Groundwork Community Spotlight: Ugo Nonis

Groundwork Community Spotlight: Ugo Nonis

 Groundwork Community Spotlight: Ugo Nonis 

Ugo Nonis is known by Groundwork Coffee baristas for his beaming smile and his order of a classic latte and croissant (not so much the latter these days as pastries don’t quite fit into his New Year resolutions). Ugo, a visual artist who mainly paints on canvas, starts his morning at Groundwork to prime his mind and body for creating art. 

Born and raised in Paris, Ugo has lived in New York City, Chicago, and now Los Angeles for 13 years. He’s conveniently a block from Groundwork in Venice, where he’s a central part of a lively community of artists. 

The essential function of Groundwork in Ugo’s daily life is to provide a place to socialize before a day of solitary painting.

“It's just great to have smiling people to start the day,” Ugo says. “It is a really good kickstart of a dose of socializing for me.” 

He went over 40 years without drinking coffee – until he moved down the block from Groundwork Coffee. 

“I got addicted to coffee because of the social aspect of saying good morning,” he says.  

At the spot where baristas now know his name, Ugo found the bustling cafe scene an easy way to connect with his Venice neighborhood.  


Finding his creative calling

“I never thought I would call myself an artist,” he says. “I had a good imagination but I didn't have any skills in as far as holding a pencil.”

Throughout the years, Ugo gradually opened up to the possibility of being a creative. He started his creative career with graphic design in Photoshop, but it wasn’t until age 28 that he first picked up a canvas. 

“I grabbed the canvas, started doodling and then just fell in love with the process,” he says. 

Having been a gamer since he was six years old, Ugo’s childhood video games inspire his art most. Pixel art graphics in early 90s games (e.g. Super Mario Bros.) taught Ugo about color values and contrast. This simplification of form is a cubism of sorts that Ugo utilizes along with a free-flow style he calls “flowlines.”

Photo of Ugo's pixel art style hanging in a gallery


Staying true to his core motivation 

Making art is a meditative practice for Ugo.

“I always approach my art through what the process brings into my life, which is being more present and the joy at the end of the process,” he says. 

For the sake of being present, he doesn’t plan out his paintings.

“I just let the process guide me, just enjoying each touch of paint that you put down on the canvas,” he explains. “Where I am the happiest is when I don't think about the outcome.”

He doesn’t aim to make art that sells, but rather to make art consistently as a daily practice. 

“I don't get slowed down by financial successes, because I really feel that that's worrying about something I have no control over,” he says.

Instead of focusing on the monetary or social value he can garner from his art, Ugo’s lifelong goal is to direct his energy into what he can control, what makes him feel like an artist, and trusting that it will be organically rewarding.  

“If I make art every day, I'm an artist. And if I make art every day, my art will get better,” Ugo tells me. “It sounds very simple, but it's very challenging to refocus on just making art.”  

Spreading communal motivation and inspiration

Ugo believes a community should be made up of people who motivate each other – he cites his super-active friend who encourages him to go surfing (instead of staying inside all day painting).

“A community should be able to bring out something in yourself that is not your natural make everyone in the community discover parts of themselves that was always there, but they can enjoy it a little bit more,” he says. 

When Ugo reflects on his own contributions to his community, he names his positivity and passion for forging connections between individuals and their innate creativity.

He hopes to inspire similar stories to his own, in which someone with undiscovered artistic passion finds their calling just by taking the first step – like picking up a paintbrush.

“When I hear people connect with my artwork or other artwork, that is a beautiful thing in itself. Creating art is good for the world,” he says.

Ultimately, Ugo has two simple desires: for his art to be a source of joy in the community and for that same community to feel encouraged to pursue their own artistic source of joy.

Ugo’s work has been showcased at Create Studios in Venice since last year. This year, his art will be displayed on a larger scale at the 7811 Gallery for two months beginning in May. 

Photo of Ugo's pixelated style as a colorful skull on a black background


Written by
Melina Devoney
Barista Blogger