- Elizabeth Mikutowicz -
is an astonishingly talented painter and illustrator. Her work combines realism and fantasy in a seamless way. All her pieces capture a subtle mystery; at first glance you see a beautiful composition but at second glance, subtle and unexpected details start to present themselves.
This week we had the opportunity to connect with her in a candid interview. Read on to learn more about this incredible female artist.
Elizabeth Mikutowicz: I understand you studied art illustration at Brigham Young University. Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator and artist? Growing up, what role did art play in your life?
Miranda Meeks: I was always drawing while growing up, but I didn't really consider it as a serious career path until I got to college. Creating artwork was a release for me and an exercise in creativity; it was a huge part of who I was, and who I am now.
EM: You have a very unique and distinctive style. How did this come to be and how has it evolved over time?
MM: My style only developed after years of creating work, especially during school. I originally was going in a very different direction with my work. I began to collect images that I found really inspiring, and after amassing a large amount of them, I started noticing trends, which I purposely began to put into my work. Muted palettes, dark imagery, realism; these were all aspects that I noticed really spoke to me. I also noticed that I enjoyed drawing realistically in my sketchbook, so I decided to take that into my school work. There was also a realization that just because I enjoyed something, didn't mean that I had to incorporate that into my career path. For example, I love typography and design, but I can still be inspired by it without needing to add it to my professional portfolio. All these practices, along with creating artwork over and over again, helped me to slowly uncover the voice and themes that resonate with me so deeply.
EM: How do you decide on subjects for your paintings-are they real or things you've conjured up in your mind?
MM: The subjects in my paintings are imagined. I use real reference for them of course, but often I tweak the reference so it fits with the aesthetic I prefer. I am inspired by fashion models, so sometimes this shows in certain types of images I paint.
EM: Can you talk about your creative process from idea to execution? Is there a process you typically work through?
MM: My particular process is fairly standard within the illustration community. I will create quick and rough thumbnail sketches in order to concretize the ideas floating around in my head. It makes them much more manageable and objective this way. After choosing one particular idea, I'll go in and develop it further so it becomes a refined sketch. At this point, I'll render it until it becomes the final piece. Often, I will start in black and white and add color halfway through, as working in black and white simplifies the amount of decision-making that is going on in the early stage, as well as makes the values more readily identifiable, which is an important aspect of creating an effective illustration. My process for gallery work is similar, though slightly different since I'm working traditionally. I will usually make a digital comp that is almost at the point of being the completed picture, then transfer the drawing of the comp to my painting surface (usually a gesso-primed smooth panel), then paint over it with oils layer by layer. I create the digital comp for similar reasons as in my digital painting process; it allows me to simplify the decision-making steps so I am only concerned at that point about replicating the picture I've already created, just in a traditional setup.
EM: You work in a wide variety of mediums-from pencil, to paint, to digital. Do you have a favorite? How do you determine which medium is right for each piece?
MM: I used to do a lot more experimentation with mediums early in my career, but over the years I've developed a love for both digital and oil painting. I love the level of refinement you can achieve with digital, as well as its speed and all the tools it presents to the artist. It is incredibly forgiving and allows me to analyze if changes are helping or hurting a piece through layers. I also love the lack of setup and clean up, as I am home with my two small children, this helps work get done more quickly in small snippets throughout the day. With oils, I love the translucency it creates through glazed layers. It creates an illusion of light coming through the image, which no digital medium would ever be able to achieve once it's printed out. Oils are also forgiving, as they allow you to work in layers, and it blends beautifully. Although most of the work I create now is digital, I would love to get to a point in my career where most of my work is finished in oils.
EM: You create the most beautiful light and highlights in your art. Does light represent something important for you, or what does that mean for you?
MM: Lighting is very important to me in my work, as it almost single-handedly dictates the mood of the piece. Lighting alone can change the feeling in the work and emotions in the viewer. My absolute favorite is soft lighting, as if it was coming from an overcast day, or from moonlight. A feeling of softness is typically what I strive for in all of my pieces, so lighting is a great way to enhance this feeling.
: You've got an impressive list of exhibitions, clients, and features! Our readership includes a diverse range of people working in various fields. For all the working artists, artisans, craftsmen and women, from a business standpoint I think it would be insightful to know, are the exhibitions and partnerships things that you seek out, or do those opportunities come to you?
MM: I've been incredibly blessed in my career at this point, as the vast majority of clients and exhibitions I've had so far have all been amazing opportunities that have come my way, as opposed to me seeking them out. I did go through a period of time right after graduating from Brigham Young University where I sent out postcards for jobs, but I didn't get any offers in return, so it hasn't always been this way. My life situation allows me to create work while still having the bills paid for (my husband works full time while I stay home with our children). This is important because it means I don't have to desperately take any job that comes my way in order to make sure we still have a roof over our heads.
I have a firm belief in the idea that the best form of advertising and promotion is creating the type of work you feel passionate about.
Instead of emailing and sending mailers every month, why not create a new image or two instead? Every opportunity I've been given has come from starting with a personal piece I've created. One of my favorite quotes that I live by is this: "Beautiful things don't ask for attention." I believe this is true in all aspects of life, and certainly for artwork as well.
I recognize that this method isn't a realistic or viable option for many artists, but it is something that has been incredibly effective for me and my career path. It doesn't work quickly; it's definitely a slow buildup over a long time and lots of hard work, but it reaps incredible rewards in the long run.
EM: Is there anything in particular you're looking forward to working on next?
MM: I'm especially looking forward to creating more traditional oil paintings, both for clients as well as personal fulfillment. It's an amazing process, and I'm looking forward to honing my skills and learning more as I try to become a better artist.
Thank you, Miranda for sharing your story and great insight!
We will certainly be taking note when it comes to moody lighting for our next lookbook; different medium, but the concepts and feelings transfer. We plan to shoot at the Oregon coast for our Siren + Ocean inspired collection and want to evoke that emotion you get when you have wind and mist covering the landscape in a veil of mystery.