Saturday 27 June 2009

Meghan Murphy interview

Meghan Murphy

Location: Rochester NY USA

How would you describe your art?: Weird, cute, funky, sweet... and maybe a little more weird.

Currently working on: This week's Kawaii Not strips, and a couple of illustration commissions.

Day job: Freelance illustrator

3 Likes: Good books, good movies, shiny things

3 Dislikes: Black liquorice, ketchup on hot dogs, hairballs

People & artists you admire: Oh no, I don't think I could narrow that list down to less than 100. I am continually finding cool, new (or at least new to me) stuff to dig.

Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: I'm always mixing new playlists to listen to while I work. I'm fickle.

Interview date: February 2008

Hi Meghan, how are you?
Pretty good, thanks for asking.

I guess I’ll start by referencing one of your Kawaii-Not pieces that (naturally!) I adore… Why *does* scribbling outside the lines piss some people off?!!
Ha! You know what? I'm really not sure. I figure as long as there still some crayon to use, might as well keep on coloring.

For those who don’t know, what’s Kawaii, and where does Kawaii-Not fit into that mad ‘lil world?
Well, "kawaii" is a Japanese term that basically means "cute". In a larger sense, it stands for a particular culture of cuteness, probably best represented by Hello Kitty. To put the "Not" in Kawaii Not, I try to take the visual cues that represent this particular style, and mix them up with a little attitude... and often a dash of inappropriateness.

What’s your favourite Kawaii that you’ve seen?
I adore a cuter-than-cute t-shirt I saw with the slogan ‘Kawaii 5 – 0’!!

That is damn cute. My favorite kawaii-type stuff tends to be illustrations, but I do have a soft spot for cute cupcakes.

Is there a small part of you that gets frustrated with the endless, smug optimism of kawaii, and thus drives you to make the cute-go-bad (as the strip is subtitled)?
Frustrated? No, in fact I find that kawaii optimism in the face of everything really rather subversive in a way. But then again, I'm a little bizarre.

You have said of Kawaii Not that ‘when I get mad, or sad, or glum, I torture cute things. It’s such fun!’
Which moods work best for you to work in? Does your mood ever alter your strips?

Any mood will do! I've made happy strips, sad strips, and almost psychotic strips. I would have to say my mood is often a key factor in creating a Kawaii Not.

By putting a cute face on everything and anything within your ‘experiment in cheerfulness’ it seems that you can also get away with expressing the darker, or yuckier side of things, and life, right?? (I’m thinking of strips depicting burst bubbles, gone off food, jigsaws that don’t fit in, stabbity knives, gross and scabby plasters, etc…)
Absolutely I can get away with more by using the cute faces. It's amazing how humans react to just two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth. Brains are weird.

As an ‘experiment in cheerfulness’, how’s the experiment working out for you? It seems that the online strip is pretty well loved to me! What do you think?
I am continually flabbergasted, and eternally grateful, that other people find my strips funny.

By putting a cute face on everything and everything, and being a bit mischievous with it, must make ‘work’ a whole lot less miserable than it could be, right? How much do you enjoy doing what you do?
I enjoy it a ridiculous amount.

By working in adobe illustrator, and producing a webcomic, do you have square eyes or mouse-induced RSI yet from all your computer time?
I think my computer whispers threats to me in the middle of the night -- but besides that, everything's fine.

Following on from your visual arts degree, what led you to specialise in computer-based graphic design/illustration?
I was hoping the more specialized degree would make it easier for me to get a steady job, which it turned out it didn't -- but because I didn't get a "real job" right away I was kind of forced into focusing on freelance as a viable alternative.

Alongside Kawaii-not you also have MurphyPop, your website featuring your bold, fun and colourful illustrations. I can’t help but notice all the cute, colourful, kick ass girls you depict in your work. What inspires you to create such female images?
Because I think the world needs more cute, colorful, kick ass girls!

You work as an illustrator and designer, freelance. I once spoke to artist Sarah Dyer who’s currently working full-time freelance. She stated she was stressed and busy, but that was okay cuz busy is good when you’re freelance. Do you find you embrace the same kind of positives from busyness?
Oh yes. I get nervous when I don't have a couple projects brewing. I think that is just the freelance mindset.

How does working freelance allow you to fit art creation into your life, and have it as such a huge part of you?
Freelance demands that I fit art creation into my life, whether I feel like it at the time or not. Which I think is a pretty good position to be in, since I think the more you work at something, the better you get. Freelance makes me be more disciplined than I probably am by nature.

Does the process of kicking out (aprox) two Kawaii-Not strips a week on top of your freelance and illustration work ever knock the smile off your cheerful face?
I'd complain, but then I realize I am a lucky bastard -- so I tell myself to shut up and get on with it.

What is the process of getting an idea from your head to the published web-comic?
Some scribbling, a little research if I need to figure the best way to draw a subject, more scribbling, heavy doubt as to whether anyone anywhere would find this strip funny, scanning the sketches into the computer, snacks, creating the final work in Illustrator, doubting the humour again, fiddling with the wording, playing with my cats, fiddling with the wording again, and ta da! It's just that simple.

How important is the sketch-book process to your work? If you ever left one of your sketchbooks on a bus would the finder of it think you were nuts?!?
I usually have a couple different sketchbooks going at once, and they are pretty damn important to how I work. Hmm... if someone found one of the sketchbooks and I wasn't there to explain some of the weirdness? Oh dear, I would feel sorry for them.

Viewing your webcomic is one of the first thing I do every morning (well, apart from dragging myself out of bed!), because I know it’ll help set me up for the day in a laugh-out-loud kinda way.
In a world where 99% of people would rather slag something off than praise it, and in a culture where there’s so much to make people unhappy and miserable it must give you a fuzzy feeling inside to be counteracting all that with your artwork, right? Is that a conscious aim when coming up with your ideas?

Why thank you! I think most humor artists/writers are working at pushing back the bad stuff, and bringing out the awesome. It seems like a good way to spend my energy, anyway.

I once read an interview with artist Elisa Harkins, and an idea was generated that said perhaps one of arts’ most important ‘purposes’ (for whatever that means) is that it can provide the viewer with a form of enjoyment, and of light relief within this world-gone-mad.
Viewing art (such as yours) can help us to recharge our batteries, give us a break from the hells of life before we head back out there into the world again. That’s really important to our collective sanities, right?

That's what Kawaii Not is all about. There's nothing really deep in my strip, just some crazy stuff to make people giggle and enjoy themselves (hopefully). I figure it's either be crazy on the outside and get it all out, or be crazy on the inside and let it fester till it blows all at once.

What are your thoughts on the sceptical notion that internet-based ‘success’, appreciation and recognition means nothing unless it passes and crosses over into the “real” world, or the “real” art world?
The internet is the real world. And increasingly, it is the whole world.

Do you think working on web-art, and in digital artistic fields is a natural progression in the developing, tech savvy, increasingly computer-literate world; (i.e. comics and art being created in and of mediums that are the most readily accessible/read/appreciated)?
All I know is that Kawaii Not would have never happened without the internet. I never could have reached the audience I have.

Do you think it is a good thing that increasingly artistic ‘recognition’ is not being based on that in the big ‘A’ art world only?
Hell yes.

Do you believe that everybody is inherently artistic and creative and that we all have the potential to be artistic by our own value judgements (as opposed to the hegemonic, dominant judgement of arts’ worth by ‘higher’ parties)?
I think everyone can create and have fun. Now whether anyone else appreciates the results, I can not say and I can not control. You just got to do your own thing and enjoy it yourself, and maybe some other people will want to go on the ride with you.

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