Interview w/ Maria Cecilie Midttun
Hi Maria! Can you briefly introduce yourself? Like where are you from, how old are you, what’s your zodiac sign?
Hello! I am a Norwegian illustrator based in London, originally from a small village called Slettås Trysil. I’m 26 years old and a Leo!
Which materials/techniques do you feel most comfortable with? What do you not get along with?
I enjoy making collages with drawn and painted pieces of paper, or just simple charcoal drawings. I’m not so good with inks and watercolors.
How do abstract and figurative aspects interplay in your artworks?
My abstract and figurative work started out as two separate things, but recently I’ve been trying to bring the two together. Sometimes abstract work sparks an idea for something figurative, or the other way around. I go through phases of what I spend more time on, it’s nice to be able to take a break and do something a little bit different if I feel uninspired.
Most of your works are pencil drawings, how come?
It has always been my go-to medium. I guess it was one I thought I had figured out, then stuck with it. I like the simplicity of the pencil, it is honest in a way, I also like how accessible and inexpensive it is.
What is the role of patterns and textures in your works?
I use patterns and textures to avoid my work looking too smooth or clinical, not that my work could ever really do that when I think about it. I always aim for my work to be efficient and lo-fi, and I think the hand drawn textures and patterns adds nicely to that. When I use photocopiers in my work, and edit my pictures, I always try to enhance the naturally occurring textures.
You have a very specific color palette, what inspires you to use specific colors?
Colors have never been my strength. Forms and textures come easier to me. I am still trying to figure it out and I am getting a little bit better, I think, but it is a long way to go. For now, I have been sticking to sort of clean colors, something I think goes well with the simplicity of my artwork, and I found something that I think works for now.
A lot of illustrators rarely touch an actual pen and rather use a graphic pad to work digitally. What does your work process look like?
It depends a lot on how much time I got on my hands and wether it is personal work or for a client. But it mostly starts out with charcoal drawings and collages. I mostly doodle when I work on commissioned projects, then I puzzle all my favourite bits together in photoshop. It is important to keep it intuitive and spontaneous. With my collages I ideally photocopy them before scanning if I have time, it flattens the collage nicely and adds a little bit of texture. The rest of the process is photoshopping, but more in a way of touching up, adding colour in some instances, and playing around with compositions. When I do personal work it is much more straight forward, and there is less digital editing.
Your Oeuvre in 3 words?
Lo-fi, minimal, playful.
Here the obligatory, annoying question: have people tried interpreting your works, if so what do you think about that? Is there an interpretation to them?
Not that I am aware of! If people would like to interpret my work that is cool. Most of the time it is more a mood, atmosphere or feeling I am trying to get across, and sometimes it is just a fun image to make that I try to make look nice. A lot of the time it is about the process too.
You also publish zines. What exactly is a zine and what are your zines about?
I guess my self published little books don’t really classify as zines in a traditional sense. Although I think they carry the idea of punk and d.i.y. culture, but with a different content. My zines are mostly about visual ideas and forms I am exploring, put together in a simple book format. Most of the time I don’t have too much of a plan making them, but looking back at my work I sometimes find a theme that ties it together. It is a also a way for me to try out new techniques and ideas. I am also really into the book as a format.
When and why did you leave Norway? What do you miss about it?
I left Norway when I was 19 to study in the UK. There are a lot of things I miss about Norway and my hometown, especially this time of the year because the winter is really amazing there. Except from friends and family, I miss wild nature, and that it is so accessible, clean air, clean water and a place to swim that is not a public swimming pool.
What is your favourite place to be in London?
I recently relocated in London, so I am just about to get to know a new area which is exciting and frustrating at the same time. I don’t think I have a favourite spot here, I really enjoy that I can still discover new places as London is so huge. Every time I find myself in central and it is not too manic, I still get really excited that I live so close to all these amazing and historic places people travel to from all over the world to see.
How did your art evolve or change during your studies at Arts University Bournemouth?
When I first started studying at the Arts University Bournemouth I did not know much about what I was getting into. My work was all over the place and didn’t really have a direction yet. It has obviously changed a lot visually, in terms of what materials I use and having practiced more. ‘Discovering’ charcoal, and stop using pens, was definitely a game changer for me. More importantly, though, the ideas around being an illustrator and how I think about art is definitely more informed. Constantly being around so many creative people, both on the illustration course, but also getting to know people doing other forms of art, was really inspiring and eye opening.
How do you think the Internet influences young artists and the way you can distribute and sell (your) art? Also, how does it influence ideas, intellectual property and copyrights?
It is great for reaching out to people and especially connecting with other creatives. When I do markets or go to other events I often meet people in real life that I’ve only know through social media, so that is really nice. A lot of the commissions I get, and also online sales, comes directly from Instagram, which is great, but also a bit worrying to depend so much on one thing.
I think the downside is that I see a lot of people doing very similar stuff and perhaps don’t go elsewhere for inspiration. It also seems like some users are a bit lazy when it comes to checking their sources, crediting artists work they are sharing and informing their audience about where their ideas are coming from and who’s artwork is being interpreted if that is the case.
Where or when do you feel most inspired? Or where do you turn to for inspiration and how do you channel it?
I always feel inspired after a good chat with friends about art. A nice exhibition, documentary or book, or seeing a new place, get’s me inspired too. If I find myself stuck working at home, I usually look through some of my art books. Charley Harper is always a safe bet and beats endless Instagram scrolling. Sometimes doing something creative that is not drawing really helps, sewing, embroidering, fixing something. I also teach at an arts university, which is super fun and doing workshops with the students, talking to them about their ideas and seeing their work always spark ideas.
You’re an illustration graduate, when and how did you decide that’s what you wanted to study? Also, what’s studying at an arts uni like?
I knew early on that I wanted to do something creative, and my parents always supported me in this. I was 18 when I decided to go study abroad. I am from a very small place, so options are pretty limited if you don’t move out. I was lucky to get into a few universities in the UK, and then I decided on AUB (Arts University Bournemouth). Looking back I knew very little about what I was getting into. I just knew I wanted to draw and make stuff. I think I chose illustration because it seemed like the option where I got to draw and perhaps make a living too. Personally, I had a great time at arts university. The course I was on was great for me, and the way it was managed and run really suited the way I liked to work. My favorite part about it was all the great people I met, listening to practitioners coming in for guest lecturers, and also being in a creative community, struggling a bit with that insane student loan, though…
Which other artists inspire you? Do you have any idols?
I am lucky to know a few artists who are super inspiring to be around and I learn a lot from them, especially Marina Muun (www.marinamuun.com) and Emily Hughes (@plaidemily). Contemporary artists I really look up to are Mari Kanstad Johnsen (www.marikajo.no), Marcus Oakley (www.marcusoakley.com) and Tim Presley (@tm_presley).
What music do you listen to when you’re working? Or do you need silence to concentrate?
Reverberation Radio (www.reverberationradio.com) is a favorite, I also listen to some podcasts (Call Your Girlfriend www.callyourgirlfriend.com to name one) and BBC Radio 6, if I want to feel more connected to the rest of the world when working by myself at home.
What are your top 5 artsy Instagrammers to follow?
Currently these - to pick a few:
Zoran Pungercar (@zoranoungercar)
Where can the readers find you online?
I’m at www.mariamidttun.com.
My Instagram is the best place to see what I am currently up to which is @mariamidttun.
Shop here: www.mariamidttun.bigcartel.com
And I have a Tumblr too: www.mariamidttun.tumblr.com