Art Brat: Illustrator Mollie Cronin

Mollie Cronin is a freelance illustrator, cartoonist, and writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Mollie creates beautifully soft and often tattooed babes, like the one (below) that she made just for us at Things&Ink. We chat to Mollie about her illustrative style and what inspires her… 

tattedladyWhen did you begin to draw and what inspired you to do so? I’ve always drawn! I grew up in a family of artists (my parents both trained to be sculptors – they met at the same art school I would later attend) so I was always encouraged to make art. But for a long time I didn’t see a future for myself in making art, I didn’t start making and posting cartoons until after I graduated from university. I was having a frustrating day at work and I doodled this little caricature of cranky me (steam coming off of my head, etc.) and something just clicked – I went home that day and couldn’t stop drawing cartoons.

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Do you have a background in art? I actually studied art history! I knew I didn’t have the patience for a career as an artist, watching my mum go through it (my dad stopped making art and went on to do other work in the art world) I knew what it took and I didn’t really see that for myself. I eventually ended up at an art school studying art history, and I took one or two drawing classes (I thought it would be useful for a curator and critic to have experience with making art) but didn’t begin making my own work until I left university. I was way too serious, the art I would have made in university would have been so uptight, I loosened up a bit once I graduated so it makes sense that that was when I started drawing again!

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How would you describe your illustration style? I think my illustration style is very cartoony! Which makes sense, having started out making cartoons. I try to keep my images pretty streamlined, I don’t love a lot of colour. Old women who see me at fairs always call my work cheeky, and they usually say it with a wink (which I LOVE) so let’s go with that.

IMG_20181029_175644_593What influences your drawings? Are there any artists you admire? I’m influenced by my personal life. The cartoons I make are all riffs on my real life (semi-autobiographical), hybrids of real people, etc. Like that first cartoon I did of tiny, angry me at work I still draw what frustrates me – gender dynamics, relationships, etc., and try to find a broader experience in my personal one. The fat babe illustrations are similar, I started drawing them a year or so ago when I started gaining weight and was struggling with my body confidence. So I started drawing more confident versions of myself – fat babes that were funny and pretty and maybe gross but also super confident. I ultimately think I want to do more work in cartooning, I really admire artists like Julia Wertz, Walter Scott, and Erin Nations. They make the kind of comic books that I want to make.

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Many of your drawings are of fat babes, why do you think it is important to share images of different kinds of bodies? Representation is so important. If I had been surrounded by images of beautiful fat babes when I was young I would probably have had a very different relationship to my body than I did. My mum always tried to set a good example and be comfortable in her skin around us, but if you don’t see people that look like you in the media or in art then it’s hard to believe in your own beauty. Making these drawings was so much an act of kindness towards myself. Society had trained me to punish my body for being fat (and I definitely punished it) but I decided to try and celebrate it instead, even if I didn’t have the confidence in myself quite yet I could sort of draw that confidence and that self love into reality. And it worked! And it feels really special to be able to help people feel the same way by making drawings that look like them too.

What is it about the people you draw that makes them brats? Do you see yourself as a brat? “Art Brat” is a name I made up to refer to myself and my sisters, it’s a riff on army brat or navy brat but instead of the military it describes being from a family of artists. Growing up in the art world is such a weird and special upbringing, but it also made me a total brat because I was kind of a know-it-all or I would name drop etc. So it’s also me being a little self-deprecating (which is very my humour) because I can be SUCH a brat.

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We love your tattooed babes, do you have any tattoos? I actually don’t have any tattoos! I love tattoos, I follow a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram, and I obviously love drawing them myself. My parents gave me a lot of freedom to express myself but they were always strict about tattoos. They basically thought: when you’re surrounded by images all the time (like artists are) how can you choose one forever? And it kind of stuck. I’m also just naturally a commitment-phobe. But maybe someday! Drawing babes with tattoos is another way I’m living out my body dreams, I get to try out all of these different designs but don’t have to commit.

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How does it feel when people get your art works tattooed on them? I LOVE when other people tattoo my images! It’s another way I’m living vicariously through my work. It’s so special to see something you’ve drawn become part of someone’s body. The wildest one was a recent tattoo, it was the first time my own likeness was used as the tattoo and that was kind of surreal. It’s so great to see the different variations from person to person, tattoo artist to tattoo artist, even if it’s the same image. I love that there are people all over the world walking around with my art on their bodies!

It’s been interesting to learn about getting compensation for tattoos. I ask for payment for the use of the image any time anyone gets a tattoo of my work. People usually ask, and I have a link to my shop in my insta bio so it’s all pretty straight forward! I think it’s important for people to be conscientious about where they get their images from, just because you have access to an image doesn’t mean you have ownership of it, so I really appreciate when people ask permission and compensate me for my work.

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