Artist Interview: Meg Biddle

posted on July 19, 2016 by
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megbiddle2 Huge thanks to YAC's very own co-founder Meg Biddle for the awesome interview! Check out more of Meg's brilliant, hilarious, and wonderful work at megbiddleart.com

Tell us about the subject matter/content of your work. My art is a mix of personal narrative, some from other people, imagined ones from animals, or just a passing thought. Neurosis is a good topic. I like to keep track of things I see and hear that move me somehow, even when they seem deeply ordinary. Sometimes I just like to draw or paint. I get a LOT of material working around YACsters btw. Meg Biddle Self Portrait

Tell us about how you work/your process. I sketch ideas or make lists on anything I can get my hands on, which means I end up with a pile of little notebooks, sketchbooks, and postit notes…everywhere. Organization is not my strong suit, until it comes to creating a piece of art. Then it’s all about that, especially in a series. I love a good series. Sometimes my work is immediate. Or I work it out until it’s “right”. 35+ years of an illustration career trained me to use thumbnails. Although, occasionally it’s best if I don’t refine any further. Just wish I knew when to stop.

What medium(s) do you work with? Favorite tools du jour: bic rollerball, niji water brush, and some watercolor/mixed media paper. I also use acrylics, watercolor, inks, color pencil, and take reference photos w/my phone to remember a scene, or get a likeness if I need to.

About how many hours/day/week do you work? I’m noticing stuff most of the day. Friends and family will tell you I write ideas down in the middle of dinner parties. Material is happening all the time. Actually getting to my sketchbook - mornings around breakfast and the news, and before I go to sleep at night on post-its by the side of the bed. Otherwise, on the weekends.Meg Biddle cats landscapes

How do you navigate the art world? Early on I got lucky and regularly showed and sold my paintings and drawings in galleries and shows. But that seemed almost unreal to me. Later I had a fabulous agent in NY for my cartoon books, Toni Mendez, who taught me how to edit, edit, edit, my books, which was both brutal and inspiring. The bottom fell out of the publishing world right about then though–except for the New Yorker or syndicated cartoonists. So, since rent was an issue, I put my books down and went full steam into freelance illustration. It’s taken a lot of time management to run an illustration business, start and run YAC, and find time for my practice. I publish LittleBiddle Books, regularly appear in FunnyTimes, and am slowly building an audience online while I think of what to do next. As for my practice - setting goals is key. I present a new series of work for every show/event. I launched YAC’s twice-a-year 30/30 challenge for YACsters and professionals because I needed company pushing myself out of my own comfort zone. I’m always seeking commercial application of my art beyond client work– sort of never ending search. The market is both inspiring and daunting. Meg Biddle First Impressions

What is your definition of success? YAC. I mean it. Back at CCA the mission was all about being creative agents of change, addressing social issues, and having a positive impact on the world. YAC’s become the most successful, ongoing, living, breathing, conceptual art piece both Marcia and I have probably ever created. It impacts real lives. Also, when someone gets a kick out of my art. Also, co-raising a happy kid.

What inspires you? What do you read, listen to, look at, watch, eat, smell...? Sharing my life with another artist is such a lucky source of true understanding and dialogue. So are conversations with other artist and writer friends, and finding new artists online. I watch our cats a lot. Look forward to reading BrainPickings every Sunday (stories/essays from artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists). I love movies, documentaries, and smart comedians. My current hero is Samantha Bee I listen to all kinds of music when I work. Rhubarb pie helps. And if I take a walk, I get even more inspired. Vacations, I’ve just discovered, also do wonders.

What else would you do if you weren’t an artist (or what do you do when you aren’t making art)? Body surf. When the ocean’s not totally freezing.

What are you working on now? Just finished 24 sketches in 24 hours for 24 of my friends who donated $100 to YAC’s 24hr Artathon. I enjoyed documenting the madness. And yes, it took me a couple days afterwards to finish them. Meg Biddle Artathon 2016

How do you get yourself through dry spells, self-esteem fluctuations, deep shyness, general low periods, inertia? Fresh air. Walking. Going to a movie. Looking at art. Drawing something, however mundane, like my pen, a cup of tea, a cat. It’s a personal language. Doesn’t always have to be brilliant and meaningful. Course I say this. Don’t always do it. DannyGregory is a go to resource for this. I think inertia happens from not doing art for a while, and then thinking I need to say something brilliant the very next time my pen or brush hits the paper. Never gonna happen. Ideas don’t come when (I’m) waiting for them. About shyness…I used to be deeply shy and grew out of it. But every once in a while I get a shy attack out of nowhere and just have to forgive myself. Plus maybe draw about it. Vulnerability is the mother ship of comedy - a genuine connection to just about everyone.

Tell us about your education and background. Self taught? Mentors? Art college? Lessons? Internet? Combo? Received a BFA from CCA back when a good art education was affordable. I learned commercial illustration later by the seat of my pants. I’m a fan of online demos and tutorials. There’s a list of artists who inspire me. Toni Mendez was my editor mentor for cartoon work. Rembrandt’s sketchbooks blew me away. Brad Holland did also with his editorial painting. Jean Michelle Folon and Richard Stine both keep things simple. P.S. Mueller and Bill Plympton remind me to let loose. I’m also a huge fan of Wendy MacNaughton’s graphic journalism.

Best advice you ever got? “Why don’t you take this bucket of gesso and start that painting over.” -My first painting teacher at CCA "Observe with “beginner’s mind”. “Use a bigger brush.” “Lower your expectations and raise your standards” -written on DeDe LaRue’s wall “Get some sleep.” Meg Biddle artist at work

Any feed back on the value of YAC? We get to hear feedback now from alumni who’ve entered their thirties. It’s been great confirmation that YAC is a unique community of peers and professionals, and most certainly came at a hugely formative time in their lives when they needed this clubhouse and mentorship to learn art and life skills. YAC has been truly life changing, and sometimes life saving. After 16+ years, I know it works. I believe in it, and its magnificent Yacsters, past, present, and future.

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