Femmes Tropicale: Rachael Meckling Celebrates Women in her First Mural for CHROMA
Rachael Meckling is a Canmore-based fashion illustrator and designer who completed her studies in Fashion Communication at Ryerson University in 2012. She first began drawing on fluffy white napkins alongside her mother, Penelope, at her favourite coffee shop when she was young. Meckling’s love of painting and the female form led her to complete her BA in Design, and she has become one of the most sought after artists in Western Canada. She is best known for her whimsical, feminine live portrait paintings, and her long list of collaborations include FLARE Magazine, The Hudson’s Bay, Glenbow Museum, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kit + Ace, Aritzia, and PARK! When she isn’t creating, Meckling loves to travel and immerse herself in nature which is where she finds most of her inspiration!
For Chroma, Meckling painted her very first mural. Femmes Tropicale is a celebration of women — women of all shapes, sizes, and colours. We wanted to learn more about Meckling’s latest project, so we sat down to talk about the installation process and inspiration behind the piece.
How did you come up with your idea for Chroma and what was it like working your first mural?
When I started my submission for Chroma, all of these girls from my recent travels started to come out. I traveled to Indonesia and LA during the summer of last year, and earlier this year I went on a trip to Jamaica. It was really inspiring to be around so many different women and situations that I had never experienced before. There was one night in Jamaica where we drove through a street that was filled with different storefronts and people. It was around 9 pm, and everyone was just hanging out and having fun. What really stood out to me was the mothers’ who had their babies on their lap. When I was in Bali, I had the opportunity to meet women that I had never really seen before as someone who lives in the prairies. LA was also an amazing experience. There are so many cultures within America that you can immerse yourself in. I always try to build my friends, and other women up and this mural was about more than celebrating women. I wanted to unify women through colour. I really loved the colour palette that I worked with. I used a lot of lavender, green, and pink but all the different skin tones were just as important as the other colours. This was my very first mural and it went really smoothly, beside spilling an entire can of the darkest coloured paint all over the floor. My degree in design helped a lot. It’s all about layers. First, you start with the background and then you build on the details. Now that I know the process of creating a mural I would love to apply it to an outdoor space, and I am definitely ready for the challenges of an outdoor mural!
What environment has the most impact on how you get inspired to make art?
I live in Canmore, Alberta. When I first moved here I wasn’t inspired by the landscape, but now I realized I’m really inspired by just being here. I think everyone should find more time to engage with nature. I’d rather be on the beach but I’ll take what I can get. When you’re outdoors, your brain and nature become one. It is literally where we all came from. I find it extremely relaxing to be in nature. My mind is able to disconnect and wander and absorb all of my subconscious ideas.
What routines or rituals help you get into the creative zone?
When it comes to creativity, my agent, Kelly Rae is super helpful. She allows me to have full creative space when I am working on a project. She won’t interrupt me or call me until I let her know I’m free. She encourages me to travel and be outside, and is always making sure I am doing everything but art so that when I am working on a project I can harness my built up creativity.
I paint in the evening, around 4 pm is when I start getting into the mood. Because of lighting, it doesn’t always work to paint large pieces at night so I reserve those for the day and focus more on small-format illustrations in the evening. I prefer to draw by hand but my iPAD pro has helped me a lot in the conception phase. For this piece, I did all of the illustrations on my iPad but before the iPad, I also sketched quite a bit after my trips. A lot of the women first came out in my doodles.
If you could collaborate with one artist right now, who would that be and why?
Diana Lynn VanderMeulen. I worked with her on a short video ad for the Christian Dior exhibition at Glenbow Museum, but I really want to work with her again. She does fine painting and animation, and we have known each other for years. She is so fantastic in helping me make my girls and other pieces come to life, whereas I am better at layout design so we really compliment one another. Her work is super self explorative and colourful which is why I love her. We both learned a lot of different things in school and just followed our passions after graduating. My mom got sick when I was young and her dad died around the same time so we bonded over that. We’re a pair of people that moved on and kept doing what we needed to do.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
To do what you do best and to get someone, recurrent or an intern, to help you do something you aren’t good at it. It might take a bit of money or work but if you want to grow as a business it is necessary. Dealing with numbers and math and networking is a waste of creativity. You meet a lot of people in this industry — critics and gallery owners and it takes someone with tough skin to navigate it all. I believe that artists need to be sensitive to make their best work, so having someone handle that end of thing really helps protects that sensitivity.
Stay connected @rachaelmeckling