Australian street artist Meggs just wrapped up a sprawling new mural in downtown Los Angeles. Set against the industrial warehouse district at the intersection of Willow Street and Sante Fe Avenue., the mural, commissioned by Korean mobile game company Com2uS as they launch Summoners War in the U.S., exudes his signature style of vibrant paint splatters and dynamic design. Com2uS has long admired Meggs’ work and the way his art evokes fantasy, comics, and sci-fi imagery. The mural is the first leg of Com2uS' multifaceted U.S. launch with additional content to be released throughout this month.
2014 was a big year for Meggs. He completed his largest mural to date in Detroit—a tiger thrashing across a multi-story building—as part of a residency with Inner State Gallery, and he also painted during Art Basel Miami Beach, the Richmond Mural Project, the Sea Wall Mural Project in Mexico, POW! WOW! Hawaii, and many more festivals and events. We jumped at the chance to chat with him during the completion of his Com2uS mural, where we asked him about his inspirations, the Summoners War project, and how Snoop Dogg discovered his work.
How did you become apart of the Com2uS mural project and US launch?
Com2uS hit me up during the idea stages with the concept of re-working and re-interpreting the characters in the game. I said I was interested, since a lot of my work references fantasy art, comic books, and other youthful, pop culture influences. The content of the game and the characters were there, so we started.
How do you feel about more and more corporations taking an interest in the culture of street art?
I think that as long as it’s a fair, even relationship between the artist and the company, it’s fine. Obviously it’s a great way for artists to work in different avenues and forums. It’s a great way for artists to get paid for their work, and it's also a great way for companies to support art. I advocate much more for companies to back individual artists, or a public artwork, rather than advertisements. Supporting artists is important. For me, it’s project dependent. In this project, I had relative freedom to do what I do, and it’s a nice, even relationship between artist and client. So yeah, I think it’s a positive.
You mentioned earlier that you’re working off particular characters in this piece. What are you trying to convey with this mural?
The mural portrays what I found; they gave me a reference list of characters from the game. The two strongest characters I found were Archangel, who is the main character of the game, and then the dragon who symbolizes the nemesis. It’s like good and evil. A lot of my work generally focuses on duality. Those were the two main characters I wanted to depict. Then it came down to the composition and creating something that has a certain dynamic movement to it and has an emotive twist to it. That’s how I interpreted the characters they gave me.
Once you found the characters you wanted to work from, what was your initial process like? How did you get started and dream up what you ended up creating?
In this project, because I had the character references to work off of, I basically re-drew them from those references and then played around with composition. My artistic vision comes out more in the composition and style of this piece. Then I played around with certain poses for each character and what I wanted to portray, because a lot of my work focuses on movement and has a certain drama to it. I wanted each angel to be in a pose of action, almost like a frozen moment before action happens. Then I wanted the dragon to interact in a way that I felt gave a more dramatic, sinister feel to it.
I just played around with those compositions, and since I worked from a wall template, I knew what kind of size and dimensions I had to play with. I wanted the composition to be centered and for everything to spread out from there. I wanted the energy, the motion, and the movement, with the focal point being the two characters engaging with each other, or even the moment before they’re engaging with each other. There’s the dragon wings coming up on one side, and the angel wings coming up on the other side, so I spread it out utilizing the dimensions of the wall.
That’s what I like to bring into these—that element of the captured frame. From a distance, it has that graphic, dynamic appeal that catches your eye. You can’t miss it if you’re driving past, but when you’re up close to it, you have the intricacies and the little details—the lines and stuff that you can appreciate as well. That’s just me working in a graphic sense, where it’s a mixture between form and abstraction. But I also like to nerd out on the painting details and the nuances of the spray can.
You paint at a ton of street art festivals and constantly travel around the world. How has travel influenced you?
I think that every environment you paint in affects the way you work a little bit. Culturally, you absorb more influences. With me coming from Melbourne to California, I've noticed that my work has become more colorful. A lot of the art I started to see, like at Thinkspace Gallery, exposed me to styles that are more illustrative. I think my work became a bit more illustration-influenced. Engaging with other artists is the main thing that's influenced me, because you have an opportunity to hang out and paint alongside a bunch of people who come from different parts of the world. When I was in Richmond for the RVA Richmond Mural Project, there were some guys from Switzerland who have a very detailed, almost photo-realistic style of painting, which is much different from how I learned to use spray paint. So even though I’m not painting in that style, there were certain little nuances or little techniques that I watched them do.
The other important aspect is collaboration. One of my favorite collab walls to date was with Bask at POW! WOW! Hawaii last year. We have similar influences and styles, so it was an easy process to work together. He had certain techniques that I brought over into my side, and he did the same with my techniques. And that was really cool. It was very direct and one-on-one with working alongside one other and sharing stuff. That's actually how I learned to paint and how to do street art and fine art. I was part of a collective called Everfresh in Melbourne. It was a group of like nine guys. That was the best way to learn—just influencing each other and learning different techniques.
How did Snoop Dogg discover your work?
I had no idea for a while. It turns out that Ian from Cashmere Agency, who produces Snoop’s GGN show, showed Snoop some images. When I was at POW! WOW! Hawaii, one of my friends came in and was like, “Hey dude, Snoop Dogg is blowin' your shit up on Instagram!” I was like, "What the hell! How Does Snoop even know I exist? And how did that get on his Instagram account?" We were just trying to figure it out. Months and months later, I was thinking that it would be great to get into contact with Snoop and hook him up with a print or something, just as a sign of appreciation. Coincidentally, Ian from Cashmere turned up to a live painting event that I did at Thinkspace in Venice. He said, “Hey dude, I’m Ian. I produce Snoop’s show, and I’m the guy who showed him your work.” He spoke to Andrew from the gallery and set up a time to meet Snoop. When we met, I decided to present Snoop with a painting. It was cool.
What’s your advice for young, aspiring street artists?
My advice would be to take time to develop your own style before having too many expectations of fame, popularity, or making a living off of your art. It takes a long time, and it takes hard work. One of the most important things is to develop your own style, and that takes time. In the beginning, you’re always going to reflect other people’s work. You emulate those who you admire and those you aspire to be like. The way I learned was to start small. I painted a lot of stuff in abandoned warehouses or weird, open drains, just urban exploration stuff—places where no one would ever see it.
Be humble and be respectful of those who have been in the game longer. Use that as the avenue to learn from them, and that will help you develop and be a better artist. It’s a long-term life investment, really. You want to be an artist for life, and you want to be doing this as long as you can.
Do you have any upcoming projects in 2015 that you’re looking forward to?
Yeah, I have a solo show at StolenSpace Gallery in London opening in February. I’m looking forward to that. There are also other potential mural projects we’re looking at. I’ll be in Berlin sometime in the year. Hawaii is another spot. South by Southwest potentially, too. I’ll also have a mini solo show with Thinkspace.