini-clad girl on a sailboat, with a slice of pizza for the sail. There’s a hum of movement and contrast – flat space gives way to sudden depth, intricate patterns break up smoother areas of color, all in support of the carefree figure at the center with the enviable lifestyle. I would love to be this guy!

What if valet parking were really Ballet Parking, with the lot attendants pirouetting en pointe! In a play on cama, the Spanish word for bed, two beds are entwined in ecstasy in Kamasutra. And I love the sheer outrageousness of Barbies, with the bearded tranny Barbie dolls still encased in their boxes.

Munguίa’s masterwork parodies are always affectionate. A favorite of mine: Monalisa Giving the Finger! At first blush, the cartoonist seems to be putting the most famous painting of all time in its place. But the artist is actually in collusion with his timeless subject. He’d like to give her a break. The lady has been dying to do something rude for a few hundred years, and Munguίa finally gives her the chance!

Monalisa giving the finger


My recent interview with Munguίa.

Francisco Munguia

Where were you born, where did you study, and where do you live now?

I was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica. I’m currently living in Guadalupe, a canton of San José, the capital.

Which artists inspire you the most?

As a child I was a fan of Garbage Pail Kids and Topps sticker collections. The style of John Pound influenced me as much as Matt Groening and Quino. My country recognizes the influence of my colleagues Nano, Arcadio and Ferrom in my work.

You use a beautiful painterly technique in your cartoons – do you also put cartoons in your paintings?

I just do cartoons – the techniques are what I change. Sometimes I do acrylic paintings, ceramics, sculptures, animations and video games – all related in the unity of my own style into humoristic art.

How do you work?

When working digitally I start with an original drawing with ink on paper, then scan it and color it on the computer. I usually use Photoshop, but now I’m using a Bamboo Tablet and Animator to put color to my drawings on paper. In addition to publishing my drawings on toonpool, I produce the Calcamunguías, a series of stickers printed on vinyl. The collection started ten years ago, and so far there are 1,226 images and counting. Some are printed on tee shirts, and others are printed on ceramic tiles and then shown in galleries.

What do you do when you’re not doing art?

I’m a husband and father of two children. I live with Deborah, Fausto (two and a half) and Fidel (a year and eight months), along with twenty-two dogs recovered by my wife from the street. In our shelter we had five dogs with three legs, two one-eyed dogs, a scarface one, ex-fighters, and mental illness. All good behavior, quiet and clean, thanks to my wife who has an extra-special ability to change the sad and sick into the happy and healthy.

I do art all the time. I paint and program video games for my kids, I help my wife in her work with illustrations and videos, and I also help many animal welfare groups and associations. I love to cook, I move furniture around the house, and I do installations.


More of Munguίa´s work you find here.


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