Step into the world of Mara Barringer and get lost in a realm of vibrant colors, leggy babes and lush succulents. Mara Barringer is a self-taught illustrator who couldn’t afford art school but didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dreams. With an obsession for hummus, playful patterns and unconventional mediums, her illustrations portray the inner child of her imagination.
What is the story behind your art and when did you begin to pursue it?
I was one of those kids that always wanted to be an artist, coloring in the lines first and drawing bubble letters. My mom signed me up for summer camps when I was in elementary school, they were always really awkward and I hated her for it but really learned so much; like photography and developing film, ceramics classes, sewing, and fabric dying classes. I was convinced along the way that being an artist wasn’t a real thing to do. I made art in high school but not passionately. I got into art school but couldn’t afford it blah blah blah. Eventually I couldn’t deny it and I started where I had left off in high school, with portraits. That was like three years ago, it took me some time to develop my style but once I started getting a taste of it I couldn’t look back.
What mediums do you work in?
I usually paint with acrylics on canvas, my first love. But I get antsy and bored and excited so I play with textiles and I do some writing. I do collage sketches and have made some into varnished panels. I screen print my designs to get some quick wearable art out and support my bigger paintings. I like to dabble in everything because all mediums, even if I’m not seriously pursuing, effect my practice and process.
Does your work revolve around any specific themes?
About a year ago I started letting my work become less illustrative and more personal. From there it’s evolved into mostly expressions of my experiences and relationships. My life is so consumed by love and sexuality and break ups and relationships. I usually toss some symbolism in. I enjoy adding titles to show the comedic side of emotional work.
What are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by work that is minimal. Also, maximal! But minimal work is so hard to do. I’m always trying to use less color, or work monotone, or not add texture. It’s hard to drop technical skill and honestly for me it’s not a finished painting unless I’ve used every color created.
I really admire artists like Milton Avery and Anne Truitt. I like to watch contemporary dance for figure references. I have so many photos off the internet of urban landscapes and style shoots saved to my phone. Andre Lanskoy with those colors, damn! Graphic design work is good inspiration too for composition especially.
What was your favorite project of 2016?
Probably “Ghost Lovers (part deux)”. I had been holding myself back (as we’re all known to do) by not investing in bigger canvases. I think I was scared. Like what if I can’t make what’s in my head happen on this, or am I worthy of a nice canvas. It took some working up to and ultimately I felt like I deserved it. I had so much weird relationship shit going on and was ready to make big, loud art that screamed “my art is just as important as yours!!!”. And it worked. It was so fun and opened new doors in terms of believing in myself.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
I love collaborating with people who don’t do the same thing as me. It’s so hard to collaborate with another painter. Like collaborating with Baggu or Vans to make some gear would be dope. I really wanna paint, like for forever, but I also see where people are putting their money. I mostly observed this from myself. I’ll buy a $500 coat but not a sculpture. It’s hard to buy big and/or expensive art right now when so many of us are traveling or moving around and at this rate not settling down in a home until we’re 43. It makes me want to transform my art into wearables and art that is equally valued as say a painting but has a purpose and a better way to show off. People love to show off.
Any future projects in the works?
I recently painted a mural and definitely want to do more of those! It’s so therapeutic to work on something literally larger than yourself. I’m into designing images and patterns for garments and really want to get more into that in the near future with sneaker and clothing collaborations. I’d love to get to a place where I’m able to make the art I want and without compromising, survive on that. Does that exist? Most will argue no, but I really need to believe that in some magical place and time it can happen.
Favorite Instagram account of the moment?
@sisu999 gets me every time.
"What pushed me the most was seeing people not doing things, or just doing what was expected and being disappointed in that. It took me a while to realize I didn't have to juggle what I want vs. what everyone says I should want."
Mara Barringer currently lives in Portland, Oregon and recently co-founded a publication called grlwomyn with Rebekah Nygard.