The first time Mo Herbe started making and selling shirts with her art on them was in eighth grade. At the time, she referred to her small business as “Odd Little Me.” It wasn’t until recently — after shaping her own abstract art style — that the name seemed to fit.
Her website, which launches today, will carry the same name: oddlittleme.com.
In one drawing, a figure is sketched, the body without hands and the eyes without pupils; the forehead is elongated and the hair is messy. To the side, Herbe’s feelings splay out in words: “I know it feels dumb to be insecure about my body because all bodies are good bodies, but here I am ripping myself apart.”
In the form of cartoons, the subjects within her art have no bounds. Their limbs stretch and bend inhumanly; jaws are disjointed and noses are misplaced. Though childlike and simple, her artwork doesn’t shy away from exploring mature concepts like sexuality, self-love and mental health.
Before she found her own style, she wasn’t as passionate about her own work. Herbe was a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy in Northern Kentucky when she found her niche in the art world. Recently graduated, she looks toward majoring in Fine Arts at Northern Kentucky University.
“It was really difficult to get into abstract," Herbe says. "It was teaching yourself how to not do everything you do. It’s like going backward in trying to figure out your art style. It’s the opposite of technical, so you have to figure out how to do things on your own.”
Herbe has always wanted to make raw art that people could relate to. Her art explores the mundane everyday moments to show purpose to them. Making art that’s simple, Herbe explains, makes it easier for people to connect with it.
“Even if some of them may not be the most straightforward — some of my actual pieces versus my drawings are abstract where you need to find meaning in it for yourself — or if you don’t understand, dig a little deeper,” she says. “I want to make art that people feel less alone and that they can connect to.”
She also finds strength in making art that directly helps others. With the help of Madison Tierney, a fellow Notre Dame alum, another project called Hodi Clothing (“Hodi” means “Hello” in Swahili) came to fruition this summer. The brand is dedicated to empowering women through education, with 10 percent of profits being donated to fund scholarships for young women in Uganda to attend that country’s Notre Dame Secondary School.
Up until now, her art has been sold through art shows set up at her school as well as Park Hills, Ky. coffeehouse Reality Tuesday. Through her social media pages (@sleepyillustrations on Instagram and @sleepyill on Twitter), her work has been able to reach beyond Greater Cincinnati. People everywhere from California to Brazil have reached out to show support and ask how they can buy one of her T-shirts. With the new website, she can give access to those far away.
“Having an art page keeps me motivated and keeps me positive about it,” she says. “For the longest time, when I first started getting into the style, I didn’t feel confident about it. I thought maybe I should do more technical work, but actually, I should do what I’m comfortable with and what makes me happy instead of trying to conform for others to make them satisfied, because they don’t matter.”
Support comes from home as well. Her boyfriend James Gerner can often be found wearing the clothing she designed to spread the word about her work. Her art teacher encouraged her to go beyond an Etsy store and set up her own website.
Herbe explores the edges of surrealism, creating pieces that often feel both jarring and oddly comforting at the same time. One of these pieces was the 5-by-3-foot “Not Here.” Inspired by David Lynch’s mixed-media work, she carved into wood and crumpled magazine pages to create texture. A pair of jagged, disembodied legs seemingly float in paint hues of burnt yellow, tan and green. Each year she makes her mark in a new sketch journal. Each bound by black Moleskin, she fills their blank pages with moments — some mundane and some bizarre — depicting characters that explore what it is to be human and young.
Shirts will range from $10 to $20 and hoodies will range from $20 to $30.
For more information or to shop ODD LITTLE ME, visit oddlittleme.com.