Interview with Artist Meenal Patel

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

We are so pleased to feature artist Meenal Patel on the blog! You can check out her work in her Etsy shop, website, follow along on her Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter here.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Photo by Sarah Deragon

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art? What is life like as an artist living in San Francisco?

I am an illustrator, designer, and children’s book author. I love to draw moments of childhood wonder, strong women, and flora. I also have a strong love to pattern, color, and great design. My professional background is in graphic design and I worked at a design agency for about 10 years before going out on my own in 2017 to focus more on illustration. I learned a lot over those 10 years about working with clients, collaborating, developing my aesthetic, and project managing just to name a few. All of that is helping me with running my own business now.

Now I make my own products (art prints, cards, books, other goodies) and also do client work like licensing my art for surface design, editorial projects, and illustrating other people’s books.

The best thing about living in California as an artist is the abundance and variety of plants to draw inspiration from. I also love the details in the historic architecture of San Francisco.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I love looking at all the plant life when I go for walks and hikes. There are so many beautiful textures and colors that inspire me. My nieces are also a big inspiration for me. I love hanging out with them – making art, having conversations, reading to them, just playing. Other things that inspire me: books, vintage packaging, going to art and science museums, my Indian heritage, vintage goodies at flea markets, the market.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

What is the process like going from the idea to the design process and finishing a piece.

The process varies depending on what I’m working on but I always start with really rough pencil sketches in my sketchbook. Oftentimes I’ll have an idea at a random moment, not necessarily when I’m sitting down to work. If I get an idea or a picture in my head I try to sketch it out quickly so I don’t forget it. Usually those initial sketches and notes are so rough that other people may not even know what they are. When I revisit the sketch, I’ll refine it over and over again until it’s a more refined outline drawing that I feel happy with. At that point I’ll start playing with color, which is my favorite part! I love making color palettes. Once I have a palette that I’m excited about, then I start to add color to the illustration and eventually patterns and textures.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Photo by Sarah Deragon

Can you tell me a little bit about the children’s books you’ve worked on in the past?

I have two children’s books that I wrote and illustrated. I started the first one, Neela Goes to San Francisco, in 2012 but didn’t publish it widely until 2016. That initial version was only intended for my niece, Neela, as a one-off gift to her. I wanted her to have a memory of visiting me in San Francisco as she grew up and I loved reading to her so it seemed like a good present. Watching her absolute delight in seeing a character in a book that resembled her was really powerful and made me think more about the impact of imagery on kids.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

I started the second book, Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala, after going to India with my parents a few years ago for the first time as an adult. I had always wanted to see the country where my family is from with my parents. India is a full-sensory place and I was so inspired by the people, colors, patterns, food, and sounds. I was also struck by how so much felt familiar to things in my life growing up, and at the same time, so many things felt foreign.

After that trip, I knew I wanted to make a picture book with India as a part of it. It took a lot of introspection to write this story. After many months of not writing anything that felt right, I took some time to journal about that trip to India and what it meant to me. I wrote about all the things that felt familiar from my childhood. As I wrote, pieces of what became the story fell out of me and felt really honest. This story became something really different from what I had set out to make and I think that’s for the best. It’s about a little girl named Priya (one of my other niece’s names!) who is growing up in the United States and learning about where her family is from through her Babi Ba (her grandma). It’s about taking pride in your heritage and the power of sharing all the parts of your identity with others.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Do you have any business tips for other artists trying to make a living from their work, online and otherwise? 

Even though it’s hard, try not to compare yourself to others and rather put that energy towards making and practicing your art. There will be ups and downs and you might not always like what you make and that’s just part of the process.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

It’s also totally fine to have an additional job to supplement your income. I still do graphic design work to help with that as I transition more and more to illustration work. It has been a slow build for me, not a quick switch. Take some pressure off of your art by having other part time work, whether that’s freelancing for other things, working at a coffee shop, whatever works for you. It’s important to know that a lot of artists do that especially when they are starting out.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Photo by Sarah Deragon

Do you have any exciting projects in the works for 2020?

A children’s book that I illustrated called What Color is My Hijab? by Hudda Ibrahim comes out in April! It’s a really sweet story about a girl looking up to all the women in her life who wear hijabs and is a book about colors.

Interview with Artist Meenal Patel #illustration #etsy #childrensbooks #inspiration #artgifts #prints #wallart

Photo by Sarah Deragon

I am also planning to release a few collections of cards and prints along with other products this year. Beyond that I’m going to spend more time making patterns, which I’m really looking forward to! The best place to keep up to date on what’s happening is on Instagram @meenal_land or sign up for my Newsletter.

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