We’re in awe of the surreal, dark but candy-coated world that self-taught artist, Brandi Milne, creates. Her poignant art takes “elements as language from her child’s mind”, with a cast of characters equal parts creepy and delightfully endearing.
She has an exhibition of her work at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles starting this weekend. Of this new collection, Milne says:
“This new body of work is an examination of the world around me, as well as the world within me. Specifically, the discovery that as life and all its uncertainty, pain, and disappointments unfold around me, I have within myself the capability to keep safe my soft heart and cherish and nurture the beauty at its core. These new works are me trusting my own voice and allowing my true self to be seen. My strengths and my weaknesses. After three years of hard work, I feel extremely proud and empowered to present Once Upon a Quiet Kingdom with the Corey Helford Gallery.”
We caught up with Milne to learn more about her inspirations, her background and that wild imagination that lurks within.
There’s a (Mark) Ryden-esque quality to your style. Was he an influence? And who else helped inform your style while you were getting going?
“Mark Ryden is an incredible talent. His influence on the art world, and surrealism specifically, is monumental and undeniable.
“I grew up completely unaware of contemporary artists. In the 90s when I was drawing in my room (“developing my style” at that time), I didn’t know of Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia, or anyone painting wild things the way they were.
“So I had only my own world of things that influenced me – the children’s books I had as a kid, Bugs Bunny cartoons, colouring books, Woody Woodpecker and Heckle and Jeckle, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Pinnochio, vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations, music that had inspired me – and the way my imagination interpreted all of it.
“As my world got bigger, eventually showing my work in group shows in LA and later with the Internet, I found out about contemporary surrealist painters, which inspired me to explore my imagination further and push my own limits.
“Knowing Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia now on a personal level is more inspiring to me than knowing them solely through their artwork. I’m happy to be exploring and creating surrealism amongst them!”
You grew up in the vicinity of Disneyland (lucky you!). How much of those memories shaped the work in Once Upon a Quiet Kingdom?
“I did grow up only 10 minutes away from Disneyland. We went there a few times when I was really small (I peed my pants on Snow White because I was so scared!). But more than the park, I grew up on Disney classic cartoons. Alice in Wonderland and Pinnochio, in particular. I watched them both on rotation as a kid. I can see their influence in my work, definitely.”
Tell us about your process behind creating a painting: from the blank canvas to completion.
“I begin with a quick thumbnail sketch to figure out the subject and composition. I scribble down words and lyrics and listen to music to help explore the idea and feeling I want to talk about in the piece.
“I look at magazines or watch movies to get out of my own head, as well. I let the idea come naturally and try not to force anything.
“When I’m satisfied with the sketch, I take it straight to what will be the finished panel and I let loose!
“My under paintings are very expressive and fun and it’s where I begin playing with colour and atmosphere. Leaving things open for exploration is how I learn about the piece as it develops – and how I stay totally interested and inspired as well as challenged.
“I tighten up subject and sprinkle some magic and it’s finished!”
Are there characters, colours, shapes that you tend to naturally gravitate more closely towards with your work?
“I love red and hyper pinks and whites. There was a year within the process of making this body of work where all I wanted to paint was reds and pinks and whites.
“It inspired so much of what you see in this show, so I’m stoked to have let it happen.
“Also, I love snowmen so much. Somehow I’ve always gravitated towards them and finally found them in my work. My favorite shape is a circle as it has no harsh corners.”