Artist Interview: Maddie and the Moon

Who is Maddie and the Moon?

My name is Madison Bright, and I am the artist and illustrator behind Maddie and the Moon Illustration. I’ve been a curious and habitual sketchbook keeper and journal writer from a young age, always thrilled when my parents would allow me to pick out a new journal or sketchbook from the bookstore. I loved making up stories or just retelling the day’s events and drawing pictures to accompany the writing. A pivotal moment on the journey to becoming an illustrator happened about halfway through high school when I was given a watercolor palette (this was the one) and some Pigma Micron pens. I had so much fun trying to emulate the feeling my favorite illustrators and animators achieved with delicate watery textures and bold, dark line work bringing their images to life (think Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films and Maurice Sendak’s children’s books). Besides creating imagery with watercolor and ink, I find writing is still an important part of my art practice and often incorporate my own into my pieces. I currently freelance and sell my illustrations as products online, at local makers markets and in brick +
mortar shops.

Who are your major artistic influences, and how do they impact your work?

I have a lot! Some modern influences of mine have been the illustrations and writing of Eleanor Davis (How To Be Happy), Yumi Sakugawa (There is No Right Way to Meditate) and Tove Jansson. Egon Schiele’s colorful and contorted portraits were an early inspiration, too. Also poetry and writing by Mary Oliver, John O’Donohue and Rumi. The YouTube channel of illustrator Fran Meneses was a great resource when I was figuring out how to start an illustration business and set up an online shop. More recently, I was blown away by the animated film ‘The Boy and the Heron’ (Studio Ghibli) which came out in December.

View of artist's table with art supplies, paints, and a vase of flowers.

How do you overcome creative blocks or challenges in your work? 

When up against a creative block, which happens more often than not, I find it very helpful to switch to another creative practice. Sewing, cooking or baking, anything where I can create something with my hands. If that doesn’t work, going for a long walk or a hike to clear my head and get moving also helps.

What themes or concepts do you find yourself constantly exploring in your art?

Recurring themes in my work include flora and fauna and earthy color palettes, inspired mainly by the natural landscapes and plants around North America and my home here in Wisconsin. Something else I’m continually exploring when I’m working with watercolor and ink is the movement I can achieve with different textures. Layering colors and mark making with tiny brushstrokes, dip pens (my favorite tool - they allow for size variation and lovely inconsistency when making lines with ink) or even splattering paint with a toothbrush are some ways I like to play with movement.

Can you highlight 1 artwork of yours represented at our gallery and stories behind it?

“We Are Rich, A Gratitude Poem” is a piece that is currently at Overt Space. This painting embodies my appreciation of nature, cooking, writing and what it means to be human. Going for a hike with my partner, sandals off, violets in our sun hats, sunburnt and heading home to cook up something delicious: it’s my idea of the perfect day. However, I painted this in my sketchbook after a moment of overwhelm in my final year of college, when I was feeling weighed down by life’s responsibilities and stressors. It was meant as a reminder to myself that, despite the heavier things, there are simple, joyful moments in each day, too, that deserve recognition.


Illustration of a figure and poem.

Do you believe art should serve a purpose beyond its visual appeal?

Visual art often transports me to a place of curiosity or awe. That in turn leads me to question my limited perspective and develop new ideas. Artwork has the power to inspire new ways of thinking and being in the world. I believe it’s a vital form of human communication and connection.

What are your short-term and long-term goals as an artist? 

Short term goal: I’ve recently discovered a passion for sewing and have been sewing my own clothes since last spring. I love the practicality of it. I also enjoy the juxtaposition of a more utilitarian object like a tote bag against the more whimsical, imaginative nature of illustration. I’m hoping to merge both my illustrations and sewing to create a new collection of pieces in the coming months.

Longer term goal: publish a book of original illustrated short stories!

Artist standing at vendor booth with her art.

What emotions or experiences do you hope viewers connect with when they experience your art? Is there a personal story or memory often embedded in your work?

The pieces I put out into the world usually begin as a way to remind myself to celebrate the slower, simpler moments of everyday life and not take things too seriously. To appreciate where I am presently, and not fret too much about unknown future circumstances that are outside of my control. I hope that those who view my work might be able to feel that coming across.

Do you have any rituals or routines that you follow before or during the creation of a new piece? How do you find inspiration in your daily life?

Before starting a new project, I find I need to clean the workspace around me (currently the dining table in the front room of our house) — to signify a blank slate and give breathing room for new ideas — and I make a big cup of tea. Inspiration comes more easily when I aim to forgo fear and tap into how I’m feeling in the moment (easier said than done). Moments of daily inspiration might come from taking a walk in the woods next to my house and focusing on the sounds, colors and textures, cooking a new recipe, playing a board game (current favorite: Wingspan - highly recommend!) or learning something new.

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