Shaken and Stirred Mag

An online magazine for 21st centurians.

Interview: The Jersey Gem

This is the first edition of my new feature entitled “Supernovae”. I was planning on making this a weekly event, but I don’t want to put myself under any pressure for this, as supernovae are not born overnight 😉 I’m very proud to present to you Meg McCarthy, a 20-year-old artist and the blogger behind The Jersey Gem

Did you like drawing as a child and were you better at it than other kids (modesty aside!)?
I know this is where most artists go “i used to draw day and night until my hands were sore” but to be truthful I wasn’t all that into art when I was little. Yes I was creative and played with play doh and my colouring books, but apart from that I was more interested in playing with my Barbies and watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on TV! My dad used to be fantastic at drawing, so I guess I got a little of his genes! I also went to a Primary school that was creative. The head teacher was amazing at painting and his daughter was an artist. The funny thing is, one year at the annual school BBQ we had a scavenger hunt around the country lanes around the school, one question instructed to draw a a sign which had a duck on it. There were always prizes for the winners and also a “booby prize” for, well, not winning. I won it when I was 8, for drawing the worst duck ever. It was probably one of the most embarrassing moments for me. I guess looking back, it sparked something in me to prove that I could do better! Over the years of Secondary school and College I gained a much deeper passion for art and fashion, so I’m kinda glad I got that prize!

Do you want to make a living of being a painter?
I think painter is quite a limited word. I like to design clothes aswell as creating art, I hope I can make a living out of it in the future, but I know that it will be incredibly hard and very unrealistic to live soley off my art. I would really love to have a studio someplace inspiring, although I can’t really decide where right now. New York would be an absolutely fabulous place to live and create art but I do love being by the beach and a warmer climate! In the future I would love to own a boutique/art gallery where people can buy both my fashion designs and my art in the same place, I think that would be really awesome! 🙂

How did you discover digital painting?
When I was studying for a BTEC in Fashion in London we had a computer class every week where we would use Photoshop and Illustrator to create posters, magazine spreads/covers, patterns and translate our designs into digital format. At the time Photoshop CS4 (which I currently have) was really cheap to buy, about £180 because I was a student, otherwise it would have cost me over £800! Anyway, I finished that course in July 2009, came home to Jersey and started experimenting with photoshop again. I bought a WACOM Tablet recommended by my design tutor in July 2010 (had to save up for a bit) and haven’t been off it since!! 🙂 I bought a few books whilst I was at college which inspired me too, “Digital Fashion Illustration by Kevin Tallon” – has some great tips for beginners and shows stages in how particular methods are done!

What is the advantage of digital painting as opposed to the pencil and paper approach?
I don’t knock the traditional approach to drawing because it is always vital to have those skills behind you, but the great thing about digital painting is its versatility. You can make it look incredibly realistic, or you can go completely the other way and abstract. The drawing can be left for hours, days, months, years and you can still add to it as if you never left, that’s my favourite thing about it. Since I have other things going on in my life I find it hard to sit down for hours on end creating a piece of work, but working digitally I can do an hour here and there throughout the week. My favourite traditional medium is oil painting, but sometimes I just don’t have the time to set up, clean down afterward or just even have the money to buy materials. With a tablet I can plug it into the USB and away I go, no mess, no fuss, no extra costs and no ruined clothes! I will still use traditional mediums from time to time though because it can get quite monotonous and I need that change sometimes to recharge.
Also it’s not good for your eyes to be staring at a screen forever and a day so it gives those a rest too! 🙂

Did you learn drawing by yourself? Or did you take some courses?
I learnt the basics at the college I attended in London (Kingston College) but I would say I have pretty much taught myself using the wacom tablet. At College I studied Fashion & Clothing so it was mainly design and construction of garments, but we did have a weekly visual studies class which was one of my favourites. We used to do still life drawings in all mediums of various objects, life drawings of a nude woman and quick portrait studies of classmates. It really did help with proportion and learning the human form. I remember the day I bought my wacom tablet, my brother came round and had a go with me. We were AWFUL! I was so used to drawing with a pen/pencil and it felt so strange to look upwards at a screen whilst my hand drew! Let’s just say what we drew that day wouldn’t even be worthy of the “worst duck ever” prize! My brother was really surprised when he saw my recent digital artwork. I’ve definitely learnt a lot since buying it in July to December when I showed him what I had achieved, so it really does take practice and a lot of patience.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of it comes from home, conversations I have with my mum and dad can spark off an instant idea for something. My best friend is also a great inspiration to me too, we are great at bouncing ideas off of each other! 🙂 I think Bloggers are a fantastic source of inspiration, especially since I draw a lot of them! If I see a photo I like of them, I will just have to draw it immediately!

Why do you like drawing people and fashion bloggers in particular?
I think people are interesting. Everyone is unique and has a different character so I find that interesting.
I guess you have to be a good judge of character too, you have to assess what qualities they have as a person and what makes them special from everyone else. Fashion Bloggers have that extra oompth I think which makes them stand out in my eyes. They are almost exaggerated versions of people on the street. You can also reach such diverse bloggers out there, and especially living in Jersey where it’s not a very multicultural aplace, they offer a wider variety of inspiration to me. If I can portray someones personality through a drawing of them, I know I’ve done a good job! 🙂

Are there other digital artists you look up to?
Most of the artists I look up to use a combination traditional and digital painting. Mia Overgaard is wonderful example, her style is very dreamy which I love. I studied her for my final major project at college because she had created a series of drawings inspired by woodlands and animals its really beautiful but also involves fashion too. When I’m in the middle of drawing something I tend not to look at other artist’s work because I find it makes me freak and feel a bit insecure about what I do. I think most artists feel the same, we all have envy for each other in some way or another! 🙂

How long does one drawing take you, on average?
It depends really. Like I said, sometimes I draw for a little bit each day so I don’t always know how long a piece has taken me. For the fashion illustrations of collections i use a croquis I already have drawn on my computer so I usually will only have to draw the clothing. Depending how much detail there is they can take from 2 hours to 5 hours. As for blogger portraits and any other detailed work they usually take around 5+ hours to complete. However, If I am doing a progression video with it, it can take a lot longer because I have to keep pausing to save it every so often!

What message do you have for my readers?
If you are interested in digital drawing, just go for it! It takes a bit of time and patience to get used to but it really is a fabulous medium to work in!

How could they learn digital drawing if interested?
In my personal opinion, classes can only get you so far! If you want to learn, the best thing to do is jump straight into it and have a go! It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, theres always ALT + Z in digital drawing and learning is all about doing anyway! I bought my wacom tablet for £80, quite a lot of money really, but it’s well worth it for how much I’ve used it! I youtubed a few videos when I was first starting out, too, where I learnt a few things, so looking at online tutorials for certain things can be worthwhile! If you want to learn professionally, there are always courses in illustration at the London College of Fashion. Their short courses are great! They also do online e-learning so you can study from the comforts of your own home, and from all over the world!! 🙂 They’ve got a great reputation in the industry too!

If YOU are interested in being the next Supernova, send me an e-mail to!
All those of you who sent a submission to my e-mail address already – you might just be the next Supernova.

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2013 by .
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