Interview with Megan Reddi
First up on the blog is Megan Reddi! I first discovered her colourful work via Pretty Picture Club and she’s been a great pal ever since. She’s recently worked on some ace projects and she’ll tell you more down below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get to where you are now?
Hello! I’m Megan and I’m a freelance illustrator and printmaker from the UK. I started out in the industry when I left school at 18. I was accepted onto an arts course at my local university, but I went for a month and hated it so much that I didn’t stay! I knew I wanted to work in the arts though so I started applying to any and all jobs that I could find. I somehow landed a job as a graphic designer/illustrator for a confectionery company, designing packaging for various food items from sweets to baking supplies and even soup! I was totally unqualified to do the job and it was a sheer fluke that I got it but it was the best thing I ever did! I worked there for a year before deciding to go back to university to get my degree in Illustration. After that I worked as a studio assistant at an eco-friendly screenprinters for a couple of years before deciding to go it alone as a freelance illustrator. That was almost 3 years ago now!
Talk us through your process, how do you like to work?
My process varies depending on the project but all of my illustrations start out life in my sketchbook. Keeping a sketchbook is really important for me as a way of developing my ideas and compositions. Once I’ve roughed out my ideas then I start working digitally with my iPad, unless I’m working on a print, in which case the entire process is done traditionally without the use of the computer! Although I work digitally for most of my commissioned illustrations, I’m a printmaker at heart so I always try to incorporate some form of printmaking into my process - whether that’s in the way I use layers and colours within my work or by incorporating printed textures that I’ve made.
I absolutely love your recent work for Lush, what a great client to have! How did it come about?
Thank you, it was definitely a dream job for me! It actually came about from an event I attended a few years ago. I was doing some live printmaking at New Designers (a UK conference for arts graduates) and got chatting to Suzie Hackney, who turned out to be a creative director for Lush. After the event, she sent me an email about doing some personal work for her and we collaborated on a couple of projects on and off for a few years. We kept in touch and then in October 2018 she contacted me because a job had come up at Lush that she thought I’d be a good fit for. I think I actually squealed with excitement when I got that email!
How do you balance your day job with your freelance illustration business?
I’m quite an organised person so that definitely helps but there’s a bit of burning the candle at both ends too! On the whole though, I’m very lucky that my day job (I teach printmaking at a local university) is only part time which allows me to dedicate half of my week purely to my freelance work. I also try to do as much admin (invoices, emails etc.) as I can on the commute to my day job so that my freelance days are mostly spent working on projects. Occasionally there are some late nights if I get a project in with a particularly short deadline or I’m working on a big job but on the whole, I think I manage to balance everything quite well!
What do you find most and least enjoyable about being an illustrator?
The most enjoyable thing is definitely the illustrating itself - nothing beats the feeling of pride that I get when a client is thrilled with the end product or when I get to see my illustrations in the wild! I think the least enjoyable thing for me is the uncertainty of being freelance and the stress of not knowing if you’re going to be busy or quiet from one month to the next.
Who/what inspires your best work?
I’m quite stubborn so I think I probably make my best work when I’ve got a challenging brief to work on! Other than that, my environment has a big effect on me - I have lots of plants and interesting things around my desk because they make me happy and make me want to be productive.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’ve been working on a lot of illustrated maps for The Big Issue (currently making one for Oklahoma!) and I’m also working on a set of illustrated promotional products that I’m going to send out to companies I want to work with. Other than that, I’m also working on a non-fiction children’s book that I want to write.
Who would be your dream client/project?
That’s a tough one, there’s so many clients I’d love to work with! It would be great to do some more work for Lush or other companies who want to make illustrated products - seeing my work on the knot wrap was amazing so it’d be fab to work on more projects like that. I’d also love to illustrate more books - my first illustrated book (‘Be More Witch’ by Alison Davies) was released in February by Quadrille Publishing and I enjoyed it so much, I’d love to work on some more publishing projects!
If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your past self?
I’d probably tell myself to stop worrying so much and to try and enjoy the process of becoming an illustrator! When I was a student/first starting out I was so worried that I couldn’t become an illustrator that I was really hard on myself and didn’t make use of having that creative freedom. Looking back on it (and having now taught at a university with students who are the same as I was!) I can see that I didn’t need to worry so much and I should’ve spent that time experimenting with different techniques and having more fun with my work. However, knowing how stubborn I was I probably wouldn’t have listened to me anyway!