Saturday, September 27, 2014

Girlie Pains | An interview with artist Mel Stringer

What was growing up for you like? 

I was a pretty happy and outgoing kid. I loved to draw, watch cartoons, play with my sister. My Dad is a cartoonist which made life all the more interesting. In my teen years I got a bit angsty but was still happy. I found it very important to document my teenage years through drawing, photography and journals. I have so many portraits of my friends from that time, sometimes it's nice to look back.

 Were you always interested in art an early age or was it something that grew into? 

I grew up being encouraged by my Dad to draw and express myself through music. My sister was also encouraged to be creative and musical, she's putting those personality traits into teaching. My mum isn't creative but she was very encouraging too.

 Did you undertake any official art training?

I left high school, worked for a year and moved across the country from Darwin to study Visual Arts in Brisbane. I studied for two years but lost my passion for the whole thing quite early on when I wasn't feeling nourished. The teachers were really lovely and I'd made a few friends but they were closing down the campus to move it into the city and the whole place just gradually became a ghost town.
A week before I went to study this Visual Arts course, I was in the middle of the city with my sister in line to meet the guy who draws Emily The Strange. Somehow we struck up a conversation with a an alternative girl in front of us. We spoke for maybe half an hour, I cant even remember what we spoke about but a week later when I turned up at campus, there she was.
Excited and ready to study an Animation course. We became great friends and we're still close. She's one of the fondest memories of that particular time in my life.

  Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? 

There are so many places where I find inspiration. The music I listen to, the books I read. Sometimes it's not even anything specific but sometimes it's about pushing out feelings in a cathartic way.
The women I draw are all essentially part of me, being expressive, speaking for me.

 Where do you come up with a lot of the faces and mannerisms of the subjects in your pieces? Are they semi-based on people you know or simply people grown in your imagination?

I don't think of the subjects I draw as 'characters'. I don't plan what I draw, I don't plan what their faces are supposed to communicate. I just draw because I know I've got energy to get out and share. The girls end up being whatever they want to be, they aren't based on anything that's well-thought through.

 How would you describe your art?

At first glance I see cute, weird, moody, sometimes erotic, tough, sad, melancholy, mean, joyful, kawaii, chubby, strong.
Below the surface I see liberating, feminine, open and confronting.

 Majority of the subjects in your pieces are women. What is it about females and the female spirit that you like so much? Is it fair to say there is a real kawaii feminist punk aesthetic that underpins your work?

I used to draw boys a lot more when I was younger. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up and idolised boys and the things they liked. As I grew up I realised I had really let myself miss out on exploring and celebrating the magic of sisterhood. I was only really friends with boys or girls who weren't too 'girly' as well.

I started drawing more women, started finding strong female role models and became less interested in celebrating boys. I guess, to paraphrase you, I'm a neo feminist kawaii punk girly tomboy. I'm a gemini so I believe that I have that capacity to be lots of different colours at the same time.

 Who are some of your own favourite artists and why?

There are a bunch that I absolutely adore, I can't begin to name them all. Ben Constantine, Wishcandy, Sugarbones, Natali Martinez, Hellen Jo, Dan Clowes, Yoshitomo Nara, Robert Crumb, Amy Earles, Natasha Allegri.

  Is there a particular person or artist you would love to work with? 

I haven't really thought about that in a while!

What are your favourite colours, formats and materials to work with?

I love BLACK, pink & blue together, pastel hues. Straight-up primary colours make me wanna vom. My usual go-to materials are digital (using a drawing tablet and drawing software), watercolour, pencils, lead pencils and nice watercolour paper. I try to keep it simple so I don't have too much to stress about.

 When your working on a piece are there central themes you tend to re-visit or concepts you like to base your projects on?

It just depends on what I'm going through, feeling or what I'm into at the time but of course my central theme is the female face / form.

  Is there any direction you would like to go with your art that you haven't conceptualised yet? 

I try not to think too much into the future, that sort of thinking only rips me out of the moment and that's when things become trite. I try to let things just go at their own pace. If I have an art block, I see it as a blessing for rest. If I happen to go down a certain path then I follow it. If it's not feeling good, I retreat. So we'll see.

What can we expect from Mel Stringer in the next 12 months?

I'm actually just starting work on something very cool with the UK's 'Belly Kids' so that should be exciting. Keep an eye out for that. New issues of Girl Glue will be happening and hopefully some new rad stickers and cool stuff.