From travel writer to full-time artist, we interviewed Meg Abbott to discover more about the creator of 'Faces I Don't Know'.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did Faces I Don’t Know start?
Very suddenly and unexpectedly last year! I have always drawn and painted, but started doing line drawings on a trip to Italy last summer. I’m also a travel writer, so found myself carrying sketchbooks with me on my trips after that, and that’s how it became more of an obsession. It was so different to everything else I’d done, and I fell in love with the freedom of imperfect lines somehow working together to create a picture. I started selling work to friends and family, and then started doing private commissions, working with brands and doing larger-scale works for public spaces. It became a full-time job much sooner than I ever expected.
The collection is made up of original, signed pieces. Where do you find the inspiration behind each drawing?
The ones I feel happiest with always feel like they come out of nowhere. With this kind of art, the freer your hand, the better the line. So if I’m feeling confident and inspired by a certain face or shape then the work comes quite naturally. Other times, it can go horribly wrong…! I find inspiration everywhere – friends, strangers, paintings. Visiting a new place is so exciting now, as I try and do a series of drawings inspired by each place and the people in it.
Can you remember some of your earliest influences?
I was always drawn to the sketchbooks of great artists, rather than their finished pieces. I love looking at the more personal, preliminary drawings by artists like Matisse, Giacometti and Schiele. And Picasso, of course! I came to abstract line drawing through him. I love his one-line animal drawings.
Are there any illustrators or artists working today that you admire?
So many. And I think if you use Instagram right – for inspiration rather than in an obsessive way – you can find the most beautiful things. I’m obsessed with artists like Jessalyn Brooks, Christiane Spangsberg, Isabelle Feliu, Caroline Walls and Frederic Forest. There are so many people doing interesting things with line drawing.
Describe your style in 3 words?
Spontaneous, simple and imperfect.
You're based in London. Where is your favourite place to...Brunch?
Rawduck in Hackney. I always spend way too much money on drinks there, they make an amazing bloody Mary, which is key on a weekend…!
...go for Dinner?
For a really special dinner I’d take someone to Luca in Clerkenwell. I think it’s the most beautiful restaurant in London - it’s a haven of pasta, wine and bread. Otherwise I’d say Hill & Szrok on Broadway Market, it’s a butcher’s shop that turns into the most romantic restaurant at night, and the food is always unbelievable.
....go for a Drink?
I love Yield in Stoke Newington for wine, Redchurch Brewery for beers and The Cock on Mare Street for a good old Hackney boozer.
Do you have any superstitions or self enforced rules that you live by?
I’m terrible at self-discipline, so I make sure I’m working proper 9-5 hours everyday at my studio, with a lunch break (usually a pho from Kingsland Road…). It sounds boring and very un-arty, but I’d still be in my pyjamas at 4pm having achieved nothing if I didn’t stick to that rule!
What's the most played band/song on your playlist?
Follow Me by Wild Child, You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac, Stay Safe by Rhye, Wayside by Gillian Welch and anything by Paul Simon!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My (usually very gentle) Grandpa once slammed his fist on the table and shouted ‘Look up!’ when my brother and I were staring at our phones at lunch once. We miss so much by being on our phones all the time, I’m trying so hard to leave it at the bottom of my bag and actually take in the world. It’s embarrassingly difficult…
What’s next for Meg Abbott?
I’m working on designing some labels for some really cool brands at the moment, which is really exciting. I’m also doing some large-scale work involving a little more colour, and am hoping to do a bigger exhibition in the next few months. And I’m working on a little line of workout t-shirts celebrating the (real!) female form, so am drawing up some ideas for that at the moment.