At first glance, the female characters Bridget Meyne’s comics and illustrations seem to spring out of 1950s America: a sea of bouncy hair, oversized bambi eyes and manic grins. But a closer inspection reveals fear, regret, self-doubt and anxiety — a world of millennial panic.
Bridget’s angst-filled characters are on an endless quest for all the same things as you: their big career break, the love of their live, the perfect body. Standing in their way? Depression, endless self-analysis, their omnipresent smartphones.
Intrigued, we caught up with the Brighton-based illustrator to hear more.
What got you into illustration?
To be honest I’m not sure, it feels like it’s something I’ve always been doing! We had a really great selection of illustrated books growing up and I think that was always in the back of my head when I was drawing. I was obsessed with books like Fungus the Bogeyman because it was funny and the illustrations were disgusting. It was exciting to me to find books that made me laugh: I’d always look for dry and black humour in the writing. Later I got into reading romance comics and Tales From The Crypt, which is probably why I started doing shorter, one-shot comics, so a short story told over a couple of pages. The stories were all full of cheap jokes, monsters, gore and bad dates — I couldn’t get enough of them.
I did illustration at Falmouth. It’s a great course but very traditional, so I think some of the things I was trying to do were occasionally not too well received. I made an entire fake teen magazine with a friend as one of our final projects with crude topless paintings of men in it. I spent most of my time printmaking and learning bookbinding there
— the practical training we had was pretty extensive, so I could really work on my drawing there.
What would you say defines your illustrative style?
I tend to do work across different mediums, and I do editorial and comics so it can be pretty hard to define an exact style. My drawings always based on strong linework and are usually figurative- I draw a lot of women and bald men! I’ve always used a lot of narrative elements in my work, so there’s likely to be a combination of illustration and story in whatever I’m doing. And there will be a dad joke in there too most of the time. I think my work is quite relatable. Most of my characters are blindly optimistic and are either terrible people or clueless. Essentially everyone is being very human in my work- I’m not interested in making work that’s stylish or profound.
What tools do you use?
I sketch out everything in pencil or non-photo blue pencil and then ink everything by hand. I use a Pentel Fude #55 brush pen for everything I do- they make a really crisp line and have a brush end for fills. If I’m doing comics, I’ll do most of my colour work digitally after I’ve done all the linework, which I do with an old Wacom tablet.
If I’m doing singular pieces I’ll use anything I can get my hands on. I use felt tips a lot if I’m drawing in my sketchbook, and I also use watercolour and acrylics if I’m painting.
Can you tell us a bit about your process? How do you go about making comics or a drawing?
I’ll write ideas down for comics or a drawing in my phone or in my sketchbook; ideas can come from overhearing things, funny adverts, tv shows, whatever. I’ll find them later and work them up into a layout, all in pencil, and then do my inking and scan them in. Once they’re scanned I clean them up and add colour digitally with a drawing tablet and halftone brushes. I don’t do any of my linework digitally as it makes my work look too flat- I like the characters to have a bit of life in them.
Can you tell us about a couple of your favourite recent projects?
I’ve been doing comics for Vice for the past couple of months, which has been great as I have creative control over what I do for them. I just send over comics when I do them. It’s been great to be able to make comics on a more regular basis and it pushes me to make work faster, and allows me to play around with different ways of working. The most recent one I’ve done, Clean Eaters, was coloured as if I’d airbrushed it. It’s a fun one.
Every time I do enough comics to make a small collection I compile them into books and self publish them. The two newest ones are Meat Feast and More Meaty Comics, which are both compilations of the work I’ve done this year. I think it’s important to see work in print when so much of my work is online — it gives people a really affordable way of buying art too. I’ve always loved the process of making books and selling them myself — I table at illustration and zine fairs and it’s great to be able to meet other artists making and selling their own work. It’s a very supportive community to be involved in.
Another project I’ve been working on is a painting I’ve been working on for an group show at Jaguarshoes. The theme was Sweet 16, which I was delighted with. It’s really nice to be able to do a larger physical piece of work, especially as most of my work is for print or digital. I’ve been working in acrylics, with metallics, glitters, and glow in the dark too for it — I wanted to get as many trashy party feelings in as I could — it’s important to me that people can get a sense of ridiculousness from my work. I want people to be able to find stupid details in them that they think are funny or recognise people they know in them.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I get my inspiration from lots of places, but mainly people. I worked in pubs for many years which is probably the greatest way to people watch there is.
I also love real life magazines like Pick Me Up and Take A Break. It’s kind of like pulp comics in the written form: loads of short stories, all of them outrageous, and with titles like ‘There was a GHOST in my WOMB!’. The reader tips are always amazing too- one of them suggested using used teabags in a sandwich bag as hand warmers. That idea of home-remedy ethos often makes it’s way into my comics, which is especially relevant today as everyone on Instagram is putting foundation on with shoes/bananas/condoms.
I love bad horror films with visual effects. A good example is Vamp, which has Grace Jones in it as a vampire stripper (with body paint by Keith Haring!) and short story tv shows. The TV adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Tales of The Unexpected is amazing and has the kind of twisted humour that I love. Any trashy 80’s horror film. I read a lot: I love short stories and fiction, especially the work of Alice Munroe, Angela Carter and Ian Banks, all of whom’s work can go from shocking, funny and grotesque to sad.
In terms of artists, Daniel Clowes is endlessly inspiring to me. The short comics that he did when he was writing Eightball are perfect, and the characters he writes are so well rounded and lifelike. Charles Burns’ art too is amazing and both of them have an ability to create a whole, realised world in their work that I envy.
My greatest inspiration will always be my desire to be better. I’m so picky with my work that I’m rarely completely happy with something! I’m always trying to write better stories with better artwork, and it’s that that really drives me to do more.