A Conversation with Mekel

Mekel Studio Front

If you love fashion, art and girls, you’re sure to love the work of Perth illustrator Kelly Coates, otherwise known as Mekel. A rising star on the Australian arts and fashion scene, Mekel’s trademark sketches and watercolours can be seen across magazines like Scoop, Sheila, Cosmopolitan and the Renegade Collective. She’s also been featured in the Perth Fashion Festival, Urban Couture Wanderlust Festival and is the illustrator behind the Betts For Her campaign.

It seems I’m not the only one who can’t stop poring over Mekel’s pretty, feminine artwork – she currently has almost 4000 followers on her Instagram page and has recently opened a brand new studio and shop at the Bayview Centre in Claremont. It’s a gorgeous little space where you can purchase art prints and paintings, and also talk to the artist herself. For those of you who don’t live in Perth, be sure to check her work out on Instagram or at her official site/online shop – you won’t regret it!

It’s always exciting and inspiring to see a fellow Perth creative shine bright and Mekel was kind enough to take time out to answer a few nosy questions about her journey and creative process as an illustrator. I’m sure you’re as eager as I am to find out the answers so I’ll stop right now and let Mekel begin.

Mekel Studio 1

Tell us about your journey to becoming a full-time illustrator.

I always loved to draw, but I studied and started my career as a graphic designer which allowed me to involve illustration in my work. Since last year I’ve since been able to concentrate purely on illustration.

Describe one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career.

The biggest challenge was probably to leave the ‘steady’ full time job and jump straight in to be an artist. It was the scariest decision but best decision I’ve made.

 What do you enjoy most about your job?

I just love to draw, and working for myself gives me the freedom to do that.

 What is it like being an illustrator in Western Australia? What do you think the market is like for illustrator jobs here?

I think I’m one of the lucky ones that is able to do this full time. There’s not a lot of work out there so it’s quite challenging like most creative industries in Perth.

Mekel Collage 1

What’s an average day like for you?

Most days I wake up, crawl out of bed and try to exercise unless I get distracted by emails, marketing (or Instagram), and then head to the studio to do some ‘real’ work. I find I function best on a bit of routine so I try keep to it. I also drink copious amount of tea. I try to shut off from work by the time I’m home again but generally I work til late at night as I love it.

What advice do you have for someone looking to become an illustrator?

Put your work out there and keep practicing. You never know who might see and you’ll find that your skills will improve.

What are some of your favourite tools for illustrating?

Im a bit of gadget girl and I love my drawing tablet, but you can’t beat an old fashioned pencil and paper.

Mekel Collage 2

What/who are some of your inspirations?

My favourite illustrators are Esra Roise and Conrat Roset, they inspire me everyday to keep doing what I love.

What’s next for the future?

At the moment my workload is so busy I just concentrate on getting through the month, delivering high quality work. Who knows! So much has happened in the last 6 months I can’t even imagine how it could get even better, I’m already pinching myself 🙂

Artwork images courtesy of Mekel


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