Chelsea Martin Interview

I know you've had a lot of schooling for art, but did you also take any writing classes at the California College of Arts?

I was an individualized major at CCA, so I got to design my own curriculum. I took a lot of writing courses. I took some illustration, and a lot of weaving and textiles classes. I think studying writing while also studying art was a good experience. I learned a lot about writing in visual arts courses that I don't think would've made sense to me otherwise. Like in illustration you learn how important contrast is, how you need really dark darks and really light lights to make an interesting image (generally). I think that rule applies to writing, too. It's easy to have an idea for a piece with some certain mood and style and purpose and then just write it. But I think you need to move around, complicate things, go off subject for a few sentences, or just move to a new subject altogether. Dip your cheetos in the pudding a little. Otherwise it's just a lot of grey tones.

How much of your writing is autobiographical?

That depends on whether or not there is actually a British guy in my living room repeating the words "lovely" and "colour with a u" sarcastically, or if he is some figment of my cryptic, exhausting imagination.

Family dynamics and pregnancy are often discussed in your writing. Where do these fascinations come from?

You're right. They probably come from somewhere. I don't know. My mom is dating my uncle. And it gets difficult to think of new ways to address my dad without calling him "dad" but it seems important that I continue to avoid using that word with him. I have a photograph of me and my cousin, from when we were babies, holding giant chunks of cheese and smiling hell of hard. Plus, my mom would always cover my eyes and be like, "They must really really, really, really be very, very in love and committed to each other" if people were ever making out on TV.

What writers or books have influenced you?

The writers I really like tend to make me completely unable to write anything. Italo Calvino and Milan Kundera have both written perfect books. But after I read them all I feel inspired to do is rewrite them as they already are. I just feel like, "The book I want to write is already written and I've just read it." I have a hard time thinking about influence. I think stylistically I'm influenced by semi-emotional conversations, advertising campaigns, and the backs of soda bottles and stuff. And with content I'm inspired by social situations that made me feel uncomfortable and confused, romantic situations that made me feel frustrated and confused, and body language that makes very little sense.

Do you read tabloids? Watch TV?

I used to but then I got mature. Them celebs just keep doing the same things anyway. We don't have TV at my apartment, but I probably wouldn't watch it if we did. I have a very low tolerance for television and movies. I'd almost always rather do anything else. I like watching stand up comedy.

When was the last time you went dancing?

I have the most fun dancing by myself. But you make a good point: A long time.

What makes you laugh?

I think if I were to walk out of the bathroom and say "I didn't flush or wash my hands" and then my roommate says, "What?" and I say "I didn't flush or wash my hands" and then my roommate says, "What?" but I ignore her and start to walk back to my room and she says, "What did Chelsea say?" to my other roommate. I would think that was funny. And then once I am back in my room and I'm smiling a little from what just happened and the boy I'm seeing goes, "What's funny?" and I tell him what happened and he says, "Why is that funny?" and I say, "I just thought it was funny," and he says, "Why? Explain yourself." I think that would be really funny, too. And then if I tried to explain it and did a really bad job, that would just make it even funnier.

How did you make the art in your book? Are they paintings or drawings? Why the astronaut on the cover?

They start out as pen drawings that I make on vellum, which is a translucent paper. Then I paint on both sides of the vellum with gesso, and draw on top of the gesso. Then I'll paint on top of that. Or draw. Sometimes I'll draw on my fingers and then rub the ink onto the drawing. The astronaut, I don't know. No reason. I just googled "famous people" and found that image of Neil Armstrong and wanted to draw it.

Do you have other book projects you're working on?

I'm working on a book called "The Really Funny Thing About Apathy" with sunnyoutside.

What's your drink of choice?

Mickey's in a 24 oz. collector's can.