Meet the Maker: Mara Barringer

Do you ever stumble upon an artist and immediately have a crush on all their work? I found Mara on Instagram, who I've been following for quite some time now, and I think I need to start a hashtag #ArtColorCrush for makers like her that just seem to get what color addicts like me crave. Every piece she creates has me hooked, so of course I was stoked to get the opportunity to pick her brain with this interview.

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Everyone has a different path to finding their creative rhythm and becoming an artist. What got you started?

I’ve always been creative and expressed that through visual art, first kid to color in the lines and draw bubble letters, sort of thing. I experimented with all sorts of mediums in high school and was making a practice to draw daily after I graduated.

It wasn’t until visiting Berkeley in Boston 2013, surrounded by music students that I had to explain what I do and strangers were asking what my craft was. When I said that I was a visual artist out loud, I gave myself permission to totally go for it. I came back to Minneapolis and started painting consistently.

Your work is like a gateway to a whimsical, colorful world. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I gather inspiration from literally all over. I am constantly an outlet ready to receive images and filter them back out in some process. I see shapes and lines all over the city. I’m always snapping quick photos of good color combinations I see in buildings or things I find on the street. I am really into a specific process lately, I’ll stretch out at a cafe with my Anais Nin books, journals, sketch books and phone (with photos); I’ll read a little, write down some beautiful words that pop out to me, tie it into a photo I snapped of a friend posing, sketch it out if gouache with some colors I had in mind together.

Journaling is huge in my process. My own experiences and emotions inspire the direction of my paintings, sometimes it feels more literal with figures, and other times it comes through in minimal shapes and lines.

Where would you like to see your artistic career in the next 5 years?

I’m really bad at future planning! I feel way too much for the present to think that far ahead. I have goals for my very near future though, like painting murals and designing fabric patterns. I guess I see myself in 5 years still experimenting, still engulfed in creating and the whole process.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

It’s difficult for most artists to be technical and business savvy, using that left brain to send emails and stay organized, keep inventory and crunch numbers. I know it does works for a lot of young people, this culture we have brewing of DIY. My advice, as someone who’s right brain completely dominates, is keep documentation early on! Have folders on your desktop with scans and photos, keep a spreadsheet with inventory, track the money you spend on materials so you can compare it to what you made from art sales each month.

When you're not painting, what are you typically up to? Any other interests?

I spend a lot of time walking and exploring, bouncing around from coffee shops and friend’s homes. Most of my friends are artists too, so I’m often listening to them play music or checking out their new edits on videos. My favorite thing to do other than painting is cuddle up with people I love, cook nourishing food, gush about crushes, and dig deeper in connections.

Last but not least, who are some artists and makers out there that you think we should know about?

I feel most attracted to artists who are so deep in their craft, whose style will inspire but not influence me. That’s how I feel about collaborating too, it’s best to collaborate with people who do something so separate from you, to balance each other out and compliment each other, instead of clashing because you’re too similar.

I love Caroline Smith. I listened to Half About Being a Woman on repeat while making my last 5 paintings. It’s music that you can groove to and if you’re feeling your feels, you can sit down with it and cry.

The instagram @L_S_T_H has great color, shape, and figure inspiration. I also love photographers like @stephisadork who take photos of women, her composition and the models are so good for sketching.

Caris Reid’s paintings are really stunning. She does wonders in creating a balance between really clean, bold work that is also soft and mystical.

Lola Thompson is another painter I love to follow. Her work is so luscious. She’s an artist whose work is varied in medium, like 3D flower sculptures, goopy glitter figures, and loose watercolors.

If you would like to learn more about Mara and her work, you can check out at, or find her on Instagram under @marabarringer

Emily QuandahlComment