©Mila Figuet

©Mila Figuet

ARIEL COTTON

By MILA FIGUET

"Maybe if I were a white guy making work, people wouldn’t see it as self-involved they’ll just be thinking that everyone can relate to it"

Who are you? Give us some background information about how you got into drawing.

I’m Ariel, I’m from New York. I make comics, interactive art and UX design but this year I’ve been focusing mostly on comics. I think I’ve always been creating work, for as long as I can remember. And drawing comics specifically, I think it started when I started to read graphic novels when I was younger. I also got really into Judie Bloom when I was in middle school. She’s an author who wrote lots of really famous young adults/teenager books and they were all really relatable, and dealt with lots of very realistic issues that teenagers in America go through, or I guess all teenagers. Puberty, divorced parents or religion, you know shit like that. I guess what I really liked was reading these books helped me feel better about what I was going through as a pre-teen so I really started to like the idea of making work about my experiences and hoping that they will help other people eventually and I liked the idea of doing it in graphic novels format.

Who is your work for? Who is your audience?

It’s a good question. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out. At this point I’m just making work that I enjoy making and sing a respond to it.

Where do you draw the most inspiration from?

It changes, depending on where I am and what I’m going through but at the moment I guess just being in Europe, traveling everywhere and seeing new things.

Why did you choose Berlin?

Well it just kind of felt like the most pragmatic choice. It’s really easy for Americans to get visas here and it’s also a good city for art, design, and tech. And it’s cheap. I feel like I chose Berlin with my head and if were to have chosen with my heart I probably would have chosen Paris. I’m happy to be here for now.

tinder.png

What has been the weirdest experience you had thus far? (looking at some of her drawings from last year, showing me the one she did about her experience on Tinder)

So I tried it [Tinder] for 5 seconds last year and I really didn’t like it at all. I didn’t get very far with it. The whole experience was just so strange to me and it felt almost like a transaction. It’s strange because you’re trying to find someone to have intimacy with but it feels like you’re going online to buy something and it’s just like what the fuck is this. So I just kind of shift it into a grocery shop: “Hm what am I in the mood to eat tonight? I could go to the white bread isle or to the meat counter or the eternal guy.”

How do you feel being a female artist? Do you think being a woman affect your work in some ways?

It definitely affects my work, especially in the comics field. I don’t think it has to do with me having more emotions so much as my perspectives of experiencing things that most men wouldn’t. For example, there is an idea I had for a comic: sometimes when showering on your periods, the blood kind of gets everywhere and I always feel badass when that happens. “This is metal as fuck!” I just wanted to make a small comics about that experience. About what it’s like to just be standing there with blood raining from all over the place. Female experience I guess.

What do you think about how you work is received?

I often get criticized on how my work is self-involved. I agree and I don’t necessarily see it as criticism. It’s funny I feel like when people see self-involved work they just assume that the artist thinks her life is so important, so special and so unique that she just has to share it with everyone, but in my case that’s honestly the complete opposite of why I started making work about my experiences. I kind of started to do that because I didn’t want people to feel alone and I know that when I’m going through something it helps me to read a book or watch a movie about someone else who went trough the same thing.

I want to commit. I know that my experiences are somehow universal and that I have this ability to articulate them in a certain way so I figured I might as well give something back and help people connect to these experiences through paper. Hopefully they’ll help someone else going through the same thing. I don’t want to say anything definitive, I don’t know this for a fact it’s just a theory, but I wonder if different genders are perceived differently, I wonder if work made by self-involved men is often perceive differently from work made by self-involved women. One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone who’s criticized my work as being too self-involved happened to be a man. I wonder if there is some connection there. I’m not trying to say “men thinks this way” but maybe there is something to that.

I think the default perspectives in a lot of arts, medias, movies and books are like a white cis dude, which is kind of the norm. Anything that deviates from that is seeing as other. So I wonder if that has something to do with it. Maybe if I were a white guy making work, people wouldn’t see it as self-involved they’ll just be thinking that everyone can relate to this. As soon as it’s a women or a person of color I guess maybe it becomes more “this is such a specific perspective why would I care?” Again I don’t want to say anything definitive, I could be wrong, it’s just thoughts.

Any future projects? 

I’m working on fiction narrative now which is sort of based on some things that have happens in real life, and I’m starting to experiment more of fiction. That requires doing some research and parts of it are coming from my life but parts of it also required me to step outside of myself.

I’d like to put out a graphic novel, I’ve started doing some experiments there, and we’ll see how that goes.

Anything to add?

Regarding the all self-involved thing. I’m working on fiction now and that requires doing some research. Parts of it are coming from my life but parts of it also requires me to step outside of myself and do research. I don’t think self-involvement is necessarily a bad thing in artwork but it’s also something I don’t want to get too trapped in. I feel like I should be exploring.

Part of why I came to Europe was just to be less navel-gazing, have new experiences and learn about things I might not have grown up with or that I was taking for granted back home. I definitely want to put all of that into my work. Recently, I’ve been trying to learn German and getting a lot more knowledge about it. A large part of the reason why, is because I was talking to Lana [her roommate], she speaks fluent English and German and she writes, and reads in both. I was asking her “Do you have a preference for reading and writing in English or in German?”. She said “German because there’s ways to express yourself in German that you just can’t in English. It has really beautiful words and phrases that English doesn’t have.” That got me really curious and I started to read and learn more. I really liked what I found and I’m hoping that learning the language will open up the world for me in a different way. I am wondering how something like that could translate into my work. I’m curious to see where it goes. And I know it’s a really romanticize way of looking at and learning a new language. I’m not really learning it for survival purposes or assimilation goals. I don’t know if I’m gonna stay in Berlin for ever (I probably won't). My point is: I wonder if the way I’m learning German is overly romanticized.

All drawings are the courtesy of the artist.

@argoncobalt