Artist interview: Mel Stringer

Mel Stringer

I had the joy of conducting an email interview with the lovely artist Mel Stringer recently – you might already be a fan of her work on Frankie Magazine, or her well-stocked and extremely popular Etsy shop; but if you aren’t, you might just change your mind.

Hi Mel! Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Are you a full time artist?

I am a full time artist, yes. It was a tad scary making the leap from part time to full time but every day is rewarding when you work for yourself. There are definitely days when I need to force myself to dig my feet into the sand on the beach or watch movies in bed though, a charging of batteries so to speak. There’s always so many possibilities!

Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what is your daily schedule like?

I’m currently based in Brisbane, Australia. It’s a sub-tropical city with a healthy list of artists and musicians. I work from my home-based studio and I love it.

A typical day would be waking early, feeding my pug Grover, checking emails and clicking around on the internet. Checking my calendar and making a to-do list for the day. At the moment I’m really inspired to work when listening to 70’s R&B, so I’ll crank up some tunes and start working on packing orders, commissioned portraits or just scribbling and dabbling about – dreaming up new ideas in my sketchbook.

Then I’ll head out to the stationery shop to get supplies or the post office to mail stuff off. Most days I’ll bring Grover in with me but he won’t sit still.

Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

Of course! Here are a few snapshots taken from my Instagram.

sketchbooks

I love your style – how did it come about?

I was brought up with such inspirational sources as my Dad who is a cartoonist himself, Disney, Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, Astro Boy, MAD Magazine, Sailor Moon, Don Bluth and those sorts of cartoons that most kids my age grew up watching.

As I got older my influences started to include artists like Robert Crumb, Yoshitomo Nara, Dan Clowes, Ross Campbell, Plump Oyster. A running thread throughout these artists was the way they depicted girls and women in their work. I really connected with it and identified with the shapes and figures they were putting down.

I started drawing my own body and face more and more after I left highschool. It’s a form of self love when I can be proud of what I see on paper and in my reflection.

You have a new book out – Cute Yum, published by Belly Books. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What was the inspiration behind the book, and how did it all come together?

Mel Stringer for Cute Yum

Mel Stringer for Cute Yum

I was approached by Belly Kids late last year about the possibility of working with them on a publication. I had a long think about what I would most like to make and what’s been bubbling up inside me for some time that I just needed to express. I decided on creating a huge collection of female fashionistas (both minimalist and ott) modeling their clothing combinations. That way I could draw my girls, my most favorite types of clothing and have it all in a big collection.

I was inspired by the Japanese street fashion book FRUITS when I found it in late highschool. Since then I’ve been so impressed by street fashion blogs and Japanese fashion. Cute Yum is my own version of street fashion photography.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

Girl Glue #2 is coming out soon, it’s a zine that’s focused on creative females that I put together. A few other projects being brewed too! I’m hopefully setting up a new studio in the near future soon, somewhere to spread out and get into my musical project Sparkle Gang as well.

In the next few years I can only hope to be happy and doing cool stuff that I love.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out as an artist/illustrator?

Stay strong, be brave. Everything else just happens naturally if you are truly passionate about your work. In saying that, I feel I’m still only just starting out so this advice is for me in this present moment as well.

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Thanks so much Mel! You can pre-order Mel’s latest book Cute Yum, published by Belly Books over here.

Silvia Celiberti: creating visuals for the brain and stomach

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I don’t get emails that pique my interests enough, but when Silvia Celiberti sent me one that talked about her illustrations for a new book called The In vitro Meat Cookbook – an intriguing publication about the future of laboratory meat and it impact on our society, culture and habits – I knew I had to see for myself what it was all about.

From Silvia’s description of the project:

In 2013 the world’s first lab grown burger was cooked. Nevertheless, many people still find it an unattractive idea to eat meat from a lab. And rightly so, because before we can decide whether we will ever be willing to consume in vitro meat, we must explore the new food cultures it may bring us.

The In Vitro Meat Cookbook is a project by Next Nature. I collaborated with the creative team in developing and visualising the wild recipes in typical meaty fashion (red ballpoint), with more than 40 “meta- illustrations”. The stylistic choice meant  to communicate further than what’s merely the pictorial aspect of the image; as somebody would when encountering something utterly new, foreign and mysterious, we tried tried to document the In Vitro Meat Cookbook future until its most idle details.

The In Vitro Meat Cookbook aims to move beyond in vitro meat as an inferior fake-meat replacement or horseless carriage, to explore its creative prospects and visualise what in vitro meat products might be on our plate one day.

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Her illustrations, using a red ball point Bic pen is detailed as it is beautiful in its outlandish suggestions (but is it?) of what the future might hold for such scientific discoveries. Her previous portfolio shows a mix of projects that shadows her passion in food, the environment, sustainability, and community that has led her to projects that somehow merge these topics together. As she so succinctly describes the intention for The In vitro Meat Cookbook:

The aim of the project was not to promote lab-grown meat, nor to predict the future, but rather to visualise a wide range of possible new dishes and food cultures to help us decide what future we actually want.

Go ahead and see her portfolio – and be wowed with not just her illustrations, but by her humour and yes, her brains.

2015: The year of taking charge

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I had taken two weeks off from everything: teaching, family, this blog, everything.

And what did I do? What did I spend my 14 days doing prior to ringing in the new year? Was it something productive like sorting out my receipts and re-arranging the mess of a corner that I call my workstation (I work just fine, thankyouverymuch, and things are where they’re meant to be.)

Nope.

Here’s what I did instead: I was binge-watching The Mindy Project because I had just discovered the show, oh only after it ran for 3 seasons. I was laughing and giggling over the chemistry between Dr Mindy Lahiri and her colleague Dr Danny Castellano while nodding my head whenever she was talking about how other things can wait when it comes to food. Or that you’re crazy not to have seconds of anything. Oh yes. That’s what I watched. For some her voice might be grating enough to turn them off, but for me, I had to control myself from snorting out food through my nose whenever the punchline kicked in (did I also mention I didn’t stop watching even when it was lunchtime?)

So yes I binged watched for the entire 2 weeks while I was off. And I’m not embarrassed to say that I enjoyed it. That and oh, chocolates.

I deserved it.

That, for me, was the act of taking charge of my time.

And I want to do more of that in 2015. Not the binge-watching TV show bit, but the taking control bit.

But wait, doesn’t taking charge mean doing something proactive? Something useful? Yes, it can be that too. But that’s not the point. The whole point of taking control is to be able to exercise your choice – irregardless of what other people might think. You need to know what you’re doing and what you’re doing has to be purposeful. And that is totally different from merely slacking off.

I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt while I was reclining on my sofa, cradling my laptop to the tune of crazy nurse Morgan as he deadpans about his dogs. I emptied my mind and let myself do nothing for a change. And while I do watch my favourite TV shows from time to time – having 2 weeks of pure uninterrupted bliss time to call my own is just what I needed to recharge my exhausted batteries. Your methods may vary, and so will your mileage.

Because society and life in general puts too much pressure on people to do things all the time. Sure, there are times when you can’t afford to take a break. Or maybe you’re not into The Mindy Project like I am. The point isn’t about reclining on sofas and watching comedies while popping Picnic bars. It’s about taking charge of what you want, and ultimately what you need to do to move forward.

I knew that I had been through a bit of an emotional roller coaster in 2014. One of my first dogs ever died. I ran another fun, successful second session of Work/Art/Play. There was also the 2014 Artists and Illustrator survey. I did a redesign of my blog. I participated in a local zine fair where I peddled my zines and gave a talk among other great designers. I took on a part-time stint as an art director at a regional PR firm. I was at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content as a moderator for several keynotes and a one-day workshop. And a few other wins and losses that I can’t seem to remember right now, but that’s okay.

2014 was a relatively slow year, truth be told. And I didn’t mind it one bit. There are times when we surge and forge ahead, and there are times where we back down a little – not out of defeat, but to prepare for whatever life throws at us next. We lick our wounds and treat our pain – physical or emotional – and get ourself ready for what’s to come.

And 2015 is going to be one exciting year, I can guarantee you that.

Just make sure you get off the sofa like I did.

So here’s my question for you:

What will you take charge of this year?

Maybe it’s taking charge of your time so that you can finally spend that time on learning that new technique you’ve been meaning to try out; or it means taking charge of your art and business so you can do what you love and be rewarded for it.

I’d love it if you would share with me (and I read every comment):

  1. What does taking charge mean to you?
  2. What’s your focus for 2015? What do you want to change?
[Illustration by Tyler Feder of Mindy Kaling on The Mindy Project. Available as a print in her Etsy shop.]
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