Mia Taninaka is an Artist, mother and surfer based in the Northern Rivers. She paints whimsical and playful works that are filled with colour and a touch of the ethereal. We chat to Mia about how she finds time for creativity between raising her children, what’s been inspiring her creatively lately and practicing mindfulness while surfing.
How long have you been painting and how did your path as an artist first unfold?
Trying to answer this question made me think about my own kids and how they pretty much paint everywhere without any direction or idea of what they’re doing - greasy after dinner fingers on the windows, scribbles in spilt smoothie, stick drawings in the dirt. I think as a child you have an innate desire and ability to express yourself in any medium available so I have the feeling that I didn’t start painting at a specific time, I just never really stopped. I had not considered myself as an artist or thought to pursue it further than my own bedroom walls until I was in my early 20s. I had a considerable collection of works in my bedroom and decided to have an exhibition. The show went really well and it became pretty clear to me that that’s what I wanted to keep doing.
What has been inspiring you creatively lately?
There’s been so many times when I’ve found creative inspiration from other artists, books and podcasts etc. However lately my main source has been a shitload of rest and rejuvenation which has allowed me to tap in to my self and my surroundings on a much deeper level. Letting go of my overthinking brain and just letting things flow. I’ve also been experimenting with different mediums which has been fun although a little daunting. It’s definitely a slower process but it’s been interesting to watch different paintings and elements unfold.
What's your favourite part of the creative process?
Surrender and trust. They’re equally my least and most favourite parts of painting - you really have to let go and trust that there will be an end result beyond the frustration and self-doubt that comes up at some point. You learn to walk away and give yourself time and come back with a new perspective. Most of the time you push through and get to an end result that you’re happy with and maybe you’ll even surprise yourself! Sometimes you just have to surrender to the fact that the painting sucks and start over. It’s definitely a bit of a wild ride, and just like any good adventure there’s good parts and hard parts but in the end you reach a “big exhale finally finished” place that feels pretty good.
You’re a mama as well. How do you carve out time for your art between raising kids and life?
It’s pretty nuts around here. My husband and I both work from home so we are pretty flexible and do the kid/work juggle depending on who needs to get something done. It does require some discipline though, otherwise it’s pretty easy to just end up at the beach all day everyday! We’ve also both got family up here which makes a huge difference. Between each other, grandparents and school we can usually carve out time for ourselves, work and family pretty well.
Creative flow can be elusive sometimes. What do you do in these moments to nurture it and keep inspired?
I can get pretty heady about things and will try to do 100 things at once. When I’m in this headspace I know I’ve got to slow right down - stop painting and go outside, meditate, get into my body with yoga, boxing, a walk or a surf. Sometimes it means taking a break from painting for a week or so.
I love painting and being in the studio but I can easily over do it and create an imbalance in my life which directly affects my creative process. It can be hard when there’s a deadline but being topped up in all areas of my life is definitely the source of my creativity. Good food, moving my body, connecting with nature, taking care of my family, time with my friends. I’ve become much better at detecting when I’m starting to feel a little flat, and knowing its time to nourish other parts of myself to make up the whole.
"It can be hard when there’s a deadline but being topped up in all areas of my life is definitely the source of my creativity. Good food, moving my body, connecting with nature, taking care of my family, time with my friends."
You’re a surfer, what’s your favourite thing about getting out into the deep blue?
I love the expansiveness and how it makes all your senses hyper-aware. I like to do this little practice where I sit on my board and do a 5-senses check - what can you hear, what can you taste, what can you see, what can you smell, what can you feel. It makes you very present and if you do it enough then when you’re at home and feeling very disconnected you can close your eyes and get transported back to this very wonderful, healing feeling.
Surfing can sometimes reflect back to us a life lessons or insight. Do you find this and if so, what has it taught you about life?
We have a kids book called ‘Mop rides the waves of life’ and it’s all about the ups and downs of life. Sometimes you get dumped, sometimes you paddle over the waves and sometimes you surf them. I think surfing definitely teaches you the beauty and impermanence of life - nothing ever stays the same. Embrace change, face your fears, there is always calm after a storm. Sometimes you will get dumped and tumbled all around, and sometimes you will be gliding effortlessly along a beautiful wave hooting yourself. And it’s all awesome, because you’re alive.
"Surfing definitely teaches you the beauty and impermanence of life - nothing ever stays the same. Embrace change, face your fears, there is always calm after a storm."
You recently had an exhibition at Yeah Nice, could you tell us a bit about the concept behind it?
It changed a few times since I first started preparing for it. There’s always the underlying storyline of life behind the veil, the universe within you, soul connection with nature, the macrocosm and microcosm. There’s definitely more of a feminine vibe coming through in my latest works, which I’m liking - embracing the strength in the softness.
Images shot by Morgan Munday
Mia wears the Ran Tank and Santiago Bottom in rust and the Cosmos Surf Suit in earth.