Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Interview: Meg Frank

Congratulations to Meg Frank, Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist!

Creating jewelry, paintings, and everything in between, Frank's immersive artwork communicates feelings that can't be expressed in words. With a varied portfolio, their work spans nature inspired watercolors, abstract paintings that make galaxies and nebulae look close enough to touch, and functional, wearable jewelry, and many pieces that fall in between, such as the cover art for Journey Planet 45 - The Matrix.   Frank works on many projects within SFF fandom and publishing, including volunteering at many a convention, and curating the fiction in Fireside's forthcoming anthology Hope in This Timeline.

In 2019,  Frank did a series of pieces inspired by This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. In 2019 they also discovered alcohol inks for painting, and the artwork became a brighter, more fun, and sometimes glittery place.   A fan of glitter, fantastic hair and even more fantastic outfits, you can follow Frank on twitter (and see tons of their artwork and other great photos!) at @peripateticmeg.

Frank was kind enough to chat with me about their inspirations,  going on an art creation binge after reading This is How You Lose the Time War, growing up surrounded by genre and the star strewn skies of the Midwest, creating art that speaks volumes without a word, and more.  In spite of what they say, I am still convinced that Frank's studio spaces look like a glorious swirling galaxy, or perhaps maybe a magician's secret room.

Let's get to the the interview!

NOAF: What media do you typically work in? How did you first get started working with these materials?

Meg Frank: I've never met a medium that I didn't like, but you'll most often find me working with paints and jewelry. I started really focusing on painting as a hobby in 2014 while I was living abroad and sort of couldn't stop. Watercolors were first, then oils, inks (with brushes then pens) and most recently alcohol inks with resin and other inclusions.

Jewelry came a few years later - in 2017 my partner Sara Eileen, an extremely talented multi-media artist who made the porcelain for To The Moon and Back, took me bead shopping and I was hooked. I'd been playing with very basic wire flowers before then and silk was a revelation in terms of speed - knotting pearls is incredibly meditative work for me. I took a wire class from Elise Matthesen in 2018, whom I grew up watching making the most fabulous things, and I have to say it's an incredible honor to be nominated with them. I've always loved jewelry, it's a shiny, somewhat daily deliberation on how to present ones self. I feel terribly lucky to be able to work with Hillary Monahan and Becky Chambers of The Peculiarity Shop. They are both fantastic artists and Hillary is a boss with Etsy which allows me to focus on juggling so many mediums.

NOAF: How would you describe your art style?

MF: I would describe my art style as colorful. I go in a lot of different directions in terms of styles and mediums to express different attitudes, but my use of color is pretty consistent. Also, it has been noted on several occasions that a significant amount of my art includes glitter.

NOAF: What led you to create art that speaks to science fiction and fantasy fans?

MF: I think being raised by science fiction and fantasy fans probably did most of the trick. As a kid I was surrounded by (but not actually paying close attention to) media like Star Wars and Star Trek and Rocky Horror. I watched The Return of the King nab eleven Oscars when I was thirteen years old, and the Marvel reboot (Iron Man, 2008) came out the year before I graduated high school. Much of the media that in decades past would have been considered weird or dorky built just as much of my understanding of beauty as Annie Leibovitz’s photos or John Singer Sargent’s portraits.

Journey Planet 45 - The Matrix

NOAF: Do you have a piece or grouping of pieces in your Hugo voter packet that is especially meaningful to you? Can you tell us the story behind it?

MF: A number of the pieces that I made last year were very much influenced by This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone which is on the ballot this year and I cannot recommend enough. A very good friend smuggled me an ARC in March of 2019 and my brain was absolutely consumed. At 2’x4’ It Only Stings A Little is the largest wire piece I have ever done by a considerable margin - most of my previous work was necklace size, and it came tumbling out of my brain in about a week. Dark Blue, Dark Blue; My Careful Cardinal; The Garden Grows; and The Last Bloom are all nods to that story. There are many, many more.

Also, Be Still My Heart is me trying really, really hard to impress my partners and as I've been told it worked, I'm rather fond of it.
"It Only Stings A Little"

NOAF: What are your inspirations for your artwork?

MF: I would say that most of my work, the work that I love the most, comes from trying to express feelings that I just don't have words for. I can't say it, but I've got to say it somehow, and it turns out that I can get a lot of it out in color. Any time I'm overwhelmed with feelings (hey 2020!) I go looking for a paintbrush or silk.

I'm deeply interested in creating art that explores 'home' and all of the beautifully different and complicated ways home is built.

NOAF: Many of your paintings have these incredibly lush, velvety black edges that bleed into the abstract colors. Can you tell us a little about how you get this beautiful effect?

MF: I wish I had a more exciting for the how part of the this question beyond "I pour a lot of ink on the edge of the canvas and the floor," but that’s mostly it! Merging the colors is done by tilting the frames and boards I paint on as well as blowing through straws and several other pretty basic but silly to observe techniques. The why is more compelling to me - I grew up watching the stars in rural Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest with dark skies and that feeling of immersion is deeply comforting to me.

NOAF: You paint, you do beadwork, you do metal jewerly, I've got to ask, what does your studio/workspace look like? (My imagination is telling me your studio looks like a glorious swirling galaxy, but that can't be true, can it?)

MF: Due to the adventure that is living in New York I’'ve actually just split my workspaces so I'm no longer doing as much of my work at home. I keep most of my beadwork in the city, but I've moved a significant portion of my painting supplies to a place upstate where I have more room to work and don't have to worry as much about spilling permanent materials on the floor.

My beads are slowing creeping from my desk at home to adjacent counters and key bowls in a very lovely subtle sparkly way whereas my painting studio looks like there was a glitter explosion in a basement that is half library and half art supply store. There is work everywhere. Books and letters are tucked in around various projects and supplies. Possibly a significant amount of paint on the floor. Also, a hammock and a cat on a heating pad. It’s one of my favorite places in the entire world.

NOAF: Your studio spaces sound like heaven on earth! Meg, thank you so much for this wonderful interview!

POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.