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Young people doing cool things: Celeste Mountjoy

Let her success rub off on you.

If you’re familiar with Filthy Ratbag, then you’d probably be surprised to find out the artist behind the Melbourne-based Instagram account is only 16 years old. Meet Celeste Mountjoy. The high schooler is the creator of politically-charged, sarcastic, humorous and emotive comics that  tap into many unspoken and relatable feelings. 

Her Instagram account @filthyratbag has quickly become one of our favourites, so we thought Celeste would make the perfect addition to our Young People Doing Cool Things series. We only wish we were this cool when we were 16.

When did you start making comics? 

I’ve been drawing all my life. The first sketchbook I filled up was one from 2004, so I would have been three or four [years old]. As a lil’ thing, I always enjoyed drawing girls. Particularly ‘pretty ones’ – like beauty queens and mermaids and all that stuff. I specifically liked making stories with my drawings, which I still do to this day (in the form of my comics). I love story telling, and it made me happy when I could make people laugh or have them relate to something I drew. So I started developing the comics I have now, in late 2015. 

Where did the name Filthy Ratbag come from? 

Growing up my mum and her partner Linda would call me a ‘filthy ratbag’ when I did sneaky stuff. It always just sort of stuck with me.

How would you describe yourself?

From what I’ve gathered, I think it’s often assumed that I’m some cynical angsty teen with a death wish (which sort of makes sense, I guess, if you’re basing my personality off my art). But I wouldn’t really identify as that, for the most part. My content isn’t a direct reflection of who I am. I’m just Celeste.

Worst bit about being a teenager?

Cask wine.

When we heard you were 16, we couldn’t believe your age.  Do you feel more mature than your peers or do you think older people just underestimate teens?

Thank you! I don’t think I’m anything more or less than the people I know. I know all types of people. Some of them suck and some of them are really great. Age is often irrelevant in terms of what people are at their base. I’ve met some really stupid 40-year-olds and some really interesting 13-year-olds.

Your comics highlight snippets of conversations or experiences we generally suppress. Have you always seen the full spectrum of human emotion, or do you like magnifying the bits we often overlook?  

I don’t think there’s much point suppressing experiences or emotions. I mean, the fact that people describe my comics and the characters in them as ‘relatable’ is probably saying something. We are all going through cringeworthy, sad and angsty things, so why not just laugh and cringe at them. 

How would you describe the world in 2016? 

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is how social media is being used to connect people and ideas. I think it’s a really interesting time, in terms of communication and how it’s effecting relationships and opportunities everywhere. That’s been one of standout things for me. Obviously I could go on about how there’s lots of ridiculous things and there’s so much awful shit going on, but I feel like you’d have to be living under a rock to not realise that. 

Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies people will be surprised to know? 

I don’t know if this is a hobby but I’ve had a David Bowie fan page on Instagram since I was 11 and it has, like, 10k followers.

What responses do you get from people who have seen your comics?

I guess I get mixed responses on my art, as any artist would. It’s been interesting seeing the difference in how I was treated by strangers when I had a very small following, versus when it got a little bigger. The range of people contacting me is interesting. I can get anything from really sweet messages, to people who enjoy what I do, to gross old men trying to pay me for photos of my feet. 

What do your parents think about your comics? Do their opinions shape your artistic direction? 

They are both really supportive, they’ve always encouraged my creativity and are both very creative themselves. Dad makes these comics about this character called Ronnie the Smiling Rooster. They make me laugh a lot. He has a thing for chickens. Mum used to draw with me all the time when I started. I love her drawings and she would always tell me she loved mine, which made me want to keep going. 

Where do you see yourself in five years time? 

Hopefully I can be working in something art-related. Even if I’m not though, I’ll always make art. I just want to travel places, meet interesting people and find things that make me happy, and draw a lot. Nothing too spectacular. I’d like to use more clay, too.

Anything you’d like to add?

Treat yo’self. 

Follow Celeste’s cool Insta jounrey here.

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