EK Interview: Mia Araujo

art blog - Mia Araujo - empty kingdom

I want to enter the worlds that Mia Araujo has painted, they’re so fantastic and elaborate (take a look from the EK feature in December 2010). Well I know I can’t but at least I got a bit of a glance into the lovely lady’s head in the interview below. Treat yourself to a peek as well.

Introduce yourself; tell us about where you’re from.
I’m Mia. I live in Los Angeles, though I’m in a smaller, quieter, lovelier part of LA than your imagination would lead you to believe. There are trees and I can see the stars at night, so I’m happy.
When did realize you wanted to be an artist?
I never had any doubt in my mind- I was obsessed with drawing from the first. Animated films, cartoons, and picture books fueled this obsession throughout my childhood. When I learned words and sentences, I fell in love with writing too. But for some reason it’s never eclipsed my need to draw, and eventually, to paint.

art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom

How soon after did you decide on acrylic as your preferred medium?
Many, many years after that. I truly ‘learned’ to paint in 2006, during my junior year in art school. Though there were a few valiant attempts to teach me by other teachers, it wasn’t until I had Nathan Ota as a painting instructor, whose preferred medium is acrylic? After one semester learning his technique, I sat in on a few of his classes over the winter break. He was teaching what I had learned the previous semester, but learning it a second time, it felt like a veil was lifted and everything just clicked. Of course it’s I been an uphill struggle learning ever since, and I often still feel that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I think that’s normal. I’ve stuck with acrylics because I liked it well enough, and really wanted to focus on one medium before getting in over my head with too many. However, lately I’ve been itching to try different media, so we’ll see what the future holds.
art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom

Can you describe some common themes behind your work?
The overarching idea behind my work is that I’m trying to depict the invisible world that lives around us. The layers of reality that are impossible to set physical eyes upon- memories, emotions, thoughts, intuition, dreams…these are all very real, and they shape our lives perhaps more strongly than the things that we can see…I’m fascinated by the idea that there is so much going on beneath the visible exterior. If I had a camera that could photograph this, I imagine a picture like one of my paintings might be the result.
On average how many colors do you use in your paintings?
The maximum I’ve ever used is 10. I would say average is 7 of those same 10.

How long do you typically spend on a painting? 
My larger works take upwards of 3 weeks with the drawing and concept stage included. My largest piece to date (36” x 48”) took about 8 or 10 weeks. But my process isn’t the most efficient I must admit – it’s done rather spontaneously, and if I planned things more than I do now, I could probably save time (or at least some gray hairs) in the long run.

Do you remember a lot of your dreams?
Actually, no. I’m much too tired every night and often sleep like the dead!

Are they incredibly vivid?
When I do dream, they’re vivid but very strange – and nothing like my work, really. They’re usually either wacky or terrifying.
art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom

Can you remember a specific dream that you’d like to share with us?
Hmm…Probably the one that stands out the most in my mind is this: I’m in a liquor store in the neighborhood of my old high school (a store that never existed, but in the dream that’s where it was supposed to be), and I’m wandering the aisles holding one of my tonsils in my hand. (At the time, my tonsils were suffering inflammation from stress, which is the only reason I would have known that’s what it was in my hand. It looked for the entire world like a miniature lung, and it was pulsing as if it were breathing)…quite disgusting, I know. Old classmates keep filing into the store, but I’m invisible to them, and trying to get their attention. It was quite a stressful dream, but I can’t remember how it ended.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is an unpredictable thing for me, but I can usually rely on literature, music, vintage photography, mythology, and tarot to provide it.

Do you incorporate many themes into each specific piece?
I do. The entire reason why there are so many details in each piece is that I am trying to paint as many facets of one story as possible in one image – it’s just how my brain works, I suppose. I couldn’t give you one sentence to describe or explain something, if I have enough thoughts for a paragraph, you see. Some might say that I need to edit and choose one theme or one idea per piece, but the thing is that I want to portray it like this. I want to show the complexity and multi-faceted side of our existence in my work.

Who are the figures in your paintings and who or what do they represent?
The central figures in my paintings are usually the main characters of a story or fairy tale – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bluebeard, Cinderella, Snow White, the Spectre Bridegroom – sometimes the stories are ones that I make up, but the figure is the heroine there too. She is supposed to be a universal figure, but also specific to her own story. The details in each painting inhabit her – she is their environment. Without the many aspects and mini-stories in the piece, these women could be anyone on the outside. The miniature figures and faces floating around usually represent spirits and ghosts, or thoughts and memories of people in the main character’s life.
art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom

You just opened a new show, tell us about it.
‘The Secret Keepers’ at Roq la Rue Gallery opened on February 4th and closes on the 5th of March. The idea behind that series is secrets and the people who keep them. For example, ‘the Spectre Bridegroom’ and ‘Bluebeard’ are both stories about men who keep secrets from their brides: in the first, the Bride discovers that the truth is actually better once the secret is revealed, in the second story however, the bride sees her husband for the monster that he really is. The other two stories are about women who keep secrets – ‘Snow in Summer’ is Jane Yolen’s re-imagining of the Snow White story, in which the young ‘Summer’ is forced to keep a lot of secrets about her evil witch stepmother from the people around her. ‘Siren’s Song’ is about three sirens, who together make up a ‘Triple Goddess’. Their domain is the watery grave of many a shipwrecked crew and intrepid diver. The sirens jealously guard the secrets of the deep, the mysteries hidden beneath the waters, and the fate of all who dare to brave the seas.

Where do you hope to be in three years?
Well, I’ll be 27 and still barely at the beginning of my artistic journey! If I can keep learning and honing my craft, refining my story-telling and conceptual skills, and get by financially while still showing my work in galleries, then I’d be more than happy. I want to travel more and meet people – really soak up life!
I do hope to find a way to tell mini-stories in book form- like wordless picture books for adults. I have a lot of ideas for an art book that tells a story in an unconventional sort of way, but I’d have to find a way to do it efficiently so as not to take too much time away from my fine art.
I fill a lot of sketchbooks each year, so it would also be nice to publish a selection of pages from some of them. People see my finished work all of the time, but my sketchbooks are really loose and rough, so I like to flip through them myself from time to time. Hopefully others will find them equally interesting.
art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom

What artists have been influential to you?
Too many to mention altogether, but a few off the top of my head – Arthur Rackham, Hayao Miyazaki, Takehiko Inoue, Glen Keane, and Kinuko Craft. That’s a good cross-section from my childhood, high school, and college years.

What artists are you currently following/interested in?
So many here too, but let me try: Femke Hiemstra, Jeremy Geddes, Chris Berens, Matsui Fuyuko, Kris Kuksi, Edwin Ushiro, Vania Zouravliov, Sterling Hundley, Barron Storey …hmm, I know I’ll think of someone else right after I send this to you!

What are you most excited about for the upcoming year?
Well, starting in April or May of this year, I’ll be working on my very first solo show for 12 months straight. The show opens in May of 2012 at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, so most of the work will be completely under wraps for an entire year. I’ve never done that before, so it’ll be a terrifying but exhilarating experience. But you know, the more I think of it, it grows less terrifying and more like a puzzle – fun, yet difficult to crack.
art blog - Mia Araujo - Empty Kingdom
Finger paint or paper-mâché?
I’ve always wanted to try paper-mâché – plus it’s three-dimensional, which is foreign territory for me. A perfect environment to play in!

Death by dismemberment or dishonor?
Death by dismemberment, but by wild animals, please. I think I could resign to that better knowing that I gave them a good chase and am contributing to the food chain, as opposed to being the victim of a sadistic or war-related style of dismemberment.