Illustrator Interview: Megan Eckman

I love when I hear from interesting people doing interesting things. Megan Eckman is one of those people. She is a pen and ink illustrator, storyteller, and self-proclaimed "wonder rekindler." She emailed me to let me know that she just created her first book, "How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips)."

I thought it would be neat to interview her to find out more about what she does and, especially, how she works. As she says, "This is 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 combines tea pirates, wallpaper that eats stuffed animals (don’t worry, it’s vegetarian), and a seagull food dispute. I’ve fused together my masterful pen and ink drawings with vibrant short stories, punny poems, and some beautiful full-page spreads."

Please read the interview after the jump by clicking here.

Q. "Can you tell us a little about your background? College experience, etc.? What is one thing you've learned that has had the most impact on you?"

A: "I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota (where the accent only exists among the elderly farmers) and earned degrees in art and creative writing at Minnesota State University Moorhead. When I was little, I truly believed that jackalopes were real (which is why my parents put my on 'jackalope patrol' for car trips) and the one thing I've learned that impacts me every day is that imagination is the key to happiness. Imagination helps you create amazing ideas for your future, it makes sure you're never bored with your surroundings or situation, and it leads to a unique life."

Q. "I read that your parents stipulated that you had to start a business before graduating. Did you find that to be a good stress or bad stress? How did you go about creating your business? Did you have a business plan or did things happen more organically?"

A. "It was the best deal I ever made! When you go into art school, they tell you that less than 10% of graduates will go on to make a living in art. Less than 10%! I knew I wanted to be part of that small percentage and the best way to do that was to start a business to sell my artwork. I did a bit of research and picked my mother's brain (she was a business major and had just started her own freelance graphic design business the year before). It was surprisingly easy to file at the city and state levels and grab my legal name. Sadly, when I moved to California my yearly business fees went from $25 in North Dakota to $150 in California. I had no business plan for my business but I did talk with lots of local artists and my professors to learn about pricing, setting up a website, and finding my target market. 3. When and how did you discover your talent and love for drawing? I think my parents need to take credit for this one. My father is a painter so as soon as they saw that I had an inkling of talent, they signed me up for every art class within a 50 mile radius. Half of the books in my childhood home were drawing and anatomy books. So, in the end, I guess I had no choice but to become an illustrator. Haha."

Q. "How do you work? In a dark quiet room, in an airy loft with bright light and loud music, etc.?"

A. "My studio is filled with inspiration boards, lots of color, and a giant white desk. Chinese lanterns hang over my desk and there's usually some odd folk music playing. If I don't feel like music or NPR, I'll turn on a music I've watched 800 times so I can just listen to it. 5. What implements do you use most? Pen and ink, pencil, etc? My most-used tool is a Rapidograph pen. They're getting harder and harder to find thanks to architects going over to computer drafting. I don't even want to admit how many bottles of ink I go through on a weekly basis."

Q. "Can you take us through your illustration process? Do you start with rough sketches, etc? Do you use the computer at all? If so, please give us some details of how you use it."

A. "My illustrations start with a story and the roughest of pencil sketch. It's a wonder I can even get an idea of what I've drawn (which is probably why I make notes on the side). I then draw a to-scale more detailed sketch, although I make sure to leave out certain things because I love the mystery of creating the final illustration on the spot. I never know how the pieces will actually turn out until they're done. Once the final piece is inked, I scan it and do several touch-ups (if necessary) in Photoshop. I'm growing a bit infatuated with my Wacom tablet and I've started to use it to color my illustrations. So, pretty much I use the computer to make tiny tweaks with black and white 'paint' or add in a layer behind the 'traced' image (thank you Illustration for the tracing options function) for color."

Q."Can you talk some about the inspiration for the book, and your inspiration in general."

A. "In 2010 I moved with my boyfriend from North Dakota to the sunny Bay Area of California. Therefore a lot of my inspiration has changed from forestry to the sea. My book, 'How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips)', essentially represents a new ocean mythology. This is how I see the salty world. It's full of men who fish for mermaids, pirates who make prisoners perform high tea with pinkies up before they walk the plank, and girls who wait for their selkie mothers to come home. The inspiration for it came from my own over-active imagination. I'm always questioning how the world works and what is improbable. I suppose that's why I'm a storyteller."

Thanks so much to Megan for her thoughtful answers. Please check out her website here or purchase "How to Outsmart Tea Pirates...." here.

Are you an artist or creative willing to delve into your creative process? Please write; I'd love to feature you on this blog!

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