Q&A with Megan Tsai
There's something dark and primal about Megan Tsai's work; it connects with you on a deeper level. The animals feel a bit like spirit animals, and the human figures convey all kinds of emotions. I'm filled with feelings of longing, terror, and peace, moving from piece to piece. Some sketches are downright beautiful, while others are an almost horrorscape - a kingdom not meant for mere mortals. I really enjoyed her style from first glance, and reached out to learn more.
|P&F| - What are the key elements you like to incorporate in your work? Are there specific reactions you are trying to evoke from audiences?
Megan - To be honest, a lot of my work is driven by emotions that are quite dark and sometimes incredibly difficult to confront. There have been some bad experiences in the past, some inflicted upon me by others, some self-inflicted. It's been a very, very long journey in this relationship with myself to get to a point where I can work through these emotional obstacles through art-making. I tend to focus on solidarity for those seeking solace and comfort, to express the pain of silence, isolation and self doubt. I also focus on escapism through the imagination, where different universes and dreamscapes exist and anything is possible.
|P&F| - I think that comes across completely and effectively. Each line adds to a caricature of the darkness in the world, but not always. There's also a ton of brightness and vibrant color to balance out these heavy themes. Do you usually know when a piece you're working on is finished?
Megan - This is an ongoing struggle for me as an artist; nothing's ever truly complete or finished enough, but at a certain point, I recognize that I should stop overworking a piece. I'm learning how to open up to the world through social media, and to let people in on my daily progress, creative process, and individual person.
|P&F| - Letting others in is important, and I think will make all the difference between a genuinely tortured artist, and one who can tap into that pain for creative sake. At some point, there has to be some catharsis or relief, and it sounds like art really helps you achieve that. Do you have anything else you're passionate about doing?
Megan - Music has always been a huge part of my life as well. My significant other and I, as well as many of our close friends, have shared many a memorable night under the lights and lasers of countless amazing festivals. The sheer energy and visual inspiration is impossible to describe. Day-to-day, music resonates with me as another form of creative expression that influences my mood and my artwork.
|P&F| - Looking back, what do you think are some of your biggest achievements?
Megan - Most recently, finishing school. It's been such a long journey, moving to two new cities on my own and getting tangled up in so many different experiences along the way. I transferred into UCSD and graduated this past summer - it was not easy. At the worst point, I was a full-time student with a double major and an ungodly course load, juggling three jobs most days to pay my way through school. Just knowing I could tough it out and come out stronger on the other side feels pretty good.
|P&F| - I can't even begin to imagine. I was a double major as well, but I was blessed with a scholarship; I couldn't fathom having to work jobs in between, no less three of them! Is there any advice you would give to other artists trying to make their way?
Megan - For the longest time, I've been repeating to myself two words: Ambition and Sacrifice. You have to be okay with giving up a significant portion of your time and resources to invest in something you’re passionate about. Growing up, I watched my mother work every single day of the week, for years on end, to build up our life here in the U.S. My father gave up everything he knew back in Taiwan to come here for his family. Their actions taught me how to pursue a goal with integrity and dedication. Now, I also tell myself a third word, this one self-explanatory: Compassion.
|P&F| - Compassion is so important, for the self and others. A lot of people at the end of the day just don't give themselves enough credit for all the shit they've endured. I'm curious - when did you start making art? Was it something you were instinctively drawn to?
Megan - I honestly can’t remember a time where I wasn’t expressing my creativity in some way. Even in preschool, 3-year-old me looked forward to “art time,” where I could come up with elaborate stick figures and color schemes. However. I never considered art as a profession until my first year of college; after painful debate, I decided to take my chances and chose my passion over pre-med.
|P&F| - Do you have any inspirations I could recommend to our readers? I'll link them here.
Megan - Some of the artists I’ve been drawn to are James Jean, Conor Harrington, and Joram Roukes, among many others. Their work tends to juxtapose traditional and contemporary elements, and plays with imagery and space in very striking ways.
|P&F| - Megan, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to let us get to know you, and your art, much better. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Megan - I am currently in the process of building an oil painting series focused on some of the themes and elements we discussed. One of the longer-term goals I wish to accomplish is to utilize art as a platform for positive impact. Visual art is extremely powerful, and I desire to connect with others through my work. I want to facilitate discussion on subjects hard to talk about, whether that be a personal issue or a broader, sociocultural one. I’m also super excited to be sharing any behind-the-scenes updates of painting progress on Instagram, so please drop by! Also watch out for my upcoming artist interview with Rising Art Star on YouTube (more details to come) with prints coming soon as well!
"I've never even heard of Philosopher and whatever-it-was.
How am I supposed to say something about it?"
A Guy at Work - New Jersey - 6/15/18