May 9, 2014

Spotlight: Mia Christopher

Inside the artist's sketchbook.

Growing up – like most teenage girls, I would suppose – I always had a journal. My best friend at the time and I got so into writing down our every thought and feeling, we thought it would be funny to exchange journals at the end of every school year to get inside each other's heads. An interesting idea, sure, but ultimately a bad one – instead of honestly journaling what was swirling around in my head, I would erase and rip out pages that might potentially upset my friend, and judging by the scribblings-out riddling her journal, she’d done the same. What was meant to be so honest soon became another outlet to make someone else happy. We stopped exchanging journals after not too long.

And so it amazes me when others are able to genuinely bare all in their journals, unafraid of mistakes and potentially upsetting someone else. Although Mia Christopher isn’t calling out her best friend for missing her star performance in her middle school musical, the artwork she details into the pages of her journal are incredibly honest and genuine, and scanned into her computer for the world to see. Viewers can essentially flip through Mia’s journals and guess at her artistic thought process for the day, her feelings and emotions – what was going through her head, rendered through paintings, collage, stickers and words. It’s a weird thing, allowing “the Internet” to sift through something so personal as an artist’s sketchbook, but above all, incredibly brave.

THE LE SIGH: What drew you to start scanning your notebooks for the world to see?

Mia Christopher: My work tends to vary and has become specific to exhibitions. The sketchbooks are a consistent part of my practice so it felt natural to want to share these thoughts as a way of understanding my practice overall. They’re part journal, part painting, part collage, and they are limitless.

TLS: How fast, on average, do you run through a notebook?

MC: On average I’ve been filling one book every one-two months for the past five years. It does vary though; some notebooks span the length of four months and in other months, I’ve filled two books in one.

TLS: Do you create with the intention of exhibiting, or knowing people will eventually see your work? Or is it something you create for yourself and eventually decide the world can see it?

MC: I definitely don't create with the intention of the work being seen or exhibited. Exhibiting or even posting work online is often a secondary question to me, with some exceptions when it comes to very specific projects that require planning in that way. I feel more able to explore and create freely when I know the editing process will come later. I also find that when I plan something out too much I lose interest in the project much quicker than when it’s very open to chance and happy accidents.

TLS: Why have you chosen journals over other mediums? What do they accomplish that other mediums don't? Or, what do they say differently?

MC: I wouldn't say I’ve chosen journals over other mediums, but that they support my work in all mediums. The sketchbooks are a place to work quickly, to get everything out, to leave images unfinished and questions unanswered. They’re a place where I can collect and reflect and work instantly which I greatly enjoy. They require patience and a sense of time when experienced in person because of the nature of books and turning pages. Online or printed, the spreads become photographs or paintings, never truly capturing the same sensation you get when you hold a book in your hand and turn the pages at your leisure, examining all textures and tiny marks. They are alive and always changing.

TLS: Most people might not think to put other mediums outside writing/sketching in notebooks (band aid boxes, painting or stickers) - how do you decide to include something? Do you envision the outcome first and then find the method as you go along, or is it more organic, where you find something you dig, and it just naturally finds its way into your notebook? Both?

MC: I rarely second guess myself when working in my sketchbooks. That's what’s so nice about them. I've completely let go of any need to create something perfect, and that enables me to be free and make what whatever inside of me is leaning towards making in that moment. Sometimes it’s a beautiful piece of garbage I find on the street, or at work (I work at an elementary school and there is no lack of beautiful tiny things to be found), or flowers pressed from a hike. Other times I use acrylics and gouache and watercolors to create washy paintings, or tiny micron pens or gelly rolls to make intricate drawings. I don't pressure myself to follow a specific order or separate what goes into each book by anything other than my own intuition while working.

TLS: Do you have a way of organizing what goes in what notebook? How do you keep track of it all?

MC: The notebooks are chronological but other than that, I don't limit what goes into them. I rarely go back into a spread once I’ve turned the page. The sketchbooks are not about finished thoughts or perfection. They are about exploration, instant gratification, collecting and a measurement of marks through time. I’m slowly but surely documenting the books with the help of a wonderful friend. They change and both lose and gain something by being digitized, but I like having the power to share them in this way.

TLS: Some pages are more intricate than others, with more details, while others have less detail. Some have just a single sticker, or just words, instead of drawings or designs – what does each page reveal about your state of mind/thought process at the time?

MC: That’s something the audience is free to speculate about. I like working fast and getting out lots of ideas at once. I like giving works or stickers or drawings room to breathe. I like clutter and I like space and air. Each choice has its own purpose and history in coming to that decision.

TLS: In an alternate universe where it's totally cool to read other people's journals, whose would you snoop through?

MC: Paul Rudd's character Josh, in Clueless. I bet he kept a great, super angsty journal while going through his "post-adolescent idealistic phase."

See more of Mia's work here.

Written by Molly Morris