Inspirational illustrations designed to promote calm and peace may have once included cheesy sunsets, rainbows and puppies, but as meditation becomes part of the fabric of everyday life, so too does design.
Giving meditation images a more grown-up, modern feel is Mike Medaglia, an illustrator and comic book artist who takes everyday situations and transforms them into something thought-provoking. Or soothing.
We caught up with the artist to find out more about how he works...
Your Tumblr is illustrations about calm, peace and meditation. What do all of these things mean to you, and how did you get into it?
At about age 17, I discovered Taoism and eventually Zen Buddhism, both of which are more philosophies then religions. I was really drawn to them because the ideas were very simple and direct. Being here right now. That feeling is what I try to explore each week with my drawings. These quotes really inspire me and sometimes when I read one all the stress and anxiety around me just gets quieter for at least a moment. So to use my art to perhaps pass along that feeling means a great deal.
What has meditation brought to your life?
I do meditate, but not nearly as much as I would like to. It is clearly such a good way to address the constant noise in my head from all the interactions and distractions I get wrapped up in from day to day. But also, and I guess this ties directly into this project, I find drawing to be a meditative experience. I have come to realise that I can meditate anytime and anywhere, though it's a lot easier said then done.
Sometimes, I'll be waiting for a train and instead of checking my email or playing a game on my phone, I deliberately take a deep breath and try to be present. However, that's the importance of regular meditation, it gives me a reference, a place of stillness to go back to in my mind, even in the busiest and most stressful situations.
But I really do struggle to meditate everyday, like most people it's difficult to juggle everything in my life, so it is hard to sit still and clear my mind, but hopefully with time I can be a bit more consistent.
Do you think we are increasingly seeking peace in a frenetic world?
The popularity of mindfulness seems to be a direct result of this. I do see it around me a lot. People from all walks of life, from all cultural backgrounds and professions looking for a way to relieve some stress. For all the good that technology has given us, which is so much, it can also cause just as much stress, so finding a balance is really important to me.
It's funny to think, but since the world is getting louder and busier all the time, the silence seems to ring out and more people are seeking it. But that is also the beauty, more people are seeking peace for themselves and it is accessible instantly by just sitting and trying to bring everything back to the moment. Again, for me that is much easier said then done, but it's always worth the effort.
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Do you think we could do with more positivity in the world?
Definitely! Don't you? It so easy to be cynical and perhaps it's very uncool to speak about positivity and earnestness. It feels like evolution, really. We are a global society which means that we are affected by so much more then just what is happening in our community. But even on a one-to-one direct level, the more positivity we give out the more we feel it internally, not so much as a reciprocal thing, but as a direct feeling.
There is something so satisfying about just thinking positively. My whole world seems to take on a different shade. It seems that the way we think about things can be really powerful. There is just so much to be negative about, from a personal scale to a global scale, that any moment of positivity is a bit refreshing. Obviously positivity can't address the multiple global crises we seem to be facing but we could do with more.
How long does it take you to do an illustration from start to finish?
I work quite quickly when it comes to actually drawing one. The penciling, which is done is blue pencil, takes about an hour, depending on the complexity of the image. Then another hour for inking. Then I scan it and colour it on the computer which usually takes a couple hours. The longest bits are the before and after.
I have to take up to a couple weeks sometimes to let the quote form into an image in my head. Then, once the image is all coloured, I usually put it aside for a week and then go back to it and can see what doesn't work so I change it around a bit.
What is involved?
The longest bit of the process is actually thinking of how to illustrate the quotations. I don't want to be too literal but at the same time, I want to evoke the feeling of the quote.
Some are more comics-based and tell a story because I am also a comics artist, so that tends to sneak in there a bit. Others are experimentations with design or colour or texture or patterns. Giving it that variation helps to challenge me and keep me interested in the project week after week. Hopefully it's the same for the reader.