Just in case my Bride of Frankenstein post overwhelmed you, I must give proper attention to Mab Graves work.
I couldn’t possibly capture the spirit of her work in words any better than herself: My creations, my obsessions, my darlings. My waifs and strays. To inspire you, capture your wall, hold it hostage and not let go. Or maybe just to vaguely creep you out. Each piece below is an original painting. Each painting is a piece of my heart.
Mab currently has an exhibit in the The Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. She wanted to do something vast and intricate: a fairytale and tell a story, so in fact, the exhibit is actually a double feature with two shows:
The Adventures of Harlow, the Raven King, and several possums
Harlow and the Raven King is a fairytale told in pictures. Painted in the Grimsical Victorian style of old children’s stories, it is about a little girl, two orphans, an ill-intentioned beast, a mysterious masked man, and the death of a possum.
Harlow and the Raven King will be told in 34 new paintings, illustrations, cameos, and paper-dolls.
The Super Show
The Super Show is a portrait show. Old-photograph style portraits of little girls, retro latex, and old fussy wallpaper.
Like the ancestral photos of your great-aunt super-whatsit when she was but a girl of nine.
I had a quick chat with Mab about her body of work and her answers truly reflect her work.
I know from your bio, you never went to Art School, how did you get started in this career?
I have loved drawing and creating ever since I could grip a crayon, but I started really painting a couple years ago after my grandmother died. I had quit my job to take care of her and I was in an astonishingly deep, dark place.
Painting, I discovered is a healing and otherworldly catharsis.
I had an old canvas, a rotten sumi brush and a starter set of acrylic paints. I painted the Siblings (the last painting in the gallery on my website) and they took me a whole month to finish. I had no idea what I was doing or where to start.
I had to learn SO much about wrist movement and brush turning to get the detail I wanted, creating my own techniques to compensate for working with the wrong materials.
When I finished the Siblings, I went out and bought a real brush set. It was like buying wings!
What mediums and materials do you prefer?
I have played with everything I could get my hands on. If I can paint with it – I will use it! Different materials work better for different things. Oils give the most glowing, soft skin tones, but a whole piece in oils takes FOREVER to dry so I use a lot of gouache and acrylic and I’ll layer them with ink washes or watercolor shadows. Gouache is my love-crush for details. It pops right off the canvas and stays exactly where you want it.
You call your paintings, Your waifs and your strays. Why?
My paintings come from my soul. They are so tightly connected to me that I can feel it.
But they are not mine, as much as I always desperately want them to be. Everything I paint belongs to someone else. They are my Beloved Orphans. That is the reason my website says “Adoption” instead of “For Sale”. I am simply a Surrogate Painter.
Your universe seems like a strange mix between superheroes and an enchanted wonderland. What are your influences?
My mind is a Grimmsical place. I love painting from old stories and fairytales because even before you begin, there is so mush history. So much is already woven in before I even pick up a brush. Also, people can understand and connect with them right away. They don’t have to wonder who she is or what is happening. Art is a universal language and fairytales are immortal.
Your characters all seem to share a mischievous attitude, whether in their stare or in their body stance.
Is this deliberate or is it something that’s already innate in you?
They are exactly who they want to be. (See answer #6 – no control!)
I sure people who see them have their own ideas about what is what, but to me – they all share and old soul and a kind of silence. I paint Lolita.
I also have a scandalous and dark sense of humor. I revel in whimsy. I suppose, unconsciously that comes through somehow.
How do you start a painting, do you get a precise idea of what you want to transmit beforehand, or do you just let it guide you into uncharted territory?
I really do a terrible job at this. I don’t sketch or plan. I just paint. I have an amusing lack of control over what comes out of my brush. Once I set out to do a painting of a West Highland Terrier – it ended up being a painting of the Madonna. Usually, I have some wild inspiration that gets me started, but it’s never solid images, its fluid. I always attempt to distract my conscious mind as much as possible. Drink a pot of tea, while watching a movie (British murder mystery – YES) and listening to an audio book. Anything I can do to let my subconscious mind take the reigns. I paint on autopilot.