Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview - Megan Eckman

Megan Eckman is an illustrator based in California. What initially drew me to her art was her line-work. Whoa! It's pretty darn impressive. Her work has echoes of picture books of the past and that feeling of nostalgia draws you right in. She's also a writer and has just written and illustrated her very own book: How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips). I couldn't help but want to learn more about how she works. So here she is! Welcome, Megan!

Megan Eckman [photo courtesy of the artist]

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and achievements.

I was that girl at school who had more books than friends but wasn't quite cool enough for an imaginary friend either.  I grew up to be a storyteller and a pen and ink illustrator.  My overactive imagination never went away (my boyfriend actually has a strict set of rules to follow when it gets dark in our apartment) but it's what helps me create my unusual drawings.

My work combines the style 19th century illustrations with modern fantasies.  From antlered girls looking for new families in the woods to magical fish who grant wishes, I strive to rekindle wonder in my audience to help them take back their own imaginations.

During my last year in college, I won the CROSS pen scholarship and my work was used in their yearly advertising.  I also started my business, Studio MME, right before I received my diploma.  My first self-published book, 'How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips) will be released July 1st of this year.  Also, I've just been named one of the 10 prominent artists within the world of needle arts (no joke) and my embroideries will be featured in a book scheduled to come out next year.

Art lovers suitor [source]

When did you know you wanted to work creatively (from a young age or did you come to it later?) and what steps did you take to make it happen?

As soon as my parents saw that I had talent and was interested in drawing, they signed me up for every class within a 50-mile radius.  By the time I got to college, it didn't even occur to me NOT to major in art, though I also majored in creative writing.  The one deal I had to make with my parents to earn those artsy degrees was that I had to start a business before I graduated.  I can honestly say it was the best deal I ever made.

Ghostfish [source]

Could you describe a typical work day? How do you balance art and the more administrative tasks of running a creative business?

I'm a very early riser so by the time most people start their day jobs, I've already gotten in a morning ride.  By mid-morning, I like to start drawing because inspiration always come to me early in the day. I'll draw until lunch and then after a bite to eat, I'll finally start in on my emails, packing orders, and all around 'not-so-fun' administrative tasks.  I insist on taking a walk around 3pm.  My boyfriend thinks I'm part-dog but really I find it so refreshing to get away from my desk for half an hour.  Then I'll draw until dinner time (squeezing in a bit of yoga so that I can de-stress a bit).  After dinner, I generally pump out some emails to galleries, shops, and blogs.  At 9pm, no matter what I'm in the middle of, I stop and spend the last hour before bed curled up on the couch with my boyfriend watching comedic TV shows.

Davy Jones [source]

What inspires you creatively? (could be online places, 'real' places, people or things)

I often think I was born in the wrong century because I love everything Edwardian and Art Nouveau. For some reason, all of my characters end up in dark, magical places that tend to be fairly British. Usually, whenever I'm on a walk, my imagination comes up with a story and then the image for the illustration follows.  Honestly, sometimes I don't even know where the stories come from.  Just the other day I came up with a story about two girls who believe there are angels in the attic but it's really two fat possums.

Tell us a bit about your new book. Can you give us a run-down on the process of creating it from conception to finished product?

My new book, How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips) fuses my illustrations with silly short stories and punny poems.  It's a book for everyone who read Harry Potter, even though they would have graduated from Hogwarts long ago.  It's a book for those who love quirky humor, Edward Gorey's pen and ink drawings, and are a kid at heart.  It features tea pirates, wallpaper that eats stuffed animals (don't worry, it's vegetarian), and a seagull food dispute.

The book started as an idea last year.  I had all of these stories laying around from my college creative writing classes and I knew people would just love them!  So, I started to plan out the order and did some research into publishing options.  I'd pitched editors enough throughout college that I knew I didn't want to go that route for this book.  Instead, I was going to have full control and print on demand.

It took 4 long months to create this book but I'm so happy for its release!  Right now you can pre-order your copy and have it on your doorstep a week before anyone else will get it.  I'm also signing all of the pre-order copies and including one extra sailing tip.  The book will be 'officially' released on July 1st.

She loved her Shakespeare [source]

What are your favourite tools/materials for creating?

Oddly enough, my favorite tool is a Rapidograph pen.  Once used by architects and drafters, this little beauty is now becoming increasingly hard to find thanks to computer programs.  I also love my HB pencils, white paint, and super smooth Bristol paper.

Thanks so much for joining us, Megan. I loved hearing about your artistic journey so far and I wish you all the best for the launch of your book!

Please be sure to visit Megan Eckman at the following places:

Studio M.M.E. Illustrations website
Megan's blog
Megan on Facebook and Twitter