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10 Questions with Caroline Mills

10 Questions with Caroline Mills

Hi Caroline, welcome to this textual interview with Monk. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, which we're doing in advance of your First Friday show with us this coming October 7th.

You're a printmaker and illustrator from Philly and a graduate of Temple University's Tyler School of Art and Architecture. Your illustration work (which you do on both paper and textile media) is exciting and chaotic, and features deep cut pop culture characters mixed with text phrases and embellishments like drawings of dolphins, flowers, palm trees, and so on. In your own words, you work "with iconography taken from childhood memories and trends" as a method of journaling, and use them to explore your own self-questioning about personal trauma, sexuality, media consumption, and these ingrained memories and feelings.

Speaking as an ~elder millennial~, these autobiographical sketchbook vibes depicting familiar pop culture characters (including celebrities, video games, comics & anime, and American cartoons) with text phrases is really interesting to see, because when I was younger, there used to be like, zero crossover of this imagery. Meaning you'd never see someone making art that has X-MEN alongside Bratz, Animal Crossing, and 90s Sailor Moon villains, all in the same piece. In my adolescence, you used to have to be a real actual socially outcast nerd to even know about some of those things! So for me it's exciting to see those separations come down as culture evolves, media from past generations becomes ever instantly available, and subsequent generations of people make their own sense of all this stuff we've been exposed to over the years.

With all this on our minds, please enjoy these questions we have for you.

A pile of stuffed animals fills the entire frame of the image, taken from tumblr.

What kind of environment did you come up in, and what kind of environment do you like to make for yourself today?

I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia with my parents and my three siblings. We (my parents and I, my siblings are older) then moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia which was a big change. I grew up in a very supportive household, my parents were and still are my biggest supporters when it comes to art. My parents’ love of music, film, and other media helped fuel my creativity and still does to this day. Most of my work features characters, songs, and other symbology that reflects my childhood. They also helped me through my mental illness journey, which I am eternally grateful for. They helped me get the utilities I needed to grow as a person and help my art grow as well. (They’re my best friends.)

A comfortable environment for me is a place I feel safe in. I’ve had people tell me my bedroom resembles a child’s bedroom, which is very accurate. I like to be surrounded my things that bring me joy, i.e. toys from my childhood, plenty of art supplies, posters of my favorite art and people, and a handful of my favorite music on retainer. My workspace is also my bedroom, sometimes even drawing on my bed, so it needs to be a reflection of myself.


What kind of stuff were you into when you were like, thirteen? Any advice for thirteen-year-olds today?

When I was thirteen I think that is when my mother’s constant push of punk culture and musical knowledge started to hit me. I was very into deep diving youtube for obscure music that I could show my mom and friends. I was also going through puberty, so curing my hormonal acne was a big obsession. And I <3 boobies bracelets. And having everyone like me.

Thirteen was the worst age in my opinion, I felt so out of place in my own body and mind. My advice for thirteen year olds today is: Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Don’t try and fit in. It’s boring. I wish I wasn’t so scared back then, and I’m thankful I met some of my best friends today then because they supported me no matter what.


Artwork featuring lots of cartoon sketches and a sign that says 'was it worth it?'

What's your stance on magic?

I love magic. I love wizards and witches and all types of sorcery. I am a big believer in it all. I know some people might think it’s silly, but it’s fun to believe in something. I also love the X-files, so that helps fuel my obsession of the magic/extraterrestrial world.


Do you have any pet peeves or criticisms of art/culture at the moment?

As I dive deeper into the art world, I think one of the biggest criticisms I have is that the amount of social media followers you have does not reflect your skill in art. I think having the ability to create works that provoke a deeper feeling or works that are original are more important. I think, in my humble opinion, that all art should have a meaning or cause. What do you want to show to the world, and why? I respect a lot of artists for their talent, but I want to know how they can use that talent to make something that is important for them. When I started really teaching myself how to draw, I was so obsessed with making the perfect face, or shading something so it looked realistic. I am grateful I grew from that and learned how to express myself and my feelings into these pieces, and I recommend every artist to do the same. As corny as this sounds: dig deep!


Do you have any deep thoughts on how childhood experiences with stuff like games and cartoons shape and effect people as they get older?

I think as people grow older, a lot forget or choose to not incorporate those things in their life. Being an adult does not mean you need to drop every fun thing from your childhood and retire into a cubicle. Keeping a relationship with my childhood helped bring small joys into my life and reflect what I wanted for myself as a child. I think I don’t care if people see my art or my belongings and think I need to grow up. I am having fun, and I think that’s the most important factor in being alive. I love asking people of any age what their favorite cartoon or toy was, it’s interesting to see their answers and why they loved them so much. It helps us dive into another world where we don’t have to think about a 9-5 or bills all the time.

A picture of small cute plastic figurines on small wall mounted shelves.


What's something you'll spend money on, and something you refuse to spend too much money on?

Something I will spend money on forever is markers, or any art medium. I love buying new supplies that give me ideas for future pieces. I will also spend money on toys or knick-knacks that help grow my collection (a little treat). Also, good food. Spending money on good food out with your friends is a full experience, and I will always choose to do so.

Something I refuse to spend too much money on is shoes. Shoes should not be more than $100. And shoes over $100 are still going to get dirty.


Area fashion trend you wish would come back?

I love the return of skate/street style from the late 90s/early 2000s. I love baggy, comfortable clothes. I also miss vintage t-shirts with, sometimes lewd, phrases on them.


Area fashion trend you wish would retire?

Skinny jeans. They were a struggle to get in back when I was a teenager. Find pants you can do things in!

A wall covered in a handful of film posters and magazine cuttings.

What's something you wish people engaged with more?

I’ve realized as I grow older I don’t have as much time as I used to, and I miss being able to watch beautiful films, listen to beautiful music, play video games, etc. I wish people (including myself) engaged with the art culture in this world! It’s beautiful [and] gives you feelings you don’t feel on a day to day basis. It’s good to feel, whether it be crying or laughing or screaming.


And, any shout outs?

I love this question. I would love to shoutout my beautiful parents, family, and friends. My dog Copper. My trophy wife Nick (this is a joke he’s very smart and accomplished). Looney Tunes. Danny Devito. T.Rex the band. Crayola markers. Adidas sneakers. Last but not least, the people who enjoy my art. It means the world.

A photo of Caroline Mills smiling. A young white person with dark brown eyes and hair to their shoulders
Follow @carolinemills on Instagram or visit their website for more.
Omoi was pleased to feature Caroline as part of First Fridays in Old City, October 7th, 41 S 3rd Street, 5 to 8pm.
Flier text: First Friday with Caroline Mills, October 7th, 41 S 3rd Street, 5 to 8pm
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