Meaghan Claire Kehoe is a Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo based painter, muralist and live painter. She is always busy with murals for office spaces, and commercial spaces with Starbucks ranking as her top client. She recently won the regional title of 2016 Toronto Champion for Art Battle Canada and has been taking projects live-painting for weddings and events. She successfully showed at The Artist Project 2016 and is proud to have been invited to showcase in the August 2016 Toronto RAW show.
1. How did you get to where you are right now as an artist?
Getting to where I am has been a labyrinth of twists and turns. Every turn led to a new challenge or opportunity and each experience shaped how I would fight for what I realized I always wanted but thought I could never accomplish. Being a full-time artist and muralist was not an easy path to find and still isn’t a walk in the park. Fortunately for me, I’ve tried the safe route. I went to university for French and thought of teaching or translating. I’ve been on that other side of reality where the “normal” people dwell and while I loved the challenge of learning a language and discovering a culture, I was tormented by the feeling that I was wasting a perfectly good gift. Once I graduated and fully made the decision to switch back to art, I had to immerse myself in it, say yes to all opportunities for learning and exposure and only take supplemental part-time jobs that were flexible enough for me to be able to focus on painting and networking in my off time. It is a lot of self-discipline and I am learning how to do it better every day.
2. Do you think it is important to have a formal education in order to be an artist?
Important- yes. Necessary- I hope not. I sometimes wonder what I could have done with a formal post-secondary art education. The classes are one thing, but the connections and networking are a whole other arsenal of tools in your pocket that I don’t think most students know how to properly take advantage of. That being said, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I studied my ass off and got to use the product of all those dedicated years to go out into the world and connect with a whole other beautiful culture. I look back on my exchange in France as a real turning point that enlightened me on such a deep level that I finally realized without a doubt that I had to fight for my artistic passions.
3. Describe a typical day for you.
I actually have no typical day. It is part of what I love about being my own boss. The hours I end up working are all over the place and usually don’t feel like work anyway. I’m not one of those artists who can force themselves to live, breathe and think art 24/7, however. I am most productive when I balance out my life with new and fun physical and fitness challenges, socializing and events, good books, sleep, coffee, and lots of family time. Most of my days involve two of the previously listed with either some painting or branding/marketing and social media outreach. I try to always have a new project ahead to set my sights on and work towards like a show or a mural. Otherwise, without a routine, it can be really difficult to keep motivated. All this helps me to continually keep growing and evolving my trade.
4. Who or what inspires you?
I would say I am most inspired by other artists. From my professional Instagram account, I try to only follow other artists- as many as I can- and often start the day by scrolling through new posts. Seeing other artists’ incredible creativity drives me to push myself out of my comfort zone and hone my skills. The best is when on the rare occasion, I surprise myself by creating a piece that I am inspired by. Often this leads to the beginning of a new series and exploration of technique, texture, and subject.
5. How do you get clients?
To be honest, up to this point, clients have materialized from the most random of connections. A friend’s friend’s boyfriend is a dealership owner and wants a car graffitied for promo; my sister’s friend’s boyfriend is an interior designer for Starbucks and wants me to start muraling their cafes; my dad’s buddy is an editor for the Salvation Army magazine and wants the cover of the Christmas issue to be an illustration by me. I have had so many commissions of such varying styles, media, and clients. It hasn’t been until recently that I have begun to be scouted by clients due to the exposure I have been getting through shows like the Artist Project and through the cult following for Art Battle for which I started painting this year and won the Toronto Champion title. I’ve learned the more I push my work into the world, the more the world wants more of it. It feels egotistical sometimes, but the results are positive.
6. What has been the highlight of your career as an artist so far?
It’s funny because I feel like every new challenge I face and conquer becomes the new highlight of my career. And then once I am faced with a new feat, everything else is old news and counts for nothing. It really helps that I have my family who can remind me of my accomplishments from time to time so that I can actually enjoy the milestones. That being said, winning the Toronto regional Art Battle competition was a huge rush and I think I’m still feeling the warmth of my family, friends, and followers who came out to the event to support me and the excitement of how loud they cheered for me. Painting can be such a solitary activity, but Art Battle really helps me appreciate the moment by surrounding me with art lovers and positive reinforcement.
7. Have you had any career disappointments as an artist? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Yes! All the time! I have been getting art and illustration commissions since I was 16. Sometimes, someone gets all excited about your work and wants a project from you, but when it comes down to the wire, things fall through. It happens all the time. I’ve learned not to depend financially on one client or another and not to count my chickens until they’ve hatched. I wait to get truly excited about a project until the deposit is in and/or things are underway officially. It takes tough skin, but after a lot of heartbreak early on, it is the best way to do it.
8. What is your dream art project?
My dream art project is to do a large scale outdoor mural conceptualized 100% by me OR as a collaboration with another awesome artist. I want my art to be public. I want to be able to draw a smile or evoke a reaction from passersby who weren’t expecting to be touched by art that day. I decided a couple years ago that that was what I wanted to do and things have been slowly coming together for me. I started doing murals for Starbucks cafes all over the city, then businesses start hiring me to design and create wall art for their offices, then commercial spaces start asking me to mural their store walls. I know I’m headed in the right direction so I just keep on keeping on.
9. Do you have any advice for any emerging or aspiring artists?
I think all my advice for other emerging artists is peppered throughout the other answers in this interview. Everything I know is from what I have learned through experience. All we can do is appreciate each others’ stories and cherry-pick what works for us. The one quality I think I can share that would help most artists is to just be shameless. Put yourself out there without apology. Not everyone will love what you do, but if you love it, chances are you’ll find a group of people who do too.
10. What's next for you?
Coming up in the next month, I will be showcasing at the RAW event in Toronto which encompasses all arts and boasts a phenomenal fashion show (click the link to buy a ticket and support Meaghan); I will be a juror in the Scarborough Arts Counsel Art Battle; and I will be starting a huge mural for a juice bar in Toronto that will cover two walls, some ceiling and floor, and involve splashy colours and spray-paint. I’m the most excited for this last one as it is the closest I have come to my dream project. With any luck, this one will lead to something bigger and something bigger after that. I’ll be keeping all my social media followers and art collectors updated on the process through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Interview by Glodeane Brown
All photos provided by the artist