Artists - Art Collabs - Maia C. Larkin
Maia Chavez Larkin
Q: At what age did you start creating art?
A: Both my parents were artists, and I grew up largely in artists’ colonies like Woodstock and Taos, so creating art started pretty much when I could hold a pen. My mother has some pretty elaborate drawings that I did when I was two or three. But although I always drew by way of self-expression, I had no artistic aspirations when I was a child.
Q: Do you remember when you really felt like art was going to be part of your life forever?
A: To be honest, I still resist the title of “artist”. It has always sounded too vague and maybe even a bit pretentious to me. I have always preferred words that imply craftsmanship – a trade. In graduate school, I was trained in architectural drafting and interior rendering, which gradually morphed into illustration in the years that followed.
Q: What childhood interests or memories continue to influence you still today?
A: There are so many. My childhood was very rich, in that we traveled constantly. We never lived in one place for more than two years at a time, and I probably lived in 15 different states and countries before settling in Colorado. My father was quite a celebrated artist, and he was also a folksinger who jammed with so many of the wonderful musicians who passed through Woodstock in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so memories of people like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez – and their music – are a big part of my early childhood. My mother’s family is French and Dutch, and so we also spent a lot of time in Europe over the years. I have always been a wanderer, and in many ways travel has defined so much of my life. My mother is a wildlife artist, and she and I have loved to travel, camp, explore, and enjoy the world together throughout the years. As I grow into myself, I find that I am more and more influenced by my artistic roots. I think as a child I was uncomfortable with the whole artists’ colony thing. These days I realize how rare and wonderful it was, how lucky I was to live among so many really great artists, musicians and craftspeople.
Q: Tell us a little about your process, how do you find inspiration and how does that lead to the end result?
A: I have very little time to do my own work these days, since the bulk of my work time is taken up with illustrating for fashion designers. I do lookbook illustrations, illustrations that are silkscreened on clothing, paper dolls for fashion lines, and ad illustrations. I am primarily a hand illustrator, trained in classical methods, and only rarely work on the computer. I have a fairly structured process of working that begins with sketching layouts using a lead holder and drafting leads (back to my architectural training). The next stage is done in India ink, and finally, if I am doing color illustrations, I use a layered watercolor technique using Holbein watercolors on Arches hot press paper. It’s quite a lengthy process.
Q: What motivates you to keep creating? Is it a desire to change the world or the way people think or more just a necessity, something that has to come out of you?
A: It is really very therapeutic for me, like running and hiking. Both things I need for the sake of my mind and soul. I am very lucky to do something every day that I truly love doing (and I do mean every day! I work seven days a week). When I get up extra early to start work before my daughter wakes up, it is with a sense of pleasure and anticipation that I sit down in my studio and pick up my drafting tools. That is such an inestimable gift, really.
Q: When you were a child, besides an artist what did you dream of being or doing?
A: Oh, I had any number of ambitions that did NOT involve being an artist. I showed horses for years as a child. I was in the theater starting at the age of 12, and spent many of my teenage years acting on stage. I was very ambitious in school, and started college at 16. I have always loved to write, was published for the first time at 17, and worked as an adventure sports journalist for several years before illustration took over my life.
Q: If you couldn’t do art what would you do?
A: I would probably still be in journalism if I didn’t have work as an illustrator. I loved travel writing in particular, and very much enjoyed my years writing about mountain climbing, skiing, snowboardering, fly fishing, river rafting and all types of adventure sports.
Q: What kind of things from your everyday life inspires what you do in your art?
A: I am lucky enough to have a four-year-old girl who is at home much of the time. She spent the first year of her life in an orphanage, so at this point life as a family is very important to us. The everyday life of a four-year-old is extremely rich in imagination, and basically when one is lucky enough to be the parent of a child this age, the whole world sparkles with magic. It is an enchanted time. There’s inspiration everywhere I turn. The other day, I wrote an entire children’s book while walking home from the coffee shop with my daughter. I had to scramble to type it up on the computer when I got home, before I forgot any of the lines. Now if I could just find time to illustrate it…
Q: How much of what you do is a statement, how much is a response and how much is just experimentation or exploration?
A: I would say that it’s a running dialogue. One line of work riffs off the last. It is not always a dialogue that’s easy to follow – I work very free-form based on my inspirations in the moment. I have probably been having the same conversation with myself about life since I was a child, just expressed through different media along the way. I have had, and am still having, a great love affair with life, and I think that you can probably see that in my work. It’s really just one long love letter to life itself.