Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interview With Meg Hunt

For my senior illustration seminar class with Allan Comport we had an assignment to interview a working illustrator. I chose the lovely Meg Hunt, who was kind enough to allow me to post the results of our correspondence here on the blog! Say 'hi' to Meg!

Meg Hunt is an Illustrator who grew up in Connecticut, spent a while in Arizona, and recently moved to Portland. Her clients include BUST magazine, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon Magazine, HOW magazine, and Threadless, among many others. I first discovered Meg’s work back when I was in high school. I fell in love with her exuberant line work, fearless color schemes, and ample use of patterning and texture. I have kept up with her work over the years and it just keeps getting better and better! Her recent Alice in Wonderland work is particularly well done. Her vibrant colors and skillful cartooning are truly at their best.

I find Meg especially inspiring because she seems fearless. Not just in her art, but in her life as well. She is always very open in her blog posts. She isn’t afraid to let people know when she is very proud of something, or feeling stuck in a rut, or when she is drawing inspiration from other artists. She is also very proactive: she is the creator of the amazing Picture Book Report project; the curator of Disconnect the Dots (a 2006 collaborative show between 30 artists from around the world); and most recently the co-creator of Art for Japan, an online auction of artworks donated by various artists for Japan relief. We artists are notorious for being somewhat selfish and arrogant but Meg is always willing to share her knowledge with others, and to learn from her peers and from experience. She isn’t some cold, immutable illustration demi-god but a warm and approachable person who loves to give back to the community. Meg has already been interviewed extensively about her work process so I refrained from asking her any questions about that. Instead I read through her blog and some of her past interviews and wrote down whichever questions occurred to me. In the interview Meg tells me all about artist’s reps, keeping up with online outlets, and learning how to ride a bike.

JM: How often do you draw from life? How often do you doodle from imagination? Has drawing “from your head” always come naturally or have you struggled to find your own style separate from reality?

MH: I draw out of my head or looking at reference more often than actually looking at things. Still, I do like drawing people in coffee shops and need to get back into life drawing more often! I think drawing from my head's always been easier as I tend to flatten and abstract things in my head a bit and drawing realistically was never my strong suit.

JM: Did you get any illustration jobs while you were still in school?

MH: I did a spot illustration for BUST magazine while in school as well as some branding for a friend's pursemaking business, but serious work didn't really happen until afterwards. Still it was amazing to show my professor work in print!

JM: I see that you have an artist's representative. Do you think having a rep is worth the money? Do you get most of your jobs through your rep or through old contacts and web outlets?

MH: I like my rep, but reps aren't for everybody. I think young illustrators expect they need one to hit the big time, but it's not just like a door's opened and work floods in. My rep has made it easier for me to focus on what I need to get done and he's been a good support system. Also since he knows so many contacts and how to price things, I get paid more fairly than if I was still on my own. So having him in my corner suits me well, but I know tons of people without reps who are doing way better than me. Everyone's different. I have a few old contacts I work with myself and sometimes when the pay's low he just lets me handle those, but that's more rare. Some jobs come through my rep, but a lot contact me through my site and he handles those accounts.

JM: Speaking of web outlets, you have a very strong web presence! How important do you think the Internet is to being an illustrator?

MH: I think it's pretty important nowadays, but I'm actually trying to meet people in person and make non digital contact with people. I think there's so many people online that it's getting more refreshing to see work in the real world.

JM: There are so many Internet outlets out there (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc) and so many blogs to read and so many things to keep updated! How do you juggle it all and still find time to make amazing work and (hopefully) have a life?

MH: I've definitely downsized what I use. I use Twitter a little too much (but I'm trying to get better with that). Facebook's pretty occasional for me, I never really got into it. I used to use Flickr more but I've found I don't miss it much-- so things like that and Facebook I check once or twice a week and move onto other things. As for Tumblr, I use it as my blog and don't follow many people-- I may have to pare it down some. I try to use it more to produce than consume. I don't read blogs very often (at least not art ones) because if I do, I'll get sucked in. So basically I've just learned that limits can be very good for me-- the less I focus on what everyone else is doing, the easier it is to keep on my own path. As for having a life-- I work very hard, but am definitely trying to bring more personal time into the mix so I can continue to be inspired with what I'm making!

JM: In 2010 you learned how to ride a bike! I’m nearly 22 and have yet to learn how to ride myself, but am very interested! How long did it take for you to get the hang of it? Did you have a friend teach you or did you just work on it on your own? Any tips?

MH: I'm still not perfect at the bike (in fact, it's been sitting in our basement since I moved, tempted to whip it out today!) but the day I figured it out I felt elated. I forget exactly how long it took-- I didn't go out every day, but over a week or two things clicked. I learned myself, and read online about tips-- but I think I just had to keep trying and not give up (which was hard at first)-- and to learn not to stare at my feet but in the direction I wanted to go-- that helped a lot. Eventually your body just figures out how to do these balance adjustments to keep you afloat-- it's thrilling. I haven't tried city bicycling though-- it kind of scares me because I don't drive either so my road sensibilities aren't great!

JM: How do you like Portland? I almost resent the place because every time I hear about something cool I find out it’s going on in – of course! – Portland, on the exact opposite side of the country! I would LOVE to visit but I don’t think I could live there because of the rain. Does the moisture ever get to you?

MH: I can understand that but there is so much on the east coast! I grew up in CT, but never got down past Philadelphia-- always regretted that. Portland's been good to me thus far. Today is gorgeously blue, and everything has this wild lushness to it that is really inspiring. There are a ton of creative people here so it's nice, but more competition. The rain is something I'm getting used to after four years in Phoenix-- it's not constant and it's rarely a thunderstorm (which I miss), but there are some days where it's just drizzly all day and pouring for short moments. Those days get me more irritable than sad, but when it's just gray I'm okay with it. It makes sunny days like today feel like a gift, and also it's been pretty mild all winter so I'm grateful not to shovel snow!

All images in this post are © Meg Hunt. Thanks so much to Meg for responding! Be sure to check out her site for more work and to follow her blog for updates!

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