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Mila K: It's Awfully Grim Up North

Mila K is an artist of many talents. A digital artist, a graphic designer, a photographer and a street artist all rolled into one, Mila K's pieces can often be seen alongside those of last month's Now Then featured artist, coLor, in and around our leafy city. Clearly committed to his ideas from conception to completion, Mila has in recent years produced artwork for local bands, producers and record labels, created clothing designs for DEAD REIT Clothing, taken some great photos of Sheffield and somehow managed to keep on top of his self-commissioned work. [imagebrowser id=21] First off - what got you started as an artist, graphic designer and photographer? I can't remember there being a time when I wasn't drawing. Paper, walls, floors, people; any surface capable of leaving my mark on became a canvas. I don't think it would have been possible for me to avoid the artist route, because if I don't openly express what's in my head I can feel myself rapidly getting snowed under. I'd rather not sound cliché, but I feel that drawing is a means of escape. I can create things that don't exist, I can portray how I feel at a particular time, or give a creative spin on events happening around me and the effect they've had. When I would speak of wanting to go into graphic design, the response would always be that I would never make a living out of being an artist. This is something I wished I'd never really taken any notice off. I've always had it drilled into me that the aim is to make money. It's one thing I've grown to despise about working. It dilutes your outlook when you see money as the end goal. I always had a tendency to draw throughout my school years, but my drawings were never really what could be described as commercial. When I was a youth I would use crappy software to make album covers for some of the bands me and my friends were in (the quality of the music also being pretty questionable). I used to make dodgy animations and crude poster mockups, and from there I began to take a liking to the digital look. Graphic design started to seem like a better option than being an artist, as such. My photography came about purely as a way to help myself through college. I got tired of trying to find photos to suit my work, so started to photograph people, events and places that seemed more appropriate to my style. I still take photographs, but not as often nowadays. I took an interest in fashion photography for a while but didn't feel it was where my skills lay. I lost confidence in that aspect of photography and decided to stick with capturing what was happening in my life. Can you describe the process of starting a new piece? Where does the initial 'spark' come from? It depends what type of work I'm doing. If it's commercial, I listen more to the needs of the client than to my own ideas. If it's personal work, it comes from all angles. I'm constantly thinking of some new idea or piece of work, so I've always got something in mind. From there I sit and flick through images I have collected over the years from the places I've been, things I've seen or just odd bits of scrap ideas I've drawn when traveling around. I develop an idea, stick Blade Runner on and start to sketch. The vast majority of my work has personal meaning behind it, so I simply try and convey that feeling onto a piece of paper. I feel that looking through my work is like looking at a map of what I was doing at particular points throughout my life. I tend to title most of my work, so with a bit of thought it should be easier for people to grasp the concept I was trying to put across. What tools - physical or digital - do you use regularly and what's your favourite? I pick up anything I can draw with and start sketching stuff down. I used to be quite anal about the materials I would work with, but now I find I'm best off keeping it raw and sticking to biro. I've always preferred straight clean lines to the 'sketchy' kind of look. Working in biro means you have to be sure what you are putting down before you do it - no fucking about. I then scan my work onto a computer, and use Illustrator to draw it onscreen. I used to use Photoshop, but the lines were never as clean as I would've liked them to be, so I left that shit years back. Other than my digital work, I've recently returned to using paint. Far too many years have been spent away from it, but now my passion for paint is fast returning. What other artistic media have had an effect on your art? Like I said, it's all pretty much been about paint recently. I can't be bothered with mixed media shit. It's never really appealed to me. Clean sharp lines have always been a favourite of mine. How do you spend your days? Not how I'd prefer to be quite honest. I spend my days sitting in an office creating commercial designs for a community-based website. When I get home, I make a start on my personal work. I find it far easier to work at night, so I tend to put a film on and start to draw. If the topic of my work is not related to something personal, I use magazines for inspiration. On the weekends I sleep, wake up, load my bag full of paint, get on the Oranjeboom and find somewhere abandoned to hit. If my days need to be spent working on something digital then I swap the lager for coffee and sit in front of a Mac. Which of your most recent pieces have you enjoyed making the most? I work with a number of different designers, photographers and clothing companies. Recently I've been working quite closely with local street artist CoLor [last month's Now Then featured artist] and Cincest Films on some pretty fantastic projects. What are you working on at the moment? I'm currently working closely with DEAD REIT Clothing. Other than that, continuing to develop my style and work flow. I can't really say where my work is headed next. I guess I'll just have to see what life throws at me. Tell us a bit about Rebel Kulture, the zine about the free party scene in the UK that you did some illustrations for back in 2009. It's pretty much what it says on the tin. I started getting into record labels such as Stay Up Forever, Routemaster, Vicious Circle, and the whole Acid T / NRG scene as a teen. I caught onto the tail end of the free party scene in Sheffield, and became involved with a lot of the sound systems that were still putting on parties around the town. I guess there are only so many hours you can spend sitting in some dirty warehouse or field before you start wanting to recreate that atmosphere elsewhere somehow. I see Rebel Kulture as a part of my life. I'll always remember the amazing people I spent so many hours with talking shit and experiencing new things. I think my illustrations and photographs captured that vibe of a small selection of people I met and the things we did. I don't go to free parties as much anymore. I still love the music, but feel my life has gone in a different direction since then. How has your art changed in recent years? I don't think my artwork has ever drastically changed. Looking back at old sketches of mine, they're far more sinister than my recent creations. A while back, I got told how as a youth I was witness to a horrific car crash, an accident I constantly spoke about and drew for months on end. I guess that was the initial spark to founding my style, but I think I've always had a tendency towards producing dark imagery. I've been into horror films from an early age and they've definitely had a massive impact on my work. My art became more fashion orientated when I was around 15. I used to draw a lot of women after looking through high fashion magazines left around the house by my sister. When going through a rough patch in life, my artwork tends to become nastier, more trippy, more surreal. I guess I have a slightly twisted view of the world, which no doubt influences what I draw. As far as colour schemes go, my work now mainly consists of black and white, with the introduction of one other colour. I can't imagine it's ever going to change much from this. I like the sharp lines, the high contrast, and the mood of a piece. I think too much colour can clutter an idea. It's easy to hide bad work with the introduction of colour. What do you like and dislike in art? Where do I start? The thing I most dislike is this bullshit culture of people following trends to sell or fit into some sort of clique. You see it all the time; talentless, unimaginative artists ripping off whatever is deemed fashionable at that moment. They're the ones making money and gaining notoriety, just from imitating the work of others. I hate flicking through a portfolio, only to see a timeline of everything current that year. What I love most is an artist who stays true to themselves, not caring about the expectations of others, or compromising their work purely for an easy sell. Art is meant to be personal to you. It's a reflection of yourself and of your soul, not the souls of others. Good advice you wish you'd been told earlier? Fuck it. milak.co.uk )

Next article in issue 53

The Dark Mountain Project / 'Five Dead Badgers' by Chris T-T.

The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itsel…

 The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itsel

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