1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?
Well, I’m an illustrator, originally from a seaside city Connecticut; I spent a few years in Phoenix, Arizona and now live in the wooded city of Portland, Oregon. I am really driven by making things and exploring the creative process. I work pretty much every day and I love it; I’ve been an illustrator for seven years now and the lifestyle suits me well. My goal is to make people happy and see my work woven throughout the world; while I’m a bit shy, illustration allows me to show the things I see and love to the world. I love illustration 100% and have been fortunate to know and befriend amazing, talented, funny and kind peers who inspire me all the time, both in Portland and beyond.
2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I always loved illustration but never thought of it as a job until high school when we had a guest from SVA talk about illustration. I wanted to go there to pursue it as a career but it wasn’t in the cards; instead I went to school (at the University of Connecticut) exploring printmaking and illustration together. I nearly gave up illustration halfway through but found my way thanks to my excellent mentors; by senior year I started emailing art directors in secret hoping to get work. I was lucky enough to get an illustration in BUST before I graduated and when I got my copy in the mail I stopped my illustration professor in the hallway and showed her, totally proud. From there I just dove in, taking odd music illustration jobs and a few editorial pieces and it’s just snowballed from there.
3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
It’s definitely changed; I think through my creative process I’ve figured out my own visual language. I recently compiled a slideshow of my work every year from 2005 to today and it’s fascinating to see what changed and what remained. But it’s one of those things I only learned by making and absorbing the world. I often liken myself to a sponge– I’ll see snippets of weird patterns and textures out in the world or odd photographs and see if I can assimilate little details into my work. Sometimes it works, sometimes I learn that it’s not part of my language.
4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
It’s one part chaos, one part experimentation, and two parts fun! Seriously though, it’s very much changed from when I started as an illustrator; there’s always a digital component, but it was much simpler and line-heavy when I started. Now I experiment with breaking down the image into layers of washes, pencil texture, cut paper, painted shapes– whatever I think will suit the piece I’m working on at any given moment. I get pretty indecisive and curious about new mediums so I’m always exploring.
5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
I feel like it’s a pretty organic process; sometimes ideas come when I’m hiking through the woods or listening to music or from dreams; but other times it comes when I’m working on a project. On the times when I’m low on ideas, I tend to write a lot of lists and mind-maps, or ‘refill the well’ by looking at inspiration (not just illustration, but a lot of interesting visual ephemera) and reading.
6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I do; but I think most people I know do. I’ve slowly learned that that’s the process — we’re not machines, but are going to have peaks and valleys. Usually I try to work through them and be kind to myself; but sometimes I just need to get my mind off of it. Thankfully where I live now there are lots of places to adventure and explore, from the city to the coast to the forests near my house — I don’t have to go very far to reinvigorate myself.
Through listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of things, I’ve tried to remember also, that whenever I get into a slump, it’s just a bump in the road of my career. No matter how tough it seems at that given moment, I always pull out of it and usually am all the better for it — I’m my toughest critic, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that.
7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Getting to draw every day for a living, hands down. I’m always so thankful that I get to do what I love each day and make sense of the world with my hands and brain.
8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The business/time management aspect of it, for sure. I’ve gotten better but it’s a lot to juggle day in and day out. It’s also really tough for me to let go and not work every day on things, but I’m learning that’s important too.
9. Do you have side projects you work on?
Tons! I’m always working on side projects — trying to get new work, and explore what else I can make. Right now I’m working on a couple of animation collaborations, a little bit of writing for a possible book, some screenprinting endeavors (my other true love), and looking to collaborate with other folk, from photographers to woodworkers to ceramicists! I want to branch out and explore every avenue, and make my practice a lush and vibrant thing.
10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you¬†can share with us?
I just wrapped a lovely notebook design for my friends at Monoblock and have a line of cards to finish for Red Cap Cards, along with some other licensing work in the pipeline. That in addition to designing some new products for my shop in time for the holidays and teaching illustration at two local universities will definitely keep me on my toes, but I’m hoping to collaborate and find some amazing personal and client work to challenge me into the new year and beyond!
* * * * *
5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
mythology, animals, the forest, the human experience and travel
3 constants in your day:
my little dog, drawing tools all over the place (sometimes in my hand), and something playing in the background, whether it’s a podcast, music, comedy or Netflix
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
This business is not easy, for a billion different reasons. But I think the thing that has really gotten me through a lot of tough times is understanding that bad patches come and go, but you survive and get better by working through them and realizing they’re just blips in your career that can actually strengthen you. The more you avoid it the harder it gets, and it’s best to just be flexible and roll with the punches.
* * * * *
Thanks so much, Meg! Your art is incredible, detailed and beautiful. We feel so honored to have you share it with us!
More art inspiration!
Latest posts by Thomas James (see all)
- Pick of the Week for FABLE and This Week’s Topic - April 21, 2017
- Pick of the Week for HOT and This Week’s Topic - April 7, 2017
- Pick of the Week for UMBRELLA and This Week’s Topic - March 31, 2017