Local artist Valerie Tobin’s artistic journey has led her through unexpected roads
Born in Munich, Germany, Valerie Tobin is a painter and photographer who loves to travel and is ‘curious about life’. She has been in Lagos for the past eight years and, like many young people here, has tried her hand at a number of jobs and avenues as she tried to find her feet.
It was not just Valerie who was sold by the idyllic Algarvian lifestyle – her parents, Christian and Gabriela Tobin, also relocated here. Christian is a well-known sculptor and Gabriela is also an artist. “I believe this is why I am constantly searching for my own way of leaving an artistic footprint and expressing myself,” she says. Valerie believes their influence had a massive impact on her decision to pursue art as a career.
Valerie attended art school in Germany where, unfortunately, her confidence took a hit. “They said my art was too vague and that it wasn’t good enough,” she recalls. Consequently, she took a break from art for the first four years whilst staying in the Algarve. However, she formed new relationships in the region which gave her that gentle nudge of confidence she needed to pursue her dreams once more.
“I have always wanted to do something creative, but I didn’t know what,” she states, explaining how she likes to keep her options open. She decided to study photography and graduated from the photography school in Lisbon. In a quest to find a way to express herself, she decided to combine her new skill with her love for the Algarve sea and surfing. Since then, she has forged a successful photography business working with local surf schools documenting these thrilling moments.
When Valerie is not capturing these unique moments, she takes time to put her moods and feelings on canvas, “in a playful game between dots, lines, acrylic, and oil paint”. She laughed as she said: “My art can be super chaotic at times, and this basically represents who I am.”
Valerie explains that she rarely has a specific goal and prefers to do large-scale pieces where she can move and stretch out her ideas. Although she takes on commissions, her goal is to sell her own, original pieces.
Already, some of her pieces are featured in several popular restaurants from Sagres to Lagos. Typically, they start at €450 and she usually does portraits.
The materials she uses are also always changing. “Currently, I am using a lot of charcoal and oil when at first I used acrylic.” Another method she uses often is dotwork which, in 2020, led to the birth of her clothing brand ToothLoose, featuring 100% cotton t-shirts with prints created dot by dot by ‘Bel Oui’, Valerie’s artistic name. “What started as an idea, born of lockdown boredom, became the birth of a rising clothing brand.”
Like many modern artists, Valerie has made an increased effort to promote herself using Instagram. Each week, she creates new content in the attempt to keep up with ever-changing trends to ensure her brand is fresh and up to date. She is flexible and always open to new ideas and avenues.
Last year, she was even asked to do a live portrait at a wedding which she had never done before but she embraced the challenge. “They were extremely happy with the result,” she confides.
Recently, Valerie took the plunge to rent her own art studio and has big plans for 2023. “I am happiest when driving to my studio, where my sole purpose is to paint and create,” she says.
“My art makes me happy and unhappy, and each painting is a lot of work,” she very honestly states. But this is why she wants to dig deeper and find herself as an artist.
“I am still trying to figure out my own style and this is my biggest goal; to make a living as an artist and be happy creating.”
By ALEX BRENNAN