Minneapolis is bursting with designers, illustrators, screenprinters, painters, photographers, sculptors, cartoonists, yarn-bombers, and graffiti writers. Our favorites are so talented and ubiquitous, they can’t be confined to a single post. That’s why we launched Artist in Residence, in which we invite visual creators we admire to join forces with us for four weeks at a time, displaying their artwork and letting MPLS.TV in on some of its backstory. At the end of their residency, we’ll present a new original piece by our Artist in Residence, created exclusively for MPLS.TV.
April’s artist is Aimée Pijpers, an illustrator, photographer, zine creator, and all-around maker who graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2011. To start off her month with MPLS.TV, she shared a few thoughts with us on her artwork, her past, and why Minneapolis is America’s best-kept secret.
Origin story: “Growing up, I lived in Belgium, Hong Kong, and Connecticut. I don’t really have early memories from my childhood of drawing or anything. I always loved to draw and make things, though. Skip ahead to when I was 14, I figured out I wanted to be an illustrator. It kind of came out of nowhere, but I was dead set on it. Throughout high school, I took a lot of clay classes and just made a lot of things in general. I discovered Photoshop and Wacom tablets when I was a senior in high school, won some prizes, and then I went to art school.”
Why art: ”It just comes out of me and I can’t stop it. It makes me think openly about everything. If I’m not able to make at the time an idea comes into my head, I will think about it all day and let it grow inside my brain. When I’m actually making, my mind is constantly running on an endless loop. It’s an experience I can’t share with others, and it’s special to me. And even though the process is an intimate, private experience, it allow me to communicate with others.”
Why Minneapolis: ”The city never feels like it’s trying to be a big deal like New York or Los Angeles or something. But at the same time, it’s a city that embraces so many different types of art and is probably one of the most culturally diverse cities that I have ever lived in. Minneapolis is America’s best-kept secret. When I didn’t live here, I didn’t hear about it from anyone. I feel really lucky to have found it.”
Education: MCAD for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration. “It had a huge impact. It helped me learn how to think openly, be a working artist, and how to find my own style, and then learn to embrace that and expand on it. Everything I was taught there was valuable in some way. The best thing about MCAD is that they encourage you to explore as many mediums as you can, so I took graphic design, photography, and comic classes on top of required illustration courses.”
Day job: “I work in the freight department of a shoe store right now. It pays the bills, and my heart is definitely not set there. It helps fuel the need to be constantly making. It is the most uninspiring place in the world, yet when I’m there my mind races with ideas. It’s an interesting cycle.”
In practice: ”If I’m just working in my sketchbook, it just happens quickly and there is no planning. Straight from my brain to paper. With an idea for a more serious piece, I will sketch out a few thumbnails and let it float around in my head for a day or two. I think about composition and color a lot too–how the piece will work with it and the mood it may evoke as well. I love acrylic paint because I know how to control it and create the colors I want. Lately, though, I’ve started to use watercolor, ink, colored pencils, and even some collage stuff.”
Themes and inspiration: “I think a lot of my pieces encompass personal experiences and emotion, but presented in a way that a lot of people could relate it back to their own lives, or maybe even laugh about it. I don’t know if there are single common themes among my more serious work–besides visual elements like pattern and color–but there definitely is in my sketchbook. There’s a lot of music references and texture/color exploration. The music I listen to (DIY punk/pop punk/’alternative’) inspires me the most because it’s another artistic medium that allows the creator to spill their guts. My own memories of living different places inspires me, too.”
Photography: “For me, photography is a new medium that I love and am still learning about. I shoot film because I love how it turns out. I take photographs of what’s happening in front of me. Most of the photos are honest recollections of what I’ve done and where I’ve been. With illustration you can create worlds and characters and emotional responses and moods; far places your imaginative mind goes. Photography can do all those things as well, but it’s a completely different process. For me, photography is a way to show others how I see what’s directly in front of me.”
Change over time: “In the beginning, I had great difficulty finding how I liked to work. Especially in school, you are constantly comparing yourself to your classmates, and I got caught up in that. I always strived for a perfect final product, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do at art school, but I was stuck in that mindset. I think my style has found a better place; it’s on the verge of something. I am more explorative now. I try things I wouldn’t have before. I can still work in my old styles, but working the same way all the time gets boring–it becomes a 9 to 5 office job in my mind. Trying new things is essential now.”
Favorite project: “My senior thesis during my final year at MCAD was one of the most challenging and satisfying things I’ve ever done. The project was called ‘Missing Islets,’ and I was creating images that illustrated the psychology and general experience of having and living with type 1 diabetes, which I have. I had to tackle with a lot of old memories, experiences or feelings that I suppressed. The images embraced a lot of repetition and patterns in a non-traditional way and I completely poured my heart into the pieces. And although it was a really hard project, the paintings came out the way I wanted. It felt like I won an internal battle.”
Dream project: ”So many things! I would love to do a weekly illustration for someone, whether it was a magazine or a blog or anything. And if money permitted, I would travel back to Hong Kong, revisit my childhood world again, and make something from it. Oh, and probably take too many photographs. I haven’t seen it since my family and I left in 2001, and I am constantly thinking about it. I would love any project that required me to travel.”
Free time: ”Exploring quieter parts of the city: Walking around Northeast Minneapolis and walking along the Mississippi are still some of my favorite places to roam. I also go to a lot of shows, listen to way too much music, ride my bike, make zines, write, read, take photos, hang with friends, walk around endlessly.”