Interview with artist Mikaela Faye

Everything in the universe is part of a continuum where every part is as significant as the whole, and we are a part of that.

RAW Artists Canada presents STELLAR – October 24th, 2019 at the Marquee in Calgary, AB. Mikaela Faye is one of the artists that will feature her work during this event. Her illustrations often favour the forest as a channel to convey reverence for nature’s endless cycle of death and renewal. Mikaela is currently composing a series which explores a relationship with technology and nature. You can buy tickets here:

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Many years ago I read a book titled “The Holographic Universe” written by Michael Talbot. It is a wonderful theory of how the universe functions and contains a key idea that has continued to impact my thinking to this day. The idea is this: each part of any given whole, contains the whole. The two most famous examples of this concept are fractal patterns, which can be seen all throughout nature, and holographic film. No matter how many times a piece of holographic film is divided, each part contains all the information of the whole (not unlike how a single cell contains the DNA of an entire individual). Everything in the universe is part of a continuum where every part is as significant as the whole, and we are a part of that. For a long time I found frustration in being so exhilarated by these monumental notions but not knowing how to translate them to my art. I finally found resolve when I began drawing nature in excessive detail. I wanted to communicate that every part of nature, every leaf and blade of grass, is as important as the entire image. Thus my work took on compositions overflowing with small and careful details.

While these ideas may sound grandiose, don’t be fooled- I’m not always that deep. I describe myself as a very materialistic person and my art is greatly swayed by my personal interests in fashion and music. There is a notable shift in my work from several years ago when I was listening to a lot of heavy metal music and my art could easily be categorized as “dark art”, containing subject matter such as demons and skulls. Presently, I have started using a lot of bright colour palettes as a direct result of my current love of synthwave music and 80’s/90’s aesthetics. When I need a break from my more serious and detailed art, I like to draw fanart of my favourite anime characters donning various fashion styles that I admire.

Is there a reason you use forest imagery in your work so often?
Of all the surroundings to experience on our planet, the living, breathing entity that is the forest houses some of the most bountiful yet serene energy. The abundant growth and variety of plants, lifeforms and textures provide endless inspiration for drawing many details, and rendering nature as a splendid portrait of organized chaos. It shows us the natural cycle of life and death as plants and animals die and give nourishment to new life. This cycle presents mystery and darkness as it speaks to our instinctual fears; the forest is a perfect momento mori- a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. Yet the continuation and perseverance of life is so beautiful and impacting that simply being in a forest can be a spiritual experience. The cycle of life is but one repeating pattern exemplified in nature, and the forest contains many others. The fern is among my favourite plants to include in my drawings as a symbol of repeating patterns, for its most obvious illustration of organic fractal imagery. Another recurring element in my work is roots. Roots ground and connect that which is alive and growing to that which is inside the earth, the symbolic soul of the planet organism. Roots also create marvelous texture and interest as they intertwine with each other and their surroundings. There are many fascinating places on Earth, and many that I have yet to experience, but the forest is always the most alluring to me.

Which do you prefer working with traditional techniques or the digital realm? Why?
The digital realm is actually quite new to me. I began working digitally in 2018. I had frustrations with the drawing tablet I was using because it didn’t have a built-in screen. This gave me a lot of problems with accuracy since the surface I was drawing on was separate from the screen that I was looking at. It felt very discouraging. When I finally invested in a drawing tablet with a screen, everything changed dramatically and I completely fell in love. It was so much fun that I began drawing everyday, something I hadn’t done since I graduated from Alberta University of the Arts almost five years prior. So I am very happy to have rekindled my love for drawing again. What I appreciate most about drawing digitally is the ability to use layers. It gives me room to experiment without committing to anything. The vast number of tools at my disposal creates endless possibilities, and since it is still a new medium to me I am enjoying the learning curve of what looks good and what doesn’t work for me. The ability to draw an object and then adjust, resize, rotate and warp as needed has proved to be extremely valuable to me. Of course, there’s the undo button as well (a godsend!) When working with pen and paper I tend to waste a lot of time fretting about making mistakes, so drawing digitally really eliminates those anxieties and I can produce a piece much faster without sacrificing detail or quality. In general, the process is much more streamlined when drawing digitally. One aspect of traditional work that I prefer over digital is the final physical product that I can hold. That feeling is a bit lost when the finished piece needs to be sent to a printer. Overall, I prefer the digital realm and can see myself continuing to work that way.

What do you have planned for the RAW Artisits Calgary showcase on Thursday October 24th?
For the Stellar Showcase I will be presenting a collection of my traditional works that share a common theme of death and renewal in the forest. All of my traditional works exhibit fineliner pens as the medium, and the main subjects of these works are animals and mysterious entities that exist somewhere between the realm of life and death. One piece in particular interprets the 9 of Swords tarot card, which was made for a lost project called “The Dark Art Tarot Project”. The project was to feature 78 artists from around the world, each artist illustrating one card from the Tarot deck. Sadly the project fell through at the very end, but I was able to create a piece I really cherish. 

In addition to my traditional work I will be showcasing digital art I have created within the past two years. Among them is a piece titled “Moro”, which was a commissioned work that used the animated movie Princess Mononoke as the inspiration. 

Currently I am composing a series to examine the relationship between technology and nature, while exploring a setting based simultaneously around a nostalgia for the 1990’s and an imagined future. The conversation I would like to have through this series is one of a symbiotic relationship between technology and nature, rather than painting technology as an evil or destructive force against nature. Man is a part of nature, so that which is man-made is therefore an organic existence. Delving into the aesthetics of the 90’s gives me the opportunity to celebrate my childhood experiences with various toys and technologies, as well as to utilize specific colour palettes and recognizable patterns. The sentimentality for a past decade contrasted with an imaginary future has lead to the series title 2091. Though the series is in progress, I am very excited to share the first two pieces of 2091, titled “MS-DOSsss” and “Forever Sleep” at the upcoming RAW Calgary showcase.

I will have prints available of most of my work. I’m looking forward to sharing an incredible evening with local Canadian artists and art-lovers alike!

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