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Drawings, Monsters, Graphic Novels: Interview with Artist Summer Mariotta

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Artist Summer Mariotta joins us at Learn for Life (LFL) to discuss her art, inspirations, aspirations, and life as an artist. We are also joined by Able ARTS Work Art Therapist, Katie Prodanovich.

Young woman in black slipknot shit with black mask stands in gallery next to reclaimed guitar artwork.
Artist Summer Mariotta is photographed standing next to her artwork "Emotions" in the Able ARTS Work 2nd & PCH Gallery.


LFL: I’m here on Zoom with Summer Mariotta, a resident artist at Able ARTS Work and we’re here today to talk about her art. Summer would you tell us a bit about yourself? When did you first start making art?

SUMMER: Well, I started making art when I was really young. I remembered that Disneyland kinda inspired me to draw.

LFL: Did you go to Disney a lot as a kid or was there a special moment for you?

SUMMER: Yeah, we used to get one of the passes that we could go any day we wanted.

LFL: So, when you went to Disney you saw all the characters and found some inspiration there?

SUMMER: Yeah, but it was also Walt Disney. I like listening to his, you know, how he curated Disneyland and other stuff.

LFL: Okay, so Walt Disney is one of your inspirations. That’s pretty cool! When you first started drawing, what were some of the things you liked to draw?

SUMMER: When I was younger, I used to like to draw butterflies and dragons.

LFL: And how does that compare to now? What do you like to draw now?

SUMMER: I like to draw kinda like dark stuff.

LFL: Okay, like what?

Patched up red and white teddy bear in front of background of scalpels. Word "Drxio" across the bottom of the artwork.
Ink Drawing on Paper, 2020, Summer Mariotta

SUMMER: I kinda like drawing monsters and you know, other drawings. I also do drawings on how I feel.

LFL: A lot of artists have done drawings about how they feel. I think that’s a good thing to draw. You said that you started with inspiration from Walt Disney, but now you say that your drawings have changed and are a little bit different. Do you have other sources of inspiration nowadays?

SUMMER: Yeah. Even though I used to like Disney, I was kinda a horror movie person too.

LFL: So you find some inspiration from horror movies now?


LFL: Do you have a favorite horror movie?

SUMMER: Yeah, but it’s funny because I used to be kinda traumatized by it. It’s called, I think it’s called “A Thousand Corpses”. It’s directed by Rob Zombie.

LFL: Oh wow! Yeah, I’m not a horror movie person, but it’s cool that that’s where you draw your inspiration from. Everyone has different forms of inspiration. So what type of monsters do you like to draw?

SUMMER: I usually like to draw my bear characters, but I sometimes like to draw them twisted.

LFL: Every artist has a different style. It all depends on how people view it. What do you want other people to see when they look at your artwork? Sometime the artist thinks about that when creating. Do you ever think about what you want other people to see?

SUMMER: No, I just want people to look at my art and, you know, say something or comment. Just see what they think about it.

LFL: Do you have anything that you hope that they will say or you don’t mind anything? You are just happy they are looking at it?

SUMMER: I think kinda both.

LFL: A little bit of both? Okay. When you work, you said you draw, but what type of medium do you like to use? What type of drawings?

SUMMER: Well I really like to use markers and colored pencils.

LFL: Do you use the same colors or do you have a varied color palette?

SUMMER: I sometimes use any color when my mind chooses a color.

LFL: Whatever your inspiration is at the moment?


LFL: Okay. So you’ve kind of said how you developed as an artist. You’ve gone from butterflies and learning about Disney to horror movies and monsters and feelings. Is there anything that you are working on right now?

SUMMER: Well, I’ve been doing some sketches and drawings.

LFL: You’ve been doing some sketches? What have you been sketching?

SUMMER: I’m trying to make like a story. It’s not done yet. It’s this one. [Shows sketch to interviewer over Zoom].

Summer's unfinished ink sketch depicting a magenta teddy bear with a pattern of eyes in the background.
Summer's unfinished ink sketch depicting a magenta teddy bear with a pattern of eyes in the background.

LFL: Oh wow! That is beautiful. It’s a teddy bear with eyes in the background. I like your use of repetitive pattern to create movement. It’s using a limited, almost monochromatic palette. Do you ever turn your sketches into a bigger artwork or do you like to primarily work within your sketchbook?

SUMMER: I kinda like to keep things in a sketchbook.

LFL: So your art is more for yourself than for the general public?


LFL: Do you have any goals for the future as an artist? Do you know where you would like to be one day as an artist?

SUMMER: Um, I just want to be an artist that a lot of people would talk about.

LFL: Okay, you want to be someone that people know, right?


LFL: Do you think there’s steps that you can take to get there? I know you’ve recently had some commissions, so that’s been exciting! What do you think are maybe some next steps?

SUMMER: Well, I still need practice to draw backgrounds because I’m not really good at drawing backgrounds.

LFL: More practice and backgrounds are definitely a good place to start. What about professionally? Where do you see yourself? Do you hope to get into more galleries or do you want to learn how to connect with people more? Is there something that you are wanting to do to boost you on your artistic journey?


LFL: Where would you like to see your artwork exhibited if it could be shown anywhere?

SUMMER: Well, I like my art to be with other people.

LFL: So, you like group shows where people can see your work next to others’ art?


LFL: Is there a reason you like to have it with others’ artwork verses just your own?

SUMMER: So that we can talk about it as artists.

LFL: You like the opportunity for conversations to see what you’re doing compared to other artists’ styles and techniques?


LFL: So, art’s a really big part of your life. Do you think art is important in the community and society as a whole?


LFL: Why do you think that?

SUMMER: Because art is really special and I used to go to the art museums and it does inspire me to draw more.

LFL: Museums are definitely an important part of our community. Did you have a favorite type of art or artist that you liked seeing in the museums?

SUMMER: I really like looking at Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

LFL: He does very beautiful expressive artwork. It transports you to another world. As you said, art is very important to society, what do you think about the artist? What is the artist’s role in society?

SUMMER: We should be expressing our feelings in art because people can’t read our mind and what we are thinking.

LFL: We are using art as a voice for ourselves. Definitely! It shows the world that there’s another way to communicate, other than just talking. Has art meant something like that to you within your life?


LFL: Do you want to share a little more about that?

SUMMER: Well, like I said before, when I draw my emotions, I usually like to draw what my emotions look like.

LFL: So it helps you realize and share what is going on with everyone else or just with yourself.


LFL: So, if you could have a dream art project, do anything anywhere for yourself or for a commission, what do you wish you could do? As big or little as you want.

SUMMER: That’s really kind of hard.

LFL: Have you ever thought of something you want to do and you’re like: “I wish I could do that”?

SUMMER: Yeah. That was years ago.

LFL: What was the dream? What do you think it would be (if you are willing to share)?

SUMMER: I always wanted to do like those people draw like you know, one of those big paintings.

LFL: Like on the wall or on a canvas?

SUMMER: On the wall.

LFL: The murals? Yeah, those are a lot of fun. That is an attainable dream. It could still definitely happen. Is that still something that you want to do?


LFL: That’s a good dream. Do you think that there are opportunities and steps that could help get you there?

SUMMER: Maybe. I don’t know.

LFL: Maybe? First step is work on your art and figure out what design you would put on a wall?


LFL: Do you feel like there’s things in life that have made it easier or harder for you to move forward as an artist?

SUMMER: Well, yeah.

LFL: What are some of those things?

SUMMER: I forgot.

LFL: It’s okay. That’s not a problem. I know, some things can be difficult to remember at times. I love your dream project. Is there anything you wish people knew about you?

SUMMER: I do like making stories out of my characters. I sometimes don’t do horror that much.

LFL: What do you branch out into in addition to horror?

SUMMER: I always like to do a comic book type of story.

LFL: Do you write the storyline as well as drawing illustrations and character development?

SUMMER: Yeah, I sometimes do.

LFL: Is that something you’ve thought about doing long-term as well? Going into comic books?


LFL: You just haven’t gotten that far with it yet?


LFL: It’s definitely an option. There are many different types of comic books and comic book writers with growing opportunities. It’s actually comic book day later in September. Do you like reading comic books? Is there a style of artwork you are inspired by?

SUMMER: Yeah, well, I’m kinda inspired by, well they don’t call it a comic book, they call it a manga, which is made in Japan.

LFL: I know what that is. It’s still a form of art. It’s a graphic novel, telling stories through art. It sounds like you’ve got a very storyteller art style and you express yourself through it.

SUMMER: I also want people to know that not all of my drawings are “creepy”. Some of them are actually telling a story, but maybe only through my eyes.

LFL: So you don’t necessarily want people to take it at face value, but to think a little deeper about your stories and artwork.

Summer Mariotta's sketch of three menacing teddy bears watching as another teddy bear with a hole in it's chest hold and licks a fainted rabbit.
Summer's latest character design drawing in her sketchbook

KATIE, ATR-BC: I know you said you like storytelling in art, but is there a specific genre of story you prefer to tell? For example: love stories, sad stories, horror stories, comedic stories… What type are you drawn towards?

SUMMER: Well from characters I’ve been making. It’s supposed to be horror, adventure, and action.

LFL: Ooh. So quite thrilling. Do you have any main characters? What type of main characters do you like?

SUMMER: I like making my main character, I call him Jayho. I call all my characters by “I”s and “O”s.

LFL: It’s good to have a system. So, Jayho is your main character right now. Do you want to tell me a little bit about Jayho?

SUMMER: He is supposed to be... He lives here in Long Beach with his abusive grandfather, but he was trying to fit in. It was really hard for him. He bumped into one of my other characters who are monsters and he was attacked. He was rushed to the hospital, but then some demonic god-demon gave him the power to kill these monsters.

LFL: It sounds like you have quite a detailed story already developing. Do you want to do something with this story one day, or is it just for you?

SUMMER: I really do want to work on it.

LFL: Do you want to publish it one day when it’s finished?


LFL: You know that’s a possibility? If you work on it, you can definitely publish it.

SUMMER: Yeah, I’ve thought about it.

LFL: Your story sounds like a thrilling tale that I’m sure people will enjoy and I can’t want to find out what happens next!

KATIE, ATR-BC: Summer, do you base your stories off of anything? Are they personal experiences that you re-write or inspired by favorite stories?

SUMMER: I know some of them are based on my emotions and some are based on real people. I made this character “Yahvo” and he’s supposed to be inspired by a serial killer.

KATIE, ATR-BC: Like a real-life serial killer?


KATIE, ATR-BC: Okay. That’s cool. I like how you can find inspiration.

SUMMER: I sometimes worry that people will think that’s strange and weird.

LFL: It’s not strange. There’s a wide variety of comics, manga, and anime out there that are dark and include killers and murders too.

SUMMER: I read this manga called “Monster” and it’s actually about a doctor who needs to stop this serial killer that he needs to save his life.

LFL: See, your idea isn’t too strange. I always say that if you think of it and it hasn’t been done yet, you should go for it!

KATIE, ATR-BC: Where would be have all these really amazing, scary without your type of stories? We need authors and artists like that to keep things interesting, so I don’t find it weird at all. I think it’s fascinating and amazing. I cannot do stuff like that.

LFL: Artists have been investigating the concepts of death and heaven and hell or centuries. The first thing that comes to mind are all the depictions of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” over the years and people are drawn to this dark subject matter and always discuss it. I don’t think your art is weird. So, Summer, you have some good plans for the future. You have these stories in progress and a goal to do a mural. There are so many mural opportunities, especially here in SoCal. I heard that you won a logo creation competition for Littleton Productions.

black and white ink drawing of a house with an octopus tentacle breaking through the window. Other monsters are also visible through different windows.
Littleton Productions Logo, design by Summer Mariotta, 2021

SUMMER: Yeah. I did. That was fun.

LFL: You’re already on your way. You are building a resume. Are you still taking commissions as well?

SUMMER: Yeah, I am. I also have one of my drawing here to show. It’s one of my serial killers that I drew. [Summer holds up drawing on Zoom].

LFL: It’s pretty cool. I like the colors and the very angular and clean lines.

SUMMER: Thank you.

LFL: Thank you Summer for joining me today to talk about your art, inspirations, and your stories. I learned a lot from you and about you.

SUMMER: Thank you.

Summer Mariotta sits in front of camera in blue tank top
Artist Summer Mariotta


Want to support Summer?

Prints of Summer’s art can be found here. She is also accepting new commissions. Contact for questions about commissions or art purchases.

Learn more about other Able ARTS Work resident artists in DJ PJ's interview and Hannah's blog post.


Summer Mariotta is a resident artist at Able ARTS Work's affiliate day program and studio Achieving Results Together Center (ART Center). She primarily works with drawing media such as markers and colored pencils in her art. In 2021, Summer won the Littleton logo design competition. Her art has been shown in group exhibitions in Long Beach, California.


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