The subtle scratch of a pencil. The delicate swipe of a hand, brushing away the eraser marks left behind. Charcoal coats the sides of her palms. There is a rumbling sound of hundreds of students moving in the background. As Moulton Union closes its doors, portraits of Bowdoin students appear on what were once blank sheets of paper. Frequently behind Moulton Union’s front desk, Meredith MacEachern is the creator of these works—greeting students while drawing detailed portraits of them.
Born in Canada, MacEachern spent a portion of her childhood in southern Maine where she returned as a University of Southern Maine (USM) graduate student. She’s been a part of the Bowdoin community for the past seven years. Before the pandemic, she worked exclusively at Thorne, initially working in catering.
When students returned to campus at the beginning of the pandemic, dining staff members were among the few people that they could interact with each day. Dining staff members were able to cultivate closer relationships with students—a silver lining during a taxing period. It was during this time that MacEachern picked up drawing. Before drawing, her art of choice was writing, but teaching herself how to draw made her realize it is never too late to learn a new skill.
“I tried to draw for years. I knew a lot of really talented artists among my friends. I’d always just get frustrated,” MacEachern said. “It wasn’t until like a year and a half ago during the pandemic that I [began taking it seriously].”
Analyzing people’s faces has given MacEachern a new appreciation for the small expressions that go unnoticed during a conversation. She does not take her position as an artist lightly and makes sure to illustrate each student as accurately as possible.
“[Drawing] gave me an appreciation for people’s faces and how they smile, how they emote, how they communicate with their eyes. [Drawing students] makes me really happy because people get really excited about it,” MacEachern said.
Despite her immense talent and perseverance, MacEachern believes that she still has a long way to go in terms of honing her artistic skills.
“One of the International Music Festival students invited me to one of the free concerts. And I was trying to draw my view of the stage. It was very hard. The thing is, since I’m self taught, I don’t know anything really about perspective and that kind of thing,” MacEachern said. “So I’m still mostly doing portraits. I’m trying to do more action figure drawings.”
Her medium is primarily pencil, but she’s recently started dabbling in charcoal. MacEachern does not see a future in digital drawing anytime soon.
She currently offers commissions to any students interested in her work, free of charge.
“If a student wants a drawing, I don’t want them to have to worry about whether [they’re going to be charged] because I know there’s a lot of students who are on financial aid or just students who don’t want to spend [money],” MacEachern said. “They just want something for fun and I think they should have that.”
In addition to working in dining, doing individual commissions for students and creative writing, MacEachern also works at a nearby soup kitchen in her free time, which is tucked behind Hannaford on Maine Street. She’s a self-proclaimed Dungeons and Dragons nerd and is a champion of the therapeutic walk. In her work behind the desk and away from it, Meredith MacEachern reflects the abundant talent and heart of the Bowdoin community.