Illustrator Brie Moreno, better known as @boogerbrie, fills her pages with precisely drawn stories. But don’t let the careful hand-colouring fool you; her drawings are far from ordinary. Wiggly witches wearing sandals, and whip-yielding women in thigh-high boots, Brie’s accessorised characters are the best dressed around.
So Brie, I know you’ve done tonnes of interviews before. But just for any of our readers who haven’t heard of you, could you give us a little snippet about your life and how you came to be here today?
I was born October 14 1994, in Ottawa (Canada). I lived in the suburbs until I was nineteen and then moved to Toronto to study illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. I left school after my second year and moved to London (England).
If you could somehow sum up your work in one sentence, what would it be?
An anxious, muddy princess scaling a vine-covered wall in the hope of retrieving her pink kitten heels.
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Your drawings prominently feature cheeky-looking, powerful female figures. Are the characters often based on your self or friends, and are you commenting on feminism by allowing these snazzy-shoe-wearing-heroines to be the main attraction?
All the characters and stories I make are vignettes of my life. I don’t necessarily look or dress like my characters, but they all encompass something that I feel deep down. When I draw these characters, I want to make them confident, intimidating, strong – all attributes that I know I have but want to express in my daily life. My drawings will always be seen through a feminist lens because feminism is a belief that I’m always fighting for and will always care about.
The newsprint paper you work on gives your warm felt-tip pen colours an even rustier and richer quality. It’s also super cool when your work looks crumply and wrinkly because the paper has buckled. What brought you to work like this, allowing the hand-made/analogue quality of the materials to take control of the aesthetic?
About two years ago, I was working only digitally and found that I was beginning to lose the spark I once felt for drawing. I missed feeling the paper and getting my hands covered in ink. I missed holding onto originals and feeling precious about my work. Working with newsprint and felt-tip allows for my work to be more approachable as well as contain more mistakes, which I find truly endearing. I don’t want my work to look stiff anymore!
You’ve mentioned previously that back when you were studying you worked a lot in 3D. What’s the weirdest thing you ever made?
It’s a bit tricky to describe but in my first year of university sculpture class, I made a really large and lumpy wood box positioned on a platform. I covered this box in plaster with a fish tail leading off it, then staple-gunned blue faux fur around the top and added a big fuzzy jumper to the whole mess. It’s a really confusing picture. I used to store books and knick-knacks in it, but now it’s just sitting in my mom’s basement.
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Your quirky personality really does come through in your art and your Instagram feed. You love weird thrift shoes and handbags and just about every kitsch sculpture or toy. Do the unusual things you find/buy often feature in your drawings?
Definitely! I’m constantly referencing purses and shoes I find in thrift stores. It’s my way of sharing my finds in an unusual way. I tend to steer away from directly imitating any sculptures I find, since I’m afraid of copyright issues. But I can safely say that my sketchbook is filled with one too many drawings of Russ Berrie figurines that the world will never see.
What are your wackiest three Ebay purchases to date?
‘Anime collectors PVC Figurine girl with wings’, ‘ladies real polished vintage coconut handbag purse’, ‘I Love You This Much by R & W Berries Co's pink figurine.’
Aside from how amazing it is – I’m super attracted to your work because I’m a huge fan of outsider and folk art. I see a lot of, not similarities per se, but a harmony between your work and the work of two of my favourite artists: Henry Darger and Marilena Pelosi. This could be because of the imaginary quality and out-of-this-world characters you create. Did you ever explore or find inspiration from naïve art, or did your drawings just take this turn naturally?
I love both of those artists you listed! I’m a huge fan of outsider/folk art alongside comics, it’s the art nook that inspires me the most. Susan Te Kahurangi King, Royal Robertson, Annie Pootoogook, Mingering Mike, etc.; there are so many talented folk artists out there whose work has really hit me. When approaching my own work, I tend to think about these artists and the honesty they yield with art. I want to work at being more vulnerable, more relaxed and more transparent with my drawings.
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If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Something very boring, like being able to fly or knowing all the lyrics to any song.
Could you list your three favourite zines or comics that you’ve come to own, and what they’re about?
First is Melody, by Silvie Rancourt: I discovered this book when I was visiting Drawn and Quarterly. It’s an incredibly silly yet heartfelt story about a young woman in Montreal who begins stripping in order to make ends meet. The drawings are charming, simple and incredibly enticing. I remember devouring the book on the train from Montreal to Toronto – one of the best train rides of my life. Second is Gold Pollen and Other Stories, by Seiichi Hayashi: I can confidently say that this is one of the best comics ever published, as well as one that has changed my life. It’s a collection of Hayashi's works from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. The drawings are effortless yet complex, the stories are poetic and lively, the colour works are a masterpiece, and it will leave you drooling and wanting more. And lastly, The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, by Brian Walker: When I read Nancy, nothing is wrong in the world. I’m at peace. I’m happy. I’m straight up laughing!
In comics, the panels can be quite strict and exactly measured on the page – probably so that it’s legible and clear. You’ve previously talked about Austin English’s Gulag Casual which really rejects this strict format. Would you ever just go mad and create a zine that’s completely upside down, wiggly and just downright weird in format as well as content?
I think that’s a definite possibility! I’m still trying to work on a grid to see how my wobbly ways can harmonize on a page. I really rely on the grid to be able to tell a coherent story, but I do like the idea of doing things a bit upside down. I tend to get bored easily, so there’s a big chance I’ll quit the grids in a few years.
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Looking back through your past work, I can see how it has really developed, and how you seem to have much more fun with it now – it’s as if some sort of pressure has been lifted. As an illustrator myself, I went through university stressing about finding my own ‘style’ (I really hate that word!). Do you think the happy development of your work is a result of growing up or realising that you care less about what people think?
Yes! It’s taken a while but I do feel like I finally have a formula for my drawings, which makes creating new work a lot less intimidating. I remember when drawing just felt like a fluke. Now I know how to approach my work and what the outcome will look like. I think this shift occurred naturally from practice. I also made a strong effort to stop comparing myself to other artists. With time you find what you like, what interests dictate what you draw, what colours move you, etc. It really is all about growing.
You always have loads of exciting projects and events happening, what’s next for you and where can our readers catch a glimpse of your work?
I’m in a group show curated by Heather Benjamin called Maiden Form at Andrew Edlin Gallery (New York). I’m currently working on a new comic for Mould Map, edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler, and a new comic by Breakdown Press to be published in the fall. I have a new zine out with Nieves Books, as well as some self-published titles available on my website.
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