The last time we featured Maria Midttun was almost three years ago, and in that time it’s safe to say that her work has changed considerably.
“At the time of the last feature, collage was a fairly new way of working for me, and my practice was divided between collage work (which rarely featured characters) and drawings (which had more of a human focus),” the illustrator tells It’s Nice That. “My aim at the time was to find a way to bring these two aspects together as I really enjoyed the naivety and clumsiness of collage - as well as bringing in a whole new range of texture. Although I still really enjoy making those types of collages and working solely with objects, I think my strength is within representing human figures.”
The ever-changing nature of people is a subject that has become heavily involved in Maria’s work, finding them dynamic and interesting in comparison with the still life objects that featured before. “When drawing objects or getting obsessed on a subject/theme (like the carpets), after some time the idea feels ‘exhausted’ and done,” she says. “Trying to represent human figures still feels interesting. There are still things I can figure out, learn, get better at and find new ways to draw - I don’t feel done with it yet.”
Market forces have also played a part in this move (albeit subconsciously), as Maria admits that many organisations are looking for this personal touch: “Commissioned work has also played a role in this direction as well, as clients were more inclined to ask me for character-based work.”
Originally from Norway, Maria has managed to build up a strong practice from her home in East London, working for a variety of independent brands and publishers, alongside her own projects that include workshops at The Barbican and Brighton University.
Although the subject-matter of Maria’s work may have changed in recent years, her colour palette remains similar and, if anything, has moved closer towards a completely black and white approach. “I often prefer black and white," she says. "When I do use colour it’s often in relation to print, either riso or screen printing,” she explains. “I find it easier and more natural to experiment with colour through printing and printmaking, rather than digitally, which is why it features rarely in my work at the moment. I create all my work in black and white, and use the photocopier a lot for textures and flattening, so it’s more practical that way. I’m working on it though!”
Maria’s practice has also begun to diversify into other mediums, notably ceramics. This came about due to a chance meeting with ceramicist Lucia Ocejo at Crown Works Pottery in Bethnal Green. After some successful experimentation and collaboration between the two, they have continued to produce a variety of illustrated ceramics.
“It’s super fun working with Lucia! She is extremely skilled and a very fast worker, and as a potter I think you learn to not be so precious about your work, as there are so many stages where things can break. This really resonates with me and how I aim to think about my own work and practice,” says Maria. “We’re both super happy with the collaboration and feel it offers something new for both of us. It’s exciting to understand this new material and all the opportunities that come with it. We’re definitely going to test some new clays, slips and glazes this year!”
Continuing with this diversification, Maria mentions how she is keen to explore opportunities with textiles, weaving and knitting as well: “Working with new materials has been such an eye opener and so refreshing for my practice, so it is definitely something I’d like to explore further through different formats.”
Having taken the time to embrace the use of collage and utilise the techniques that she has been practicing, Maria has managed to progress and ultimately fine-tune her working process. “Introducing collage in my practice has also influenced the way I draw. In one way it reminds me to keep it a little bit lo-fi and not too polished. It has also influenced how I think about shapes when I draw, break down and simplify things I want to represent through drawing,” she says.
“Overall, I think my line is more confident perhaps, more refined and efficient!?" Maria reflects as we come to the end of our catch-up. "Three years ago I think I was still working things out a lot more, a bit more trial and error. Now my work feels a lot more resolved and understood, I hope!”
GalleryAll work by Maria Midttun
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.