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Ovi, Freelance Artist in Merida

Ovi in HollywoodYL: When did you come to Merida?
Ovi: I came to Merida in mid April 2010 from Sacramento,California.

YL: Why did you move here? Why choose Merida?
Ovi: I moved here because I felt in me a call for this place.When the heart speaks to you,the mind has to be silent.

YL: Where were you born?
Ovi: I was born in Romania and I left the country when the communist hard line was at its peak in Eastern Europe. It is a very long story to explain how I managed to get out of the Iron Curtain…suffice it to say that I struggled for four years as a political dissident there, until they finally let me go, in the process stripping me of my Romanian citizenship. I found myself a young man without a country and a passport valid for only six months. After that, I was without citizenship. The USA was the only country that was helping people like me, so I chose to immigrate to New York. That was 29 years ago…

YL: Where else did you live before coming to Merida?
Ovi: For awhile, I lived for some time in various cities in Italy and in France. Most of the past 29 years, I have lived in various parts of New York, including Manhattan. I eventually moved to New Jersey and after some years there, I left USA and lived for 4 years in Munich, Germany. I came back to USA and chose to live this time in California, near Sacramento.

YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world? How did you hear about Merida?
Ovi: It was on the spur of the moment. Hard to explain but it just happened suddenly and irrevocably. I wasn’t planning to move to Merida. I had never heard of it. I wanted to drive my car and settle not far from the California border. I considered Mexico City but in reading more about Mexico, I just discovered Yucatan and Ovi in PurpleMerida. So it was by a fortunate chance or maybe not! i believe it was meant to be this way because I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences.

I believe that I didn’t choose Merida, she chose me instead.

YL: Were you looking for something in particular that Merida had?
Ovi: I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Some people come here for the beach, some to retire, some to have fun. I just got fed up with the USA system and other European systems of government. I wanted to get away from them as far as possible and in Merida I found this tranquility. I know what is said about Mexico and that it has a bad reputation in certain areas…but then again, isn’t it the same if not even worse in all the other countries???I think that judging people gives us no time to love them …and this is a main problem in this world.

YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the
right decision?
Ovi: I am renting for the time being and I am very pleased and comfortable with my Apt.I plan to rent or buy eventually a house with a lot to grow vegetables and do some gardening because I miss it from the long gone years when I lived in New Jersey and had a garden there in the backyard.

YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?Drawing of a woman by Ovi
Ovi: I am doing now what I always did for the past 25 years: I am a professional artist illustrator and worked for Marvel Comics as a comic book artist for 13 years. I painted Conan the Barbarian covers. I also worked on Spiderman, Iron Man, Hulk, Fantastic 4, Captain America, Thor, X-Men, and for Heavy Metal magazine and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser books. Then I switched to storyboards for TV commercials, which is what I do now. I work from home.

YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Ovi: I love the city and its architecture and the people who are very friendly and always helpful and not full of themselves.In many ways it reminds me of some cities in Naples/Italy or in Rome,with that sublime madness and street wild colors of many personalities.

YL: Do you have a hard time finding art supplies?
OVi: I cannot find here the art materials that I use.They are only in the
USA and I know this for a fact.So I order from the store what I need and it’s no problem.They deliver anywhere but Europe. I use certain markers that are special and also a special paper for coloring that again is only to be found in USA. I do not paint in the old fashioned ways anymore, since I can do my work faster and easier and less expensively on a Wacom tablet which puts your art straight onto the computer. So I only do digital paintings. I also don’t use much of markers either because I can color on computer my work.
Another thing about this particular store that sells everything online, is that they always have great discounts and they are much cheaper than anywhere else in USA.

YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Ovi: I don’t miss anything. I live in the NOW.

YL: What is your favorite local food?Ovi in Merida
Ovi: Well…as food goes I am a vegetarian so I stick with beans and rice:) Of course veggies and fruits and cheese enchiladas. Yummmiiiii!

YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Ovi: So far it’s to early to answer this question being a new kid on the block :) But I’ll tell you later in a year:)

YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Ovi: No guests yet, but if they come, I would take them to see the old historic places that once were the seat of an extraordinary and also very powerful ancient civilization. Then to the Centro to get a feel of the city that is always so full of life.

YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Ovi: I went to a few restaurants but cannot remember their names now…they were in the Centro area anyway. I really like it there.

YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Ovi: I live in the Merida North somewhere close to the Altabrisa area but not very far from Paseo Montejo. I am still unfamiliar with many places because as I said, I just came here and since I am so involved with my work, I am too busy to take the tourist role to its full extent yet. The tourists are more around the Centro than near the place where I live.

YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Ovi: I don’t hang out with expats, and local friends I don’t have yet.

YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Ovi: I work in the advertising business and this means crazy hours. At any given minute of the day, I can get a call from one of my agents who represents my talent to work on a TV commercial. There’s no such thing as 9 to 5 in this business. I am working as a freelance artist but I am represented by various agencies located in CA, NYC and UK. If I work here or at the North Pole, it is the same thing! The place doesn’t count at all. It might be a time issue being ahead or behind few hours to Europe or even to parts of the USA, but I am used to this.

YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Ovi: No, I don’t find it difficult at all working here. My working habits are the same. Nothing special and nothing changed.Portrait of Dutch artist Anthony Van Dyck by Ovi in Merida

YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Ovi: No, I don’t know Spanish but I am trying. So far I get by using the few words that I know blend with lots of hand gestures that I am afraid that I could be considered a little crazy. But when I have some time off I watch TV and learn from it. I know how to read and understand the language, but I find it difficult when it comes to conversation.

YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Ovi: I don’t have a particular expression that I like because I like them all in fact!

YL:  Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Ovi: No I am not a Mexican citizen.I am American but I don’t think that it’s possible to have both citizenship …I have no idea yet.

YL:  How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome? 
Ovi: I feel like I am home. I love Mexicans and I feel welcome in their country.

YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Ovi: I don’t know anything about this. I presume that the main income of Yucatan comes from tourism, but I might be wrong.

YL: What are your plans for the future here?Medicine Man by Ovi
Ovi: It is too early to determine the future. I like to take one day at a time. Plans can always change.

YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Ovi: I would suggest to many to come and live in Yucatan, but it’s up to them to decide. I would think that life here is unique in so many aspects. So many people I know are too much tied to the American style of living and would not give up their little world, even if the economic recession will make them lose their jobs and homes. They believe in certain old fashioned values that do not belong in the present day anymore. They say that they’ll stay because of their family roots, but I don’t think that is proper thinking. We are all guests in these parts of the world and should never forget this.

YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Ovi: I would say THANK YOU for letting me live in your country.

YL: If there is anything else you would like to add for our readers (people interested in or considering moving to the Yucatan, former Yucatecans, people planning to visit for an extended tour…), please add them here:
Ovi: "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth" -
Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull)

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Ovi’s website, where you can see more of his art.

To contact Ovi, email him at ovi [dot] hondru [at] yahoo [dot] com.


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One Response to “Ovi, Freelance Artist in Merida”

  1. Nice interview. Ovi is not only a very talented artist, but also seems to have a unique and refreshing outlook on life; Living in the moment is something we could all do well to learn, especially me sometimes. While I don’t envy having to flee political persecution and being without citizenship, I do appreciate the freedom Ovi has incorperated into his life. I’m sure it wasn’t easy moving around so much but I can’t think of a better place to set up shop, so to speak.
    Congrats on your new home, Ovi, and congrats on getting free.

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