Welcome to Prints on Wood!

Mab Graves Talks Origin Stories and the Dream World with POW

mab graves prints on wood designercon

Mab Graves is one of those otherworldly, super rare –  yet very much in existence – people who you dream about living in a cotton candy houses and communing with squirrels. She is whimsical, humble and quirky to the most cavernous depths of her bones, all neatly packaged atop a pair of boots and with a pastel pink swirl of hair to seal the deal. The talented and accomplished young ethereal illustrator sat down for a Q&A about origin stories, the dream world and plans post-DCon.

mab graves entomologists daughter

So Mab, you have two Prints on Wood collaborations under your belt currently, both of which are in our view here at DCOn. Can you talk about those two pieces and their content?

"The Entomologist's Daughter" is the special edition piece we did with a run of 20 prints. It was actually originally for a show in Australia that I did;  the theme was 'wilderness.' In working on the piece, I wanted to incorporate forest elements of course, but it's called "The Entomologist's Daughter" because the idea is that she's the little girl of a father who is an entomologist, someone who studies insects. I imagine she spends her days befriending the animals and not being afraid of bugs, because I know I was.

mab graves prints on wood designercon2

I really liked bugs when I was smaller. This for sure progressed into me eating a bug at some point though. 

I still to this day have a fear of bugs. I don't know why –  especially cockroaches. I live in the city and it's basically the bug of the city. But yes, I love the idea of this little girl who understood bugs in a way that I don't, and who has this lack of fear which I definitely do have. So I think there was definitely a lot of that feeling going into it; I also just wanted to paint a kind of romantic, really pretty, medieval-colored, little fairy-tale child.

mab graves prints on wood designercon

And this piece ["The Feral Exodus"] was for a show I did a couple of years ago called The Runaways. It was basically the story of the land where children go to when they run away. Some of the runaways are more feral than others, kind of like a Peter Pan or The Lost Boys.

They all look very determined. 

Yes. Yes, they're all heading somewhere. They all have some place to go. I also wanted the land to be a little bit strange though. There's not a lot of green. The trees are bare. There's strange animals like spider rabbits and cats with two tails roaming.

Your character seems to come out a lot in your paintings, where as some artists are a little more detached or ambiguous with their work. Do you take note of this when creating? Is it important for you to feel reflected back in your work?

You know it's funny. Sometimes I'll meet artists and be like. . .'huh, i wouldn't have expected that.' With me, I'm absolutely a part of my work. Sometimes, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm the only one whose face I can get to stay still, so I like accidentally end up in a lot pieces. But yes, my work is so much a part of my life and my thoughts. Most of my paintings come from dreams or strange ideas; it's just so much a part of me. It's actually hard for me to let them go. If I didn't have to survive, I would probably keep all of my paintings.

 Essentially, if you could stomach it, no one would probably even know you do this.

Oh and they didn't! That's the strange part.

What's the story behind that?

I'd just always been told that being an artist is not a job and that it's not a good way to make a living; which is harsh, but true to an extent. I'd loved drawing and painting my whole life. I was just working as a bartender and I'd get off work and I'd go home to this little house I was renting which had a room upstairs that was always closed and it was just full, floor to ceiling, with paintings.

Someone I knew found out about it and let a gallery know and they came and then did a show of the work. Things kind of took off. No one had seen my early work or beginning work, I was just kind of out of the closet as an artist at that point. This was about seven years ago.

I'm from Indiana, so on the coasts, you have so much more of a scene and a culture. I didn't do a whole lot on line; I was just surviving and working. I didn't realize that there was this world happening, like this really healthy thriving scene where real people were actual artists.

I used to be very afraid of [that idea] and being myself and would be very professional with what I was posting online. Now, I've gotten bolder and braver with sharing my personality and myself and people seem to really connect.

You mentioned a lot of your paintings deriving from dreams. Do you always remember your dreams? What's the Dream World like for you?

You know what, I don't always remember my dreams; but i do know my dreams are really funny. I wake myself up like three times a week laughing. My husband will try and wake me up, but I'm just totally preoccupied and laughing while trying to remember what the dream was about. But when I do remember dreams, it'll be of deep importance with a lot of symbolism and a lot of weird strange things. I'm also never myself in dreams; I'm often not even in them, just observing a story. Also when I dream, I'm a male. I'm a boy. . .in like all my dreams, which someone told me meant that I was a boy in a past life.

Super bizarre, Mab. What do you have coming up after DCon. 

I have a solo show in Philadelphia in April that I'm working on that'll take place at a gallery called Arch Enemy Arts and in May, I'll be back out here for a three-girl show at Corey Helford Gallery. I'm actually legitimately booked until 2018. I was hoping to take a vacation next year and I looked at my schedule and I basically can't; like i don't have a week.

I'm so grateful though. In three years I could be bar-tending again, you never know.

Keep up with Mabs on her Instagram linked in here, and stay tuned for more print releases to come.