Megan Du on Creating Bright and Bold Illustrations Fascinated by Retro-Futurism
Originally from China, Megan Du is a London-based artist who studied illustration at the University of the Arts London. Her desire to be an illustrator dates back to her childhood when her family praised her drawings and displayed them all over the living room wall. “It was like my first mini exhibit,” Megan told Creative Boom.
At the same time, she was constantly exposed to comics, magazines, and picture books with the goal of becoming a painter or fashion designer when she grew up. “To this day, I still miss the summers of my childhood, when I lay on the floor and sketched while watching cartoons, surrounded by my favorite comics and magazines and a seemingly endless supply of cold watermelon, sour plum soup and ice cream.
However, dreams are never easy things to achieve, and it was while pursuing her artistic aspirations in her home country that she ran into obstacles. “I learned that every Chinese student who wants to study art or design at university must take an art exam,” she explains. “To pass this exam, Chinese students will receive about six months of artistic training, during which everyone is asked to draw the same things with the same tools and methods, which I found very frustrating and uninteresting.”
This process made Megan skeptical of drawing for a long time, so instead of sketching, she switched gears and specialized in visual communication. “I thought it was a very free area and you could express yourself however you wanted.” It wasn’t until an instructor showed Megan magazines and freelance comics from America and Europe that she decided to get back to drawing.
“This long-lost passion filled my heart and I decided to start drawing again,” she says. “I found a lot of magazine editors from the UK and Europe in a comic shop, so I decided to study illustration in London and work as a freelance illustrator.”
Growing up in a rapidly developing era of the internet, Megan has drawn creative inspiration from many different places. However, the female perspective is a constant that she wishes to privilege. “I always tell from a female perspective, with women as the main narrative,” she says. “I am also inspired by everyday emotional expressions and fantasies, and will record new stories that come to mind anytime and anywhere.”
Studying fashion design in college also had its perks, as Megan says it taught her how to create quirky character shapes and interesting costume compositions. “But honestly, what influenced me the most was the culture of vintage paper,” she reveals. “I love old posters, prints, matchboxes, posters of Shanghai in the Republic of China or some Czech illustrated books. The bright colors, fascinating textures and interesting typography have me hooked.”
Speaking of colors, hot pink is Megan’s favorite. “You can see bright pink in most of my work because I want to convey a happy, lively vibe, like the pink candies I ate as a kid.” As for the rest of her visual language, Megan’s undergraduate background in graphic design gave her work a decorative feel, with a flat perspective where the elements of images tend to be geometric. “My images are like a formalized play,” she says, “with each character framed in relatively static body language.”
Megan’s work has a wonderfully tactile quality, so it’s no surprise to learn that she still favors traditional ways of working. “I like to draw in pencil on paper first and then use my computer or iPad to work on it. Drawing on paper relieves me, and it’s okay to make a mistake and change paper.
“Even though we are now in the electronic age, paper is still irreplaceable in my mind. I have tried many printing methods over time, my favorites being risography and screen printing. Risography printing is so colorful and beautiful that I can’t get enough of it. I’m always exploring new areas, like clay, ceramics, papier-mâché sculpture, and sometimes working with a new tool that you’re not familiar with. familiar can produce great results.
On her website, Megan says she loves retro but goes against anything trendy. This stems from his fascination with vintage culture, particularly the colorful decade, the 80s. bring both upbeat romance and nostalgia to life.
“I am also fascinated by the printmaking of the last century where information was disseminated on paper and people used simple equipment to create unique and beautiful works. This influenced the aesthetics of my images. I use a few brushes to create textures and improve the grain of images, getting closer to the vintage aesthetic I have in mind through the print.”
As graduation nears the end of this academic year, what does Megan have in store? “I want to continue in the field of illustration,” she says. “I know it won’t be easy, and my dad told me to keep my feet on the ground, so I’m focusing more on the present than the future.
“I will continue to explore my personal style. I have already written new stories, and I want to try to create them and make new prints, magazines and comics using new printing techniques. In addition, I want to create images with more narration or try to create animated images and open more business collaborations.”