Mia Christopher’s work was featured on Make Space last summer (here). She is graduating with her BFA from the California College of the Arts with a concentration in painting and drawing. Now she shares her practice and process with us!
On process and collecting:
For me, art making is cyclical. I’ve found that everything I do, see or read tends to eventually come back around into the studio at some point or another, consciously or not. My collection of sketchbooks is probably one of the most significant aspects of my practice. The space within a book allows for a different type of painting and recording process. Accidents happen in them from one page to the next. Paint might not dry before I turn the page and new textures appear through the bleeds between pages which will influence the next marks made. The spreads in my sketchbooks are especially loose and there is a sort of magic that seems to happen in them. I revisit these thought catalogs frequently; I often come across a fleeting idea I scribbled down and then forgot, becoming inspired by an old drawing or color relationship. There is a lot of value in rapid, half-finished thoughts.
Working on more than one project at once allows me the freedom to work fast, and let something rest while attacking something else, and being able to revisit it again after my focus has shifted a bit. I do a lot of studies using a variety of materials. Making new bodies of work quickly and then putting them away is a good way of working for me.
On materials and medium:
Often my starting point is a color or material rather than a specific idea. I am diligent about always carrying my sketchbook with me and some sort of camera, even though it’s usually just the camera on my phone. It is rare that I work directly from images, but I collect information that appeals to me on aesthetic and conceptual levels and eventually it all seems to weave itself back into my work. I just saw Titanic in 3D and captured a bunch of images with my phone that are very abstract and am about to start a new series of paintings inspired by these images and my experience as the viewer.
I am interested in the choices I make in the studio of what is salvaged, what is thrown away, what is repurposed into something precious, what is used as an art making tool, and so forth. I can’t bear to throw away any of my pencil shavings so I’ve started saving them in mason jars. I save scraps of paint that have fallen and dried on the floor in a little papier-mache container made from old drawings. Some of them are paintings in their own right. Tape from canvas edges is something that I’ve started to collect, sometimes the tape is balled up and coated in paint and sprinkled with glitter and turned into sculptures, other times it ends up in the garbage pile. When I was in grade school and my family first got AOL I was obsessive about saving all of my chats with friends. I would print them out and paste them into diaries. In high school, I wrote by hand every text message my boyfriend sent me and filled four sketchbooks with them. I didn’t record my responses, so it’s just a one-sided conversation. I’ve begun to intentionally transform these self-imposed rules into systems from which to create work.
Right now I am working with a lot of latex house paint, raw cotton from local farms, craft glitter, varying types of paper (fine art paper, found paper, handmade papers, etc), canvas, gouache, oil paints and mediums, nail polish and other cosmetics, dirt, and so on. I recently met a woman in San Francisco who makes paper from the stuffing in discarded futons. It’s this rough, sort of muddy pink colored paper with so much texture and character. Each of these materials have a specific grounding in art history and contemporary culture that inherently speak for themselves.
On space and site:
My studio is currently split between my home in the Mission and my school studio (for four more weeks) at California College of the Arts in Potrero Hill. It’s a nice half hour walk between the two which allows me to take in my environment and focus on breathing which is something I too often neglect. On my walks home I’ll often go out of the way, and walk past where I live in the Mission up into the hills of the Castro, sometimes all the way up to Twin Peaks. I love the colors in San Francisco, the whole city is reflected in my palette. So many cool creams, warm pinks, bright yellows, grays, blues, deep greens.
I grew up just north of San Francisco but my family moved to the west suburbs of Chicago just before I started high school. After attending The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a little over a year, I realized it was crucial for me to come back to the Bay Area. What began as taking one year off turned into a permanent move to San Francisco. I later transferred to CCA to complete my BFA, which I will receive this May. I feel an undeniably strong tie to this place and its impact on my work.
For me, work and life are not separate. Everything informs everything else. Constantly working brings me the most pleasure; I would rather be working in the studio than doing almost anything else. Making is the most exciting experience for me.