The amazingly talented artist Megan Lara sits down with Inkedmag.com to discuss her art, her love of pop culture and her tattoo work done by another creative mind, Jessie Hopeless of Exile Tattoo in Kansas City.
When not commissioned what compels you to create?
I've been drawing and painting so long that it feels wrong if I don't. It's a really fun, rewarding habit that has luckily turned into a career. I can't keep a schedule or routine to save my life, but without fail the one thing I can do every day without any coaxing, is draw. Drawing and painting—especially when it's for myself—is incredibly relaxing and fulfilling.
Another part of what compels me is the sense of accomplishment I get as I improve with every piece I make. When I see myself get a little better with each drawing, that helps to keep me going. My goal with my art is to never rest on my laurels and get too comfortable; I'd like to keep pushing myself creatively and technically.
What do you hope that people derive from your art?
In my art, the main thing I try to do is to create beautiful things (with some weirdness or geekiness thrown in the mix). While it may not be incredibly profound, it's what I enjoy doing and it's also the type of art that I hang on my walls. Hopefully, people can derive a sense of my own aesthetic from my work; additionally, I hope they can find something they find beautiful and/or something they can relate to—like pop culture.
Are the pop cultural touchstones you work with things that appeal to you or is it for your audience. Or are you in a lucky case where your audience are those with the same likes as you?
Absolutely every pop cultural topic I use is something I love. I'm lucky that my audience has similar tastes! I've found that fans of certain shows, movies, and games can tell when artists are making artwork because they love the material, or because they are trying to make a quick buck. It's why a lot of studio-created merchandise falls flat. I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to connect with the people who follow my work through our mutual pop cultural interests. We always have something to talk about at conventions, and I love being able to put little inside jokes from things into my art and have people pick up on it. My favourite has to be my Dark Tower-inspired work. DT fans are as obsessive as I am, so they always notice the tiniest details I pack into those pieces.
That your designs are passed around the Internet, do you feel like that helps your brand or dilutes your artistry as you can find your pieces uncredited everywhere?
It has definitely helped to get my name out there, so I really don't mind too much. It's frustrating when it's posted without my name or a link back, but I am very lucky that the people who follow my page are quick to post links back to me when they find it on Reddit or social media. Without the internet I wouldn't have a career so I will happily take the good with the bad.
How do you choose your tattoo designs? Is it similar to when you decide to create your art?
I choose my tattoos based on my aesthetic, so I suppose it is similar. I love to paint with bright, vivid colours and lots of linework—I was a big fan of Lisa Frank as a child! But the main thing I look for when deciding if I want to get something tattooed on me, is whether looking at it over and over again makes me want to draw—I want my tattoos to motivate me to go out there and paint and improve. Mathiole, the artist of "Tropicalia," is the designer of one of the first shirts I ever bought on Threadless! I loved it so much, I bought three of them. When I was deciding what I wanted to get tattooed, I immediately thought of his "Tropicalia" piece, and knew it would always inspire me. When Camilla d'Errico posted her "Dream Melt" piece, I actually knew immediately that I wanted it on my arm. Her art is a big inspiration to me, so I love having it there as motivation.
People ask me a lot why I don't design my own tattoos. Looking back at art I created not even a few years ago, I'm embarrassed by all the flaws that I can point out now. Some are so bad I don't even put them in my portfolio. The idea of having my own art on my skin forever, and being able to point out all the flaws in it as the years go on, terrifies me. I'm definitely my own worst critic—so I only want to get other artists' work on me.
What's it like to see that people have gotten your designs permanently emblazoned on them?
Seeing folks get tattoos of my artwork is pretty awesome! And that's really an understatement. It's something crazy that I really never imagined happening, that someone could like my art so much that they want it on them forever. It's the highest compliment I could imagine getting. I guess mind-blowing is the best way to put it.
What do you feel that you can do as an artist that a tattooer can't and vice versa.
Oh, man, I definitely have it easier than a tattooer. I have the utmost respect for them—I could never, ever do what they do. I'm an incredibly anxious person in general—I don't even like to draw in front of people. When I was in community college, I'd sit in the back of the painting lab and make sure my canvas was facing the wall so no one could sneak up behind me and watch me make mistakes. A tattooer has to create art in front of and on people and it's permanent. I know I'm stating the obvious, but those are the things that would keep me from ever making it as a tattoo artist.
Aside from obvious technical advantages (being able to go back and fix mistakes and things of that sort), I think that a fine/commercial artist does have it a bit easier when it comes to social perception. Obviously I completely disagree with people who think this way, but I suppose in some areas tattoo artists (and people with tattoos in general) are still stigmatized by those who don't understand it. It's not like that everywhere, but being from a very rural, midwestern town.... I saw a lot of people who didn't respect tattoos as an art form. Which is a load of crap. Thankfully I think that we, as a culture, are drifting away from that, though. Hopefully it won't be an issue for future artists!