What fun it was to catch up this week with UNT alumna Megan Lockhart Motown (UNT ’10, B.F.A., Studio Art: Printmaking — with honors) to hear about an award she received for 23.5 billion views of her art.
Yes, billion. Pictured here in 2010 with then-Dean Robert Milnes, Megan now lives in L.A., chills at the beach and works as a professional illustrator and animator.
According to Social Media Week "2019 was a wild year" for GIFs and Megan earned the GIPHY's Top Viewed Artist of 2019 award!
A little about GIPHY: When GIPHY wanted to elevate the humble GIF from meme-factory punchlines into… well, works of art, the GIF search-engine startup with fewer than 100 employees unveiled the GIPHY Film Fest to celebrate “micro-film” creators, offering one grand-prize winner a $10,000 cash prize as well as a five-year website-hosting subscription. The notion of GIFs as storytelling vehicles extends to GIPHY’s advertising strategy, which it launched in June 2018. The company’s in-house creative agency consults with brands to create GIF-based ads that are emotive and tell a story. Founded in 2013, GIPHY has raised $151 million and until 2018 was in “pre-revenue” mode.
And, btw, GIF is pronounced with a hard G not a J, Megan said.
Is that your real last name?
"It is! I got married in 2018 to my husband Bob Motown, who is also an illustrator. It’s pretty cool, right?"
Why did you start making GIFs?
"The first GIF I made was a valentine’s card for Bob in 2016. I uploaded it to GIPHY so I could surprise him with it in a text the next morning, and kinda forgot about it. When I logged back into my account a few months later, it’d had gone viral on Tinder and had more than 10 million views! (and they say people only go on Tinder for hook-ups...) It’s still one of my most popular GIFs with 617 million views."What do you recall about getting into art at UNT?
"I started at UNT as a Comm Design major, but transitioned to a printmaking degree after taking a screen printing class from the legendary Adam Palmer that totally changed the way I thought about making art. Lari Gibbons and Andy DeCaen always pushed me to make cohesive portfolios of work, which I still appreciate and think about now. After graduation, I ran a t-shirt and poster printing shop in L.A. for three years before moving into primarily digital illustration. It’s nice not to have to wait for anything to dry. Although, my printmaking background 100% affects the way I choose my limited color palettes and imagery."
What else do you like to do?
"Any time I can get a day off, I love to go to the beach with a sketchbook or a bottle of wine or both. Usually both. I love anything from Stolpman vineyards in Los Olivos [Calif.]. My husband and I are members and they can do no wrong. My favorite beach is Paradise Cove in Malibu. It’s calm and sandy on the bottom and it’s private so you can legally drink wine on the beach and don’t have to be sneaky."
What inspires your GIF-making?
"I love using GIF stickers as a main part of my digital communication... on Instagram stories, in messaging, you name it, so I’m always creating GIFs I want to use. If I try to find a GIF and it doesn’t exist yet, I add it to the list. I love taking requests from friends and followers, too. I have this shared note in my phone where friends of mine add things they want to use. It’s a lifestyle." Editor's Note: Special thanks to Megan for responding to our request for two GIFs for us — Lucky the squirrel and #UNTCVAD!
Have you received jobs or other opportunities from your prolific GIF-making?
"Yes! It’s the wildest thing to have found myself here career-wise. I have done quite a few GIF packs for brands and I am always looking for ways to push the medium and get people as excited about it as I am. My favorite GIFs I’ve had commissioned are the packs I’ve made for GIPHY directly. They encourage me to make curated sets that I want to make in my own style. Working for brands can be fun and rewarding in other ways, but when you’re talking about making someone’s logo move versus making a hot dog dance... you tell me which sounds more fun.
"GIPHY has an impressive collection of featured GIF artists. When you find a gif on Instagram stories, it’s hard to find any more info, but if you search on GIPHY’s website or app, you can find all the details of who the artist is and links to their social media, website, etc. I like to go on their GIPHY Artists Page to find new GIFs to use and for inspiration."
What is your process for making a GIF? What software do you use?
"I hand draw all my GIFs on a Wacom tablet and piece the frames together in Photoshop mostly. Depending on the look I’m going for, I might pull it into After Effects or Illustrator to get some 3D touches, but mainly it’s all done by hand in Photoshop. I’ve been teaching myself Adobe Animate, which is great for making characters or more frame-heavy animations. I’m always looking for new ways to push it. I’m also in the process of making some AR filters for Instagram, so keep an eye out for those!"
Then-Dean Robert Milnes, Megan, 2010
GIPHY Top Viewed Artist of 2019 Award
I Feel Seen, Top Artist of 2019 Award GIF
What is your most popular gif?
"My most popular GIF is this "I LOVE YOU" sticker by a long shot. It’s also one of my first five GIFs. It comes up first when you search “I love you,” so I see it all the time on people’s IG stories. Friends are always sending me screen shots of folks I don’t know in other countries using it and that makes me so happy. It’s funny, too, because a lot of my gifs are kinda sarcastic or cheeky, like I have 12 different ways to say “no,” but the GIFs that are by far the most popular are the most lovey. I think it’s cute and surprising. This "I LOVE YOU" sticker has 2.28 billion views!"
Have you ever spotted a celebrity using your GIFs?
"It’s the coolest thing to be scrolling through Instagram and see someone use a GIF I’ve made. I have friends who use mine intentionally, but most of the time it’s totally random. There are so many gifs to choose from, so it’s really special when someone picks one of mine. Khloe Kardashian used one of my GIFs a few months ago on a photo of Kris Jenner and I just about lost it. There’s no way she’s reading her DMs, so I just saved it in my highlights instead, but that was pretty amazing. Aside from celebs, my favorite people that I see using my gifs are other artists. I find so much inspiration on IG from other creatives’ work that it feels really great to see them enjoying mine as well in an organic way."
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to get their foot in the GIF door?
"Make GIFs! I don’t have any big secrets. People reach out to me a lot and ask “Hey, how do I get my GIPHY page verified?” and I always tell them, make the GIFs you want to use, make them for yourself first and they’re bound to resonate with someone. It’s been all organic growth for me and my page just hit 23.5 billion views! It’s insane.
"I’m passionate about GIFs as a communication tool and I truly think GIPHY has curated one of the only places on the internet that still feels like the internet. It’s weird and silly and fun for the sake of it and I love that so much. I do have a CPA who helps me to manage my freelance business (and I highly recommend anyone wanting to freelance do the same). I had over 20 W-2s and 1099s last year, so it’s a real peace of mind to know he’s handling it.
"I’m always posting helpful gif tips and tricks on my Instagram. You can follow along with me there."