Creativity, Colour and Change with Megan
We recently caught up with Megan, Sydney based designer, illustrator and author to chat all things creativity, fashion and how 2020 has been a catalyst for change.
Combining her love of fashion, travel and illustration, Megan takes us behind the scenes as she creates a fun wallpaper inspired by our accessories so you can brighten up your digital digs with a little Obus.
. . . . .
How do you describe your illustration style?
Colourful, detailed, layered, and fun!
What inspired you to move into illustration, writing and manufacturing over more traditional forms of graphic design? Did you know this was what you wanted to do, or has it been a gradual transition?
I studied Visual Communication at university, and always had an interest in the more tangible outputs rather than strict graphic design; I loved getting to make a project come to life and turn into something I could hold — whether that was a book, product packaging, or an assortment… I made a lot of weird stuff at uni! I had started making my own pieces, mostly jewellery, while I was studying and selling at markets, and eventually this turned into other wearable pieces that incorporated my illustration. Getting to combine my training with my passions is really a dream come true, and I feel really lucky to have developed a wide tool-kit for making just about anything!
Tell us more about your business McKean Studio, which you run with your husband Joshua?
McKean Studio is a travel and lifestyle brand, and for the last 5 years we’ve focussed on crafting souvenirs and keepsakes from our travels around the world. About a year ago I made the decision to stop the physical output to focus on some new ideas that were more sustainable, and to partner with other brands that were more specialised in their manufacturing.
Over the last year we’ve focussed more on travel and writing and I’ve been exploring more illustration avenues. Joshua took a step back from McKean Studio a couple of years ago to focus on his career, and I started working more on the parts of the business that are more in line with my skill set — like illustration!
With distinctive colour palettes being common in your work, how do you choose the colours for each illustration/product?
Choosing a colour palette is always my favourite part of a new project. The specifics are largely guided by the project and what the finished outcome will be, and where it will go. I spend a lot of time laying out physical colour swatches (often paint chips that I’ve hoarded from Bunnings) and mixing and matching to find the perfect combination.
Most of my projects are city or location based, so I try to choose colours that are iconic and recognisable to that place and build out harmonious palettes from there.
We love your book, Hello, Melbourne! How did your Hello…! Series of Books come about, and how has that process evolved?
Hello, Melbourne! is the second in my Hello…! Series of books, I like to think of it as the buddy book for Hello, Sydney! which was released the year before. I was originally approached by a publishing house to work on something together, and we developed the initial concept for Sydney. We thought it would just be the one book, but it was received really well, and I’ve now written 5 books in the series!
The project evolved into countries (adding Australia and then New Zealand) as well as expanding into international cities, with Hello, London! being the latest addition, published just this February!
What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most rewarding?
Lately I’ve been working on some big (secret) projects that have been largely self directed before pitched to someone who can make my idea come true — I always find these projects really rewarding because you can look back at what starts as just a kernel of an idea, and see it grow into something really big and exciting that someone else believes in too.
I’ve spent a lot of the last year working on a line of homewares coming out next month (!!!) which is one of my biggest projects to date, and it’s been amazing getting to see it all come together through the extensive samples and mockups and packaging layouts. It’s a combination of everything I love to work on - turning my illustration into something tangible that will eventually be a part of peoples lives.
How has Covid-19 changed your 2020, and how have you adapted to these challenges?
This year has changed a lot of things… we’d been gearing up for some really big personal changes that have all had to go on hold for now, as well as having shifted our business focus. I had already given notice on the studio space in March, so have moved back to our tiny apartment, along with my husband who works outside of McKean Studio.
It’s been COZY in our 1 bedroom apartment that’s for sure. In some ways, it’s been a blessing for the business, having stepped away from production, but so much of what I’d planned for the year (like more travel, and hence, more travel writing) just evaporated overnight. I’ve tried my best to pivot, and have used the time to focus on new projects that will hopefully come to fruition in 2021.
STYLE AND TRAVEL
Ooh, that’s a tough one. If I had to describe it, I’d say fun, fancy and functional! I love fun prints and colours, but can have a tendency to overdress. I always opt for a nipped waist and fuller skirt, but demand functional pockets in my dresses, and always in fabrics I can wash and wear easily (no ironing for me, thank you!).
When it comes to travelling, what are your top tips for packing a practical yet vibrant wardrobe?
I’m a big fan of anything that can do double-duty. I love a pinafore style dress so you can pack multiple shirts that go with it, but it feels like a new outfit each time. Bright tights and a colourful coat are also my go-tos for winter wardrobes.
While you share several travel tales and city guides from your global travels, what are your top 5 hidden gems to visit within Australia?
I love coastal towns and one of my favourites is Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast. It’s a very sweet spot and there’s so many nice things to do. It’s relaxed and unfussy and just has a great atmosphere. I also love Port Stephens, especially Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay. I’ve spent lots of family holidays in the area and it’s a really beautiful place to be, even when you’re not at the beaches.
Closer to home, friends of ours moved from Sydney to Glenbrook at the base of the Blue Mountains, and every time we visit it’s easy to see why they made the move for their family. It had a lovely village vibe, with cute cafes scattered throughout. It feels far from the city, but is only an hour or so from the CBD.
What destination is at the top of your travel bucket list, when we can start travelling again?
So many, I don’t even know where to start. We’d hoped for a birthday celebration on the Amalfi Coast this year — so maybe I’ll just push that to my next dream destination when things are back on again! Waiting for spring (and watching the one cherry blossom tree on my street) has had me dreaming of Japan too.
Do you tend to create on the go, be present in the moment, or a combination of the two?
I think I’m a combination — I enjoy every second when we’re travelling, and love snapping away on the phone camera all day. I’ll usually edit photos at the end of each day, and if I’m planning a post about something specific, I’ll do a little bit of writing into my Notes app to come back to later on. Illustration projects I really only do when I’m back home, and I try to treat the travel time like building a ‘mental Rolodex’ to come back to when I’m needing a hit of inspiration in my work. It’s all important research!
A DAY IN THE LIFE
What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?
A rainy work day is one of my favourites, getting to draw all day with a hot water bottle on the lap and the coffee pot filled is the best!
How do you incorporate sustainability into your every day?
We’ve gotten our daily routines down to a nice rhythm now, so many of the sustainable practices we incorporate are just second nature. We walk to our local grocer for veggies for dinner instead of driving to the supermarket (and getting our steps in for the day while we’re at it), we changed our power supplier to a renewable energy company, and we walk to our local cafe for coffee each week.
The last few months at home have made me more thoughtful about consumption and shopping habits in general, so when I ‘need’ to buy something I’ll always check for a local or handmade option first.
Which three empowering females you'd love to have dinner (or a Zoom date) with and why?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jacinda Ardern, and Mindy Kaling. Can you imagine how good that dinner date would be? 🙌🏻 Although I really admire all of the work that all three women do in their respective fields, I mostly love how unapologetic they are about their talents and abilities. Getting to soak up some of that energy would be brilliant.
What lights you up and brings you joy - big or small?
I love keeping an eye out for little joys throughout my day. Funny coincidences that make me smile on my daily walks — like two cars of the same model parked next to each other, or people in outfits that coordinate with their house colour. I try to bring an element of joy into every day - cause what’s it all about if you’re not getting a little ray of sunshine somewhere in your day?
I love a bunch of supermarket flowers, or pinching some blooms from my neighbours trees to bring inside. Bigger joys are getting to snuggle my friends babies, and making someone laugh.
What do you love most about Obus?
The colours and the prints, and their timeless appeal. I still see people in Obus outfits from years ago that look as good as the day they came out. Obus pieces have a way of feeling very particular to the person wearing them, but looks good on everyone! 💕
Megan McKean is a designer, illustrator and author from Sydney. Always aiming to ‘design to delight’, she is inspired by travel and cities around the world. Megan’s illustrations can be found on homewares and lifestyle items, and in her best selling series of children’s books, in all good bookstores around Australia.
Megan wears Obus Botanica Cord Dress. All images courtesy of Megan McKean.