Portrait of the Artist

Maggie Cowles

Daily life, still

By Noelani Kirschner | March 22, 2021
Dragon Blood Still Life, 2020, colored pencil on paper.
Dragon Blood Still Life, 2020, colored pencil on paper.

When Maggie Cowles began posting still lifes to her Instagram account last year, her friends reacted with surprise. “People who had known me forever said, ‘I didn’t know you could draw like that!’” she says. “This is so funny because of course I draw—I draw all the time.” Cowles, who received a degree in textile design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009, works as a print designer for a fashion brand. And though the job requires her to do plenty of sketching, it’s the drawing she does after hours that sustains her, nourishing her imagination. “There are so many times,” she says, “where it’s the end of the day and I’m tired but I sit down and need to do a drawing.”

  • Sardine Sunday, 2020, colored pencil on paper.

Cowles’s still lifes are colorful, charming, familiar; they take “pleasure in pleasures,” as she says. Some are drawn from memory, others inspired by objects around her apartment, resulting in vibrant, geometric patterns with loosely sketched tchotchkes, all suspended upon a background of white space. “There are some days where I wake up and I have an idea for a still life, but I’m making it up in my head,” she says. “I’ll want to draw indigo piles of fabrics with a bowl of lemons with delftware china in the background, but I’ve never seen this scene before.” The reaction on Instagram, she says, “has been overwhelmingly cool. I had no idea people wanted to interact in this way.”

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