“I felt like I was a bumpy potato”: Megan Du on rediscovering her passion for illustration
After a ski bump in her creative journey, the London-based, China-born illustrator has found her feet with thrillingly colourful stories.
- Elfie Thomas
- 12 April 2022
“If I could choose to live in one era,” muses Megan Du, “I would like to go back to live in the 80s, an era full of colour and imagination”. Everything from the clothing style and furniture design, to the clashing colours and “retro-futurism” of the age intrigues her. In terms of how this filters into her illustration, it’s in her use of colour where it's most recognisable. Often featuring acid greens and hot pinks, her compositions are so vivid they verge on neon – just the kind of clashes that sit well on an 80s silk bomber jacket, jazzercise leotard or leg warmer.
But when it comes to inspiration, anything “retro” goes for Megan. She likes to experiment with a grainy, vintage aesthetic she achieves through Risograph and screenprinting. “Even though we have now entered the electronic age, paper artwork is still irreplaceable in my mind”, she explains. One of her latest screenprinting endeavours led her to create a strange and rather alarming little story sequence inspired by a dream she had. Filled with the existential quality of a half-remembered nightmare, Dream: Blaine tells the story of a gardener who gets pricked by the thorn of one of her plants. The malevolent plant injects a parasitic body into the unsuspecting gardener’s knee and, as the comic-style story progresses, the body grows to bursting point.
This captivating tale is Megan’s first foray into making her illustrations more “story-like and dramatic”. The comic-style format is something she has been wanting to experiment with for a while now, since comics were the first source of creativity which inspired her. As a child she would spend hours with her collection of comics and storybooks, and make little paintings which her parents would lavish with praise. This gave her the first real push to follow her dream of entering the world of art and fashion when she grew older.
When Megan got to secondary school and began to pursue her childhood daydreams, she hit a ski bump. “Every Chinese student who wanted to study art or design in college had to take an art exam,” she tells us. “In order to pass this exam, Chinese students would undergo about six months of art training, during which everyone was asked to draw the same things with the same tools and methods, which I found very disappointing and uninteresting”. She continues: “I felt like I was a bumpy potato in a square box being asked to grow into a specific shape, which was very depressing.”
This experience put Megan off painting for a while. At college, she decided to do a course in visual communication, “I felt it was a very free field and you could express yourself in any way you liked.” But when one of her tutors brought in some European and American comics and zines during an illustration short course in her junior year, it awakened a dormant passion: “I felt as a young child lying on the floor reading the picture books my father bought for me,” she says. “I've always been a person who follows my heart, so I picked up the brush again and started experimenting.”
Now Megan is studying illustration at the University of the Arts London and is carefully figuring out her own personal style. She adores creating “nonsensical stories”, so she has been busily writing up new narratives inspired by dreams, everyday life and “daytime fantasies” that she hopes to make into a series of new prints, zines and comics. With the end of her studies looming, Megan feels intimidated yet excited to begin making her way into the role of a freelance illustrator. “I know this is not an easy task,” she says. So keeping her mind firmly focused on the present rather than worrying too much about the future, Megan is happy to continue experimenting with Risograph and screenprints and concocting funny little stories in her vivid world of colours.
Megan Du: Calm and release | Riso (Copyright © Megan Du, 2021）
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.