Q&A with Meg Rennie

A headshot of Meg Rennie, who has reddish-brown hair that cascades in waves just past her shoulders. She is smiling very slightly, but gazes into the camera seriously. She is standing in front of an indistinct green background. The image is overlayed over a grey and white image of paint strokes, which is viewed in the image editor of a mobile phone.

MEG RENNIE is a visual artist and illustrator from Melbourne, Australia. She creates intricate papercut collages with hand-painted papers, a process that she began to develop over ten years ago, which is constantly evolving. She is passionate about representing all people, families and communities—living and imagined—and in her recent work, she has been exploring food and cooking as tools for communication and community-building.

Our Art and Comics Editor, David Mahler, interviews Meg Rennie about her comic ‘Georgette’, published in #17 THEFT.

My most pressing question, with such an intricate, delicate and investing style, could you please walk us through your process?

Certainly! I start my collaged pieces with a rough and simple sketch. Once I’ve blocked out my shapes and simplified the forms to my liking (often I’m working from reference photos), I pick my colours. I paint large sheets of paper with acrylic paints, paying attention not just to creating a cohesive colour palette, but also interesting and appropriate textures. From there, I cut out each shape from my pre-painted papers, layering and collaging them together, adding any finishing details in acrylic gouache paint. Listing the steps this way makes it sound quite methodical, but it’s really an instinctive process—one that takes quite a long, but a very enjoyable, time!

Your illustrations have a distinct nostalgic quality, evoking childhood through style more than medium; even your adult characters have large, adorable eyes which bring a comforting smile! Do you find yourself turning back to past inspiration, treasured books from when you grew up, or is it more you’ve taken in what you need for your own direction?

That’s a really interesting question. I like to think of my pictures as having a sense of childhood in them, but I don’t think I’m evoking the imagery of my own childhood, necessarily. I’ve always loved illustration and design, especially from the 1950s and ’60s. It was so fresh and original in its time, and for me it’s still the most unique and exciting period of innovation in graphic art. I think I can trace the beginning of my current style back to the experience of seeing an original painting by Mary Blair when I was in high school, at an exhibition on Disney’s animated films. I hadn’t heard of Blair before, and what she did with colour and shape blew my mind. It was the most inspired I’d ever felt in an art gallery. It also made me realise that what I had always been passionate about was illustration, rather than in what’s traditionally considered fine art, which I was hoping to pursue at the time. My work is very much influenced by my love of Blair and other artists from the ’50s and ’60s, and I still collect both vintage and modern picture books.

You have a strong sense of pacing and plotting, please tell us you’re working on a longer form comic? And if not where can we see more of your illustration work?

Thank you so much for that lovely compliment! I’m not currently working on a longer comic, although it’s something I’d love to do one day soon. I post about my projects and what I’m up to on my instagram, @megrennie.illo, and more of my work can be seen at my website, www.megrennie.com.