Nathalie Gribinski’s In the Mist of Fire places her artistry centerstage, where her elegant mix of prosaic poetry and vibrantly abstract characters bring vividly imagined worlds to life. Her debut book is a winner, packed with powerful messages and captivating visuals that make it equal parts fun and thought-provoking. Nathalie was kind enough to speak with The Quill To Live about her writing process, her relationship with her art, and more.
First off, can you tell us about yourself and how you became an artist?
People call me Nana. I grew up in Paris, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Science. I moved to Chicago to study graphic art. After a year of study, I immersed myself in painting, where I feel most at home with my art.
For a year, I concentrated on illustrations, so I decided to collect them into a published work alongside original poetry. In the Mist of Fire is the culmination of my stories and my art, and it represents my growth as an artist. Since my early days of writing poetry and drawing, I’ve grown so much, and I think the book shows that evolution in my work.
I have a cat/roommate named Zoé. The book includes a poem and illustration inspired by her.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to stay a child—I loved the wonder and exploration of being a kid. But sometimes I asked myself questions about the future. I didn’t know much about what I wanted to be, because I was focused on the present. I did have a passion for justice, so I ended up studying law. The work was interesting, but not fulfilling. So when I moved across the world and immersed myself into a new culture and community, I viewed it as an opportunity to rebuild myself into a new person—one I’d always wanted to be. It opened up new creative avenues for me and led me to pursue my art full-time.
In the Mist of Fire effortlessly combines written stories with beautiful artwork—can you talk about the relationship between your art and writing in the book?
This is my first book and I wanted to take a closer look at my illustrations, understand them better, and give them a voice. My illustrations are usually abstract works, so I tried to emulate that mood in the stories.
How would you describe In the Mist of Fire to someone who’s never read it?
On its surface, the book is a collection of art and poetry. Dive deeper, and it’s an invitation to open up the imagination and take a moment to enjoy the abstract. It’s an escape from the mundane into the vibrant and beautiful worlds we create in our minds.
Do the stories come first, or the visuals?
In this first book, the illustrations come first. I wrote the stories according to the illustrations. I’m an artist to my core, so my creative muse is almost always visual.
Which other pieces, books, or works of art have impacted you on your artistic journey?
The Little Prince has been always an inspiration. I like the naïve feeling it represents. The lessons of life, the light illustrations. Artistically, I have been influenced by Van Gogh; his colorful expressions of sorrow and suffering translatebeautifully onto canvas. He stayed true to himself until the end of his life, and though his story is a sad one, he left behind stunningly gorgeous and meaningful works.
He captivates me by his ability to express so much suffering and translate them into beautiful colorful paintings full of life. And especially because he stayed himself until the end of his life. He was looking for the truth.
What inspires you, and what motivates you to constantly create?
It is a necessity, a way of life. I am inspired by beauty, music, love, suffering, friendship, warm feelings, storms, and Zoé, my cat. What motivates me is the end result. I like to see a finished piece coming to life, and I love to share my work with others. I create to feel complete.
Many of your stories have lessons or positive messages, but there are also hints of darkness, such as in Swan of Hell. How do you balance the light and the dark?
The light and the dark are naturally balanced in myself. I have heard some critics say that any? art that there shows a lot of joy but also a lot of suffering. I cannot understand actually how it could be different. We are all exposed to the edges of despair and the edges of happiness. I like contrasts, tension, and after all, light and dark are the truths of life.
I mention Swan of Hell specifically because it’s my favorite—do you have a favorite piece from this collection? Why does it stand out to you?
Regarding the writings, I fluctuate between two very different stories:
I like The Strange Animal Fair because it’s a short text where you can vividly visualize the scene. It’s humorous and sometimes sarcastic; it’s a story that shines.
But I also appreciate the poetry, the dynamism and the dreamy atmosphere of The Eyes of the Casino.
Regarding the illustrations, my favorite is The Eyes of the Casino.
It’s the closest reflection of the story, emboldened by a sense of movement. It is colorful, anchored by red, which is my favorite color. I find this illustration very complete.
What’s next on your artistic agenda? Any new projects on the horizon?
I’m developing a project with a poet where this time he writes poetry and I illustrate it. I’m intrigued by the concept because it’s a reversal of my process for In the Mist of Fire, where the illustrations came first.
I am also seriously returning to painting, having a solo exhibit in Chicago March 22 to March 31 at the Palette and Chisel Gallery, 1012 North Dearborn. The opening is March 22 from 6 pm to 10 pm.
Where can we find your work?
On my website: www.nathaliegribinskiart.com
On Saatchi, an online art gallery: http://www.saatchiart.com/ngribinski