How Not to Drown in NYC, With Stef Mitchell

There are numerous things that amaze about Stef Mitchell.

Including (but not limited to), how she managed to escape a dreary slice of Sydney suburbia and the tyranny of the nuns at her all-girls Catholic high school to end up in the big city life of NYC. But even talented people can drown in the masses of creativity constantly pouring in and out of New York City.

Not Stef though—her creative vision, which manifests itself in her photographs and illustrations, is something completely different. Her photos are youthful and honest, her drawings cheeky and almost like a visual cloze test. We checked in with Stef for our recently dropped issue 54 of Monster Children, to discuss the state of the artistic union in this the year of our Lord 2017.

How’s things as a female artist circa 2017? Inspiring? Terrifying? Both?

Things are inspiring for sure being a female artist. There seems to be a huge spotlight on females and I like how aggressive some of it is. It’s like half the world has been bottled up for so long and now it’s all coming out, not just in art but it seems like in most industries. I’m sure it’s terrifying for some people but it feels crazy to be part of, even if it’s just by default.

What does 2017 hold for Stef Mitchell? Who, what, where?

So far I’ve been able to travel a bunch and eat a lot of English pub food, so hopefully more of that. I want to make videos, start a pottery class and make some really hideous things, maybe have a show at the end of the year and just draw as much as possible.

How did you and Spike Jonze become pals?

We met in LA in a really strange way, pretty much through Instagram and became friends a little after that. But I prefer to say we met on Grindr.

Tell us the Kanye story…

I’ve signed some kind of contract and can’t talk about this yet, I’m sorry!

And working with Annie Leibovitz, she seems like an intimidating lady.

Yes, she is intimidating! I interned at her studio for six months and was terrified for every minute of it.

Who do you reckon is going to do amazing things this year in the creative world? Give us some fresh blood…

Emily Manning, Charlotte Mitchell, and Shredmaster Keith.

Does New York feel like it’s changed at all since The Donald’s come in? What’s the vibe in the city and in the creative scene there, panic, solidarity?

It totally feels like it’s changed! The day after he was elected everyone was pretty devastated. I was on the train and people were making eye contact with each other and crying and talking about it, being really friendly. Since the women’s march the vibe has been way more positive and fired up though. Everyone is collectively pissed off. It’s now totally normal to come across a protest any day of the week, there’s usually bigger ones on the weekend and you’re not considered “political” if you go, it’s just the new normal. NY is such an anti-Donald state so there’s been lots of amazing art and writing already, Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon have made some wild stuff together.

When people describe your work, the word carefree seems to pop up a lot. Why do you think this is?

I guess I can only do things one way, so I’ve learnt that while I’m working, thinking or caring about anything else isn’t going to help.

Do you approach your illustration in a different way to your photography, or are they one and the same?

I feel the same when I’m making both but the process is obviously very different. If I’m taking pictures I have to try and make the subject feel the same as I do, or maybe be in tune with however they’re feeling. Drawing is much simpler and sometimes more enjoyable for that reason, I can be stupid and avoid offending anyone and generally be less precious about the whole thing.

Something that’s inspired you this week?

Walking through Bushwick at night. It had been snowing and was really quiet and I could hear “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. I walked another block and the music got louder, a garage door was open and a huge Puerto Rican man was standing in the middle under a light wearing a long leather jacket and dancing.

Your muse for photography and drawing?

Things with a weird shape and people I love.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened while you were on a shoot?

Maybe when I was interning for AL and had to be a stand-in. Someone tied my hands and feet together and I lay on a table while someone poured icing sugar all over me. That or having a model request “sad Chinese music”.

If you could fill your house with any artist’s work in the world, what would be in there?

Some Jim Goldberg pictures, Cy Twombly, and my friends’ work.

Do you have a dream project?

I want to draw on the mural space on The Bowery!

Last year was a shocker for talented people dying, maybe this year’ll be the year where lots of people who suck die. Who’re your picks to snuff it?

Hopefully some assholes are taken out this year instead of the good guys. The scales need to be tipped back!

See more from our latest mag, get your hands on #54 right here.

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