Camille Rose Garcia‘s creepy cartoon paintings of kids and characters both beloved and of her own imagination are immediately recognizable and beginning to crop up everywhere. She has appeared in Rolling Stone, Juxtapoz and Modern Painter and is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum as well as the San Jose Museum of Art. Whether recreating the illustrations of “Alice in Wonderland” to fit her own gothic aesthetic or writing and illustrating her own fairy tales, her images are layered with meaning and social commentary, in addition to being oddly gorgeous, edgy works of art. We are honored to bring your our exclusive interview with Camille, in which she details her inspirations, her love of fairy tales, and the importance of not taking shit from anyone:
What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
Musicians: Brody Dalle, Joan Jett, Exene Cervenka, Chrissy Hynde, Stevie Nicks. Artists: Frida Kahlo, Femke Heimstra, Junko Mizuno, Elizabeth McGrath… Writers: Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, V.C. Andrews, J.K. Rowling. Historical figures: Cleopatra, Joan of Arc. All inspirational women following their own destinies, regardless of what people told them or thought of them
Your father is an activist filmmaker and your mother is a painter/muralist. How did growing up among artists influence you to become an artist?
I worked for my mom at a young age, she is the one that taught me the most about painting. My dad taught me the most about being confident and not taking any shit from people, lessons that don’t come easy to me. I remember going to museums in Los Angeles with my mom. She also had a lot of books, music, and art around. I grew up in pretty much a bohemian kind of lifestyle, so it seemed natural to try to continue that into adulthood. I feel very lucky that I was never discouraged from pursuing my craft.
Your work has undertones of critical commentaries and satirical slants of modern society. Is it important to you for your work to have a political message?
I really believe that that is the main role of artists and other creative people, we are the black mirror held up to society to point out all of the injustices, atrocities and insidious mind tricks. We are a collective soul battling a world dominated by global corporations that don’t care about people, animals, or the environment. We are the voice of the opposition.
How did growing up in Southern California influence you as an artist?
It made me hate Suburbia. We lived in Los Angeles until I was about 6, then moved to the suburbs in Orange County. I could never understand why humans would want to live in those kinds of houses, and have those kinds of lawns, and wear ugly white shorts all the time. I felt like I was in a hell populated with people I would hate specifically. And I’m not much of a hater, but I don’t like being around people that are xenophobic and small minded. I knew there was more to life because I already lived in Los Angeles, where other cultures are embraced and celebrated. So I guess the first thing I rebelled against was a corporate idea of what Utopia was supposed to look like. I had to invent my own idea of it.
Your work has been seen in group shows, solo shows and museums. How did you get your work in your first show? How did you make the progression to solo shows? How did it feel to see your work hanging in a museum?
Well, not giving up is the main thing to remember. People are too easily discouraged when they encounter rejection, but I have been rejected ten times for every one success I have had. Getting art in group shows is not hard, getting solo shows is a bit harder but if you are good at your craft and work at it everyday, things will start to happen. I had my first “real” solo art show at least 6 or 7 years out of art school. It is a different process for everybody. It was pretty surreal seeing my work hanging at the San Jose Museum of Art. those years went by so quickly that when I reviewed the work I had done it seemed like someone else made those paintings. I still look at a lot of my early work and I think, “Man, that person was deranged.”
In addition to shows, you’ve illustrated several fairy tale books. How did this project start? Why fairy tales? Any other books in the works?
I collect illustrated children’s books and fairy tales, and I think growing up going to Disneyland and watching those early Disney animated films and cartoons gave me a real appreciation for storytelling and these reoccurring themes and symbols that are found in fairy tales. I was asked to illustrate Alice in Wonderland and at first I thought “No way,” because the original illustrations are so perfect. But I seem to like a challenge. I have always wanted to do Snow White, as those themes tend to reoccur in my work anyway, witches and poisons and dark woods. For my next though, I will be writing, illustrating and animating my own fairy tale.
What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?
I really like “Hunters and Warriors” I did for my last show, “Snow White and the Black Lagoon” at the Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles. I love working on a big scale, this piece is 6 x 10 feet. I’m working on some really big pieces right now.
Who do you want to work with?
Guillermo Del Toro, Brody Dalle, David Bowie, Win Butler.
What part of painting or illustrating is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
Well, it’s not the painting part but all the promotion stuff. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, web updates, newsletters. It’s important to let people know what you are doing, but I don’t like it when I realize I have been on the computer for a week straight! The actual painting and drawing in the studio is a welcome luxury. I think for me, and maybe most artists, it’s hard to block out whole days of time where you have the time to play in the studio, mess around, try new things. Sometimes it feels like everything has to be “really important” and that doesn’t really create the right kind of environment for inspiration to happen.
Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career as an artist?
Don’t take rejection personally. Don’t wallow in failure. Be confident. Don’t apologize. Don’t take any shit.
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