Brynn Metheney’s fantastic series of illustrations, “The Morae River”, is set to be introduced to the Antelope Valley in a new show at Sagebrush Café Coffee & Art House in Quartz Hill. (Info).
Saturday, November 20th from 5 to 8 pm
Metheney grew up in the Mojave Desert and went on to graduate from California College of the Arts and Crafts. “The Morae River” highlights Metheney’s long-standing interest in creatures, both real and imagined, as it explores the interconnections shared by science, art and fantasy.
Though her processes and techniques of illustrating “The Morae River” may seem relatively simple—drawing, scanning, and coloring—the final product reveals an artistry of diverse and complex talents that awe the viewer. Metheney says of her methods: “Recently I have been working exclusively in photoshop CS3 – doing the pencil drawing with a fine digital brush and then laying in color underneath the line work.”
Her work has appeared in a number of places including WIRED Magazine, Sort of Podcast, Science, St. Mary’s College Magazine, i09.com, drawn.ca, linesandcolors.com. Metheney currently lives and works as a freelance illustrator in Oakland, California.
As you may know, AV Arts Blog is closely associated with Sagebrush Café and we teamed up to do an interview with Brynn Metheney in anticipation of the upcoming show.
Q: What is the inspiration behind “The Morae River” project?
The Morae River started out as an exercise in world building and creature design. It came about in spring 2008 after a college review. I presented a series of fictional creatures to my professors and they suggested that I explore them more since it was what I was really passionate about. It seemed natural and I quickly fell in love with the idea of creating a context to relate my creatures back to.
Immediately, I began work on a world where I could come up with species that would grow and evolve along with their environment as animals do here on Earth. The idea of a river as the center of my project came first and everything fell into place from there. What started out as a portfolio exercise to get work, turned into a personal exploration in drawing, evolution and writing.
I have always been a fascinated by animals. Ever since I could hold toy horses I wanted to be a part of their vibrant world. I find animals amazing in the way they struggle for life and connect with one another. How they move their bodies and find ways to outwit their predators. How they can be so full of compassion and sometimes be so heartless in their race to survive. I find them beautiful and terrifying, familiar and completely alien. Nothing compares to exploring them in my work everyday.
The Morae River is still changing and growing as it is still a very young project. I know I’ll be working on it for a long time and look forward to seeing what other forms it will take on.
Q: Do you have an opinion on where science and art meet, in your work or in general? Does this area of overlap play a part in your work?
I believe Science and Art are closely intertwined. I think it is a very recent idea that they have to be separate and that the two types of people don’t get along.
Old collections of drawings and paintings of the natural world were testaments to both artists and scientists crossing over into either field. Most bestiaries have been “made-over” with photos, however, animals that have become extinct can still be resurrected with a pencil put to paper.
Speaking outside of natural science, scientists are very creative people, solving problems in creative ways. Genetic science, in my opinion, is most definitely an art because it takes an understanding of some very abstract and organic forces at work; none of which can never be predicted (until now; some things can be). Science and Art are both incredibly organic and free form and I think the key link between each of them is that they actively change.
Science is always looking to disprove itself and Art is always looking to find truth in its own right. I think both, hopefully, are willing to change and adapt to an ever-changing world.
Q: The “cuddly and/or deadly” nature of the animal kingdom is present in the design of your creatures. Can you explain more about what draws you to this notion of double nature or complex identity in animals?
Let’s take people as an example. I think as mammals, we have a tendency to look for our characteristics in other beings. We look for them in other people when we search for a friend or a companion and so it doesn’t surprise me that in some cases we tend to see ourselves in other animals.
This is a good survival tactic because it allows us to team up with others and become a stronger group. Communication has always been a hallmark of mammals (although it is not limited to them). Mammals are social, their mothers care for them and teach them everything they know, they mourn each others deaths, and they can hold grudges and blood feuds. This, of course, is not limited to humans but it is what we thrive on.
To answer your question, I think it comes to this: I see myself in animals. I think we all do.
I see a history that spans back forever with generations of experience. I see where we all share similar looks, expressions, needs and desires. We are all part of a great struggle for survival and while my struggle may not be a hunt on the Savannah or a migration of hundreds of miles, it is still a struggle for survival in the same world.
Q: Do you feel that “The Morae River” is directly related to ideas of evolutionary theory/evolutionary science?
Of course. My full understanding of the subject, is unfortunately, very limited but it fascinates me more than anything else. Although, I doubt anyone fully understands evolution, I think that’s the beauty of it.
I didn’t learn much about life science or evolution until I was in college. I’ve been like a sponge for the last four years, soaking up any information I can. I watch every documentary I can get and read every article that addresses the subject. Evolution has itself been evolving lately and some very new and exciting discoveries have been surfacing. The Morae River is still a very loose project and is growing in its own way.
The basic structure of it is based in Darwinian Evolution and will probably continue use Darwin’s work as a backbone. However, it will be updated using information discovered in the last 10 years.
That said, the most important thing about The Morae River though, is that some things are not explained on purpose. This is, what I believe, makes good science fiction. While I want the animals to seem scientifically plausible, the hint of mystery feeds the viewers’ curiosity. It’s this cycle that brought Darwin to the Galapagos and I hope to inspire my viewers to wonder about these animals and to want more information.
Q: Who do you see as your audience or, when you are putting together a presentation, how do you see your audience? As scientific observers? As participants in the world you have created? As viewers peeking through a key-hole into the world of “The Morae River”?
When I am creating a species for the Morae River I am usually concerned with the niche that it will fill or what pattern it will exhibit. I usually think about what I want first. However, the moment afterward, I am always thinking of my viewer. I ask questions like, “Does this make sense?”, “Is it credible?”, “Is this drawing clear?”, or “Does it look like what I’m saying it is?”.
As an illustrator, my first concern with the work is clarity. My viewer must be able to fully grasp the species. This relies on my own understanding of animal physiology and design. If I am able to portray a species clearly and accurately then the drawing becomes credible and more like a depiction of an actual species.
As far as how the viewer approaches the work, whether from a scientific point of view or maybe one of fantasy, the idea that I’d like to inspire is that we have a world like this around us already.
While I am able to create this world filled with all of these creatures, they are all a product of observing the animals of our own planet. While the fauna of earth might seem like old news, it is as dynamic, if not more dynamic and peculiar, than any of the creatures I have come up with on my own.