By Michael Gibbs
Matthew Porter of Communication Arts Magazine has called Robert Meganck “a delightfully fuzzy-headed raconteur.”
Style Weekly named him one of Richmond’s top 25 most influential artists in September 2007.
And those are just a few of the accolades that the art world has bestowed on one of Meganck.
A professor of illustration, graphic design and digital imaging, he is the chair of the Department of Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A freelance illustrator and president of Communication Design, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich., and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He is currently in his 34th year at VCU.
Meganck has received more than 300 regional, national, and international awards for his research and professional practice in illustration and graphic design, and been recognized for excellence by such organizations as The Society of Illustrators New York, The Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, American Illustration, and The Illustrators Club of Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Meganck’s clients include: The Washington Post, The Progressive, US News and World Report, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, The Washington City Paper, Governing Magazine, Newsweek International, Prentice Hall, and The Harvard Business Review. His digital work has been the subject of feature articles in Design, the Society of News Design’s Quarterly Journal, e-Design magazine, and Computer Art magazine.
His work has also been included in a variety of national reviews, including Communication Arts Magazine’s Illustration and Design Annuals, American Illustration Annuals, Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annuals, The Society of Illustrators Annuals, and 3×3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration.
So it was an honor to sit down with my long-time friend and fellow illustrator at his offices just off VCU’s campus, in downtown Richmond.
Scroll down to read our conversation with him about his art, his career, his teaching, and his view of how the world of illustration—and art—has changed in the decades that he has been a professional in the business.
Michael Gibbs: Tell us about how you got into the illustration business. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Robert Meganck: Yes, pretty much since Kindergarten. It’s the old story of bringing home a drawing I did of an Indian village to my mother, who put it up on the Frigidaire. I pretty much decided then that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up—that and the fact that I liked drawing not because I was so good at it, but because I wasn’t very good at anything else. It was the only thing I could do that helped me stand out from others.
Michael Gibbs: Your style is really unique. How would you describe it? And what do you think attracts art directors to you—they range from US News and World Report and Governing Magazine, to Newsweek and the Society of News Design’s Quarterly Journal.
Robert Meganck: I started out as a graphic designer who liked to draw, as apposed to an illustrator. When I am working on an assignment, I approach it more as a designed image rather then an illustration. Instead of relying heavily on photo reference, I use shapes to construct the image.
Michael Gibbs: How has your style evolved over the years? I recall there’s a story about your switch to digital that involves the use of your initials rather than your full name when signing your artwork.
Robert Meganck: I was very much opposed to the switch to digital when it started to become a reality. I love the tactile feeling of painting. I was asked to teach a class in digital drawing, to which I reluctantly agreed. If you really want to learn something, try teaching it to someone else. You’ll quickly be forced to learn what you thought you knew, and it may change your perspective. Which is kind of what happened.
As for signing my work, I have three brothers and three sisters. All of our names begin with the letter R. I am the second oldest, hence the R2. It’s a way of acknowledging that my family is very much a part of who I am.
Michael Gibbs: How and when did you get into teaching?
Robert Meganck: I loved college, it was the best time of my life … it’s where I met my wife. The best thing about being an educator is that it forces you to be an eternal student. I absolutely love what I do, and teaching lets me pass on this love.
Michael Gibbs: What do you think is the most important lesson you share with your students?
Robert Meganck: Find out who you are. Don’t build a career following someone else’s path. Cut your own way through the woods.
Michael Gibbs: What do you hope your legacy will be?
Robert Meganck: I’m not dead yet. I still expect that the best work is still to come. I hope I’ve made a positive impact on the lives of my students. I love what I do; I am just as excited to go to work today as I was back in 1967. If I can help someone else find that same joy, I will have made a difference. But if you are looking for a quote for when I’m gone, I think it should be, “It was fun while it lasted.”
Michael Gibbs: You have three kids. Are any of them artists?
Robert Meganck: No, but they’re all artistic, creative, and independent thinkers, and I think that they each will make an artistic mark in their own way.
Michael Gibbs: What’s on the horizon for Robert Meganck?
Robert Meganck: Last year I wrote, designed, and illustrated a book on creativity. I have three more books in draft stage, and I’m hoping to find the time to complete them.
Michael Gibbs: We can’t thank you enough for your time, Robert. We wish you all the best!
For more information about Robert Megack and his work, visit meganck.com.