We first called on Megan Palmer several months ago to ask if she would be interested in designing an article for Issue Two of Sea Stoke. Not only did she (promptly) reply in the affirmative, but she gladly jumped on deck to take on 3 articles! We were over the moon, given that we’d been jaw-dropped by all her work we’d only recently discovered. As a graphic designer, over the last few years Megan has produced an impressive portfolio of work that showcases her aptitude for illustration.
Self-proclaimed pub pest and keeper of impeccably groomed eyebrows, Megan’s personality and talent are infectious. Using a combination of media, she creates works of art that draw you into the world of her imagination. And it’s a pretty good place to be. Her mind is abound with creativity and when you look at her works, you feel the urge to see more and more, with each piece only rivaling the next. As for her personality, while we haven’t met in person, our e-communication gives me some insight into her witty nature, and her emails often have me smiling like a Cheshire cat.
Megan has a penchant for humour and on Behance, she categorises her work as ‘whimsical tomfoolery’. When I ask her why art is an important aspect of her life, she replies, “Art keeps me constantly amused.” Making people laugh is her primary drive as an artist and says, “Even just one considered, somewhat sardonic, ‘ha’ would satisfy me.”
“But on the other hand, I subscribe to all those cliché artistic motivations such as being inspired by my environment and people to create art, and an affinity for pretty things—looking at them, making them, trying to be one.”
Megan grew up in Ballarat (sometimes affectionately known as the ‘Rat), located 100km to the northwest of Melbourne and is famous for the wealth of gold that was discovered during the Gold Rush. A flashback to some of her earliest memories reveals an artistic inclination dating back to when she was three or four.
“If you leave things to the last minute, it’s going to be shit. So don’t sit back at first if you think you have a lot of time to get a project done. Be proactive and start straight away.”
“I had these special crayons that worked a little like magic markers—you know, you get a special white one that changes the colour of what you’ve already laid down on the paper. I drew with these until they died a stumpy death. From that point onwards, my childhood was a blur of scribbles and projects. Countless art supplies were lost in battle.” Growing up, she went on to fine tune her artistic abilities and while she says fine art was always a “cathartic pursuit”, it wasn’t until high school that she was pressured to choose some sort of career path to base her subjects around. “I figured I’d do the smart thing and translate my visual art love into a graphic design channel. At the time I didn’t know all the scribbling I did for fun would be commercially viable in the future.”
Since completing her BA degree in Graphic Design and Multimedia, there has been little shortage of work for Megan who was fresh out of university she was offered a gig to design for Quiksilver and made the move to Torquay—Australian epicenter of surf culture as home to Bells Beach and birthplace of companies like Rip Curl. Megan has since become besotted with her oceanic surroundings, which is evident in her many surf-inspired illustrations she has been producing. With the sea at her doorstep and the surf culture that comes with it, she says she doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration. Since moving to Torquay, she has not only taken up surfing, but the ocean influence has clearly seeped its way into her art.
“The culture in Torquay has totally changed my whole perspective and lifestyle, which in turn has heavily informed all my artwork.”
“My content has definitely altered to be more surf oriented, and less referenced. My methods and preferred mediums have also changed, so now I have a unique vintage washed out semi-painted/semi-drawn look consistently throughout my recent folio.”
While she has numerous surf-inspired pieces in her folio, she tells me she’s taken a liking to drawing tigers, although she doesn’t consider herself to be a “cat person.” A testament to her witty nature, she says she also loves “punchy, snide proclamations.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been driving behind a Wicked camper van on the Great Ocean Road and taken mental notes to copy their spray-painted statements. One I thought was too good not to draw was “addiction takes commitment.”
Despite a folio that boasts the global companies she has designed for, Megan admits she didn’t take her work too seriously until people starting asking her to do special commission in the last year or so.
“I’ve always felt like a bit of a hack and have wanted to develop my skills a lot further so I can get to the stage where every process is totally natural and unforced.”
Regardless of what work she takes on, her work ethic is admirable and while creative types are notorious for their failure to meet deadlines, Megan doesn’t fall into this category. She prides herself on being conscientious and says, “If you leave things to the last minute, it’s going to be shit. So don’t sit back at first if you think you have a lot of time to get a project done. Be proactive and start straight away.”
Megan says it may sound cliché when she says, “I love what I do and do what I love”, but she is genuinely stoked to be pursuing her dreams and earn a crust whilst tapping into her creative talents. But like any job, there are the not-so-lovable aspects that come with the territory. She says that one of her biggest challenges is “the pressure to create things to a high degree of excellence within a deadline. This can be stifling in an office environment especially.”
“Also, the late nights working as a consequence of feeling the need to say, ‘Yes, I can do that’ to most things people ask you to do and the ensuing sleep deprivation.” But she manages to keep herself sane with a balanced diet of exercise or surf, social events, a well-rounded iTunes library and beer.
When she’s not working, Megan occupies her time with a bunch of fun leisure activities that involve hanging out with mates as much as possible. She cites “bon fires, attempts at surfing adequately. Pubbing. Walking. Swinging at the park. Watching conspiracy documentaries. Bashing the guitar and screaming some tunes. Attendance of gigs across Geelong and Melbourne. Grooming. Scrabble. General tomfoolery” as being a few of her favourite things.
I ask her when she finds herself working at her best work and not surprisingly, she says, “I find the good mood/bad mood scenario can impact my work to no end. To do my best effortlessly and happily, I need to be well exercised, well fed and well minded. I can’t go wrong if I’ve fulfilled my day’s social interaction quota and have gone for a surf or nice long walk.”
In a recent experiment that produced some “surprisingly good results”, Megan tells me she had a “few” drinks and sat down to film herself drawing over several hours, which she documented with time-lapse photography. “I was much quicker, less precious and in a stellar mood.” From what I gather, Megan is partial to a tipple, so it’s little surprise that she works so well with a few drinks under her belt.
Although her professional website is currently under construction, Megan keeps a Facebook page that she frequently updates with projects she has been working on. She is constantly producing radness and with almost 4,000 likes in a relatively short time, it seems there are a lot of folk out there who are equally frothing on her goods. I ask Megan about her creative aspirations and you can tell that she is just brimming with endless ideas and possibilities.
“I want to keep developing my style, get quicker and more refined in my method so I can do some really epic stuff. I’d love to get into storybook style illustration—to be able to illustrate at the standard of say, Graeme Base’s Animalia would be radical. I love being in the surfwear industry and want to continue drawing yardages and prints for garments. I even have a little dream of going into tattoo art at some point!” What ever direction she takes, I’m sure she’s going to continuously step it up to create pieces of art you wish you had hanging on your wall.
Although it seems Megan creates her pieces effortlessly, an endless amount of hard work and discipline has gotten her where she is today. On offering advice to anyone considering taking up a career in the creative industry, she says, “Be sure to keep an eye on creative blogs to do with the industry you want to get into.”
“If you’re an aspiring designer/illustrator, sites like Dribbble and Behance are priceless. Of course, practice makes perfect and a failed experiment is the best learning experience and motivation.”
She finishes the interview with some sage words that we all could take heed from.
“Never work past 5:30pm on a Friday—go to the pub.”