Opportunity for activism
Illustrator and graphic designer Melinda Hegedus uses her digital artwork to spread awareness whenever she can
Not only are Melinda Hegedus's illustrations eye catching and comical, but they are also fully engaged with activism on every level. With strong messages behind all her works, all eyes that look upon them will become immediately connected, allowing Melinda's lessons to take hold. We chat to the Hungarian born artist about how she got started, and why her work is so important.
Have you always been interested in art and digital illustration?
As most kids, I also loved to draw and paint. This kind of creative expression has always been my 'go-to' whenever I felt stressed or anxious. Although, I've always loved using traditional art materials such as watercolour and acrylics, there was a point in my life when I started traveling more and more, and I quickly had to realise that creating digitally was way more practical than having to carry around a bunch of art materials with me.
To create illustrations, I now use a software called Procreate on my tablet, which lets me to take my art studio with me wherever I go. Creating digitally also enables me to instantly share my work with clients which makes the whole process way easier and faster.
\"Wearing the vegan message to make your own body a billboard for the animals is such an awesome way to spread awareness wherever you go\"
When did you become vegan and why?
I grew up in Hungary, where eating meat is a huge part of the culture. Growing up, I never really questioned the moral behind meat consumption. It seemed completely normal to consume animals. However, in 2012, when I was 24 years old, something happened to me while I was having dinner with my family.
My mum made us a traditional Norwegian dish, called Fårikål, which is basically lamb meat cooked up with kale in a casserole. As I was sitting by the dinner table, munching on a piece of bone with some meat left on it, I looked down to my lap and I had an epiphany.
While I was looking at my own legs, I saw the skin covering them. I looked closer and thought about what is underneath my skin… My bones, my flesh and muscle tissue… Bones and meat… That was exactly what I was munching on.
This realisation made me feel terribly uneasy. I instantly started feeling like a cannibal, so I put down that piece of meat and from that point on, eating any kind of meat seemed unnatural and absurd to me.
I guess my brain had finally made the connection somehow. After this experience, I started educating myself about vegetarianism and then veganism. I realised that I do not want or need to consume animals to live a happy and healthy life.
When did you start combining art with veganism?
Right after I stopped eating animals, I knew I needed to find a way to advocate for veganism. I wanted to contribute - in my own way - to reduce the suffering on this planet. Some people create beautiful music, some are great at writing, while I love to draw, so it only made sense to me to start creating vegan themed art to raise awareness for the animals. I like to call it vegan artivism, a term combining 'art' and 'activism'.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My drawings are mostly cartoons, and their style is similar to that of pop art. I use strong outlines and bold colours to get my message across. I always try to incorporate some humour (well, mostly sarcasm and irony) to distract the viewer from the seriousness and gloominess of the topic.
The animals on my illustrations are usually displayed in an anthropomorphic style. This basically means that I draw the animals in human forms, I give them human bodies. I do this for two reasons.
Firstly, because I find it fun to draw this way and secondly, because I hope that this will help the viewer relate more easily to the animals. I would like to make it clear that despite anatomical differences, animals are very similar to us humans.
We all fear pain and death, and we all try to avoid suffering. We are all sentient beings living together on this planet.
What do you aim to do with your illustrations?
One of the many human privileges is that we are capable of conscious thinking, and so it is our responsibility to understand the importance and the consequences of the choices we make each and every day.
I do not yet understand what exactly happened to my brain in 2012 that made me 'make the connection', but I hope that my illustrations will act as a catalyst for other humans, so that we can all wake up and finally stop eating animals. I hope to contribute, if even just a little, to the end of speciesism.
How useful is art in spreading awareness of animal welfare and other world issues?
Art can be a great tool to raise awareness and it can be used in many different ways. These days, when smartphones are basically glued to our hands, social media activism is one of the best ways to share the vegan message.
I share my illustrations on Instagram and Facebook, and I encourage my followers to re-share the content so that more and more people can see it. During the years, I have also learned that as a designer I need to stay open to different possibilities so that I can transform them into opportunities to spread the vegan message.
For example, after I have been designing for a Dutch pizza franchise for a year, the company completely transformed their selection, and introduced more than 10 vegan items on their menu. I am very proud of this achievement and it made me realise that basically anything can be turned into an opportunity to raise awareness.
I also feel very lucky because my background in graphic and web design helped me launch a T-shirt company, so now I am finally able to have my illustrations printed on different products. Wearing the vegan message to make your own body a billboard for the animals is such an awesome way to spread awareness wherever you go.