Get Inspired: Two Incredible Young Artists Share Their Work at MICA’s Art Market See it (and much more) from Dec. 7-10 at MICA.

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Feeling uninspired lately? With the gloomy winter weather on the rise, no one can blame you. Here’s a solution: Get to know some of Baltimore’s rising artists and discover unique, local art.

If you’re not sure where to begin, stop by one of MICA’s events. For the past couple of years, MICA has been featuring emerging artists at their annual holiday market, based in the Brown Center’s contemporary glass building. This year—their 10th anniversary—is no different. With a large number of MICA students showcasing their artwork and wares for attendees to admire and purchase, it’s impossible not to find something that will catch your eye.

But what is truly amazing, especially for a 20-year old college student like me who can’t draw for her life, are the young artists arriving to the scene. They are fearless, ingenious and all in all, extraordinary, especially in their creative process and the way they can transform experiences and ideas into real, tangible art.

Eric Rivera, a 21-year-old MICA student from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, is someone to definitely watch out for. He’s been making art since he was a child laying on his daycare mat and doodling next to his mom in the back office of a cafeteria his grandparents managed. “I mostly do paintings and wooden sculptural work, as well as illustration,” he says. As for the themes he tries to pursue in his work, he is currently “investigating the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, politically and culturally.”

Rivera gets a lot of his ideas from personal experiences growing up in Puerto Rico. Then, his ideas are worked through note-taking and crude sketches. “I also like to just sit with a lot of ideas and mull them over until they’ve really sunk in, and try to find ways where I can force myself to learn a new making process to produce a work.”

It will be Rivera’s third year attending MICA’s art market. This year, he plans on selling digital prints, turned wooden pods and other wooden trinkets. Having his work shown in a commercial setting is a little different, he says.

“You have to forego the romantic notion of artmaking a bit, since you’re ultimately making products that are not primarily concerned with a larger concept,” he explains. “But having a positive reaction from people who are really into what you’re making is consistently one of the best takeaways.” And as an artist, Rivera believes that his enjoyment in producing art prove to be what’s integral to his work. “Sounds a bit naïve, but it really shows in the end result,” he says. “You end up learning more if you are genuinely enjoying the process.”

Besides the art market, Rivera’s work is featured in MICA’s Gateway, an eye-catching resident facility with multiple functions (including a gallery). His collection, titled “Islands & Objects,” presents sculptures and paintings until Dec. 10. In the future, Rivera hopes to create a project on “larger designed spaces that invite a participatory element.”

“I think it’d be fantastic to be able to create spaces that could be actively shape and experienced by its viewers,” he expresses.

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On the other hand, 20-year-old cartoonist De Robinson dreams of getting paid a “very high salary to eat expensive food.” But for now, he wants to support himself from his own original ideas and work.

The MICA student from Belleville, Illinois started cartooning and conjuring up characters in first or second grade with a Captain Underpants book in hand. “That was a big inspiration of mine,” he explains. And it seems that that inspiration has turned into success—Robinson has sold books before at a comic shop in Saint Louis. This year at MICA’s art market, he plans to sell two comic books, The Last Dinosaur and Snowday, which he wrote, illustrated and self-published, as well as stickers of civil rights leaders.

“Working with MICA’s art market is nice because it’s very good to get involved as a student,” he says. “It’s a great stepping stone to learn how to start selling at conventions and other markets.”

As an illustrator and commercial artist, Robinson most commonly makes work for children. “I think that when I think of my art as commercial first, I always have a younger audience in mind. So my commercial work is often about childhood, or about things that children can easily relate to,” he explains. However, the young artist is interested in other forms of art, specifically fine art. “When I’m making work that I consider fine art first, it’s often very personal and very self-critical,” he discloses. But no matter the form, Robinson uses a bright, joyful style to tackle more serious issues.

“Being one of the few black students in MICA’s illustration department drew me to explore race more in my illustrations, along with self-hate and self-love,” he says.

In regards to his creative process, Robinson believes that a lot of his ideas can come from how scattered he can be. “When you find it hard to focus on one thing, your brain starts to conjure up ideas to keep itself active. So when I put a piece together, I’m just looking at all of those different ideas and grabbing one of them before it gets replaced by something else in my head,” he reveals. He is also grateful for the support of his family, a major factor that has helped him grow as an artist (along with his love for attention).

Currently, Robinson is working on a series of illustrative paintings for a solo exhibition titled Everything’s Fine :-). The exhibition opens in late February 2017 and includes an installation and performance besides Robinson’s very own paintings.

Check out MICA’s Art Market and visit Rivera’s and Robinson’s booths Dec. 7 to Dec. 10.

Photo credits: Bruce Weller

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