Posted 27 September 2023
Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Megan Georgia Smith

Artist Megan Georgia Smith talks working-class caricatures and creative youth work

With a painting and sculptural practice informed by her working-class roots, Megan Georgia Smith’s work satirises stereotypes surrounding youth culture in the UK. Alongside crafting a world of visceral and grotesque caricatures, Megan also works as a facilitator at The Agency Project in Southampton, where she supports young people aged 15 to 25, to create artistic projects that benefit their local communities. Believing that young people’s voices “hold the potential for social change,” Megan speaks to us about the intentions behind her caricatures – and why fellow artists shouldn’t be ashamed of working hospitality and retail jobs to get by.

Megan Georgia Smith

Megan Georgia Smith

Job Title

Youth worker, The Agency



Place of Study

BA (Hons) Fine Art, Southampton Solent University (2017–2020)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as an artist?
I am a painter and sculptor. My work documents and explores class, youth culture and generally, the human condition. I live in Aldershot and spend a lot of time in Southampton, so the imagery in my works are influenced by my own background, as well as my current social and cultural surroundings. I amplify stereotypes of young, working-class people in my work, as these are who I feel I most identify with in society as a 23-year-old from Aldershot with working-class roots.

“I am a painter and sculptor whose work documents and explores class, youth culture and generally, the human condition.”

Megan georgia smith

UNION STREET by Megan Georgia Smith, 2021

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DUCKPOND by Megan Georgia Smith, 2022

I amplify these stereotypes with a dark sense of humour, critiquing the idea that every working-class young person can be categorised in this way – when of course, they can’t.

A big part of my practice as an artist is my role on The Agency project in Southampton. Here, I work with 15-to-25-year-olds on the Northam estate, who want to create social change projects to benefit their local community. It’s really inspiring to be involved in a project that values creativity and art, whilst recognising that young people’s voices really do hold the potential for positive social change.

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
My hometown, social issues, class, youth, humour, caricature. My friends, family and peers.

SO'TON SAFARI By Megan Georgia Smith, 2020

Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects to date?
I recently had my first solo exhibition: BY THE SKIN OF YOUR TEETH! at the Hidden Wardrobe in Southampton. The Hidden Wardrobe was once a derelict shop unit, turned into gallery space by Aspace Arts. I had two windows to fill, so I wanted to make full use of space by showing a 2-metre by 1.5-metre painting and a sculpture/installation. The overall motif of the exhibition was two-wheel transport, specifically mopeds and electric scooters.

I was influenced by the ways in which young people are currently moving around Southampton city, bringing about a (seemingly) new social issue and negative stereotype: the hooded criminal teen, zipping around on a e-scooter causing a nuisance. This was interesting to me, as Voi scooters and electric scooters are often marketed as a method of transport that lets you move freely around urban environments in a safe and easy way, creating green cities that are full of joy – not cars, noise and pollution.

E-scooters have also been widely reported to cause public nuisance – in the city of London “between January and June 2021, 258 collisions were recorded” and they were involved in “574 recorded crimes in London – including robberies or assaults between July 2020 and April 2021.” What I liked about making and showing this work, was that there is a Voi scooter bay situated just outside of the gallery, and so the work brought about interesting conversations from passersby who were renting out the scooters.

“I recently had my first solo exhibition at the Hidden Wardrobe in Southampton – once a derelict shop unit, turned into gallery space.”

Megan georgia smith artist creativelivesinprogress 02

Megan at her first exhibition, BY THE SKIN OF YOUR TEETH! at The Hidden Wardrobe in Southampton

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Megan speaking at the exhibiton

How I got here

How did you go about landing your first commission?
I was a gallery assistant at Solent Showcase Gallery when curator Kate Maple alerted me to the role at The Agency for an assistant facilitator position. I was really interested.

I wanted to work on a project that was genuinely having a positive impact on young people’s lives. Youth work links into my creative practice as well, as it further connects me to the fact that youth continue to smash negative stereotypes. I am currently in my second year at The Agency, and I am loving every moment.

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
My art degree was useful for me personally, as it encouraged me to really think about what I truly wanted my art to say and do. I went to uni straight from college, so at that time, I just loved painting portraits and was kind of oblivious to the power, potential and purpose my artworks could achieve.

My tutors were so great and helped me to be more playful with my work and step away from trying to paint perfectly. I don’t think doing an art degree is crucial to every artist’s journey though. What you need is passion, motivation and something to say. I think you just have to put the time in, keep making and keep learning.

“I don’t think an art degree is crucial to everyone’s journey. What you need is passion, motivation and something to say.”

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
Graduating in 2020 was a very anticlimactic experience; I am sure all graduates of that time can agree. There was no real buzz around my degree show (it was online and not marketed great by Solent) and I do feel as though we were shoved into the world with no real guidance on how to actually live and work as an artist.

I feel like I am still finding my feet with this, but I am sure it will be a years-long, if not life-long struggle. I am lucky that I have a room at home with my parents still in Aldershot, so I have been afforded the opportunity of taking a risk and working the self-employed artist life – the risk being inconsistent work and cash flow with no paid time off. This all sounds quite doom and gloom, but I am so grateful to be pursuing a career in an industry I love, working on meaningful projects and still making work with fervency. I love having flexible working hours too.

FRY UP by Megan Georgia Smith 2023
TACTICAL CHUNDER by Megan Georgia Smith, 2021

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Working Class Creatives Database
. Seren Metcalfe is incredible for setting this up. The WCCD was such a good thing for me when I graduated during the pandemic, as I found a community of artists from all walks of life, who were sharing opportunities, skills and knowledge.

I also got the chance to exhibit work online with them in 2021, which had a real buzz to it. I really like the fact that one of their goals is to make the art world less London-centric – this is something I have struggled with, as living and working as an artist in a small military town can feel quite isolating.

The White Pube Funding Library. Another good resource born out of a frustration with the art world! The White Pube Funding Library helped me write a proposal for the Aspex Gallery Platform Alumni residency which I was granted at the start of 2022!

What is your working-class? podcast by Adrian Teplitzky. This podcast is the backdrop to my commutes down South. Aidan interviews “a range of artists, sociologists, and organisations that deal with class within their work”. I really enjoyed the episode with artist Cherish Marshall.

“The White Pube Funding Library helped me write a proposal for the Aspex Gallery Platform Alumni residency which I was granted at the start of 2022.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Classic imposter syndrome. Only in 2022 did I really started to own the fact that I am working as a freelance artist. When someone would ask me “So what do you do?” I would respond “I work as a receptionist at Birdworld” [a bird zoo in Farnham] which by the way, I do once a week!

It’s only since my friends and family started calling me out on this, that I started to vocalise it and tell people that actually, I am an artist. Pricing my artwork has been really difficult as well – I have seriously undersold myself in the past, for fear of people exclaiming “How much?!” I am better at this now as I know my worth, and I know how crap it is to see a piece that took you hours go for £50. Eventually, the right buyer does come along and sees the value, time and effort that goes into a piece. When it sells for the price you want and deserve – nothing beats that feeling.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Every artist is doing what they need to get by. You don’t need to feel lesser for working a bar job or Tesco cashier role to support yourself – and it doesn’t define your capability or worth as a creative.

“Every artist is doing what they need to get by. You don’t need to feel lesser for working a bar job or Tesco cashier role to support yourself.”

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
As cringey as it can be, it’s important. Social media is a really useful tool that has allowed me to showcase my work to a wider audience, with people from different parts of the UK and the world. I have been able to sell prints and originals via Instagram and Facebook, and I have had access to lots of different exhibition and job opportunities and information, as well as finding so many other super cool artists which I have been able to connect with.

If I didn’t have social media, I don’t think I would be half as connected with all this. I do find it draining though. Sometimes I don’t want to set up a camera and time-lapse me painting for ‘content’ and to get views online? I just want to get on and paint!

Particularly Instagram has had a massive impact on the art world and our consumption of art as a whole, which annoys me… (listen to The White Pube episode: Instagram has ruined the art world, what now? for more on this).

Unfortunately, it does feel like if you want to get noticed, you have to play the game. Yet, I do feel like I am in control of how I present myself and my art online. A quote from artist Faith Ringgold comes to mind: “You can’t sit around and wait for someone to say who you are. You need to write it, paint it and do it”. My advice would be to just get your work out there by any means necessary.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Be annoying! Stick in people’s minds. Shout about your successes.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I always regret not doing a foundation course in fine art. If there is a place you can do this locally, just do it. It’s a free year (if you are under the age of 19) so make full use of that to develop your creative practice and creative voice.

Get involved. If you are at college or university, actively let your tutors know that you are willing to help out with events, workshops and extracurricular activities. Most of the opportunities I got at uni were just from showing a willingness to engage.

Often, being able to secure freelance work is based on your experiences and ability to do the job well, not necessarily your grades. So take every opportunity you are given and say yes to challenges to build your confidence. If you are not in education, volunteer. Surround yourself with people in the arts who you are able to absorb knowledge from.

Interview by Frankie Mari
Mention Megan Georgia Smith