What do you get when you add felt, paper, fanatical Parks and Recreation watching, personified food, a Sufjan Stevens album and a head of immaculately styled red hair? One of the many possible outcomes is Melbourne based artist Meg Gough-Brooks.
I’ve often tried to pen the indescribable excitement of finding an artist you love, and when I came across Meg’s illustrations a few years back, I was floored. Every time she uploads new work I have a tiny heart palpitation because it’s all so beautiful. With gentle doe-eyed paper portraits and dreamy spring colour palettes that will make your mouth water, I could fill my entire house with her wonderful creations. In the last stretch of her university studies, her portfolio is already impressive. From paper craft, polymer creations, ink illustrations to animation – Meg is inevitably bound for big things and exciting multi-disciplinary developments. I was lucky enough to get to chat to her about early memories, ideal days and supporting local. Read on below.
Hello Meg! Thank you for being part of an artist profile with On Jackson Street – I've been a fan of your work for a little while and it's a pleasure to feature you on the blog. Can you tell everyone about yourself and what you do?
Hello! Thanks for inviting me. My name’s Meg Gough-Brooks, and I’m a part-time illustrator and artist living in Melbourne, Australia. At the moment I’m making as much as I can while finishing off my bachelor’s degree in screen and cultural studies at Melbourne Uni. I also spend some of my time as art director for Betanarratives, an online multimedia journal produced here in Melbourne.
What is your earliest memory of creating?
I don’t have one specific memory, but there’s lots of photographic evidence that I was painting and drawing before I was walking. I also have lots of lovely memories of school holidays spent at my grandparents’ house, hanging out with my granddad in his workshop (he did woodworking and sculpting as hobbies). As an only child I was always making little companions for myself – usually animals, including the occasional unicorn – out of paper, felt, cereal boxes, whatever I could get my hands on.
I’ve enjoyed seeing your techniques and concepts evolve, how do you think your style has progressed throughout time?
Thank you! I think the biggest developments in my work are due to my year at the VCA in 2013. I didn’t end up staying there, but spending all day, every day in a little studio space, just thinking about and making art, was an exceptional learning experience. It made me assess what I was actually saying with my work and what was important to me creatively, and taught me great work habits. Recently I’ve been working on capturing people’s likeness in their portraits. It’s become a bit of a tradition to make friends a little portrait of themselves for their birthdays, and I’ve been working toward really capturing a likeness of the friend’s character, as well as their physical features.
Detail your ideal/favourite day from start to finish…
I’ve discovered that all of my good work happens at night, so my ideal day now includes a sleep in, a long walk and then a solid evening at my desk. In the in-between time I love all the usual best things: hot tea, good company, and something nice to read.
What are some things that are inspiring you to create at the moment?
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of talks by the philosopher Slavoj Žižek; I find the way he speaks about the world and culture so calming, but it’s also incredibly radical and funny. His insistence on art’s necessity to life is something I think about almost daily. I’m also a devotee of the podcast by the amazing Leigh Sales and Annabelle Crabb, Chat 10 Looks 3. I’m never not watching Parks and Recreation, and I’m also reading a lot of John Irving at the moment. As for colour palettes, soft pinks and peaches combined with steely blues are particularly lovely.
You work with a lot of tangible objects in your art – from paper craft, clay and polymer to felt – what is it about working with your hands that makes you happy?
I think that making things, working with your hands, is a universal pleasure. I’m not sure exactly what it does to our bodies and our brains, but creating anything – be it a home-cooked meal, a painting, a chair, a song or a story – is so immensely satisfying and enriching. Even better if you get to share that joy by sharing what you’ve made. I think everyone in the world can relate to this, not just people who call themselves artists.
How important do you think supporting handmade practices are to the art world?
Oh, it’s so important. But the importance of supporting local and handmade practices extends far beyond the art world. Not to vastly oversimplify, but the more hand- and locally-made things we can procure, the fewer mega-corporations and sweatshops there’ll be in the world, and that’s always a good thing. It’s also, of course, incredibly important to the artists making things. If we buy the work of artists we love, we enable them to keep making. And that’s an incredibly powerful thing.
Can you curate and share a short playlist that is crucial to understanding the mind of Meg Gough-Brooks?
I’m horrible at choosing songs, but the albums on high rotation lately have been:
Thinking in Textures – Chet Faker
Tigermilk – Belle and Sebastian
Room on Fire – The Strokes
Carrie and Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine
And a healthy dose of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, of course.