INTERVIEW WITH AN ARTIST: Meagan ‘Magpie’ Rodgers Talks Mental Health and Painting Demons

Exploring the human condition through art can be a stunningly intense and personal creative undertaking. When an artist captures how it feels to be human in a sculpture or a painting or a drawing, it can have a striking impact on your experience with the world around you.

Meagan ‘Magpie’ Rodgers merges the beauty of nature with her own unique mental health experiences to create art that gives form to the concepts that shape reality. Her work reflects both the oppressive darkness and liberating joy of existence.

We spoke to Meagan to learn more about how she shapes her creations out of reality’s most abstract inspiration.

Kirstie: How did you get into art?

Meagan: I’ve loved making art for as long as I could remember. When I was little I would draw and make sculptures out of whatever I could find around the house.

K: Who were your earliest influences?

M: My brother was my biggest influence growing up. I always looked up to him and his artwork.

K: Who are your predominant influences now?

M: My favourite artist lately is Allison Sommers. I love how organic and ethereal her work is.

K: What is your favourite material to work with?

M: I have the most fun working with pencil because it comes easiest to me, but there’s no better feeling than when I finish a painting.

K: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?

M: Up until a few years ago I struggled to find my style and I think when I painted my original floating frogs was the first time I was really proud of a piece.

K: How have you changed as an artist since then?

M: Since then I’ve been painting more from feelings than just trying to come up with things I thought were clever or looked cool. I’ve since given the frogs a meaning and continue to use them in my work.

K: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?

M: I’d probably design the cover of Donnie Darko since it’s one of my favourite movies and I think my style could go well with its themes. I actually have an unfinished sketch of Frank in a dreamlike field about to toss a paper airplane through a portal in his chest.

K: What inspires the surreal nature of your drawings?

M: Non-physical concepts like feelings and paranormal entities inspire the surreal nature of my work.

K: You often give physical characteristics to abstract concepts in your work, like emotions and habits. How do you decide how to give these ideas a corporeal form? Does giving them a physical form affect the way they feel in your mind?

M: It can be really difficult if not impossible to explain a lot of the things that go on in our heads so I do my best to externalise those things in my work. To me, each piece feels like a presence that understands. It’s really satisfying to turn negative thoughts into something positive by making works I’m happy with, especially when others can look at them and relate.

K: A lot of your work incorporates elements of the natural world. What draws you to natural imagery?

M: I love nature/the outdoors, it’s beautiful and I’m probably my happiest when I’m in a lake or up in a tree.

K: What made you want to make nesting dolls?

M: I made my first nesting dolls years ago after seeing some regular ones in an antique store. I just thought to make some that were more literal by painting them as anatomical layers with a spirit at the centre.

K: How do you decide which of your ideas you want to make into models and sculptures?

M: It just depends on what ideas I feel would translate best in three dimensional form.

K: A lot of your work shows similar imagery repeated in separate pieces – such as the blank-eyed girl, the demon and the long-legged frog. Is there a narrative that connects them?

M: The demon and the frog are two sides of my bipolar disorder, the demon being the negative manipulative side and the floating frog being the positive side when I feel unbounded and elated. The girl usually represents me but can also be others depending on the story I’m telling.

K: Would you ever do a project that explores their story?

M: I keep a journal of what I believe to be paranormal experiences that I plan on making into an illustrated book that would explain a lot of my concepts. I’ve just been hesitant since a lot of people might think I made it all up!

K: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

M: Classes really help but practice is everything. Always try new mediums and concepts until you find your style. It’s also good to surround yourself with other artists for motivation and critique, but always take critique with a grain of salt and create what feels right to you.

We’d like to thank Meagan for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to keep up with her latest work, you can follow her on Instagram. You can also support her by buying her prints, merchandise and original work on Etsy and BigCartel.

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