This week Jennifer Rebbetoy, assistant to the executive producer at SMF, caught up with our main girl, Meghan Hildebrand. Each year Hildebrand creates artwork that sets the tone for the new look reflected on the ticket, logo, website, posters, stickers, banners and merchandise. It’s like hitting re-fresh on our wardrobe and Hildebrand is the BFF (I know you better than you know yourself) kind of stylist. Here we discuss art with rainbows vs. no rainbows, her band The Abbie Hoffman Society and of course some favourite memories of Shambhala. Enjoy!
Jennifer Rebbetoy: Where are you from? Where do you reside now?
Meghan Hildebrand: I was born and raised in Whitehorse Yukon. I went to Nelson to attend Kootenay School of the Arts in 1997. I met Tony there, and after we got married we decided to make a fresh start on the coast, in Powell River.
JR: How do you describe your art?
MH: My paintings, since art school, have always been preoccupied with the landscape and our effect on it. Although I like to work through different styles, the landscape always seems to emerge. I work intuitively, rarely starting with a plan, I start with a colour or two and it unfolds from there, in that way my works could be described as colour studies. I have called my recent works “story-maps of the imagination” – to me they resemble either/both islands or a human mind in action. I enjoy art that makes my imagination work, that asks questions, and that’s what I try to do in my paintings.
JR: How many years have you been commissioned by SMF?
MH: We’re working on our 13th year!
JR: How did you first start working for SMF?
MH: I was simply approached the family to do the flyer for Shambhala 2001.
JR: Were you a regular attendee before you became the in house visionary artist?
MH: I was on the party scene, although more interested in live bands than the electronic scene at the time.
JR: How did the family recognize your art? Do you recall a specific moment?
MH: I was a high profile art student, throwing parties and exhibiting all over the place. The only specific thing I remember about that first conversation was that it was up to me what it looked like, as long as there were NO RAINBOWS. There have still been NO RAINBOWS. I think the previous year’s artwork had a rainbow on it and it rained.
JR: How do you find inspiration to create something fresh for the festival each year? Is it about looking back and drawing on memories or is it more about looking forward, towards the beautiful possibilities of next year?
MH: The biggest challenge of this job is to think of a fresh approach each year, it’s a great exercise that I can really appreciate. It is mostly about drawing on my memories and watching the people at the party. There is such a broad cross-section of humanity that attends the festival, I like to keep the look more about the place and the feeling rather than styles from year to year or individual stories. This year, for instance, my working concept are the two worlds of Shambhala – the daytime Shambhala of sunshine, beaches and trees, and the nighttime Shambhala of shadows, beats and light.
JR: I understand each year’s logo starts with a painting. Can you describe the process, for you, to get the image from the painting, to stickers, merchandise and all of its other manifestations?
MH: This year I realized the day/night idea while trying to work out concepts for the ticket. I knew I wanted the 3-D effect of looking into the forest. The ticket is always the first thing, often before we even have a logo. It’s a double challenge to think of a new look and think of it in terms of a holographic image. I took that ticket design to the painting studio and had a blast with it – returning to something I used to love doing – a painting that is reversible, upside-down or right-side-up. It is either daytime reflecting night in the river, or the other way.
MH: Now that I have the painting and the logo finished, I have the foundation for everything else. Smooth sailing from here.
JR: Do you consider your art connected to a type of music? Do you listen to music when you paint/create art?
MH: Yes, I always listen to music in the studio. My interest range is very broad but mostly I like punk rock or anything vaguely danceable. Having music playing helps me move all my thinking aside so the painting can come out. In the last few years I have started making music myself, in an all-lady punk band, The Abbie Hoffman Society. I see some parallels between painting/playing. The value of spontaneity and originality, and like in art, I like a bit of mystery – what are they talking about??
JR: Can you describe some of your favourite moments or aspects of the festival?
MH: I am a day tripper. I love to get up early, with the fog, and watch the dancers return to their camps. I love dancing in the heat of the day with my friends. I love the camping aspect, getting ready together to go ‘out’. I’ve had some bizarre and wonderful dreams to the night soundscape. I love the time spent with all the staff and volunteers leading up to the event, I’ve had some of the best laughs of my life backstage at the Rock Pit. Er, AMPhitheatre. It’s a great place to make friends.
JR: Your work has also found its way onto buildings at the festival as murals. Whose idea was that?
MH: I can’t remember whose idea that was. But it is so much fun to have a creative outlet while partying with my friends, in fact it’s the best thing I can think of.
JR: Will you be at the festival painting or celebrating this year?
MH: YES to both.
JR: Your art has a strong association with the festival, for me. Outside the context of SMF, where else can folks view your work?
MH: SMF is one of the few graphic design jobs that I’ve agreed to. I have dedicated my time to creating original paintings. My paintings can be seen in Winnipeg and Toronto at Mayberry Fine Art, in Calgary at Masters Gallery, in Edmonton at Bugera Matheson Gallery, and in Victoria at Madrona Gallery. My work is also in Nelson at Bellaflora, and it’s available for lease-to-own (take it home right away and pay monthly for up to 36 months). Or here in Powell River, at my studio or Dancing Tree Gallery. From November 29 to February 16, I have an exhibition called “Restless Fables” at Touchstones Nelson