Friday, February 5, 2016

This is our conversation

Yellow ochre and charcoal dust seem to be permanently attached to my brush this week in the studio. The shapes are hanging around too, yet changing as I go. The charcoal lined oblong forms intersect and float above, below, and within the yellow of the canvas.

The 100x150cm canvas at rest

I start to wonder what this is all about as I go down the road before me. Does this painting even need to be about anything at all yet or can it simply be about the form, line, color and the work of my hand? There seems to be a vague idea hovering just out of reach, tempting me with its flashes.

detail from the 100x150cm canvas

If I try too hard to capture the idea, it will back away and the intuitive parts of my work seem to fade. I find myself at a productive yet slightly uncomfortable place in the studio just now. I know the drill, I just need to show up and paint. When I feel impatient or frustrated, I back away from the work for a good look and ask it questions. Sometimes, I turn my back on it entirely, spending the time in the studio cleaning and making space.

        detail from the 100x150cm canvas

When I return to the canvas, strings of words come again and there are some beautiful moments; little pieces of satisfaction scattered across the painting. I don't yet get to leave the studio with the joy of creating a whole entity. It knows how to keep me coming back for more.

detail from the 100x150cm canvas

This week, I let this be enough and it is. There have been moments of joy and wonder. There have been moments of understanding and stories whispered. The work knows I am not going anywhere. It knows I am stubborn too and that I am good at waiting. This is our conversation... 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Deliciously lost again

New paint and new canvases! 

This week in the studio was brought to me by yellow ochre, one of my favorite colors. I tried out a new, wonderful yellow ochre paint by Sennelier and had three new 16x20" canvases to work with, thanks to recent sales! I started on two of the 16x20's and continued adding more layers to several of the small works while I completely reworked the 12x48" canvas. My studio continues to be a hive of activity. 

Ten works in progress wait patiently to be worked on

I severely limited my palette and really pushed the charcoal aspect of the paintings. I had forgotten how much I love the watery greys and blacks of charcoal thinned out with water and rubbed away with a rag. I had a few moments of sheer joy and excitement at what I remembered while painting this week. I was able to get to that place where the self almost vanishes while working. Oh, how I love that place!

A painting that thinks it might be done

I was also reminded about the power of showing up. I was feeling a bit under the weather and had considered skipping my studio time to rest one day but I went in anyway. I decided to focus only on one piece, the 12x48" canvas. I told myself all I had to do was add a layer of paint and listen to my music. All I had to do was show up and be compassionate towards myself. All I had to do was lower my expectations and be present. I was richly rewarded.

detail

As I used the yellow ochre and charcoal I got deliciously lost again. Words, thoughts and emotions came to mind, a working title even floated to the surface; phases of a lovesick brain. I thought that title was a bit much but I followed the path. Three abstracted organic forms in shades of black charcoal and grey popped against the layers of yellow along the long slim canvas.

detail

The painting came in one solid flash seemingly from somewhere beyond. I was entranced while I worked and when I was finished, I cried. I felt like I had unlocked that elusive door where all the good stuff lives, just waiting.

detail

I will be in the studio again tomorrow and I can't wait. I don't know what door might open or what will be waiting for me. I can't wait to vanish once again into the inky blacks and greys and the hard dusty edges of the charcoal. I can't wait to wade into the blocks of color, drips and layers.

It's so good to be back.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A love note : A reminder

small works in progress

I truly, deeply love the act of painting. I love the brushes, paint, canvas, and the charcoal. I love the lines and the charcoal dust as it hangs in the tooth of the canvas, the pigment as it glides across the surface. I love the drips and the smell of the paint. I love the moment when two colors pop and the energy contained in a painted stroke. I love the questioning and not knowing. I love the travels inside, while my hand keeps moving. I love the moment of beginning and the moment of completion. I love it when it all goes to hell and the moment a painting is reborn into something new. I love it all, truly, deeply. 

new small work : a transfer of energy

I love the studio space and the routine, the papers, rags, palettes and the crookneck lamps peering over my shoulder. I love all the places my mind goes and especially when it tells me the stories from the deep somewhere else. I love the music that guides me there. I love the words and titles that come to me. I love the endless possibilities. 

small works in progress

I love my dirty hands and splattered walls, clothes and shoes. I love the painters that are working all over the world, the still living and the dead. I love the famous ones and I love the forever unknowns. I love our thoughts and inspirations as they pass each other in the ether. 

new 20x16" in progress

This is my calling, this is my foundation, this is my soul coming home. I paint because my hands know what to do and my heart is wide open.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Where I want to live...

small works and long works in progress

Early Monday morning I sat down to write. I turned on the computer and the flash of David Bowie's death caught my eye, the horrible announcement rolling through the Facebook feed. I shuddered, overwhelmed by feelings of disbelief. How does someone like David Bowie just die, especially after his birthday and record release? I woke up Stewart to tell him. 

small work in progress

I returned to the computer and wrote my own short tribute with tears running down my face and posted Ashes to Ashes on Facebook. I felt so sad and in shock, yet I had to rush out the door to catch my bus for my Monday appointment. I somehow got to where I was going early and wandered the grounds. The Pentland Hills in the distance were covered in snow. The sun was coming up behind Blackford Hill. It would be sunny here, the day we learned David Bowie left the planet and joined the ether. 

small work in progress

I listened to Bowie's music for what seemed like all my life. He gave this girl growing up in Arkansas hope for a future full of art, creativity, individuality and a place to belong. I wanted to live in his videos, he created just my kind of world. It seemed unbelievable that he was not still on the planet showing us how to make it more beautiful. A true artist in every sense of the word, even on his way out, his last album and video so personal and moving, a message for us all. This week I heard his music through art studio walls, neighboring flats and from passing cars; everyone is listening.

small work in progress

David Bowie's death is also sadly reminding me of all the things I've wanted to do and say through my art and how I have yet to do them and say them. It reminds me how I have let passivity and fear rule too often. With this on my mind, I returned to the studio this week with renewed vigor. I worked on small paintings, large paintings and a skinny, long canvas too. I picked up the pace, I dove into the process, I made mistakes and I tried. I painted with Stewart for the first time since 2012. My studio is a hive of activity.

alive with energy, a large piece Stewart and I started this week

This week I have been reminded of the otherworldly nature of creativity. When one gets to that place where permission, vision, and openness meet at a wonderful edge. There is no death there, just infinite possibilities. That's where I want to live...

Thank you. x

Friday, January 8, 2016

Inside color and line


Illuminate
Acrylic on canvas
© 2016 Megan Chapman
6x8.5"/15x21cm

Hello Readers!
Here we are again, three weeks in a row at good ol' blogger! I have to say I am feeling very good about returning to this ritual. Thanks to those who have read, commented or expressed their happiness for my blog's return on other forums.

Breathe and listen
Acrylic on canvas
© 2016 Megan Chapman
6x8.5"/15x21cm

I am also feeling really pleased with what is happening in my studio currently and how I am approaching the work at this moment. I am working on several small pieces and alternating between them and a rather large canvas. I go back and forth, usually working on the small works first, adding new layers of color each day. As I work, I enjoy the colors and the way the paint moves on the surface. I've been meditating and writing daily and I feel these new works in progress and my handling of them, reflect that.

Large painting in progress

I am returning to a flow that has been missing for a while. This is a good place to be. For me "the flow" is conjured by certain behaviors inside and outside of the studio. As I mentioned above, two things that help me find this flow and create the work I really want to make, are meditation and writing. I find that showing up to work around the same time each day and maintaining my schedule is extremely important as well. The work responds to dedication and routine. When I am in the flow, I am a type of conduit and I must be prepared to receive the work. It sounds like a spiritual or otherworldly practice and at these flow times, it is.

Small works in progress

The music I listen to also factors in heavily. I have been listening to wordless compositions, modern icy classical tunes of a very expansive nature. All of these things fit together in the studio and I am no longer trying to achieve something with the work, I am only trying to express it and let it be actualized. I add layers of color, lines, and form. I note the balance, space, and how the colors buzz off each other. I make adjustments and then I leave it for another day. The painting needs rest and I need clarity for when I return.

Detail from large painting in progress

As I work on a painting, I continually face the fears of the work as they come up. A part of the painting is fighting to survive and looking all kinds of precious but I can't be swayed by that. I can't be taken in by good enough or complacency. It is only paint. It is only canvas. It is only time. Keep going, take a risk and see what happens. This is a joyful way to work. Almost everything can be taken away or added again or born into another painting if needed. These lines and colors like to play on the surface, don't let them be afraid of change. It's just art. It's just my soul coming home. Let it wander and make mistakes, it's so much more forgiving in a painting than in life. What an honor to have the opportunity to explore in this way.

I am inside color and line and I am free...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking back to look forward

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is off to a good start for you. If you are a regular reader of my blog you may remember I usually ended the year with a year in review, a lengthy post mostly to remind myself what I had accomplished and experienced in my art world during the past year. That is my plan for this week's blog as well but hopefully slightly more abbreviated as I am keen to start living in the now. So here we go, let's do a wee bit of looking back so as to look forward and then to simply be.

The Out of the Blue Drill Hall where my studio is located

January - February: I moved into studio G23 at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall with it's own sink (I can't stress enough how exciting having a sink is for a painter!). It's a large space and right around the corner from the flat. I am grateful for the space. It's been a long time since having a studio outside my house or flat since the old Fayetteville Underground from 2009-2012. I am not quite sure what to do or how to start but I am determined. I am using old unused canvases of Stewart's as well as his paint and trying to make art with this on hand palette and size of canvas. I like the challenge of using what is on hand. It takes me a good while to make the space seem less empty and cold and to fill it with art. I am also getting used to the routine of going somewhere to work. By late January I have several large pieces on the go. I am telling myself I am not making a series yet, that I am just experimenting but things do seem to be forming into something more cohesive than I imagined at this stage.

My studio office area, feeling more settled.

March - April: By March the studio is feeling better and more like my space. I move things around to make the studio feel more bright and cheery. I am starting to feel more connected and trusting of things. I keep working on large paintings which are definitely turning into a series at this point. Red features prominently. In April I pass the 6 month mark of having lived here in Edinburgh, not as a temporary visitor but as I resident. I am starting to relax a bit more into this new life with it's challenges. I become more accepting of the difficulty of it all. It's even a struggle to order art supplies like the ones I am used to. However, I start making progress with this and order 5 large square canvases from an online shop to add to the ones Stewart has given me for the series. I find myself missing my art community and supporters back in the states. I am not sure if I will break into the art scene here or if there is even an art scene for me to break into. I slowly but surely create more work.

Reconstruction series on exhibition at the ACO in Arkansas 

May - June: Meanwhile back in Arkansas 8 of my pieces are in a traveling group show and in May the show opens at the Art Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, Arkansas. I am glad my work can be there and be seen by my friends and family in the area. It was important to be reminded that I am still connected through my art. Towards the end of May I start recording podcasts about my work in the studio. It is a way for me to talk about the work and to form relationships with potential listeners. I know I need to express myself, share my work and create these type of relationships in my life. I hope the podcasts will encourage this and I enjoy recording them. All the while I keep painting on my series and I am starting to think it is almost done.

A delicate balance
Acrylic and Charcoal on Canvas
© 2015 Megan Chapman
30x30x1.5"

July - August: I keep recording the podcast series sometimes with guest commentators, namely Stewart Bremner and Philip Dickson. I also take questions from my facebook art page and twitter and try to make the podcast interactive. I also decide that my new series of paintings is complete and I craft an artist's statement to go with them. The series is called A Delicate Balance and without a doubt is about my move and immigration here and the challenges involved. Art always reflects life, one can't really escape it. As the large series of paintings have wound down, I find myself painting small works on canvas as a quick release. Many are abstract but some also contain landscape elements. I list these small works in my Etsy shop. I give these three distinct series names such as Little Meteors (pure color abstracts) A Wintering Heart (abstract landscapes) and my last complete small works series of the year, The New Botanics (abstract flower forms).

The large painting in progress, The Only Constant 

September - October: After all the small works, I want to work large again and properly so. I start an abstract painting on a 100cm by 150cm linen canvas (again another canvas graciously given to me by Stewart that he had kicking around- under the bed!). I relish the chance to work big and differently as so much of 2015 was spent just trying to get work done and to rediscover my seemingly dormant voice. The painting I create is for us, it will go on the wall over the bed. A house gift to mark 1 year of my living here on September 25th. I call it, The only constant. It is a study in knowing when to stop. Often I can work a painting until it is gets too tight and orderly but I wanted to keep this loose and painterly. I think I am successful. I finally feel like I am figuring things out. I even order two more large canvases of the same size because I am so excited, not linen this time but lovely nonetheless.

The New Botanics

November - December: During these months I start applying for upcoming juried exhibitions. As now I have the large body of work ready for show as well as the 3 smaller bodies and the one properly large painting. I am putting myself out there by entering these shows to remind myself that this is what one does and for the experience of doing it. I submitted my work to three of the major art societies here in Scotland but none of my paintings were selected for inclusion. I was disappointed but more proud of my act of doing it and trying.

However, there were two gleaming moments of outward success that happened at this time and I choose to focus on them. I submitted 5 of my small works from the New Botanics series to Cupola Contemporary Art, a lovely gallery in Sheffield England for a juried holiday exhibition. All 5 of my paintings were accepted! The exhibition runs from the 28 November - 10 January. I was so pleased to be included.

Around this time, I also participated in my first open studio event at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall. I had my studio looking sharp and open to the public with all of my work on display from floor to ceiling. It was a lovely busy day and I enjoyed meeting people and talking about my art. I made some sales as well which was thrilling to say the least! This event got me excited for the coming year.

At the end of the year the studio is buzzing with new work

The rest of December was busy with the holidays of course but I spent some good time working in the studio regardless and worked on 2 medium sized pieces and more small works as well as another large painting. It felt good to be consistently working and enjoying the process. I also decided to return to my studio blog here and committed to writing again each Friday. I feel all of this is a good strong ending to what has been a very challenging year.

And here we are, it's January 1st. 2016. I am writing my blog on Friday as I said I would and I plan to work in my studio for a bit later in the day. I have a new small work in my studio that just recently sold and will be shipped to a new collector in London later this week.

This latest small work will be headed to it's new home in London soon. 

Thanks 2015 for the lesson in perseverance and for allowing me to go at my own scattered pace. Special thanks to all my friends near and far who have stayed in touch, reached out and encouraged me and reminded me to be more compassionate with myself during this transition. I can't say thank you enough. Thanks to all patrons of my work in this past year, you have no idea how your support encouraged me during this uncertain time. Thanks also to my patrons of the past that helped me get this far.

All my thanks and love go to Stewart Bremner for providing me the tools, space and time to create. Thanks for all your help and support and for believing in my work and for witnessing the process. I honestly could not have done this without you.

And with that, I have blackeyed peas, greens and cornbread (a southern tradition) to make and I have art to create in the now. It's 2016 and I am still an artist. I am still here and I am more grateful than ever.

Thank you.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Is this thing on? I'm back!

Hello Dear Readers! Or hello dear self as I suspect this will be a solitary adventure for awhile as I regain focus. Just like that I have logged into my dormant blog and clicked "new post" and here I am writing after a tremendous break.

Rest assured I have written other places. I tried to keep a blog on my website for a while, "A cup of tea and a blether." I liked the idea of keeping everything together in one place, especially as a website can be a bit stagnant. I was trying to flow with the tide of being a one stop shop and move away from the older and perhaps outmoded blogger format. I even created a Tumblr to track my first year of art in Scotland. These new formats just didn't stick with me though. They always seemed like some other hurdle to jump, simply to write. Sadly over time the routine was broken and I stopped writing regularly.

My studio in Leith

So now here we are at the end of 2015 and I realized that I really missed writing about art each week. I really missed the routine and the way it kept me grounded to my art practice. I missed the way I could express myself here, in regards to my art, my experience of being an artist and the way I could share my triumphs and disappointments.

I think when I first moved to Scotland I wanted to completely start over, a tabula rasa on life, however as the months ticked by I realized that some basic foundations are essential. My weekly studio blog was one of my foundations. I think I also got disheartened over the years. My mind ran with the thought that "no one reads blogs anymore." We all have our facebook twitter and our instagram. "We now like short, sweet and to the point and blogs are too much work."

Yet, I realized that while I wanted to communicate with artists and patrons out in the ether that the practice of writing weekly was more for me than for anyone else. It became part of my life and identity, it also became my record and history. I need all of those things now more than ever. The past five years of my life and especially since moving to Scotland at the end of September 2014 has been a bit like performing an exploratory surgery into a new world. I need a record to keep me grounded and I need a place to settle into again. It seemed like returning to my home blog, that straddles both the past and present might be a good place to return.

Work in progress in the studio

So here I am again. I will be writing here every Friday on my studio blog about art, the creative process, inspirations and everything the header says since I started this blog in 2007. If you are an old reader, thank you for being a witness to my creative life over the years. I am so glad you are here. If you are a new reader, welcome, I am glad you have found me.

Work in progress

Everyday we paint is a victory...