As we close out International Women’s Day this March, in these tumultuous times, 1xRUN is proud to showcase Mab Graves emotionally resonant edition “Mourning.”
Painted in the wake of the death of her father, “Mourning” captures an unfortunate universal truth of loss, sadness and what she aptly describes as “the place beyond tears, sadness so present your skin and hair hurts.”
We thank Mab for sharing this extremely personal piece in hopes that it will get others through tough times. Read on as Mab Graves gives us the story behind her latest edition, earliest influences and more…
1x: Tell us about your execution of this imagery.
Mab Graves: This piece was created in the aftershock of a tragic loss in my life. My dad had died suddenly and unexpectedly, and everything felt broken.
I didn’t paint for months, and I was honestly almost scared to try. I had so many feelings and emotions that I needed to unbottle. I sat down at my canvas and just relaxed — letting my mind release and wind itself around the memories of loss, then I let the brush take over.
This piece is about the place beyond tears: sadness so present that your skin and hair hurts. It’s about sleepless nights that smother time and duplicate. Those feelings are terrifying and precious to me. Those feelings are important to my human story and I wanted to find a way to express them and record them. Those feelings created a whole new scale for what pain means to me, and I always want to maintain that perspective. It makes the small stuff truly unsweatable.
1x: What were some of your earliest interactions with art growing up?
Graves: I actually grew up in a very art-starved area. There were no galleries, no working artists. My only real art exposure was through the library and picture books. I adored strange and surreal illustrations and odd stories that didn’t end the way you thought they would. My favorite illustrator from the time I was five, and still today, is Gennady Spirin. Before I could even read, I would seek out his strange books and pore over their exquisite pages.
1x: Who or what was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist?
Graves: I think undoubtedly Margaret Keane was a huge early inspiration. Olga Dugina and Kinuko Y. Craft were also mesmerizing to me.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist?
Graves: Being an artist is so bright and beautiful and painful. My work always comes from a deeply emotional place, and the vulnerability that it places on you is always a challenge. I think it may be impossible to ever craft a balanced life as an artist, so there’s always a coloring of chaos in life.
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women?
Graves: This is such a hard one. I think equality is key, but that’s not just a change the art industry can be held accountable for. It’s a much bigger issue and is woven into the tapestry of our society.
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Just a couple little sneak peeks of my sketchbook right now, writing #thetaleoftanith. At first, I thought I’d just be writing a picture book, but Tanith had other ideas. Her story has become a fully fledged adventure and I can’t wait to be able to share more! #mabgraves #illustration
1x: What advice would you give to any aspiring artists?
Graves: Don’t put too much pressure on your work. If you are an artist, creating art is an essential emotional need, and it’s important that you not add stress to the process. It takes thousands of hours of work and practice, and mistakes are the most important part of learning. If you start to get blocked, try picking up a new medium, and just play. Eventually everything will start to flow again, the most important thing is not to walk away and fill your creative time with something else. As long as you’re creating, you’re learning.