Mia Araujo is an artist working out of Los Angeles, CA. She graduated as Valedictorian from Otis College of Art and Design with a Bachelors in Illustration, and a minor in Creative Writing. Her work has been shown in many of the most prominent galleries for this contemporary art scene, Roq La Rue, Corey Helford Gallery, Dorothy Circus Gallery, and more. Mia opened her first solo exhibition entitled Into the Woods at Corey Helford this past May 2012. I was able to send Mia a few questions about her process, inspirations, and a little about her first solo show.
Creep Machine: You have been drawing since you were a child. How has your style changed over the years, and what new inspirations were responsible for the majority of your style and iconography?
Mia: Ever since I was little, I’ve been drawn to the fantastical, the make-believe, and the imaginative, and I’ve always had an interest in history, folktales, and stories in general. So you can trace that subject matter throughout my evolution ’til the present day. But I feel the majority of my growth happened the past five years since I graduated from art school. That’s really the time that I was left to my own devices, to seek out what interests me, and through trial and error, develop a visual language and style that is more honest and true to who I am.
A few things that helped exponentially are Joseph Campbell’s lectures and writings, dozens of contemporary and classical novels, mythology, documentaries and podcasts on all kinds of subjects, and looking at hundreds of images every day thanks to the internet. All of that information compounded with my life experiences makes up my own internal universe. The key is to share it bit by bit through my artwork.
Creep: You attended Otis College of Art and Design, and studied painting under Nathan Ota. Like Nathan, your medium of choice is Acrylic, which is amazing considering the feel your paintings have. What were some of the main challenges you had with this medium, and what other mediums are you attracted to, and why?
Mia: First and foremost, I’m a drawer, so any drawing medium is welcome at my desk. I’m comfortable enough with acrylics now, having used them for 7 years, but I’d say the greatest challenge lies in blending colors and values smoothly. I suppose I’ve finally reached a point where I’m no longer afraid to try different media. Instead I’m curious about and excited by many of them– oils, watercolors, gouache, pastels, even digital– and I’ve done studies recently just to try them out. I’m searching for a technique that can give me quicker finishes in a looser style, at least for little ideas and other projects on the side.
Creep: Your paintings are filled with imagery; tiny details, figures, and objects. Are there any recurring elements, such as your own iconography that can be found in more than one painting? If so, what are some of these icons and how did they come about?
Mia: There are always numerous human figures, some in the form of sculptures– some crumbling and weathered, others decapitated and dismembered. The miniature human figures in all my pieces are the ghosts of the past, embodiments of the main figure’s own memories and emotions, her struggles, fears, and loves. In short, they are invisible forces materialized- if you could have a magical lens through which the invisible becomes visible to you, I’d imagine the world would look like one of my paintings.
I also like to pay homage to famous sculptures, such as those of Rodin and Carpeaux, or silent screen sirens like Theda Bara, and hide them among the other figures for the discerning eye to discover.
Another theme I’ve used a few times is day of the dead cemetery arrangements adorned around the head of the dying main figure. The beauty of the flowers and candles helps me forget the sadness and fear involved with death.
Creep: Your first solo show, “Into the Woods” opened this May at Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired this series of works? “Death of a Forest” is very impressive, I would love to hear more about how this specific piece came together.
Mia: First and foremost, I was inspired by Miyazaki’s film ‘Princess Mononoke’, the writings of John Muir, and Timothy Egan’s book about the worst wildfire in US history, the Big Burn. All of these made me want to visit more wild places and tell their stories, and to showcase the forest as a place to heal from all of the exhaustion, stress, and wounds that each of us carry in our daily lives. There are so many aspects to the forest too– it is rejuvenating, magical, dangerous, and fragile all at the same time– so each piece represents a different one. There is a raw power to nature and a beautiful honesty that can never be replicated by technology, and that can teach us so much about how to live and deal with the hardships and struggles that we face.
In “Death of a Forest,” tiny timber men gut an ancient forest by cutting the centermost tree. The larger-than-life forest goddess dies with her forest, and all of the tree spirits, ghosts, and animals that once lived there congregate to attend her funeral.
Instead of painting a cataclysmic fire scene, I chose to capture the beauty of this dying forest in its last moments of splendor– like a memory one wishes to hold onto forever, a reminder of the great things that are often lost.
At 60” x 40” and with about 88 human and animal figures (not counting any of the inanimate objects, trees, etc.), this is my largest and most ambitious piece to date!
Creep: With the idea that photographed paintings never show the full intensity of paintings in person, this new series of works has a different feel than previous paintings. Is there anything different that you did with this new series of works?
Mia: Definitely- I wanted to take my work to the next level, especially where the main figure is concerned, so I hired models for nearly every piece. It adds many more time-consuming steps to my process now, but it pays off in the end by allowing me to capture a bit of each girl’s spirit much more than I have in the past. The figures seem more solid now, grounded in reality…with a soul to them that I could feel as I painted them.
I’ve also loosened up a bit with my technique, letting some background elements remain more painterly, and tightening without getting to the point of total stiffness. I have a long way to go of course, but with these elements in mind, I’m much more satisfied with the results each time.
I rarely get a chance to do a color comp ahead of time, but now instead of panicking during the process, I let the spontaneity guide me. That way, the palette can organically come together. It’s much more freeing than fighting it and getting frustrated.
In short, I grew and matured a lot while working on this show!
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. Without a doubt, Mia’s work continues to impress and this latest series of works is yet another reason why everyone should be paying close attention to this artist.
See more work here: Art by Mia