We caught up with Baltimore based illustrator Mai Ly Degnan, who’s intricate illustrations immerse you into a fantastical world of dream-like scenery and eerie humour. She tells us of her creative inspirations, of a new found love of cooking and how she’d like to be remembered as a happy pug lady.
1. What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
Much of my work is inspired by humor, relationships, childhood nostalgia, and awkwardness. I enjoy finding ways to make unfortunate events humorous using overly angsty stylized characters in everyday situations.
2. Describe your working routine – studio, kitchen table, caffeinated beverage of choice, music, silence?
My working routine usually begins with a cup of coffee in my studio, and then slowly migrates to my coffee table in the living room, which is conveniently placed in front of the television. I really enjoy meaningless background noise when I work, so the trashier the tv show, the better.
3. How do you combat creative blocks?
To combat creative blocks, I usually have to step away from whatever I am working on, decaffeinate… and turn on a movie I’ve seen a million times before. Buffalo 66 is usually my go to when I am in a creative rut. There is something really comforting/soothing in dialog that you already know by heart. It always gets me sketching again especaily when I have some familiar background noise.
4. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I really enjoy metal music.
5. Which book illustrations have stayed with you from childhood/influenced you?
I an avid Edward Gorey fan. His beautifully tedious line work and dark sense of humor will always have my heart. I also grew up loving the Jules Feiffer illustrations in the Phantom Tollbooth. PT was probably my favorite book growing up, and those illustrations have always stuck with me for some reason.
6. Dogs feature a lot in your work. Do you have a furry friend who keeps you company while you work?
I wish. I actually did have a pug growing up, but unfortunately she passed in 2012. Im currently in the market for a new one soon… and have been keeping a list of pug names.
7. What was the last film you saw at the cinema, and what did you think?
Big Eyes… and it was SO good. Really different for a Tim Burton film, but I loved it none the less.
8. What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
Recently, when I am not illustrating, I like to pretend that I can cook. Netflix has gotten me dangerously addicted to food/cooking show, tricking me into thinking its actually easier than it really is.
9. When are you happiest?
I am probably happiest when I am catching up with friends. I moved 3 years ago to Baltimore, Maryland from Florida so its always extra special when I get to catch up with a familiar face.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a friendly person and happy pug lady.
Mai Ly Degnan