The Face Behind The Name: Susana Mingram

Our first artist collaboration features the wonderful Susana Mingram, an OCAD student originally from Mexico looking to expand her tool box as an artist and really try and make a statement. Here is a little bit about Susana's experience transitioning from high school to OCAD and how her perspective has changed, as well as a little advise for new and young artists on the approach.


 Ross: You are a student at OCAD and you are taking illustration, correct?

Susana: I’m taking drawing and painting but illustration is a second thing that I do as well.

Ross: Cool, so what’s the program like? What’s the format that you are going through with the program?

Susana: Well it’s very open. It’s extremely open to new ideas, new formats to paint and create. When I first started it was such a huge change from how it was in high school because high school is very ridged but my program is definitely more open and open to creativity.

Ross: Do they encourage you to move in any sort of direction while you’re in school? Are they trying to push you in an illustration field or a painting field? Are they prepping you for the outside afterwards or are they just kind of giving you course by course?

Susana: It’s pretty much course-by-course, in 3rd and 4th year that’s when they give you really hands on/professional experience in regards to who you are as an artist or branding and things to do after university. But overall they don’t lead you to a path, they give you opportunities to work with but it’s pretty good.

Ross: So what will your end goal be? Once you finish your 4 years in school what is the ideal goal for you?

Susana: For me I would like to do different types of art. My main one would be painting and have my own art exhibitions or participate in different art exhibitions. My second one would be illustration work like for Tool & Eye, just a lot of T-shirts as well. My third one would be graphic design or music.

Ross: Have you had any experience in that yet? Does the school provide you with opportunities to move into those areas or is it self explored?

Susana: Honestly, they give you opportunities but different majors get different opportunities. For instance my major, which is drawing and painting, I would get an opportunity to participate with a company and do 5 commissions over a year or 6 months. If I were in illustration I would get a commission or opportunity to make a couple of illustrations for the marketing of a company. But I think OCAD does a pretty good job of giving opportunities to the artists but it’s just the matter of you having to look for it and also asking for it. That's at least based on my experience as a Canadian resident. It might be different for International students.

Ross: Right, so a lot of it has to do with self-hustle?

Susana: Oh absolutely, absolutely.

Ross: So your ideal goal is where you want to go but do you have any other sort of influences pulling you in other directions? Do mom and dad really care where you are going in terms of career path? Were they supportive of the art world because obviously that’s a very different career path than most people probably thought their kid would go into?

Susana: Exactly, you know I’m really lucky to have such great and supportive parents. Ever since I was young, especially when I was 7, I started painting and drawing and so they knew that ever since I was a little girl that I was going to be in my field so they have been very open and supportive. But perhaps another career or something that I would like to try on is more like trades/hands on, such as metal work or sculpting.

Ross: So, still creating something.

Susana: Exactly yea!

Ross: Do you find that there are any challenges right now, in the balance between where you are and where you want to go? Is there a challenge for you whether it’s an attainable challenge, like you don’t know how to get somewhere or the pathway may not be clear? As a student you are kind of in a unique position where everything in the world is fresh and for example I was able to seek you out through OCAD’s social media but obviously that’s not something that people do everyday, are you finding it challenging to get stuff to work on or is it fairly easy? Are you having challenges finding people to work with?

Susana: Honestly, it’s a mix of both. Currently I’m also working with a marketing platform made by a couple of friends from high school and we’ve connected with other companies so that’s great but when it comes to connecting and getting opportunities outside of my friends group/social circle it is a little bit more challenging especially because I just can’t go out and knock on peoples doors and stuff like that because of COVID.

Ross: What do you think could make it easier? Let’s say COVID aside, what do you think could make it easier for somebody that is a student to get linked up with maybe a studio space or a mentor? Do those programs exist for you or is this something that you might have to create on your own?

Susana: I would really recommend for students to go to OCAD's "Talent Network". It's a platform where you can find job and volunteer positions that fit to your qualifications and interests. It's the thing that a lot of students hear in first year or second year, but never really look into it until they reach their third or fourth year. I say this because that's what I did!

It took me two years to really learn about myself and build my artistic confidence to apply to jobs and volunteering positions. A quick word of wisdom that I would give to any student who hasn't taken a look at the "Talent Network" is this - YES. you DO have time to take a look, make your student profile and put your info. There will never be a perfect time to do it, except for today!

Ross: Thats great advise for the young guns! So shifting gears a little bit - painting is obviously your passion, what drew you to painting over any other medium of art?

Susana: I really love illustrating with markers, black markers especially. There’s something just so simple about it that I just love and I feel more connected to it.  When it actually comes to making pieces and pieces I’m more emotionally attached to its definitely painting. What I love about painting is that there is so many different things that you can do with it and I think a big part of that is finding which tool or technique that’s the most intriguing. But there is something about being capable of just moving your hand and enjoying the movement of the brush and I really like that.

Ross: So you’re still learning about painting in school as well as illustration but it seems to be something that you love to do. Do you enjoy learning the new techniques or methods to painting or have any moments where you were like “holy shit I never even thought of that!”

Susana: Definitely! There are some amazing artists out there that I look up to [for example] Steve Huston who is actually a painter who does a lot of paintings about boxing or strength of men when they do simple work. The way that he paints is so loose and interesting. For me I want to learn and keep learning or unlearn what I used to know, which is a super important process to any artist. I also enjoy Austin Lee's work - who is completely different to Steve Huston -because he embraces both digital platforms and traditional materials to use technology as a tool to explore our creativity rather than the replacing it.

Ross: That’s great, sort of a constant rebirth process as an artist or at least in the moment for that specific piece. With that all said what do you think OCAD has opened your eyes to new things? Did you know exactly what you were getting into or was it a bit of a surprise?

Susana: Oh yeah I had no clue at all! I didn’t do too much research on my program – I did to an extent – but not enough to get a full grasp of what the program is. What I did do that helped was I contacted 10-15 students in my program to give me a little bit of perspective on the program. A lot of them said it was going to be very hard but I will love it. I’d say overall OCAD has taught me tons of things. Coming from high school where you have a very linear perspective of skill sets and foundations, OCAD flipped that and really wanted me to exercise my creativity and my voice as an artist. I found that super hard in the beginning in first year just because of the atmosphere of being in an art school and being around art students that are much more open to ideas as opposed to being from the suburbs and coming right out of that linear “artist model” that high school gives you.

Ross: Did you find that the students/teachers at OCAD were open and welcoming to not only new ideas but new students and what they had to offer?

Susana: Absolutely. OCAD has really taught me that everyone has a different way of expressing themselves and just because they’re different doesn’t make it a bad thing or competitive at all.

Ross: That’s wicked – so what would you recommend to the kids that want to be artists, that may be discouraged that their path isn’t the way their parents had envisioned [not the classic business mind], or may not know the way to get to where they want to go. Do you recommend the art school path, internships, or just dive straight into the social media platforms to get exposure? Not everyone has super supportive parents or systems in place that will support an art career – what would you recommend them to do?

Susana: First of all – if you want to be an artist – BE AN ARTIST. Even if its just starting as a minor or a few workshops. Follow your passion – its super important to follow that dream. I would really focus on talking about style with younger artists because I feel like a lot of young artists hyper focus on that and I would say that it's [for the most part] bullshit. I had my high school professor, Mr. Drew, tell me that and to this day it will always stick with me. Everything we think today that’s original has most likely already been done. As soon as you drop that pen to the paper you’re like any artists out there just trying to express themselves. Do what you LOVE to do and don’t worry about comparing yourself to other artists and just do your thing. Authenticity is the most important thing for any artist and if you stick to your authentic self you will be way happier but it will also come out in your art.

Ross: I totally get that. Its almost like we can both have the same project like draw a rose or panther but they will look totally different because our visions are totally different.

Susana: Absolutely it’s all about the self-expression and being true to yourself and your visions.

Ross: Well thanks so much for doing this Susana that was amazing and I can’t wait for our collab to release!

Susana: Thanks so much for having me!

Susanas Instagram plug is: @rodeomunky

Thanks for reading!