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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 61  |  July 30, 2021

Laguna Art-A-Fair artists Monique and John Straub make creativity a family affair


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Monique and John Straub – exhibiting for their fourth year at the Laguna Art-A-Fair Fine Art Festival – have been a couple for 32 years. One might imagine that two artists living under the same roof could be a unique – and possibly challenging – situation.

Although Monique is an original oil painter and John a fine arts photographer, she says, “We’re both in the same boat. We put in a lot of weird hours in the studio, but we understand each other – and it works for us. When not exhibiting, we go to our separate studios and work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. It’s the way we make our living.”

A veteran at exhibiting, Monique has been showing her work for 25 years. 

John is more of a newbie. “I never really did a whole lot of shows until four or five years ago,” he says.

In fact he didn’t start exhibiting right away. When Monique was exhibiting, he would man the booth with her, until she finally persuaded him to show his work as well.

 The only event they don’t exhibit at together is the auto show “Automobilia Monterey” in Monterey. Since John is an automotive photographer, he does that one solo.

Both Monique and John are from San Diego and met in a gym. They now live in San Clemente and love it there.

Laguna Art A Fair couple

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Monique and John Straub

John has a special connection to Art-A-Fair. He does all the social media for Art-A-Fair, posting 365 days a year. “I want this show to get the recognition it deserves,” he says.

As an automotive photographer, John has exhibited his work in La Quinta, La Jolla, Indian Wells, Palm Springs, and Mission Federal in San Diego – just to name a few. 

His depictions of abandoned trailers, trains, buses, and gas stations are nostalgic and bittersweet. 

“I have an attachment to capturing stuff that’s disappearing from America,” says John. “The gas pump in one of my photographs is no longer there.”

He photographs at the Salton Sea – the Airstream is on Route 66, the small trailer was spotted in New Mexico, the train in Yuma, and the bus in San Diego.

“Much more than an historical record, each image captures an interpreted feeling, an object of art representing a profoundly unique slice of time, a moment lived, and a point where memory and imagination meet,” says John on his website.

The photographs are printed on thin sheets of aluminum and framed in recycled wood crafted by an artisan in Colorado.

“The glass and frames were beginning to get too heavy, so I switched to aluminum about four years ago,” he says. 

Laguna Art A Fair with John

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John and his work – the gas pump in the bottom photo is no longer there. Also notice the different perspective on the iconic Laguna Lifeguard Station.

“I’ve been photographing my whole life. My father was a photographer, and I started out as a surf photographer,” John says. “With my father’s encouragement, a Minolta 35mm camera with a long lens would come into my life. My parents would drive me to the beach to take surfing photos along the Southern California coast where I grew up. By my mid-teens I became consumed with cars and started taking photos at regional sports car races.”

Currently, his film cameras only collect dust, and he enjoys the use of digital.

“The automotive market is small, I get commissioned to photograph people’s cars, and I provide photographs for auto magazines. There aren’t a lot of people who do automotive photos commercially,” he says. “They take photos but not to sell.”

My Miniature Life

During the pandemic, John switched gears. 

This is his first showing of “My Miniature Life,” a by-product of the 2020 COVID isolation – and the result is extraordinary. 

At a time when we were all feeling small in a bigger-than-life world, it seems John translated that feeling to his photographs. 

 “Some are real miniatures, like the little umbrellas you get in tropical drinks. I use Photoshop. The smoke coming from the Tabasco can is an example. The response has been good about the series. Also at the buyer’s request, I can customize them by printing different sizes.”

Laguna Art A Fair John's booth

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More of John’s work 

Evidently, there were little technical issues such as the guy on one of the crackers in his tomato soup photo. “I had to figure out how to keep him from tipping over the cracker, so I hollowed out and sealed the cracker to trap air under it.” 

Drawing with paint 

Monique’s vibrant work is in numerous private collections and has been published in Professional Artist Magazine, San Diego Home & Garden

and Art Collector Magazine.

Before her career in art, Monique was a construction estimator and worked in the landscaping field. “When I finished with that, I painted full time. Twenty-five years ago, I started out in soft pastels, and it was more drawing. I began showing at fairs, and people wanted big pieces in frames.”

It was then that she translated her style and color palette into oil painting. “It’s drawing with paint,” Monique says. “It’s not a single stroke, it’s painting with a thousand strokes.”

Although the pieces in the Art-A-Fair exhibit have a botanical theme, she continues to paint still life and food.

Laguna Art A Fair with Monique

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Monique with her botanically themed original art

“I have a dense color palette. I mix all the colors before I start on the top of a glass table. That way I don’t have to stop when I’m painting to mix colors. I love intense saturated color, colors that are pure and clear.”

Monique works from iPhone photos taken at places she travels or simply while walking or shopping – some of her paintings are from Indio, Joshua Tree, Torrey Pines, on the road home from Las Vegas, and a lily pond in Mission Park in San Diego.

“I enjoy painting the world with my own twist. Rather than producing textbook renditions, I choose to concentrate on emphasizing the individual character of my subject,” she says. “I approach each of these original works as an adventure. The result is as surprising for me, as I hope it is for the viewer.”

Her talent goes way back to her school days. “I was the kid in class who did the drawings for the covers of school programs,” she says.

 As a painter, she refrains from being affected by other artists’ works. “I’m really careful not to look at other artists’ work. I have my own personal style, and I don’t want to be influenced by what other artists are doing.”

Laguna Art A Fair Monique's booth

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Monique’s art – Booth D-9

Monique’s pieces are highly sought after by collectors. “I have over 8,000 people on my mailing list. Eighty percent of my sales are online. I am represented by Adelman Fine Art Boutique Gallery in San Diego. They featured me in a solo show. I exhibited 20 pieces and one customer bought 10 of them.”

Some clients purchase the paintings and then have their interior designers design the rooms around them. “I also have clients who want a particular scene but in different colors, and I can accommodate that. I do commission work, but require no upfront commitment. Ninety percent of the time I hit the nail on the head, but if the client doesn’t like it, I just put it into my inventory.”

In her 25 years of exhibiting, Monique must have many interesting stories to relate, and she recalls one in particular.

“It was one of my first shows, and I was exhibiting in La Jolla at Warren Field. I showed up early at 6 a.m., went inside my tent and zipped it up. A lady who walked her dog in the field every morning came up to my tent. I unzipped it, she stuck her head in and bought a painting.”

Behind the art

“There are a lot of other aspects to making a living as an artist in addition to creating art – there’s the marketing, business, and financial sides,” John admits. “Without those, there is no art.”

Monique adds, “We advertise on social media that we are here exhibiting here and offer VIP entry so folks come right to the booth.”

Laguna Art A Fair exterior

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Don’t miss the fantastic art at Art-A-Fair

When you’re at Art-A-Fair, stop by and see John in Booth B-31 and Monique in Booth D-9. The Art-A-Fair holds a special place in their hearts, and they want it to receive the acknowledgement it deserves. Its singular place in Laguna’s art history is indisputable.

Since its beginnings in the 1960s, the Laguna Art-A-Fair remains the only summer festival that invites artists from all over the world to participate, giving the work a global perspective. This juried show features roughly 110 artists across two and three-dimensional mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, woodworking, jewelry, ceramics, textile arts, and other artforms. Guests will be treated to a broad spectrum of original work, as well as affordable reproductions.

The Laguna Art-A-Fair also has fun events such as “Sip and Pours” and ice cream socials.

The Laguna Art-A-Fair runs through September 5, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Gates will close at 6 p.m. on September 5.

Tickets are $9 for Adults; $7 for Students and Seniors, ages 65 and up; while Children ages 12 and under receive free admission, as well as military personnel, passport cardholders, and Laguna Beach residents with an ID. In addition, Pageant of the Masters’ ticketholders receive free admission on the date of their ticket. 

Visit for more information. You can also follow Laguna Art-A-Fair on Instagram and Facebook. 

For more information on Monique Straub, go to

For more information on John Straub, go to


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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