Passion to Product
Illustrator Maxine McCrann captures the whimsical with her art, turning it from a passion to a profession.
- Words By: Liam Boylan-Pett
- Images By: Maxine McCrann
Like so many, Maxine McCrann seems to have had two lives — before the pandemic and after. Before, she ran a bustling floral design business and flower farm with one of her best friends in Detroit, Michigan. As the world paused, so did their business and Maxine found herself with the time—and energy—to redirect her creative output.
As an artist and illustrator for as long as she can remember, Maxine started to fill her days with drawing. Illustrating personal projects and ideas, honing her skill and enjoying the craft. The more she shared, the more quickly word spread and, soon, friends (and friends of friends) were asking her to contribute to all sorts of things they were working on. “It kind of snowballed from there,” Maxine says. As illustration took on a life of its own, she organically built a roster of clients, collaborating with brands all over the country.
When we saw Maxine’s work, we knew we wanted to ask her to interpret our eyewear, reimagining them as illustrations. See the 14 illustrations inspired by our Spring ’22 Collection here.
Today, Maxine still has a heart for floral design—her friend runs the business and farm—but she spends her time illustrating, exploring fanciful design paired with moments of whimsy. Below, we got the chance to sit down and discuss art, beauty, and everything in-between with Maxine.
Article One: How did you take the time during the pandemic to rediscover your love of drawing?
Maxine McCrann: I've always been, I guess, artistically inclined. I'm always kind of making things and trying things. I think, as hard as the pandemic was, and especially for Detroit and Michigan, one positive thing for me was just being able to have the time to foster hobbies I really enjoyed. Not having to rush around in the same way we used to, but being able to take a step back and [dive into] things I've been doing my whole life —— just being creative. Being in Detroit helped that. I grew up in New York City, so I never really had space. The house I lived in during the pandemic was big enough to where I could make a big mess in one room and kind of close it. [Having] that extra space made it so I could play around with my art and that was really fun.
"I've always been, I guess, artistically inclined. I'm always kind of making things and trying things."
Article One: Your art has a lively quality to it. How have you gone about growing and defining your style, especially when you’re given assignments by clients?
MM: One of my biggest struggles is that I want to people please and I just want to make them happy. So, sometimes, people will have an assignment that I think is sort of out of my wheelhouse and, I'm like, “Well, I love the idea, but don't know if I can do exactly what you're saying.” [So] then, I can kind of draw what I take their idea as and [have] synthesized in my brain with what I’m imagining [and] get them a product.
I have to remind myself all the time that someone reached out to me so they don’t just want me to give them a photographic representation of what’s in their mind. They want something that looks like [my] work. That’s been a really huge struggle for me—finding the balance between what looks like my work and what they want. Honestly, though, I find that the more I inject myself [in the work], the happier they are and the more excited they are.
It’s taken me a long time to learn that and to embrace that.
Article One: Your art adorns the Article One Eyewear storefront in Flint. How did you go about creating that piece?
MM: I had been drawing by blind contour which is where you don’t look at the page, but you are staring at someone while, you know, drawing eyes. And the eyes I was drawing had a pretty weird look to it, obviously, because I wasn’t looking at the page. Since my style is maybe a little more haphazard and free-flowing, I get nervous about what people are hoping for because I want it to be perfect. But Article One was looking for art—you wanted fun, imperfect illustration.
I sent over this work I had done—worried about everything—but they loved it. It went up in the flagship store and it’s been amazing to see.
It’s all been so exciting and I just feel so fortunate to create.
"Since my style is maybe a little more haphazard and free-flowing, I get nervous about what people are hoping for because I want it to be perfect. But Article One was looking for art—you wanted fun, imperfect illustration."