A Busy Mockingbird: The Art of Mica Angela Hendricks

Illustration with forest monsters by Mica Angela Hendricks and her daughter, Myla.

Dive into the world of artist Mica Angela Hendricks, from the whimsical collaborations with her daughter to miniature pendants, monster dolls, and more. As a longtime fan of Mica’s blog, Busy Mockingbird, I was thrilled to chat with her about her breadth of work, artistic collaboration, virality, and sharing this passion for art with her family.


Mica Angela Hendricks.
Mica Angela Hendricks.

At a young age, you were known as “that girl that draws.” What inspired you then? How has your work evolved over the years?

When I was younger, people didn’t really know who I was. We moved a lot, and instead of getting to know people in a school that I’d probably leave in a year, I dove into my sketchbook and spent all of my free time drawing. I wanted to draw the things I was interested in — movie characters, actors, singers. I loved faces, and I was always trying to improve on drawing them. I still love faces! After learning the “right” way to draw proportions, I found it was more fun to play with the subtle distortions I get when I freehand a face, and that’s my favorite thing.

munchausen
Bringing a face to life: Baron Munchausen.

On your About page, you write that you don’t think you’ve spoken the word “bored” in years. True to your blog name, you keep busy with work, family, and everything in between. What motivates you to create?

What motivates me is just wondering if I can do something. I’ve not been trained in embroidery, for example, but at one time it really interested me, so I wanted to see if I could work it into my drawings by stitching into the paper. I teach myself everything I can about something, and then jump in and give it a try. I’ve done the same with sculpting, sewing, resin casting, jewelry, miniature portraits, painting on insects, and more. Basically, anything that interests me! I educate myself a bit, and then jump in and see how it works out.

Embroidery experiments: adding textures with stitching.
Embroidery experiments: adding textures with stitching.

Drawing with your daughter Myla is one of the ways you spend time with her. What have you learned through drawing together? What might drawing reveal about a person?

I’ve gained a better understanding of myself watching her, because she has the same drive for art that I do, but in her own way.

I’ve enjoyed watching my daughter’s style grow — when she was younger, drawing with her started as a way for us to share time together doing something we both loved, and I think that’s continued as she’s grown. I’m always fascinated when she changes her style, and I can sort of see where that originated from as she grows. I get to see what inspires her, what has had an effect on her style. I’ve gained a better understanding of myself watching her, because she has the same drive for art that I do, but in her own way. She’s very outgoing — I’m more introverted — and her drawings often stem from trying to entertain the viewer, making them laugh or having the characters do something silly, whereas my drawings are focused more inward. I’ve learned a lot from her extroverted side.

Drawing and painting with her daughter, Myla.
Mica’s daughter, Myla, working on a collaboration.

Your collaborations with Myla when she was four years old attracted so much attention. Why do you think that project received such a massive response? What’s one thing you’ve learned from that experience?

Read “Collaborating with a 6-year-old,” Mica’s follow-up to her viral post from 2013.

It really surprised me when our collaborations went viral. It was something very special to me that took a lot of time to write. I never expected it to go as far as it did. People seemed to really respond to the fact that I was encouraging her art and creativity, and that I was considerate of her ideas and thoughts as valid and important, and maybe that was something people feel is lacking in their own lives sometimes.

Collaborations with Myla when she was four years old.
Collaborations with Myla at age four.

The support of the people around you, especially your parents, can be such an influential thing when you’re growing up. Parents don’t always realize how much their kids just want them to see them as real little people. And there’s something so wonderfully carefree about children’s artwork! It reminds you of that time when you were young, when creativity was limitless, and you weren’t afraid of what people thought, or of being judged. You just drew for the joy of it.

Later collaborations, including Star Wars characters.
Later collaborations, including Star Wars characters.

You just drew for the joy of it.

You recently asked your Instagram followers to suggest what to draw and said, as with your collaborations with your daughter, that this was an exercise in letting go. How have these kinds of projects shaped your work and philosophy?

It was definitely an experience of “letting go” of the control you have over a piece. I think art connects people in a way that words can’t, and for someone like me, who’s sometimes quite socially awkward, it’s maybe a way to interact with people and try to connect with them by letting them join in. It’s pretty intimidating to put your work up and say that you’ll draw everything they tell you — and boy, people have fun listing some unusual things!

control

It’s such a challenge, but it’s fun to connect with people. This idea of letting go leaves you open to ideas that you’ve never imagined, and you create things that you’ve never considered if you’d have done it by yourself.

A version of Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings, inspired by Mica's Instagram followers.
A version of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, inspired by Mica’s Instagram followers.

You’ve written that you have to want to draw something or someone. What or who makes for a good illustration?

When you’re drawing the details of someone, you’re spending intimate time with them in a strange way.

I have to want to draw a face. When you’re drawing the details of someone, you’re spending intimate time with them in a strange way. Not romantically, but as an artist, you find this wonderful appreciation for what most people consider their “imperfections” — the wrinkles and lines in their faces, the lines under their eyes. Babies and women with smooth, airbrushed skin are very hard for me to draw because their distinguishing features are so subtle; they nearly look like everyone else, if you’re not careful.

But the lines in your face tell stories, and I get to ‘know’ a person through these lines, which is so fun for me.

But the lines in your face tell stories, and I get to “know” a person through these lines, which is so fun for me. I absolutely love the strangest faces the most. When I do custom work, I find beauty in features of regular people, too. But I’ve always had trouble drawing from old reference photos of serial killers or evil people, because — as I said — you find yourself appreciating the lines of someone as you draw them, and that feels really weird and awful when it’s someone who is evil! On a lighter note, the same goes for actors or characters I’m not really into, or fashion models with smooth, blank faces. Those “imperfections” make you you, and make you interesting.

Actor Jack Nicholson, from The Shining.
Actor Jack Nicholson, from The Shining.

You watermark your blog images. What’s your take on sharing your art online, especially since your work has gone viral?

I’ve learned to watermark my images over the years when I saw some of my artwork being stolen and posted in places I’ve never heard of. People took images from the viral post and sold them as cellphone cases and T-shirts without my permission. I see this happen a lot with the work of artist friends, and the only option is not to share any of it online. But I get so much benefit and inspiration from other artists that I’d hate to end it because of a few bad people.

I watermark, so if something is taken, at least it’s a hassle to erase it. Or if it’s left on, it’ll show people where it originally came from. It’s one thing to have your artwork stolen, but it’s a completely different element when it’s something as special and sacred as work with your own child. I never post my daughter’s full face on my blog and on social media — something else I’ve learned from the viral experience. I draw her a lot, and I’m more okay with that because I’m not a photorealistic artist, but showing her real, full face online creeps me out. I’d rather have people focus on the artwork we do — not what she looks like.

A dreaming Myla (on mixed media board).
A dreaming Myla, on mixed media board (with watermark).

Your world expands beyond illustrations, from tiny portraits on miniature pendants to painted dolls, monster bats, and insects. What textiles and media do you like to work with? What would you like to try next?

I have a fierce curiosity about everything related to art; I love giving myself challenges. I once had a mounted beetle hanging on my wall for five years, and one day I looked up at it and thought, “I wonder if I could paint on its wings?” And that thought will climb on me and follow me around all day until I give it a try. I am greatly inspired by the artists I follow on Instagram — they inspire me to try new things.

A beetle with human eyes on its wings.
A beetle with human eyes on its wings.
Tiny portraits.
Tiny portraits.

Right now, I’ve got this idea of trying a posable animal doll. I’ve sculpted the faces and feet in Sculpey, molded and cast them in resin, and now I’m playing with how to wire their inner structure. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to work out, but I’m figuring it out right now. If it goes horribly wrong, it’ll just mean my daughter will have another wonky doll to add to her collection!

My happy place, though, is ballpoint pen. Ballpoint pen sketches are my absolute favorite and where I love to spend most of my time. I paint on top of them with acrylics or watercolor, but my love of ballpoint pen is endless.

shoe
Actress Tilda Swinton, from Snowpiercer.

Explore more of Mica’s art at Busy Mockingbird and her Society6 and Etsy shops, and follow her on Facebook (the busy mockingbird), Instagram (@busymockingbird), and Twitter (@busymockingbird).

May 12, 2016Art, Illustration, Interviews, ,