Interview with Carolina Porras
Carolina Porras‘ contribution to As You Were: Living Situations is more than just a comic; it’s a goodbye of sorts. After three years in San Francisco, she recently relocated to Gainesville, Florida (where the high today is 80 degrees). Keep reading to find out how Florida’s nature, architecture, and obsession with tourism inspire her.
Interview by Natalye for Silver Sprocket
Tell us about yourself and about Toaster. How did you get involved in AYW?
I just moved back to Gainesville, FL, after living in San Francisco for three years. In San Francisco, I worked at Ritual Coffee Roasters where I met the amazing Avi. A friendship blossomed and he asked me to contribute to this AYW, which was perfect timing for my big move across the country.
Now that I am back in Florida I have been working on murals, crocheting like a grandma on speed, biking around, and spending ample time with Toaster. So speaking of Toaster, I adopted her here in Gainesville four years ago at a feral cat shelter. She is the snuggliest weirdo cat ever and has been very patient with her mom, traveling from state to state with me while I figure out where to live.
You’ve said you’ve been drawing all your life; when did you decide it’s what you wanted to “do” with your life? What is your process like?
I remember in the fifth grade Tiffany Wang was drawing flowers on all the girls’ backpacks, and I was like, “Woah, teach me how to draw a flower; I want to learn how to draw cool flowers.” And that feeling never stopped. I wanted to learn how to draw everything I could since that point.
I remember drawing comics when I was in middle school—dorky little things—and that kind of stopped as I got more “classically trained” when I went to an art high school. When I moved to San Francisco, I started working as an after school drawing teacher. The program was geared more toward comics, and I fell back in love with telling stories in a visual way!
My process is kind of willy-nilly. Sometimes I feel really drawn to a specific thing and HAVE to draw it. Other times I sit at my desk staring… and waiting. Lots of times ideas come when I am biking; I have been really inspired by the Florida nature / architecture of the houses in Gainesville.
What made you decide to get a degree in drawing? What things did you learn in the program that made you a better artist today?
My parents were really great and pushed me to go to an art high school starting from grade 10. This really put me in an environment that cultivated an art community and I loved it.
After I graduated, though, I had a post high school crisis and went to culinary school for a couple weeks. All I did in culinary classes was draw the food, and I thought, “Okay, this is clearly what I need to continue following.” So I applied to University of Florida for a drawing degree.
The drawing program really helped me think about my art in a more conceptual way, which was really great, because high school was focused more on technical skills. I also met some amazing people and artists through my program.
Your contribution to AYW #4 talks about moving across the country. When was this, and why? What was the most difficult part of moving? What was the best thing about it?
So, very soon after I graduated from college, me and my best friend, who I was in the drawing program with, moved to San Francisco because she got into grad school at SFAI. Toaster, me, my best friend, her two cats, plus everything we owned crammed in a car drove across country. That was a hard road trip. We arrived after about a week and I called San Francisco my home for three years!
It was such a struggle at first. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing in San Francisco and I spent a lot of time alone walking those damn hills all day. It takes time, and finally I found my place in the city and had a great house in the Sunset District.
I traveled a lot during those years—around the West Coast, but also to visit my friends and family in Florida. The last trip back to visit my parents made me realize I wanted to be closer to them again, and there was something about Florida that was calling me back. Maybe it was the heat and cheap rent.
Anyway, I made the decision in a month, packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and left. It has been almost six months and it has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days I think, “Why would I ever move back to FL when I was living in SF?!” And other days, when it’s hot, and I’m biking to a clothing swap followed by a comic book reading followed by an art show, I think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”
Tell us about C.O.R.A.L. Project.
C.O.R.A.L (or Cosmic Ocean Reef Adventure Land) is a project that I started at an artist residency in Colorado (Elsewhere in Paonia; it’s amazing!) This is a project where I was constructing a visual interpretation of a fictional theme park in a different dimension. Some of it is in space, some underwater, some in a non-gravitational plane. There are galactic rides, holographic admission tickets, and don’t forget about the souvenirs to take home with you after a day in the cosmos!
This theme park stemmed from my upbringing in Central Florida, the epicenter of all things adventure theme parks and tourism. Florida has a really interesting history of tourism, and I began to do research on old roadside attractions and abandoned tourism ideas. This desire to make Florida a destination through quirky gimmicks and facades of paradise is really peculiar, like the underwater performing mermaid theme park or the abandoned “Beautiful Atomic Tunnel” and the home of “Happy” the Walking Fish. One day I would like to make my drawings of the water slides, tunnels, and galactic pools into sculpture form, where I make an interactive Adventure Land tourists can walk through.
What does 2016 look like for you in terms of creative things?
Currently, I am working on a mural with my friend Gracy Malokowski. This will be our third mural in Gainesville since I moved back.
I am working out of a studio in downtown Gainesville with four amazing artists. We are hoping to form a tight-knit collective in our studio space, opening it up to the community for art shows, flea markets, and general arts and crafty nights.
I am also working on a new project with my friend Alicia Toldi who lives in San Francisco. We are creating an artist residency atlas that will be created from our experiences traveling around the country and visiting small / emerging residency spaces. We are still in the process of collecting research on different spaces and creating a tour road map. This project will happen this summer and will take us on a month-long road trip around the Pacific Northwest. More to come on that, but that project is called Piney Wood Atlas.
If you had to choose one artistic piece of output of yours (comic or otherwise) that would be representative of who you are to show someone who is not familiar with your work, what would it be?
Oof, that’s hard. Maybe the drawing of my Cosmic Treats galactic donut, because its silly, sugary, and in space.
Off the top of your head, who are some artists whose work you love that fans of your comics should check out?
I love Jason. I think his style is genius. Frederik Peeters and Vanessa Davis. Tessa Brunton is an amazing illustrator and I’ve met her before; she is the sweetest! My friend Maxine Worthy is spectacular. I met her here in Gainesville and she is doing the SAW program, which is an amazing program! Everyone come do SAW and live in Gainesville with me :D! Leela Corman, James Turek, Aidan Koch, Pat Aulisio, Laura Callaghan… so many more, ahh! Though I’m also obsessed with Moomin (Tove Jansson).
What question do you like to be asked / wish you were asked but never were… and what’s the answer?
My favorite question is:
Do you want to go grab a beer and draw?
As You Were: Living Situations is out now! Grab yourself a copy in our online story and check out Carolina’s comic! You can also see more of her art here.