Mega McGrath’s impressive calligraphy skills and cool street style shine through her work, using rap lyrics and non-typical inspirational quotes to reimagine empty spaces into full-blown visionary murals. The Vancouver based artist has worked with Nike, Red Bull Music, Hypebeast Inc., Dripped Coffee in New York, and Lagree West Pilates Studio and West Coast Poke in Vancouver. Also, from 2017-2019, McGrath collaborated with creative director Lauren Coutts to create ‘The Rap Calendar.’ The self-directed, self-published art project replaced traditional holidays with notable anniversaries and holidays in rap music culture and featured creatively illustrated rap lyrics.
This year, McGrath helped redesign the bathrooms and the walls in The Diamond in Gastown—bringing a romantic and whimsical atmosphere with large scale patterns, florals, and a dreamy colour palette. The Pressure Is Good For You welcomes visitors in its 40 ft. entrance staircase.
Another piece McGrath created recently was for Edmonton’s Mural Festival, In Any Lifetime, picked from Kanye West’s quote to Kim Kardashian when they were getting married.
“He was like ‘I love you and North so much, I'd find you in any lifetime’ and I thought that was so beautiful. I want to make that as an ode to all the people that are in my life because I think that I would find them in any lifetime. It's kind of poetic enough that you can interpret it how you want to,” says McGrath.
She sat down with me to talk about her background, her work—what she describes as a ‘hidden art’—and why she’s proud to say she’s a female artist.
How did you get into your industry?
I think it's something that's always been ingrained in me. I think like everyone's inclined to do certain things and for me, I was always drawing. In high school, I was always more inclined towards art. Freelancing kind of naturally came to me and I started a street art project that was called Street Script. I'd run around and paste-up all these rap lyrics and people would interact with them and take photos but they didn't know who [drew them]. Most people thought I was a boy because I didn't put my name or anything like that. I had commercial clients start reaching out to me and that put me where I am now.
How did your writing style come naturally?
It came out of me. It just developed over time because as a kid I would always draw words. I developed a certain hand, a certain style of writing. I also studied typography in New York, at Cooper Union for two months and that helped refine my style. I try to do different fonts but I just can't do it. It doesn't feel natural to try anything else. Some artists just have their hand and that's my touch.
Do you have to seek out your inspiration or does that come naturally as well?
It's a bit of both. I like the quotes that give you this gut feeling like a punch. Sometimes I'll hear something, and my ears would perk up or I'll get chills on my body. I'll think that was meaningful and it really resonated with me. Those are the quotes that I like to do because when it resonates with me, I know it's going to resonate with someone else. When you make it, if you try to sound cool, it never works. People can see right through that. It only works when something feels genuine to you.
The quotes that you use are unique compared to the commonplace inspirational quotes.
[They're] so transparent. I always try to make my work have multiple meanings. For me, my work has become a lot more poetic and I still do rap lyrics, but I try to pick things that are like how do you say the most with saying the least. I shorten the words so that they're more poetic and more up for interpretation. Sometimes the most obvious thing isn't the most interesting.
You’re proud to say you're not just an artist, you're a female artist. Can you tell me more about that?
For a long time, I didn't want to be a female artist because of the whole street art thing I did. It was kind of androgynous and I liked that. It wasn't until I had a show that people knew who I was. It was kind of nice to hide behind but at the same time you should own who you are and I think being a female is such a powerful thing.
Especially nowadays, because it's something that we're stepping into as whole humanity of consciousness—we're stepping into the feminine energy. Being able to embody that and being represented on the world stage, females are typically underrepresented. People are looking to empower females, so it's a good thing [to say] we're artists.
It's a good thing for anyone because when you do that, you're giving someone who is technically of a minority a chance. Also, females should be respected—we can offer so much, we're awesome, and we're so intuitive and smart. I think once we're given the chance to show these things about us, it's great. I love to empower other women too. It's nice to be able to look at someone and say, oh they did that, that means I can do it too. That's really powerful.
You mention you pick quotes that you want other people to resonate with as well, but when people look at your art initially, how do you want them to feel?
That's the thing—I don't know what it's going to say or what the colours are going to be, I just know how I want it to feel. I think that's very dependent on the space. I usually want the person viewing it to feel overwhelmed and feel a sense of wonderment. I want them to have a sense of wow. I think the detail does that. I think the ornateness does that. If something takes a long time, done with detail and care, then it will automatically translate into something that someone doesn't necessarily understand what they feel. I don't like to do quick things, what I'm interested in is bringing other illustrative elements and intertwining them to bring that sense of wonderment and inspiration into each piece.