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How do you start your mornings? Well, for Art Baby Girl, they consist of getting up, having a bowl of ‘seasonal depression’, brushing your teeth with ‘god is dead’, spraying on some ‘he’s not worth it’ and grabbing a ‘gaping expanse of emptiness’ on your way out. Grace Miceli, better known as @artbabygirl, has been gracing us with her sinisterly cheerful illustrations for many years now; and these sticker-like illustrations stick with you.

But not only does she illustrate the bleak realities of life, she’s also collaborated with larger names such as Nike, Urban Outfitters and SZA, and opened up the space to fresh young artists with the Art Baby Gallery by organizing and curating. We manage to wiggle into her busy schedule to discuss millennials, Instagram, and social opinions.

So you are based in Brooklyn (New York City). Have you always lived here, and does living in this creative hub open up more possibilities?
I’ve lived in Brooklyn for five years. I moved here after graduating from college. Living in a big city isn’t necessary to find creative opportunities but it’s definitely helpful, and was always a dream of mine to try.
Your artist name, Art Baby Girl: where did it come from and why did you decide on going under a pseudonym?
It was something I came up with years ago just as my Instagram handle, and then it made sense to use as my branding because it’s cute and playful. It’s not really a pseudonym, but just something that is easier to remember (and pronounce) for most people than my actual name.
You often use crayons or felt-tip pens to create your work and reference ‘90s/‘00s youth culture. Are you nostalgic and craving a simpler, more innocent time?
I think that when we grow up, we forget what it’s like to have a true sense of wonder or create freely without worry of judgement. Using the materials that I do helps me to remember those things. It’s not so much about nostalgia or innocence, but more about opening up a gateway to the past when I wasn't so critical.

I’ve noticed a recurring inspiration for your drawings is cereal packaging, a favourite of mine being the shady looking Tony the tiger. Are there hidden meanings behind this?
The cereal boxes were a reference to how you start your day – with a bowl of cereal, and often (at least for me) a barrage of existential questions. As I’ve done more work about myself and learnt about my habits, I do also think the use of cereal and snacks in my work has to do with my relationship to food. How many of us turn to it for comfort from such overwhelming thoughts.
By the way, what is your favourite cereal?
I don’t really eat cereal anymore, but when I was a teenager, there was a limited edition Cinnamon Frosted Flakes that I loved.
Much of your work has a dark humour to it, providing a lighter note to deeper existential questions and themes on mental health. As a well-known artist, was it an intentional choice to be an advocate for mental wellbeing and other causes, or was it simply a natural development of your work?
I feel like it came natural to me. I really hope that by being vulnerable with my struggles it can encourage others to do the same, or at least start asking themselves questions about how they are really doing on the inside. Social media has really encouraged so many of us to project our ideal lives and identities online, but that is never the full story – and ignoring that can be so detrimental.

“I think that when we grow up, we forget what it’s like to have a true sense of wonder or create freely without worry of judgement.”
You are also very aware of cultural and political issues, from supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement to being a feminist. Do you think it’s important, or a necessity even, for people with many followers to use their voice on current affairs and possibly make a difference?
I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years about when it’s important to say your opinion or to instead lift up other more marginalized voices. As a white woman, I exist in a very privileged place, and whilst I want to encourage my followers to be involved and aware of the world they exist in, I never want to speak over more valid voices and opinions. I believe that now it’s perhaps better for me to simply donate to causes already doing the work than offer my personal opinions.
Your Instagram page, @artbabygirl, has over 79,000 followers. Do you believe that this social network is a vital platform for creative people in the digital age?
Instagram has been so important and helpful to me over the last few years while I’ve been establishing myself. It has connected me with friends, peers and clients that I probably never would have been able to meet otherwise. But I do worry that many of us place too much importance on it, and worry about the performance of our posts instead of what the actual content means to us. It can be a complicated relationship for me, but I’m working on my boundaries with it. I don’t want to ever take for granted how many people it lets me communicate with, but I also have a lot of trouble logging off sometimes.
The anyone-can-do-it element of promoting yourself online is like a modern-day zine culture – a costless and easy way of getting your work out there. But do you have any hints or tips on how to get your work noticed?
What worked for me was developing (over many years) and creating work that really meant something to me. Because of its honesty, people connected with it. I think that many people just want instant success and vitality, and I’m not saying that’s bad. But I think that if you go into it just with the goal of getting more followers, it can be hard to sustain yourself and naturally evolve.

Having collaborated with other online celebrities such as Alex Wallbaum and Aleia, do you believe that this widens your inspiration and ideas as well as your audience, and what is it like working with other established artists?
I’m lucky to say that the other artists I work with are my close friends, so it’s always really fun. Of course, I’m so inspired by their work and creative vision, but also just who they are as people.
I see that you began your own platform, Art Baby Gallery, which has an open submission for artists. This is amazing! How did this come about?
I started that project right after graduating because I wanted to find a way to support other emerging, digitally-based artists and I didn’t have the resources to open a physical gallery.
Coming from an illustration/art background myself, I always sense that there is an invisible hierarchy in the art world that downgrades fun, illustrated work in favour of something more conceptual. Do you think it is seen as a ‘lower’ form of art because it is more relatable to a wider audience?
I definitely think that attitude exists in the fine art world, but I don’t really see myself as being a part of that. I know my work is accessible to lots of people, which many conceptual artworks are not, and that is what really matters to me. I’m not making work for the art world elite.

“Social media has really encouraged so many of us to project our ideal lives and identities online, but that is never the full story – and ignoring that can be so detrimental.” 
I’ve noticed you’ve dabbled with animation, large-scale murals and even created your own clothing… what’s next for Art Baby Girl?
I really hope to do more large-scale installations and travel internationally, perhaps collaborating with more brands. It has also been my dream for years to work on character design and art direction for a long-form animation cartoon.
And lastly, growing up in the digital age would make you a millennial, but the word itself has gained such a bad reputation. Creatively speaking, being multidisciplinary and confident in pursuing your dreams is surely a positive thing. Do you think the future of the artist/designer is to be a fluid, boundary-crossing creative being?
I hope so! For me, creating across mediums has been a really informative process. Everything I do informs everything else, and I hope other artists feel encouraged to do the same.

Peach Doble
Nick DeLieto

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