Thanks to Tales for Karina's giveaway posted last week, I discovered the crazy talented and super sweet work of Mab Graves! After stalking her work for what seemed like a LONG time, I noticed that this awesome lady lives right in my hometown of Indy. I was so excited that I HAD to contact her.
Today I wanted to share her work and a little bit of backstory about the art and what started it all!
Bio of Mab Graves
Name: Mab Graves
Occupation: Pop Surrealist Painter
Born in: Neverland
Current Studio Location: Indianapolis, IN
Mab Graves was discovered in a cabbage patch on a cool August night several years ago. The note pinned to her blanket said CHANGELING but her parents decided they would call her Mab instead. The child Mab soon discovered crayons, and spent hours writing secret documents and drawing maps that her beaming parents proudly displayed on the refrigerator.
After experimenting with cryptograms and anagrams, she soon realized that pictograms were the most effective forms of communicating. Ever supportive, her parents had them framed and placed on the wall above the mantle. Later on she learned English and was able to articulate passably (if not awkwardly) with the rest of human society.
It wasn’t until she learned to write the words IMMINENT PERIL that her adoring family finally realized that something may not be just right. After sending her to many doctors and specialists, a diagnosis of “Terminal Artist” was pronounced. Her concerned family was given small comfort from the medical staff who quietly assured them that it was no fault of their own – she was just born that way.
I have all these little girls floating around inside me waiting (not patiently) to exist. I paint because I need to but these girls are not for me. Every piece I paint has a soul mate somewhere out in the world. Someone it utterly belongs to. I get a wild elation when they finally meet. That’s why I call them my Waifs and Strays. They are all little orphans that come out of my mind. I think of myself as a “surrogate painter”.
Pop Surrealism a marriage between surrealism and pop, usually with a heavy amount of symbolism and a splash of irony. You will find widely varying styles and themes, but it is usually a visual story with a twist. It’s not in any way abstract. It’s often highly illustrative, edgy and clever.
When and how did you get started? Did you always know drawing was how you'd earn a living, or did a light bulb go on one day?
I don’t think there was ever really a genesis for me. I guess it started right around the time I discovered crayons. I’ve been obsessed with drawing ever since, but I will create with anything. Fabric, foam, fur, you give me a pile of wire and make me sit still for five minutes and there will be a little horned wire creature coming to get you! I never dreamed that I would be able to support myself as an artist. They always tell you that “artist” is synonymous for “starving” so I always assumed I would work two day jobs and paint my nights away.
Like I said, I have been drawing since I was little but only started painting a few years ago. I didn’t go to school for art. When I finally “came out” as a painter, no one in the city I was living in even knew I was an artist. I had a little room in the house I was renting, filled floor to ceiling with paintings that no one had ever seen. The upside to being completely unknown was that I was able to emerge with a body of work and my own style, rather than having people see my work over a number of years and say “oh, she is improving”. It caused a bit of a splash, and that got the ball rolling.
My favorite artists are Ray Caesar, James Jean and Gennday Spirin. They are each very different from each other, but I never cease to be amazed by their creations! My main sources of inspiration are books and fairytales. I am a terminal bibliophile and come from a long line of book addicts. I always start with a story - I love old fairy tales and folklore. They are a universal language and an innocent connection we all share.
Usually, as soon as I pick a story the image is there. It gets Mabbed up instantly in my head. I don’t really know where it comes from. I say my work is very “Grimmsical” (grim but whimsical). I have an odd sense of humor and I try never to take anything too seriously. There needs to be lightness to life.
Mab’s Advice to all emerging artists:
There is a great trend in pop-surrealists to be vulgar and shocking. Stay away from that! It requires so much more skill to be subtle than it does to be obscene. Darkness, sadness and filth are all around us, and I think it’s our jobs as artists to put a spin on things.
I try never to underestimate the intelligence of my audience. You don’t have to spell everything out in black and blood to get people to understand your message. It is very important for me to try to maintain a dignity and a subtlety to my work. A tinted innocence. And as much fun as it is to create sarcastic political art, at the end of the day when I come home, I just want to make something beautiful…. When you paint the only boundary that exists is you.
Mab is such a sweetheart that she sent me a lovely little swag package with some of her cutest etsy shop items. I can't wait to show it off here next week! Have a fantastic Wednesday everyone!