Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Artist Interview: Miranda Meeks


Meet Miranda Meeks. Miranda is an illustrator living and working out of Provo, Utah. Miranda graduated with a major in illustration from Brigham Young University, and since has had the opportunity to work with clients such as Popshot Magazine, Spirituality & Heath Magazine, Diesel Apparel, and Issimo Productions. Her work has been seen in editorial, concept art, video game art, t-shirt designs, gallery work, and more. Miranda currently lives in Utah with her husband and one-and-a-half year old girl.

We have had the pleasure of working with Miranda in the current Skate or Die Skateboard Show. Miranda is known for her soft and detailed drawings, beautiful images, and subjects of mystery, growth, and transformation. We are thrilled to have the chance to talk with Miranda about her work, studio practice, and thoughts on illustration!


Could you describe your current studio practice? What is your space, surroundings, work time like? Do you have any studio habits or rituals?

Since most of my work is digital, I just use a desk and two monitors and my trusty small Wacom Bamboo tablet. I also have an old cigar box which holds all my pencils and pens; best pencil holder I've ever had! As far as studio rituals go, putting on my noise-canceling headphones and listening to music or podcasts really helps me to get in the mode of creating art. I feel like it blocks distraction, allows me to focus on my tasks, and even helps me continue to work when I'd rather be doing something else.

I stay at home and help raise our little girl while my husband works at a full-time job. It can get pretty busy at times, so I do most of my work while she's napping or after she's gone to sleep for the night. I try not to overload my schedule with jobs and projects; this helps me to balance work and life better!


Your work beautifully combines elements of death, stillness, and mystery. Could you talk about your creative interests, aesthetic, and inspirations?

I've always been inspired by animals, nature, and darker themes. The furthest back I can remember was when I was in 5th grade, I would draw all sorts of weird monsters and rent books from the library that taught me how to draw different animals. I also got into Tim Burton's work in high school, which actually has had a strong impact on my taste (as cliché as that may be). I'm drawn toward a dark, haunting, and beautiful aesthetic, because I just find it the most intriguing. It pulls the viewers in, and makes them wonder and ask questions. I'm also very inspired by Hitchcock films for that very reason.

That being said, I'm not really into gorey, or very disturbing images or themes. My goal is not to create art that disturbs you (there's a time and a place for that - it's just not my thing), but art where beauty and mystery can coexist. I believe strongly in surrounding yourself with beautiful things whenever and wherever you can in your life; this is simply my way of trying to add more beauty to this world. And yes, death is a common theme in my work, but it's not necessarily purposeful. I think it keeps showing up because, personally, I don't handle death very well; even seeing animals die breaks my heart (which is ironic since I love animal skulls and bones so much...), so I think I find it intriguing and terrifying at the same time. I like that it creates this seemingly self-contradicting feeling, so I guess I would like for others to experience the same clash of emotions.

Detail of Miranda's work for the Skate or Die Exhibition

What was your process like creating for the Skate or Die Exhibition? Did you have additional considerations because of the function/skate/format of the skateboard?

To be honest, I had a really hard time nailing down the concept for the Skate or Die exhibition! I had a basic idea of what I wanted, but had to run it across a bunch of old classmates from the university to get some feedback. Thankfully, they helped out a lot and I got some good advice. Sometimes you know the exact image you want to create, and sometimes when you sit down to work, you have no idea what the end result is going to look like (in this case, it was the later).

I never really work in such a tall format, so I had to adjust some of the initial plans for the image. For example, part of the reason I added the smoke at the top was just to balance out the heavy darkness at the bottom of the image. It's important to make the necessary changes to create a better flow of composition within the constraints of the given proportions.

The Gardener
The Gardener

What are some of your favorite projects to date? And how did they affect you as an artist?

Although I really enjoy the work I've been doing lately, the project that probably changed my path as an artist was back when I was in school in the Digital Illustration 2 course. The assignment was to create an illustration based on a song, so I created The Gardener based on the song by the same title from The Tallest Man on Earth. I learned so much from the critiques that I got from the other students and the teacher, and I learned a lot about the type of direction I wanted to go into with my art. Before that, I didn't know even know if I should draw more stylized or realistic. Creating this image steered me into the right direction to help find my voice as an artist.

A lot of your work seems to have a narrative element. Could you share some of the stories/moments (personal or cultural) behind your work?

There isn't really a specific story behind any of my pieces. I'm drawn toward images that add narrative elements because it adds layers to the piece. I love experiencing that feeling of surprise and satisfaction when I look at an image again and find a new element that I didn't previously notice. A big contributing factor to this narrative element I find so fascinating was a book I got in third grade from my teacher called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. The pictures in that book all had a narrative and mysterious aspect that I think really contributed to my desire now to create the same kind of feeling in my own pictures.

Do you have a different approach to personal projects and client projects? If not, what is a technique or approach that you have been dying to try?

Yes, I do approach client and personal projects differently. With clients, I'll start out by drawing lots of thumbnails, then once we settle on an idea, I proceed to the sketch stage, and then finalize everything. With personal projects, I usually already have the idea in my head, and I go straight to roughing the idea out with a sketch. I go back and forth a lot and sometimes make adjustments to the drawing even in the final stages. There's a lot of flexibility with personal assignments that you wouldn't want to thrust upon a client because it can create a stressful relationship and project.

As far as new techniques, I've been really wanting to start doing more traditional work. After working digitally for so long, it really makes you miss the feeling of physical brushes and smooth paper in your hands. Once we get settled, I plan on bringing out all of my paints and acrylics and messing around with them.

Memento Mori
Memento Mori

Can you describe your creative community? Do you often have a chance to talk with or collaborate with other artists? Professionally or personally?

Luckily, I currently live close to the university where I studied illustration with a lot of my friends, so we still get together regularly and hang out. I would highly suggest any current art students try to do the same. It creates a great support system where you can help critique and improve each other's work, but it's also just a great chance to sit around and talk about art!

However, being that we do live in Utah (it's not known as quite the gathering place for artists like NYC or San Francisco), I don't get a chance to talk with a bunch of professional artists personally. The internet has been really helpful to make up for this, where people can connect with other artists around the world if their location wouldn't otherwise make it convenient.

Do you have any big projects on the horizon that you can share with us? Any upcoming shows or work?

I just finished a bunch of labor-intensive projects, but besides the current freelance jobs, I'm enjoying a little bit of a breather :) There are a few possibly big projects on the horizon, but I'm unable to share them as of right now unfortunately!

Thanks, Miranda!

You can check out more of Miranda's work on her website here, follow her work on tumblr, and see Miranda's skatebaord for the Skate or Die Exhibition (available through November 7th!)


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