23rd July, 2014

Anonymous asks:

After doing work for clients, what is the one issue that often comes up when showing work to them? And how do you approach that issue?

I’m not sure I understand the question— sorry! If you mean doing sketches, I’ve had pretty good luck with clients understanding my rough sketches translate into something cool in the final phase.

Although I will say the one thing clients have really dinged me on in the past is how I draw noses! But live and learn; I find new ways to work with that and make it work :)

23rd July, 2014

Anonymous asks:

Do you ever have moments or days where you are just not happy with the work you are producing. Like a specific piece? I find it gets me down more often then I'd like. Especially when I'm going through a block like right now.

ALL THE TIME. Which I’m not sure if that’s comforting or saddening! For the past year, I’ve been noticing a disconnect between the work I want to produce and the way that I actually produce— which makes me really restless! I can’t say I’ve figured out how to make the work I want to make just yet— but I know this feeling’s important for growth.

A datapoint: I’ve been working on a big project for a while now that I alternately love and hate what I’ve done with it. I can only imagine how I’ll feel about it in a year. It’s kind of maddening, but I think a lot of people go through this. I think in a way it’s good, especially if you can figure out why it’s not measuring up. Usually any creative gnashing of teeth I endure is really just a signal that change is around the corner, one more step I’m in the middle of climbing but don’t even realize it.

It’s tough especially when you’re in a block— but these things can and will pass. It’s often good to step back, ask why you’re frustrated with Piece X, what could make it better; then step back in and keep that in mind while working, even if you can’t use that information yet. Don’t throw the work away or give up though— you gotta just work through it!

23rd July, 2014

Anonymous asks:

Hi Meg, I adore your work! I was wondering about how you get most of your jobs: is it something you have to work very hard at putting yourself out there (postcards, emails, networking, etc.)? Or is it something that simply comes at a certain point by being more established?

I definitely try and put myself out there as much as I can! I think though it’s evolved over time— I don’t do quite as much ‘promo’ as I used to, at least in the way I used to. As in, I used to spend more time planning promotion, and now I try more to show more of myself and what I’m working on to people out there, a more organic form of sharing as opposed to sending tons of postcards out. I still make mailers and connect with clients I want to work with, but I try to follow up more and connect better as opposed to just send send send.  But to answer your question: it used to be purely through hustling and sending postcards/emails; now it is a mix of that, online and in person interactions, and word of mouth.

Although I am definitely overdue for a mailing! I like self-promotion when I have the time!

23rd July, 2014

Working on some project work that’s kept me tethered to the computer today. I had fun answering questions recently— if you have any more, feel free to send me a message today and I’ll try to answer it!

23rd July, 2014

ICON8 Insights (pt. 1)

I’ve been meaning to do a write up on my experiences at ICON8 (the illustration conference) that was held recently in Portland. I got sick a few days after the event wrapped up and my mind was a bit of a blur post-ICON— with hundreds of attendees to meet and dozens of inspiring talks and workshops, it was a lot to process!


1. What’s the current state of illustration? Are there any trends that are coming about?

There are a lot of illustrators out there, and the quality level coming right out the gate is really high! I had the privilege of knowing a lot of the student volunteers (a lot of them were my students!) and meeting many of them; I’m equal parts inspired and intimidated by the talent level both out there currently and coming soon. I won’t say that there are any trends I noticed that are brand new, more that they’ve been steadily developing over the past few years. I noticed a lot of animals, a lot of hand lettering, a lot of people incorporating color and pattern into their work. Lots of illustrations of forests and characters, and a steady dose of humor threaded throughout.

I think for me personally, I’ve learned an important lesson to step outside of the illustration world for inspiration; everything is so visible all the time that the visual language could get easily diluted. But the bigger thing outside of visual trends that I was encouraged by was the sheer number of illustrators (especially at the Roadshow) with a story to tell, or an entrepreneurial spirit. Their interests, loves are on full display, which leads me to #2:


2. Don’t discount your point of view— making things you are excited by is contagious and can develop an audience.

The theme of ICON8 was work and play, and through its myriad speakers, a recurring anthem of ‘do what you love’ came through. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done— how do you do that when you’re just starting out or struggling? It takes a lot of grit and a near-quixotic determination to bust down those windmills of self-doubt, that’s for sure.

The talks that stuck with me most were:

  • Spotlight Stories, where Jan Pinkava talked about Google’s new storytelling form focusing on smartphones.
  • Nelson Lowry’s talk about his work both for Laika and in his spare time, and how the personal work (robots! paintings!) feeds both exploits.
  • Uncool: The Anti-Gun Violence project at Art Center was something I’d never heard of and probably would’ve glossed over but was one of the most emotionally impactful projects. Geared to children through books, trying to solve the problem of gun violence being so invasive in culture without being preachy or condescending to its audience.
  • Carson Ellis, because she’s a delight— but also because you can see her life is creative, both in the work and in the way she spends her time. Seeing her pull lessons from gardening or quilting and applying it to her work, finding no distinction between her creative practice and her life really engaged me.
  • Calef Brown’s talk about his work because his work is so playful, is thoughtful but doesn’t take himself seriously, and wouldn’t let up with the humor. The strength of his personality and spirit shone through the work.
  • Souther Salazar’s talk about how play informs his work, and how little things can inspire big projects.
  • Robynne Raye (of Modern Dog) talking about the struggles and victories of fighting for your work, even against a giant like Disney.
  • Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen about their exploits collaborating on two books together. Really taught me a lot about the power of the page turn and where you can surprise and delight your audience.
There were takeaways from each talk of course, but these ones stuck out the most. So what did I take away from these?
  • You can take your practice seriously but you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Every project has a problem to solve and an audience to impact in some way.
  • Whether projects were spurred out of a need to heal or an outburst of joy, you can see the pleasure of making and discovering something important in someone’s work. Work and play feeds us and the result feeds our audience.
  • Although I’ve heard you should make a separation between your work and yourself, many of the speakers seem to have blurred the lines even further. But this leads me to my next point:
  • It’s important to nourish yourself with playful endeavors that aren’t WORK. This can be creative, but if you spend your creative time only making things that feel portfolio-ready, there’s no opportunity to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. And these things can lead to new processes and ideas as opposed to just repeating yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t just mean ‘follow your bliss!’ because frankly a lot of those sort of statements are pithy and useless. I read something earlier this year that talked about how following your passion doesn’t mean ‘what you’re interested in’ but rather ‘what are you willing to suffer with?’ Which is a funny statement to correlate with making room for play in your work— but you’re always going to struggle a bit with playing feeling too self-indulgent (aka the "BUT WHAT IS IT FOR??!?!" crisis), and you might suffer through some ugly results but it’s better to take those risks than just turning creativity into a 100% business. You won’t benefit from that, your clients won’t benefit from it, and your audience won’t benefit from it.


3. Who’s your tribe?

I heard the term tribe bandied about a handful of times (guess who’s read Seth Godin?) and while sometimes I think it’s a little bit overused, I get the point. We are in an age of audience, and forgetting our audience can sometimes be a detriment (although trying to please your audience too much might not be good either). One thing I kind of wanted to hear more at ICON8 was 'how do you really connect with this audience?' beyond ‘oh post to Instagram! Post to a personal Facebook page! And have an outside life! But show that online. Etc.’ Because it’s amazing to have so many people following your work but keeping up with it is exhausting and honestly a lot of the time leads me chasing a weird dopamine high that a little heart or retweet can provide. And sometimes it just feels like I’m oversharing. I feel like we need a more soulful social network. One of the things I’ve thought the most about Twitter is that I miss what it was when I first joined— a little water-cooler to talk with people about things. Now I hunger for conversation and deeper connection— two things I found a lot during ICON8 but don’t find as much on social networks. Or maybe it just takes more time online and I don’t have time for that noise.

And beyond that, the big question I had: how do you actually find a way to slow the stream? Because there are so many people on so many social networks, so many creatives sharing what they make and so many consuming and moving onto the next shiny thing. Which okay, this is how we are now; but I want to find ways to slow down with the things I enjoy, ask questions and also stir dialogue. And I want to encourage my audience to connect deeper and slow down.

So who is my tribe? I know that there’s over 130k people following me on any number of social networks (as one of them, I can’t thank you enough!). But that’s not really enough of a metric, because I only really connect with a sliver of them. Or maybe that’s enough? One thing that I found interesting was talking about Kickstarter with a friend of mine; I’ve always shied away from it because I usually just think ‘it has to be good enough, something really important’ or ‘I could just save up and fund it myself.’ But I also realized in that platform, your audience can find joy in supporting something they connect with and help bring it to life. Instead of just being a set of eyes glancing on something they get to be a part of the birth of something new. The audience gets to invest their interest and money into the creative. Which was kind of neat to think about and made me wonder about that as a possibility at some point.


4. You need to make time for play in your work, and you need to continue learning and trying new things in order to trust your point of view.

Hard lessons for me to learn but really vital. In the past few years as a teacher, I’ve gotten really good about encouraging others to push their point of view and explore their passions but I’ve lost faith in mine a bit. The whole ‘but is it ________ enough?’ complex— which is a deadly game to play. I have started so many projects and given up before the concepting stage was complete because it didn’t seem to be enough; so many lost little ideas. I don’t regret this because it’s made new attempts stronger, but I am remorseful. So in my own personal practice I am trying silly ideas (more on that in a future post) just because I can, researching things I’m fascinated by that have nothing to do with my field, writing more to develop ideas and stories, trying to draw things I have no idea how to draw well, and pursuing little personal and collaborative projects to refill the creative well. I’m learning a lot. All the meanwhile trying to shush the ‘is it enough?’ voice. I’m not sure these exploits will ever turn into a freelance project officially, but right now I am satisfied enough that I’m doing something that will feed something else somewhere down the line. The thing I wrote down in my sketchbook twice: this is a planting time.

I have more insights to share (including things I would’ve loved to see at ICON8 and what I’d love to see at ICON9!), but I’ll save that for a post on Friday.

14th July, 2014

hannahvarela asks:

All your work is so beautiful ! May I ask how you create your work.....digitally or traditionally because, it is all stunning ?!

Digital and traditional. Every time it’s a bit different because I am restless! I’m trying to push the ratio to be more traditional and not rely on digital brushes or feel like coloring every single traditional mark digitally.

14th July, 2014

Anonymous asks:

Hi is there a name for the art style you use?

I have never named it! I would love people to throw some names out for fun though.

14th July, 2014

fancyscrams asks:

Any dream and/or personal projects you'd be willing to talk about? And since it's now come to mind as I type this, do you prefer talking about details of in-progress work, or do you think that "ruins" or diminishes the eventual reveal of said work?

I like talking details if I can! I admire people who can sit on a big project and never share til it’s ready, but I always like sharing process because it keeps me from quitting on it.

As for projects: Yes definitely. The problem is I come up with a lot of ideas but don’t always follow through or feel like I’m not ready yet. But I’m encouraged to dive back in.

Dream ones:

  • Working on an animation project of some kind. That could be a feature, it could be a TV show or it could be just collaborating on a small scale on a short.
  • Getting to collaborate on more housewares like ceramics, bedding, or glassware, or on products like stationery and books.
  • Illustrating something for Criterion. 
  • Creating a book of my own with Nobrow.

Personal projects are more self-driven:

  •  It’s my goal to start producing more zines and visual essays to explore story and dig deeper on topics. There are a few topics I want to look at (depression/being and getting lost, monsters, the folklore/symbolism of birds, home/homelands, night markets, shapeshifting and camouflage, etc) in depth that I’m hoping to compile into a little book series. More stories for sure.
  • I am planning to get into more 3D experimentation after starting at the Firebird in my house every day. The shape of which hasn’t fully shaken out yet- possibly just paper, maybe moldmaking but I intend to make another little bird or creature to take with me and photograph outdoors in Iceland and maybe in Oregon too.
  • Experimenting with more screenprinting— loosely and tightly planned prints, printing on textiles, printing on wood and making objects. 
  • I’m working with PMurphy on a short animation (that I need to get back on!) about my weird dog.
  • More drawing and challenging myself to draw things I am not great at drawing. Drawing at different scales. Also more reading and drawing (I guess these aren’t as concrete but they’re still things I intend to work on!).

14th July, 2014

bookofkellz asks:

Your style seems to be always developing and growing with each piece. Have any recommendations for someone who is looking to expand and push their own style more, but not sure where to start?

Thanks! Growth is really important to me as I expand my visual vocabulary so I appreciate that. For me, I’ve tried to look outside the field to see if I can learn from other things— science, sculpture, art history, etc. The more I refill the well with different things the more novel connections tend to happen. I also sometimes will think ‘what if I tried ____ differently?’ Mixing up your tools, starting with shape first instead of line, thinking of negative space or a different perspective, thinking of opposites, etc. I still struggle with this myself— there are things I want in my work that haven’t presented themselves just yet but I think it takes time. 

14th July, 2014

amarilloo asks:

I was wondering what sorts of brushes you use to get that sort-of crayon texture (especially in your llama/dragon pieces for the poetry book)? If you don't mind sharing, that would be lovely :)

If it’s crayon-like, that’s all done by hand and scanned in!  I can’t remember exactly but it’s usually a mix of water-soluble carbon, pencil, charcoal, Neocolor crayons, etc.