An interview with Providence-based artist/comic Mickey Z for Cheap & Plastique #11.
See more of her work here. Issue 11 also features interviews with the artists Admiral Grey, Tobias Hild, Tonya Douraghy, Tobias Faisst, Shane Lavalette, Ted McGrath, Emilia Olsen, Lisa Vanin, and Hidde van Schie, all articles will be coming soon to this blog.
C & P: What first got you interested in artmaking and comics? Have there been key experiences in your life that have impacted you and your work?
Mickey: I don’t know why I got into drawing—I used to draw a lot of dinosaurs and sharks and then later I wanted to draw stuff like X-Men or Garfield. People considered me “the best at drawing Garfield” in elementary school for awhile, but then this other girl started drawing Garfield better than me and I was very bummed. Then I saw some Anime, like “Unico and the Island of Magic”, the visual cues were different and it looked really bonkers compared to regular US cartoons. One time I rented an animated movie called The Mouse and His Child about a wind up mouse and his son, they’re trying to find a purpose or something—at one point this turtle tells the mice to find infinity, which is subsequently illustrated on a can of dog food, as a wacky dog holding the same can, and the wacky dog on that can holding another can, and so on….it completely deconstructed my existing perception of reality at the time (I was ten years old or something). I just found a link to the whole thing here (minute 50 for the infinity scene). I guess that’s impact in terms of visual and conceptual…life impacts tend to affect stuff less obviously maybe.
C & P: You work across a variety of mediums including drawing, painting, and silkscreening, producing comics, commercial illustration, and design work. Do you prefer working in one medium over another?
Mickey: No… I like to do all the things! If I do too much of one thing I start to miss the other things. Comics is the thing I definitely do the most, in terms of visual stuff, maybe I like it the most because it has an extra depth that the other stuff doesn’t have because there’s also a narrative. I love screenprinting but I haven’t screenprinted in awhile…. that is maybe the most “fun” thing. Each process for each thing is different, so it’s hard to like one better than the other.
C & P: Many of your drawings are very chaotic and dense with texture/line/color/text. Has your work always been produced in this frentic, loose style? How did this style develop? Do you ever draw in a more controlled, precise manner?
Mickey: Ahh this “style” developed mostly out of laziness! I don’t like to spend a lot of time on stuff, and I like stuff when it is “done”, because when it is done I can go outside, or stare at a wall, or go to a coffee shop and stare at a wall, or socialize or ride a bicycle or something. When I draw bigger the drawing gets more controlled on its own… just because the page gets bigger but the drawing implement stays the same size. So I can scribble all I want, and when you step like 4 feet away its just gonna look like a nice gray blur anyway, or whatever it’s going to look like.
C & P: You often draw animals such as wolves, snakes, goats, and eagles. What draws you to these slightly sinister creatures that many associate with the darker aspects of life?
Mickey: Yeah I don’t know? I’ve never liked drawing people…. and I’m really into “woods” or “the woods”, and all these things maybe live in “the woods” except for maybe goats? Goats live in the mountains? Walking through the woods can be difficult, it’s easy to stray from the path… or you think you’re on the path when you’re not, or you are walking around in circles and have no idea… meanwhile there is lots of life in the woods…. maybe they are symbols of the unknown? Or danger or temptation or something… or maybe they’re just watching you walk? Maybe I am just bullshitting? I definitely started drawing snakes though because one day I thought, “Man, I am terrible at drawing snakes.”
C & P: I really like the handdrawn type on your posters. Sometimes the information is hard to read but it makes the poster more intriguing, I like that the viewer has to work a little bit to figure out the message. Has anyone ever refused one of your designs because of illegibility? Or do most people who commission you to do a poster expect and appreciate this style?
Mickey: I’ve overheard people talk badly about the posters when they’ve been up somewhere advertising a show or whatever and I’ve had people refuse my offer to make a poster for something or other, but other than that people seem to know what they are getting into, I guess. People seem to understand that it’s much harder to accommodate their bizarre nuanced desires mid-process when screenprinting as opposed to working digitally or something.
C & P: How do you choose which medium you will work in for a particular piece? Is it a process of experimentation?
Mickey: It’s more the medium dictates the work than the other way around. If I have to make a comic, I do the thing I do to make a comic. If I have to make a poster, I make the layers for the screenprint the way I usually do. They’re all pretty separate…if it’s to be a screenprinted thing, it’s to be a screenprinted thing, there’s not another way to do it. But there’s usually room for stuff to evolve…. and sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
C & P: Your color palette for your silkscreened posters is very bright and your drawings (and comic books) are mostly black and white. Why is some work so colorful and other work monochromatic? Does the printing technique influence the coloration in your work? What is your preferred printing technique? You mention that you have been using a Risograph printer lately, what do you like about Risograph printing? Where do you print most of your comics?
Mickey: I think I said before, screenprinting is fun. Throwing on extra layers is very simple to do and also a blast, and not particularly time consuming since I usually don’t do runs of more than 40 or 50 prints (it usually takes less than an hour to print one layer on 40 or 50 prints, not including set up). It’s a physical process so it’s not boring, and it’s visually stimulating (because of the bright colors). Alternatively, printing comics is boring. Making comics can be great but I print them on a machine (the Risograph), in my house, usually in my pajamas. It takes way longer because the runs are larger and there’s just generally more stuff to print. And then the collating! Ugh it’s terrible. Since it’s such a bore to print the comics… I am not necessarily interested in putting more time in to make them look brighter! Although when the comics are short and the runs are small, like in the instance of What Does the Garbage Man Say? or Haunted Forest, it’s slightly more appealing to do multicolor stuff.
C & P: How often do you produce the comic series RAV? Could you tell me a bit about it?
Mickey: RAV seems to be a twice-yearly endeavor. It’s an ongoing underground romance drone comic. Some stuff happens, a lot of stuff doesn’t happen. It keeps going. People spend a lot of time walking through the woods. If people ask me to describe it, I tell them it’s a little like Alice in Wonderland.
C & P: Could you tell me a bit about the one off comic What Does the Garbage Man Say? I have read through it a few times and it is very funny to me. What made you make a comic about the garbage man—a figure in our society who doesn’t get much love. Have you had many run-ins with your local garbage man, is this comic based on a true story? Are most of your comic tales based on real life experiences?
Mickey: One time I was cleaning out this building, putting lots of plaster and cement scraps in a little dumpster. The truck didn’t take the dumpster on it’s scheduled day and when I called to find out why, the lady said the dumpster was too heavy for that style of truck to lift it. If the truck tried, the cement scraps might fall out and kill the driver (it was a front loading truck). When I asked if she could send a different truck, she said there were no other trucks that could empty the dumpster. So I asked her what I should do and she said “you’ll have to empty the dumpster yourself”. And then I spent an afternoon in the rain emptying all the stuff out of the dumpster and into my truck bed, which felt so insane and backwards and wrong in this completely indescribable way. I guess that was why I made that comic. Most of my comics aren’t about specific experiences I’ve had (“garbage man” comes the closest), but I guess they are about living experiences generally.
C & P: I think the first time I saw your work was in the centerfold of the Dirt Palace 10th Anniversary zine. I was there a couple of years ago interviewing Pippi Zornoza, for the C & P blog, and she gave me a tour of the space, it is incredible, well equipped and sprawling. What was your experience like when having a studio space there? Was it an inspiration to be immeresed in that creative environment? Do you ever collaborate with past/present members of the Dirt Palace collective?
Mickey: It was certainly, without a doubt, an inspiration to be immersed in that zone… I loved being there and doing stuff with a bunch of other people, lots of different kinds of energy, different ways of doing stuff, that kind of thing. I love Pippi and Xander, obviously. I learned a lot, the most important stuff being not art related. some of the people I am closest with I met while I was there. Also Xander introduced me to the Risograph! I used to print all my comics on her Risograph (then I got my own).
C & P: How did you make your way to Providence, did you grow up nearby? Does living in Providence influence your work? What do you like most about living there? Least? Is it a city which is friendly to artists? Is there still a healthy art and music scene happening in Providence in 2014?
Mickey: It definitely has influenced my work…I’ve lived here for arguably my entire adult life so, inevitably, of course. Most people here have a pretty brutal work ethic, people work hard at whatever kind of work they do, most people do more than one thing, like play music and draw comics, or electrical wiring and halloween coordination. There’s a lot of skills floating around and most everyone is happy to share what they know in exchange for a grip of tacos. One time I helped someone design a website in exchange for a cassette deck, etc. The city itself is friendly to artists I guess… Rhode Island is a small state, so getting grants and stuff like that isn’t a complete pipe dream, you don’t have to be Damien Hirst or whatever. It’s cheap to live here, there aren’t too many good jobs but it’s also very possible to “make your own job”, sometimes. it’s more of a working-together vibe than a competition vibe—“Come check out my thing.” It’s pretty small-town though… which can be frustrating, but it’s also part of what makes it so nice. And it’s still pretty healthy over here in 2014. And of course……. there are whole worlds of Providence I’ve never experienced.
C & P: What other activities do you enjoy pursuing when not making music or art?
Mickey: I mostly like hanging around, staring at a wall (I think I mentioned before)…happy to stare at a wall in public as well as private. I like going to the beach in the summer. I kind of collect radios, just regular radios… but I’m into cb radio stuff too, I mostly listen, but sometimes I bark. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a heavy priority right now, it’s been slowly absorbing more and more of my time… also i’m really into recreational ceramics but i don’t get to do that very often.
C & P: I see that you run a cassette tape label called Price Tapes. How long have you been running the label? Does the label only put out bands from Providence or from all over? Are you also a musician? Are you in a band at this time?
Mickey: Maybe I have been doing the label for five years? That seems like way too long! I think I started the label to release music by friends that don’t really play music, just to see what happened..since around that time I had started playing music for the first time, and was excited by the idea that I could just pick up whatever and just do it, and therefore anyone I knew could just pick up whatever and just play music too. And what came out of that would probably be fun and bonkers and genuine. That never ended up really happening though. But Price Tapes stayed pretty true to the relaxed, positive, experimental vibe. The label ideally releases music from everywhere, but it’s pretty heavily Providence because those are the people I see everyday… and see them perform or hear their music the most. I’m a musician, I guess, my project is called “Dungeon Broads”.
C & P: What projects are you working on currently?
Mickey: Working on finishing RAV #9, Youth in Decline will be publishing a partial RAV collection in Spring 2014, so I suspect I’ll be working on that sometime soon. Working on getting the Price Tapes dubber fixed, it broke. Got to draw Graveyard Ducks for Mothers News, I’ve been slacking on that! I’m trying to chill out a little bit… I ran around a lot this year.
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
Mickey: Ah anything! I like to do lots of things, I’d really be happy doing whatever—sweeping—I think is an ideal. Also have always wanted to work at a marina.