A forest may just be a forest, but for Natalie Millan, it is an intrepid journey full of monsters, cartoon characters and whatever else her mind conjures up.
Millan, 21, is a City College art student intrigued by the unknown. She loses herself in the illusory joy from her projects. Millan also uses unlikely inspiration to get her creativity flowing.
“Pokémon, that was my gateway—I would draw zombie ‘Pikachus,’” Millan said.
The self-taught painter recently had a piece featured in City College’s “Alchemy of Light and Space” show. Millan’s painting, “Wingspun the Blade Wearer,” is of a creature’s face in shades of oranges that highlight an intense emotion.
Millan’s artistic spark came when she was two years old—that’s what her mother tells her. It started with doodles in notebooks and any scrap paper lying close by.
“I think I remember answering a math question with a mummy coming out of a sarcophagus…which actually wasn’t the right answer,” Millan jokes.
The young visual artist may have an adventurous outlook for her original concepts but knowing how important art is to her can sometimes have drawbacks.
“When you have a passion, it’s great. I know there are people out there that say ‘you are so lucky that you have a path to go down and that you have always known this path,’ but there is also a curse knowing that this is your life’s work and that is all consuming me,” Millan said.
Aside from painting and taking video design classes, Millan has taken on outside projects in the community of Isla Vista.
The St. George and Associates apartment building on Trigo Rd. has custom wall murals in the kitchens, one of a jungle and another of the ocean, both created by Millan.
The cartoon and adventure enthusiast has also created the chalkboard murals seen in the modern, new building of Campus 880, also located in Isla Vista.
“It all came very naturally for me,” Millan said about working on such a large surface. “It is satisfying for me to work from my imagination.”
While the visual appeal of painting has always been something important, Millan also wants to get immersed in 3-dimensional art. Working on a tablet allows her to make the designs come to life and enter into a world of video game technology.
Multimedia professor, Mihir Mahapatra has worked with Millan to help her put her ideas into focus.
“Her eye is drawn to very detailed things,” Mahapatra said. “She is a very good drawing artist, and creates good concept designs.”
One of Millan’s favorite things about creating characters, whether they are 2-D or 3-D, is dressing them up. She is very serious that clothing is a vital part of a character’s personality.
The freelance street artist, Alex Pardee, who creates iconic creatures that distort normal perceptions, influences some of her work.
“I love things that are going against any sort of established norm. That’s why I feel like a little bit of an outcast in Santa Barbara,” Millan said.
The Carpinteria native has also spent time letting her mind run wild in the woods of Virginia, where Millan worked on a farm feeding cows, caring for chickens and learning Latin for three years. She says it was the utter silence in the forest that allowed her to drift away from reality.
“I would just go and pretend I was on a journey—anything involving creativity and broadening my idea of reality and inducing any kind of emotion,” Millan said.
It would be no surprise that an artist like this uses graphic color and detailed pigmentation to make her characters jump off the page. Quick brush strokes and shades of different palates come together to create futuristic and innovated creatures.
Millan often compares her excitement for art to a small child with too much energy, full of life and ready to explore. Jumping from concept to concept sometimes leads the artist into a battle of tug of war, where she has to ask herself which idea is more important at this moment.
“I cannot move in human speed but my brain can still focus on things that engrossed me,” Millan said.
Her hopes are to travel through places that offer experimental art culture, where her concept designs and creative characters can spring to life. The self-proclaimed outcast seems to comfortably coexist with nature and art, fusing the two in her brain.
At the end of the day, Millan aspires that what she creates will be intriguing.