A few weeks ago, The Collective Bloggers enjoyed a weekend at WonderCon Anaheim and I was lucky enough to find artist Mia Araujo on my last walk through of Artist Alley. I don’t usually buy wall art, mostly sticking to handmade jewelry, pins and the occasional book or postcard. But, if you read my Top 3 WCA 2017 Moments, you’ll know I came across Mia and had to stop and stare. After the Con, I reached out to Mia and asked her to answer a few questions about family, fandom and the forest as inspiration. Check out her answers below and be sure to visit Mia’s website and subscribe to her newsletter.
All art has been reposted with permission of the artist.
xoxo C. Diva
What made you decide to develop the Alice in Wonderland theme in your work and how will it differ from other interpretations we have seen in the past?
Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite books. I knew I could never match Lewis Carroll’s wit or charm, so I decided to go in a completely different direction. In the original story, Alice’s sister is merely a bookend character that reads Alice to sleep, but being a sister myself, I couldn’t help but think of this as a sister story. So it will be a different take from that standpoint alone.
I also chose to set Alice in Wonderland in a fantastical African setting, because I am dying to see more high fantasy stories set in Africa! I’m too impatient to wait around for Hollywood or other artists to do it, and as with all my work, I paint and draw the worlds and characters that I want to see more of. I’m doing a ton of research to create a fantastical West African society that Alice is born into, and Wonderland itself is inspired by the impenetrable forest of Gabon. I can’t wait to share what I’ve come up with!
When we met, you mentioned your love of the forest and how you wanted to use the images of the forest in your work. Will you elaborate on how the forest inspires you and how that inspiration translates to your current projects?
There’s a paradoxical nature to forests, in that they’re tranquil, but potentially dangerous, which I love. Symbolically in fairy tales, folk tales, and mythologies around the world, journeying through a forest is a metaphor for one’s own inner journey. And I love the connection that humans have with trees- the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the simple fact that we provide each other with life is a sacred thing. In 2012, I did an entire body of work called ‘Into the Woods’ which focused on forests, and I used human characters as an embodiment of tree spirits, to directly make that visual connection that humans and trees have. When a forest dies, humans die. Perhaps if the results of deforestation were more immediate or more visible in the short term, we would protect our forests more fervently.
I’m thrilled to continue exploring forests through Alice in Wonderland. In my reinterpretation, Wonderland is an underground forest, filled with magic and nature spirits that guide or tempt Alice throughout her journey. So I’m happy to be touching upon these themes of self-discovery, and our connection to nature as symbolized by forests, with this story as well.
You have a lovely twin sister, Barbara, who worked along side you at WonderCon 2017. How does your relationship with her effect your rendition of Alice in Wonderland?
My sister is amazing, and our bond is unlike any that I will ever have with another person for as long as I live. We were born together, grew up together, learned to draw together, we did EVERYTHING together, until we chose different majors in college. When I moved out 4 years ago, it was a very painful and difficult time for both of us. Having to separate from someone so dear to you with whom you have this inextricable bond is painful, but necessary in order to become your own person. And that’s the story I’m telling through Alice in Wonderland. Alice and her sister Ada both see the White Rabbit, and make different choices. They each choose a different path and a different world to live in, and as painful as that choice is, it’s necessary for their growth as individuals. I began working on this project around the time that I moved out, and it’s been a very powerful way for me to process and heal through that transition.
What is the final Alice in Wonderland project going to look like? What’s the end result of all this hard work?
My goal from the beginning has been to write and illustrate the story, and to self-publish the finalized hard-cover book. I want it to be 10% text and 90% art. The closest example I can think of is the Faeries book by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, which has finished paintings, drawings, and sketches on every page, and text on some. I want you to be able to read the story if you want, but to also ‘get’ the story visually. It won’t be sequential art like a graphic novel, but perhaps more like a picture book for adults. I realize that it’s a tremendous undertaking, and having a day-job doesn’t make it any easier, but I’m super excited to share this world I’m creating, and am working really hard to get it done as soon as possible.
Do you belong to any fandoms? How do you incorporate your love of fandom into your art?
Oh my gosh, yes! My first ever fandom was Disney…I grew up on Disney animation and wanted to be an animator ever since I was little. Over time I realized that I much prefer creating worlds and characters, and that’s what I love about Disney and all the fandoms that I’m a part of- the iconic, memorable characters, and fantastical worlds you just want to get lost in. And that’s honestly a goal to strive for with anything that I create.
I am also a huge Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars nerd, I love a few of the Marvel movies, and there are various tv shows that I geek out about like Hannibal and Firefly. I’ve done a couple of Game of Thrones painting, and needless to say, I see more fanart in my future!
You tweeted that 2017 was your first WonderCon. What was your favorite part of the convention? Do you plan on attending any other conventions this year? When and where can we find you?
I honestly didn’t know what to expect- I’ve been attending cons as a fan for years, but being on the other side was such a mind-blowing experience for me! I learned so much, made new friends, and got to spend some quality time with my sister doing something neither of us have ever done before, which was super fun! My favorite part was meeting people and getting to engage with them face to face. I spend all my time creating art alone in my studio, and at my day-job as a server I meet people everyday but it has nothing to do with art. So it was like a clashing together of both of my worlds, and I couldn’t have been happier. I met so many incredible people, and seeing them enjoy and get something out of my work is the greatest thing an artist could ask for ❤
My next show will be at Long Beach Comic Con this September, and I’m hoping to get approved for one more show this year. I would love to eventually do about 4-6 shows a year in different cities around the US. I just love the energy and enthusiasm of conventions- it inspires me beyond belief! Until then, feel free to find me on facebook (facebook.com/miafineart) and Instagram, or on my website.
Thanks so much for interviewing me, Diva! ❤
It was my pleasure!