Creative Contributors: Meenal Patel

artist Meenal Patel

In this blog series, we highlight the creative minds and collaborators behind each Bravery issue. This week we are featuring Meenal Patel, the artist who created Dr. Maya Angelou’s feature biography illustrations in issue 10 of Bravery. You can check out her site here. Images in this feature by Sarah Deragon.

A little about Meenal:

Meenal Patel is an artist, illustrator, and writer who hopes to bring joy, connection, and color to people through her art. She believes that seeing yourself in art and books has the power to make people feel seen, connected, and more confident. And that it’s also critical for people to see experiences that are different from their own to build empathy and a wider worldview. She loves reading to her nieces, collecting plant inspiration, baking birthday cakes, and hiking with her dog, Dosa.

What got you interested in art? How did you get started?
I loved making all kinds of art as a kid – drawing bunny homes, latch hook butterflies, little clay animals. In high school a teacher introduced me to graphic design and that’s what I ended up going to college for. After that, I worked at a design and branding agency for about 10 years. During that time I continued with my love of making art with clay and also wrote and illustrated a children’s book that I self-published. My time at that job taught me how to work with clients, develop my aesthetic, and push myself creatively. I left that job about three years ago to focus more on my art and illustration.
Meenal Patel
What is your favorite medium to create in?
I work both digitally and with traditional mediums (mostly acryla gouache, colored pencil, graphite pencil) and honestly, I love both! I tend to work more digitally because to me it’s more flexible for client projects. But switching it up is really important for me to grow artistically and to switch up the position that my hand is in. I also love the tactile feel of mixing paint and putting it on paper.

What is one of your favorite projects that you've done?
I wrote and illustrated a children’s books called Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala. It was a long, hard, vulnerable process to make that book but it turned out to be a really honest reflection of what I love to make and how I want to connect with people through my art.

And as you know, I always love my Bravery projects! I connect so deeply with what you all are doing and it brings me so much joy to partner with you.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I get to connect with people through the art that I make.
Meenal Patel art
What's something hard about what you do?
Making art that connects with the deepest part of who you are and then sharing it publicly can be really vulnerable. But I’ve found that those tend to be the pieces that people connect with the most so it’s worth it. Also, all the legal contract stuff – phew! That’s a doozy.

What is your dream project or collaboration?
I have a lot of dreams! I’d love to make print patterns for a company that is producing sustainably made clothing. I’d also love to illustrate a children’s book around food or a cookbook. I love how cooking and sharing a meal connects people.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A butterfly. I made a book about it when I was 4 years old.

Maya Angelou Magazine for kids

Talk us through your process for creating the story art for the Maya Angelou issue.
To supplement the information that you all sent, I did my own research. I loved the process of diving deeper into Dr. Angelou’s work and life. I pulled visual references of her so that I could try to capture her likeness and style. I also looked at historic photos that would help me capture the time and place for each illustration since they needed to span across her lifetime.

Next I jotted down the words and feelings I wanted to capture, idea notes, and a whole bunch of tiny, rough pencil sketches. Then I picked out the sketches I wanted to move forward with and made refined sketches. After I got approval on the sketches for you all, I moved on to work out the color, which was based on this issue’s palette of bold jewel tones. And then on to making the finals!

This is part of an ongoing series on our blog called "Creative Contributors." We love working with all different types of creatives and are excited to highlight a variety of work and creative processes. Click here to read other features in this series.