Raised in Texas and now residing in San Francisco, architect, photographer and now author Megan Padalecki has created the unique world of “Big Mo.” Seeing the world through an architect’s lens, Megan created the world through designing and studying spaces. How size, scale, proportion all work in the world we live in is key to the book Big Mo, and studying those elements brought the book to life through creativity.
“Writing a children’s book always seemed like a noble pursuit to me – our earliest books tend to stay with us as we grow, in a way that undeniably shapes our outlook and creativity,” she said.
“To participate in that for a new generation of kids carries a certain permanence that really appeals to me.”
However she did not want to drop her architectural career together. Feeling as though that was impractical, she took a little bit of time and gained perspective on life to adopt a “now or never” approach, which inspired her to create Big Mo.
In the current political climate both in Australia and the Americas, climate change and world population is a heavily debated topic amongst policy makers and scientists. Educating children about the effects that humans have on the environment can seem like a complicated task, but Ms Padalecki has gone for something simple, yet creative.
“For me, Mo is a stand-in for humans’ global “mo”mentum. As our human footprint grows exponentially, so does our physical impact on the planet’s exhausted resources.”
“Mo wakes up to the fact that there is a limit to what he can take, so he learns to be content with less – with what he already has and loves (for an iguana, the simple warmth of a heat lamp).Hopefully a young reader warms to the ideas of responsibility and restraint,” she said.
“(Creativity) is all-consuming, and clearly fulfills a deep biological need.”
Coming from a creative family with an actor brother and her mum an English teacher, Ms Padalecki said she often reflects on her childhood when writing her stories.
“I reflect on my upbringing often, as I imagine every children’s author does – my own nostalgia and inner child fuel me to a large degree. It was a gift to grow up with a teacher mother, because she understood how to promote creative problem solving, while also being a stickler for proper grammar and spelling,” she said.
“I grew up around (a lot) of English projects that somehow made their way to our home, whether an illustrated poster of Beowulf, or a full scale papier-mâché unicorn bust (really, that happened). As a creative mind herself, my mother finds escape and inspiration in the minute details of the world around her, and I have certainly picked up this tendency with my own interest in crafting stories.”
Big Mo is the creation from Padalecki’s creative influences; channelling the world around her to create something for children to read that not only excites them, but also educates them. However she did not always want to write; in fact it was because of her many years in architecture that she realised there was something else calling her name.
“This is universal, but it seems we all grow up with certain interests and hobbies that we pore over as children, and then one day we go get “a real job”.After many years in architecture, I realised that this formula wasn’t really satisfying my deeper wavelengths,” she said.
“Creativity is therapeutic for me, and it connects me to my past and upbringing.I can get lost in a drawing or painting session for six or seven hours, without even leaving my seat.It is all-consuming, and clearly fulfills a deep biological need.”
Big Mo is just a small part of her life, as Ms Padalecki also works as an architect and photographer, travelling the world. Her practises and skills as an architect certainly influenced the style and creation of Big Mo, where lines and sketches feature. Her other style of work are drawings of life using ink.
“These are just simple line drawings, but there is something raw and truthful about them – they are quick and direct translations of reality to paper. In my earlier days, I would have been horrified to sketch something in pen without blocking it out in pencil first, but these drawings have become an ideal format for me.”
Creative people each have their own style when working with whatever medium they choose. Some painters sketch, others do not. Some photographers look in the viewfinder and can see the “perfect shot” straight away, where others look for something different. If a new photographer has previously developed skills in one area such as interior design, architecture or painting, then transitions to photography, it can seem as though they look through their own stylised lens.
For example, Ms Padalecki who has knowledge of architecture, looks for lines and symmetry in her photographs. These elements draw her in and she captures the shot. However if an interior designer looked through a lens, they might look for complimenting colours or the way light falls on certain objects and how trees are placed along a path to spark another photograph.
“If I were a journalist, I might look for the most compelling subject matter, but as an architect, I’m more drawn to spaces or material patterns and collisions.Likewise as a visual artist, composition is more critical to me than subject, so I rely on the standards: the Rule of Thirds, focal point, and deliberate lines (especially for buildings).I worked on Apple retail flagships for years, so I also have a knee-jerk interest in symmetry, in the way that Stanley Kubrick or Wes Anderson have immortalised in their films.”
“I take a lot of cues from my surroundings for colours, textures and forms, but also for culture and pace of life.Photos and videos on the Internet are great (and necessary) to start, but there is no substitute for seeing a place in person and imprinting a memory or mood of that place.It makes creativity easier in a way, to draw on images that seep into your brain while travelling.”
“I have ventured as far as the southern tip of South America, the Great Barrier Reef and the heart of central Africa, but even much closer destinations (the Pacific Ocean four miles from my home, for instance) are impactful on my creative palette,” she said.
In regards to her Big Mo story, Ms Padalecki said there may be another “Mo” book coming, but that she is more than happy to let this character’s story stand on its own
“Mo could easily carry another eco-friendly story, especially since he now has a solid base of kids who know him!However, it’s just as likely that “Big Mo” as an allegory of overconsumption, can stand on its own.
“I am actively storyboarding for Book #2 – this is technically the fun part, but it is also a huge challenge to incorporate all my goals for a meaningful and enchanting story.Still, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.