Meagan Meli is an illustrator native to Brooklyn, NY, living with her husband and two cats.
Meagan’s work is highly influenced by historic Halloween illustrations, 20th century Disney color palettes/textures, symbolism found in cemeteries, and occult illustrations.
After a series of devastating events, she began frequenting Green-Wood Cemetery as inspiration. Naturally, the theme of death, grieving, and mourning symbolism became consistent in her artwork.
Though her themes could be considered dark, they are bright, silly, and playful at the same time. Meagan's motive is not to bring melancholy, but to remind us that death is around us, but to accept it in it's forms.
Her focus is to help those who are grieving, and need help working their way through it with fun illustrations.
What’s your preferred medium to paint? Have you tried different mediums before?
My preferred medium to paint with is acryla-gouache and gouache. For many years I had made my own paint, primarily making egg tempera or watercolor, which in itself was so rewarding. The feeling of egg tempera’s matte texture when dry was so luxurious and I thought nothing would match the delightful feeling of the paint as well as the matte look when dry. The medium had a lovely ability to layer color, keep a velvet sheen, and it dried instantly. When I found acryla-gouache when I began studying backgrounds of my favorite animated films, my life changed forever. You can manipulate gouache the same way, using transparent layers of paint or strong blocked out areas of color! Building textures and colors is so important to my work, and me. My backgrounds are certainly more abstract and expressive while my foreground areas are tighter. Gouache mediums certainly allow more flexibility for me!
Favorite living artists?
Some of my favorite living artists are Rolly Crump, Kjersti Faret (Cat Coven), Stephanie Buscema, Laurie A Conley, and Lance Inkwell to name a few! I honestly try not to look at existing artists, as I don’t want to subconsciously take inspiration from them. Many of us see each other’s work in passing or speak to each other so it happens quite easily! I feel so lucky to call a few of those artists my friends, as they are so endlessly inspiring.
My favorite museum that I always feel so incredibly inspired by is in my own backyard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in NYC. I find that I am motivated by a variety of art eras and motifs. Since the MET carries an almost overwhelming array of time periods in art, it’s easy to get lost in the splendor of it all. You’re in one geographical region like Europe gazing at Renaissance paintings, and the next you’re walking through a collection of Edo period Japanese scrolls! There is nothing more magical than that. Us New Yorkers are definitely spoiled by the MET.
Totally not a museum, but I wanted to make space for this; the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY is a beautiful pocket of greenery, but also history. It is a 478 acre cemetery that has one of the largest outdoor collections of 18th and 19th century statuary and mausoleums. It has many historic graves, is a National Historic Landmark, and has some of the most beautiful stonework one has ever seen. You can find iconic 18th/19th century gravestone symbolism there, as well as stunning mausoleums. It is one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been to, and every visit just rushes a slew of ideas into my head.
What’s the meanest thing someone has said about your art? How did you respond?
The meanest thing, my goodness! I think it had to be that a professor of mine in college had said that my work will never hang in a gallery or be worth purchasing. I was very vocal and stubborn in college about the direction I wanted to take my career. This professor did not agree with me on any of my statements defending my art. I honestly think about that comment to this day, and a lot of the time I am thankful I heard something like that because it just inspired me (even more so than I was) to prove them wrong!
Who was you biggest supporter when you decided to pursue art as a career?
This is absolutely a cheesy response, but it is true. My husband, Thomas. My husband has been so patient with me when building my career to what it is today, and will continue to be my strongest support into the future. Tom sees things that I don’t see in my work, he is honest in ways that frustrate me because he sees compositional issues that I miss and don’t want to admit to, haha. Tom truly understands me and the work that I create. There have been moments in my career that have been devastating to us, but he’s just focused on making sure he reminds me of what makes me happy. And, that is painting! That level of encouragement is invaluable to me, and I am so thankful I have someone by my side that believes in me.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to make art for a living?
I wish someone said this to me sooner than later…it is honestly: make what YOU want to make! If you are passionate about anything in your creative process and how you share it with the world, people will absolutely recognize that. Believing in your art no matter what your content is, is crucial. When you build your portfolio, it is a personal project, it is a depiction of you and what you feel strongly about. Your energy in your art is felt by everyone who looks at it, even through the internet.
When I started, I was making artwork very different from what I am making now. It was dark, macabre, and to some it was abhorrent. But, folks truly connected with my art in ways I never expected! If your work is evocative of emotions, not just your own, you have created a successful piece of art. In addition to that, viewers love to see growth and change. It is key to be honest to yourself as an artist.
Meagan's Favorite Trekell Products:
I've been using Trekell products for as long as I could remember! I have so many favorite Trekell products, I use them every single day in the studio. Trekell’s brushes are what initially interested me in the company, they were affordable and the brushes felt amazing! My preferred brushes are the Golden Taklon (6"), Protégé Synthetic Kolinsky, and the Red Sable, but I find that I use the Glenn Arthur Halloween brush set the most lately. The black and orange motif matches my life! Of course, my brushes are always maintained with the branded brush restorer and coconut oil soap. In addition to my enormous Trekell brush collection, I am obsessed with their wood panels! I have an enormous stack of them that I've collected over time, currently on my painting table I have two pieces in motion featuring the coffin panel and small tombstone panel. Trekell is an integral part of my working process, and I don’t plan on changing that - ever!
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