Dylan Meconis is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer living in SE Portland. She was also the creative mind behind the beautiful artwork you may have seen on our posters, flyers, and postcards for James and the Giant Peach! We asked her some questions to learn about her first experiences with drawing, her inspiration behind her artwork for James, and more!
OCT: How did you first discover that you had a talent for drawing?
DM: Like most people, I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon! I can't remember when other people first started to notice that I had a "talent" for it, but they definitely noticed how much I drew. I do recall that other kids started to ask me to draw things for them around fifth grade. My homeroom got to invent a fictional species and their civilization. We all submitted drawings for what we thought the people should look like. My drawings won! That was really exciting.
OCT: You studied History and Literature in college; has studying History helped influence the work you do now?
DM: Definitely! Most people think history is all about battles, dates, and important political leaders. I'm much more interested in how normal people lived their lives from day to day in different places and times. What clothes did you wear? What food did you eat? What jobs could you have? What stories did you grow up hearing? Add 100 miles or 100 years and people will answer those questions very differently – they might as well live in different worlds. It's like an amazing fantasy story, only it actually happened! I love finding an excuse to learn more, and "I have to research this so I can draw it for work!" is the best excuse ever.
OCT: What inspired you when you were designing the artwork for James? Were you familiar with the book?
DM: Roald Dahl was my favorite author when I was growing up, and he's still one of my very favorites. I looked through all of my old copies before I designed the artwork. They're all falling apart (and covered with ancient hot chocolate stains). A lot of Dahl's stories are dark and twisted, but James also has lots of blue skies and seascapes and adventure. Roald Dahl was a pilot in the Royal Air Force as a young man, so I think he wanted to write a story that gave kids that same feeling of freedom and excitement as he got from flying an airplane for the very first time. That's the mood I wanted to capture, too. (Also I looked up a lot of pictures of peaches.)
OCT: If you could design artwork for any children's book, what would it be?
DM: It would be really, really, REALLY fun to illustrate Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles books (starting with Dealing With Dragons). They have such a fun combination of adventure, silliness, suspense, and fairy tale bits. I would get to draw dragons, annoying wizards, brave heroines, telepathic cats, a mysterious forest, and one really unreliable flying carpet (with pink teddy bears). One of my favorite children's illustrators, Trina Schart Hyman, drew some of the original book covers, so it would also be exciting to follow in her footsteps.
OCT: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DM: Don't listen to anybody who tells you that you can't draw, or that you're drawing something "the wrong way." Drawing is such a fun thing to do as a grownup – it shouldn't just be for kids at all! – and people mostly stop because they're scared they're not good enough at it or because somebody (sometimes even a parent or a teacher!) made fun of them. The grownup artists I know weren't always the best at drawing as kids – they just kept drawing and never stopped, no matter what anybody else said. I also find that people who keep drawing into adulthood are big fans of reading and writing, and in general are really good observers. So keep drawing, and have fun!
Dylan is a member of Periscope Studio for freelance comic professionals and has written and illustrated several graphic novels. Her next publication, Queen of the Sea, will be available in 2018. For more of Dylan's work, be sure to check out her website!