Meggyn Pomerleau is the artist behind some of the most popular adult coloring books. Titles include The Beard Coloring Book, and our favorite, The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book — which demystifies and celebrates women’s bodies while simultaneously critiquing patriarchal institutions. The feminist coloring book combines vulvas with traditionally masculine imagery, in order to break down the false binaries between male and female. Meggyn also does other artwork, like hand lettering, writing, and photography. She currently resides in Portland with her dog, Padme Creampuff.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Meggyn about what life as a graphic designer is all about, and what it’s really like to draw vulvas all day!
Could you share a little about who you are and what you do?
I’m a graphic designer with a focus on illustration and hand lettering. Most of my work is in print design and all of my current projects fall in line with my feminist values. When I’m not freelancing, I’m writing and photographing for my online publication, Found. It’s my involvement in the music scene, since I’m not a musician, and I absolutely love that I can contribute.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I make my own schedule since I freelance, so no day is typical for me. Sometimes, I have 15 hour work days where my best ideas come from sleep deprivation. Sometimes, I ramp my creativity back up with a bike ride and revisit projects at the end of the day. I love the freedom of being a designer, and encourage any professional creative to make the push for freelancing full time.
What challenges have you faced balancing your creative passion with the demands of “real life”?
My work is my life, so that definitely comes before any personal demands — and I’m okay with that! Deadlines for illustrating books are demanding and I’ve been known to hide until they’re complete. I’m thankful for my friends being understanding and compassionate about all of that. I’m also a single woman with a dog, and I live a pretty minimal life.
How does pop culture influence your work?
Pop culture directly influences which subjects I draw. I think it eliminates the barrier between illustrator and observer, and it creates a connection.
I had to research quite a bit for The Post Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book, since the illustrations had to be relatable and attract the youth of today. Gender roles have taken on so many faces in pop culture the last few years, so it was challenging exploring ideas for that.
My pop culture research is littered throughout past projects, The Beard Coloring Book and Manspressions. I think it’s helpful to know what’s going on in that world, since it influences social behavior so much around us. It also gave my work a more comical tone.
We love the cheeky, patriarchal-smashing approach of The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book. Where did your inspiration for the illustrations come from?
When I was first approached with the project, I had no idea where it would lead me. I wasn’t even sure what my own vulva looked like. On the first day of drawing, I sat down with a mirror and drew mine. That evolved to Googling photos of vulvas, and I was really startled. Seeing other people’s genitals in a very close capacity was soon normalized, and I was able to discard any weirdness I previously felt.
Once I was 100% comfortable, my ideas on how I could insert vulvas into unpredictable and male-driven settings came easier. Centering it all around post-structuralism was helpful in that I had some sort of theme. There were so many routes I could have taken it.
Whenever I discussed the project with people, they mostly assumed I was drawing porn. I think that’s a normal reaction since most of the vulva coloring books out there are sexualized. I set out to make mine not sexual at all. There’s nothing being inserted into any of these, and that was really important to me.
How do you hope it will deconstruct the ideas around gender and female genitalia, in particular?
I think my immediate reaction to this project was typical — feeling a little weird about seeing vulvas close up. I want that to be completely eliminated. Vulvas are a symbol of strength and life, and they’re so beautiful and complex. I truly want that to be recognized globally.
Although it’s easy to say vulvas should replace dicks as symbols of power throughout, I think eliminating any genitalia symbolism would be helpful to our culture.
What advice do you have for readers who may be interested in pursuing a career in graphic design or illustration?
Graphic design isn’t about how well you can draw. It’s about how well you can communicate ideas visually. Find your specialization, check your ego, and be as kind as you are passionate.
Do you have any upcoming projects we can look forward to?
I’m working on an illustrated book with an author on how to not be a dick — not genital related. That’s going to be done at the end of September, and it may turn into a series. As soon as that’s finished, I’m going to hole myself away for The Bush Book, an art book I started this year and want to finish by next year.