Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Artist Interview: Teagan White

Teagan White is a freelance designer and illustrator originally from Chicago, but currently living in St Paul, Minnesota. She only recently graduated from Minneapolis College of Art & Design with a BFA in Illustration, but she's been successfully freelancing since even before she finished her degree! She's a sought-after illustrator that has worked for clients such as Nike, Wired Magazine, Anthropologie, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Target, and many small businesses, independent musicians, and individuals. Not many artists can claim such notoriety at such a young age, but as you will see, Teagan's talent speaks for itself... and people have noticed.

"Honey & Sorrow" by Teagan White

"Great Horned Owl" by Teagan White
Teagan is one of the most amazing artists I've come across. It's truly difficult for me to write this introduction because I feel like I just can't do her justice with words. Not only is she extraordinarily talented... she is humble, down-to-earth, inspiring, and simply likable! As I read her answers to my questions I imagined we could easily be friends and just hang out. I think all of you will feel the same way. She really opened up and offered some beautiful and honest answers that let us see a glimpse of who she really is... the soul behind the art.

Also, I want to mention that Teagan has one of the most - maybe THE most - beautiful website I have ever seen, so please take a few minutes after you have read the interview to take a look. There is a link at the end of the interview along with a link to her store where you can purchase some of her artwork.

"Cicada" by Teagan White

So, here we go.... everyone, meet Teagan White!

BGJ: The types of illustrations that you do are so intricate and detailed that they must use up a ton of your creative energy. Are there any activities that you enjoy that help to refuel your creative energy?

Teagan: To be honest, the intricate & detailed parts of a piece are relaxing for me, not draining. I find sketching and concepting to be incredibly draining - I usually have to sketch ideas early in the morning when I have tons of energy & a fresh mind, and I have to really be in a good mood to start planning out a piece or it just won't turn out. Once I start working on the final illustration I'm on autopilot - I can work all day and night, and I usually listen to audiobooks, podcasts, music, or play TV shows in the background while I work so I don't get distracted with checking facebook or googling every strange thing that I think or wonder about while my mind drifts in work mode. While I'm sketching, though, I usually need silence.

"The Mangrove Tree" by Teagan White

BGJ: Artistic styles tend to evolve throughout the lifetime of an artist. Do you see your style currently evolving towards a different direction?

Teagan: My style has changed and solidified a lot in the last couple of years; it was probably less than two years ago when I started using color with any degree of confidence - before that my work was mainly greyscale - and that led me to a lot of changes in technique and style that I think are still developing. My children's illustration work is also a very recent development; I only started working with characters a little of a year ago. I think overall my taste has just changed a lot since I first started out. I used to gravitate towards a lot of black & white work with tons and tons of detail and be pretty dismissive of anything else, and recently, I've been enjoying mainly work that is more colorful, decorative, pattern-like, and stylized in a folk-art way, even if it's simple, which has made me realize that I can make work that is both simple & good too. I still love detail, so I guess that what I'm currently enjoying is letting some areas of a piece be extremely detailed, and letting some areas be looser or simpler, which actually adds more depth and complexity in some cases, and makes the detailed areas seem even more detailed because there is something loose to contrast it.

"The Queen of Pentacles" by Teagan White

"Mister Owl & The Owl Lady" by Teagan White

BGJ: Do you have a personal favorite work of your own? If so, which one and what is the story behind it?

Teagan: I'm not sure about a favorite, but the piece that I am most attached to is "Everything is a Cycle", which is actually one of the oldest things on my website, and was done for a fine arts class when I was a junior at MCAD. I think most of my attachment comes from the fact that at roughly 3.5 ft by 5.5 ft, it's the largest piece I've ever made, and that I worked on it off and on for about two months - being engaged with something for that long without getting sick of it kind of forges a bond I think. It was also an important piece for me because it was the first time that I really figured out how to put abstract concepts and philosophies that I care deeply about into my work, which was very exciting for me, and I quickly made a lot of similar work in the same series, addressing the same ideas about my reverence for life cycles & decomposers, and the joy in recognizing the beauty of natural death as opposed to any spiritual conception of an afterlife. I haven't really done any more fine art since that semester, because I feel more or less satisfied with having explored that style and subject matter enough for now, but that body of work somehow made something click for me, and all of the illustration work I did after that was drastically better than what I'd been doing previously. I honestly don't even know why, whether it was an increase in confidence, or if I learned to incorporate things I was passionate about into my work more effectively, or what, but since then most things I work on have come out better and felt more natural.

"Everything is a Cycle" by Teagan White

BGJ: Tell me one interesting thing about you that has absolutely nothing to do with art.

Teagan: There are a lot of interesting animals around my house. My boyfriend and I live in an apartment unit in a large house that's in a kind of hidden forested spot in an old, mile long, secluded industrial trail by the Mississippi river, in a crappy suburb of St Paul. A lot of the road is undeveloped - train tracks follow it the whole way, and there are a few houses on the opposite end from us but mostly it's just industry and weedy woods and fields of gorgeous wild vegetation that sprout up along railroads. Anyway, that means that even though we're just outside the city, we get lots of interesting wildlife. When I moved in last summer a family of foxes moved in on the street at the same time - a mom and two kits, and we found out where their den was & visited (/harassed) them a few times a week. Every night after dusk they would walk up & down the railroad tracks screaming the way foxes do, and sometimes they would show up in our yard & fight with the woodchuck mom and babies that live in a pile of lumber out back. One of the foxes ended up getting hit by a car on the busy street nearby, and for a few months we thought they'd gone entirely, but we've started seeing them again recently and I think they just moved to a different den in a construction site further up the street. We see deer pretty often (though more often their carcasses which people like to dump by the side of the road, which I'm also okay with too because dead things are fascinating), and a large family of robins who in the summer had their nests clearly visible outside my studio window, and there are 3 or 4 squirrels living in a squirrel paradise in our yard because they chewed through the trash cans (which our landlord hasn't replaced) and always eat our trash, and we sometimes put food & a game cam outside and record video of them eating.
I guess that was more than one investing thing sort of, but yeah, those are my animal friend stories from the past nine months living here, which I think is not too bad for basically living in the city.

"Fox in Foliage" by Teagan White

"Doe Eyed" by Teagan White

"Chipmunk & Morning Glory" by Teagan White

BGJ: You have been amazingly successful since a very young age due to your incredible talent. No one can say for sure what makes a great artist, but I would say that it has something to do with a combination of passion and practice. Do you have any thoughts on this matter?

Teagan: Ahhh blush blush thank you! Uhmm. I don't think I'm too amazing, I think I have sooo much learning to do, but I am glad that you and others like my work. As far as the technical skills, practice is key - there are no shortcuts to developing drawing skills or style, as far as I know. Most good artists work pretty much constantly to become that good; it's not a hobby for them. I think passion is important too, not just about drawing or making, but about The Other Things in life - the best art comes out of being interested in something in life, and putting your passion for and insight about the Thing into your work to offer a unique perspective.

"Lost Bird" by Teagan White

I hope you have all enjoyed this interview with Teagan! I know I really appreciate her taking the time to articulate some really great answers that have made this such an interesting interview. Please take the time to visit her website!

Thank you, Teagan!!!

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