Friday, January 13, 2017

Born of charcoal dust



The distillation continues, as today is the 13th day in the process. There have been 78 papers completed and 108 yet to come. I feel myself wanting to break my own rules, and at times I do. It is my process after all, yet mostly I stay true to the original idea, outlined in last week's post.

I leave out the yellow, focusing on the perfection of the charcoal dust and white. I stomp on my papers with my charcoal-encrusted boot and work with and against the marks left behind. I like reacting against especially, and I wonder if this is how I also live my life.

These fleeting marks and the work left behind excites me. At other times, I'm frustrated and want to do more to the paper even after it is deemed "finished." I keep moving forward knowing that it is more about the process than the end result. The papers are expressive and gestural as I remember lessons once learned, and once thrown away.

At times, I feel almost bored and have the urge to abandon it all and return to canvas or to paint on charity shop plates and neckties. This is another lesson of the process, to keep moving forward regardless of feeling. Innovate through the limitations; use the charcoal dust from the floor, stomp and kick the paper, draw larger, paint smaller, limit a severely limited palette even further.

I question myself as I work; why do I draw these interlocking shapes? What does this mean? Is it important? Is this work expressive enough; is it honest? Could I be wasting time? Is all of my art a waste of time? The paper's blank space allows my mind to run freely with abandon. Again, I keep moving forward, ignoring this chatter. If I am not relying on previous knowledge, this means also not relying on the previous bravado. I feel like a student again, unknowing and unsure.

I enjoy heading out the door these winter mornings and knowing that I have six exercises ahead of me; six places to become lost, six dreams to rehash, six thoughts to watch float past, six meditations, a multitude of ruminations and conversations born of charcoal dust, my hand, and heart.

This is not a waste of time.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Distillation process





Hello! Happy New Year!

First things first, thank you to everyone who read my year-end review blog last week. You deserve a medal but I think you get something better, you get art! As you may remember, I offered an incentive to folks who read and commented on last week's blog with a print giveaway! I shall now announce the winner!



I hope what I am about to write won't make winning any less fun for you. The four lovely folks who commented last week are ALL getting a copy of my most popular print, "Sailor's warning!" That's right, you are all winners here! So if I don't have it already, please send your postal address to my email, megancha@gmail.com and I will get your print right out to you! Thanks so much for your supportive comments! I hope you will enjoy the art and have a lovely new year!



Now, back to the blog. The morning of January first, I went to the studio. I believe in starting the new year the way you mean to go on and working in my studio is the best way I could imagine starting and living in 2017. Once at the studio, rather than feeling inspired, I found myself not knowing what to do. I felt rusty and awkward even after working on a canvas with success just 2 days before. I suddenly felt like I was on very shaky ground. I picked up an old canvas and started adding a layer of color, but I could tell it was going nowhere fast. I decided I could keep going down this road or I could force a shift. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to do.



In my heart, I knew I wanted to start again. I wanted to have a project with rules and parameters that I could explore within. I wanted a purpose, but I wanted the purpose to be very personal. I decided I didn't want to rely on the old knowledge and ways of working.



I taped a piece of newsprint to the wall. I gathered my materials. One clean cup of water. One brush. One tube of white paint. One tube of yellow ochre and my collection of charcoal. I would listen to music without words and I would draw and paint, applying the paint initially with my fingers before thinning it out with the brush and water. I wanted to feel my materials. I wanted to get messy. I wanted to draw and I wanted to feel like a painter, more than ever and again.



There was one painting and then another, and when it came to six, I knew I was done for the day. I decided after this, that six pieces will be completed each day as part of the project until the end of the month. If all goes according to plan, there will be 186 pieces.



These pieces are about movement, gesture, painting and drawing. These papers contain my language as it is being recorded, repeated and expanded. These papers are a lesson in commitment, structure, and intuition.



The papers are a bit prayerful, mournful and searching. Almost an act of prostration and pittance. Confessional and dark at times, yet also quick and bright, the papers will lead me down an unknown path. All I have to do is show up each day, make the marks, and listen.

I hope you will join me in this distillation process. Until next week, keep fighting. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 year end review


Happy New Year! If you are a regular reader, you may remember that I usually end the year with a lengthy post to remind myself of my accomplishments and experiences in art during the past year.

To start, the most important practice I have engaged in this past year has been to re-commit to writing this blog. I am very proud that I have returned to this ritual after unsuccessfully exploring other formats. This blog provides an important foundation for me and writing here each week (mostly) since 2007 has been one of the best gifts I have ever given to myself and my work. I appreciate those of you who have read and responded in some way to my words here. Thank you.

January: This month marked the start of my second year in studio G23 at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street in Leith. I thank my lucky stars every day for this space. The studio space kept evolving as I became more familiar with it and more committed to working there. My studio practice started off strong at the beginning of 2016, spurred by December 2015 sales allowing for new supplies to be purchased.

February: I was offered a solo exhibition of recent works at The Tide Gallery and Coffee Shop in Portobello, Edinburgh. I remember feeling very pleased and happy that my large pieces were going to be on show across from the beach. It was a lovely venue and the eight pieces from my Delicate Balance series filled the space perfectly. The exhibition that was planned to be a two-week engagement, was held over for two more, making it a month long! 

In other exhibition news in February, Cupola Gallery in Sheffield decided to keep my paintings I had sent them the previous November for further exhibition. Stateside, my work was shown at The University of Tulsa at the Zarrow Center for Art & Education, alongside some of my esteemed, fellow Arkansan abstract painters in the exhibition, Abstract ARt.

March: I worked on a series of small paintings as well as a new large series of canvases. The small series, made up of twelve pieces became known as Deliciously lost againThe color yellow ochre was the driving force in the studio at this time. I started saving the blotter papers from my process and dreamed of ways to use them in future projects. I struggled with balance, ebb and flow as I worked on the larger pieces.

April: I finished a large 100x150cm painting and shipped several small paintings to the states. I happily communicated with a patron about an upcoming commission and continued to work on a new painting. I completed nine paintings in the large works series entitled, "A shift in the weather." I enjoyed an outing to East Lothian to visit fellow artist Louise Blamire, I left with my head filled with inspiration and hope.

May: I worked on the special Stateside commission and enjoyed using materials I had never used before. I always love a challenge. I was also interviewed for Edinburgh based, Portfolio Oomph for their meet the artist/teacher feature. I really appreciated this opportunity. It was during this month that I was invited to show four of my Delicate Balance and two of my Shift in the Weather paintings in the ReUnion exhibition at the newly relocated Union gallery in Edinburgh.

June: The ReUnion exhibition continued at Union Gallery and I continued working in the studio completing and shipping the commission piece to The States. We took a short trip to Paris to see my brother, his family and his band. To be in such a city of culture was breathtaking.

July: I started a new small series of paintings called "I love the broken things best" sadly this series didn't materialize in the way I hoped. I made two paintings in the series and then a new series arrived like a bolt of lightning. Magenta entered the scene. I am so excited about this series, I write a friend and even told my parents that "I love color so much it makes me want to grind my teeth to dust." The series came on strong but then stalled out just as quickly. I found this very frustrating. 

I turned my attention to having archival prints made. I was excited to offer this new range of my work as I am adamant that art should be for all people. I wanted my prints to be made here in Edinburgh and to support a local business in the process so that's why I chose a fellow artist and dear friend, Jenni Douglas' printing service. I spent a good amount of time ramping up my social media campaigns on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in order to promote these new prints. 

August: I was informed that several pieces of my work were going to be kept on display at Union Gallery for the month of August, during the festival time for maximum exposure. I am delighted! In the meantime, I struggled with the current series "A change in the frequency." My collection of blotter papers grew as I worked. It was a reflective time spent engaged in the studio process and never-ending social media. 

September: During this month I returned to an abandoned small series and created one of my best paintings of the year. I completed five new small works and released more paintings as small prints. Patrons seemed to enjoy these additions as well and thanks to sales more materials were purchased. On September 25th, I marked my two year anniversary of living in Scotland.

October: I made another country jaunt to see Louise for inspiration and nature and then I was back to it with an addition of three more new small works. During this time, I decided that I have indeed finished the four large pieces in the "Frequency" series. 

In big news, I was interviewed by artist and art editor, Brian McFie for SOGO magazine. "SOGO magazine is a Scottish based quarterly lifestyle and arts publication, which promotes and provides a platform for Scottish creative industries and communities." It is a beautiful publication based in Glasgow and the Autumn 2016 issue included a beyond wonderful piece about my work. 

I continued to work on small pieces as I tried to contain my excitement about the article. I also added three more prints to my available collection. I deep cleaned my studio and created more storage, I was very pleased with this.

November: SOGO Magazine came out and I was ecstatic! Get yourself a copy of this gorgeous magazine. It is available all over Scotland and through their website. Here is an excerpt from this time: 

"This article means more to me than I can properly articulate but simply put, it is what I have been working for all these years and what I will continue to work for. To have my art seen, understood and appreciated in this way is a balm for my soul. To have my art written about in this manner in my adopted home of Scotland is just the right kind of fuel for my fire and inspires me to keep going and assures me that I am in the right place, doing the right work. This validation is beyond compare and I am grateful. Thank you to Brian McFie for taking the time to see and engage with my work in this way and for articulating his experience in print."

After this most wondrous event, Stewart and I took a three week holiday to see my parents and friends in Arkansas for the rest of the month. It was wonderful to bask in the sunshine, brightly colored leaves and the southern hospitality. It was important for me to remember where I am from and how this factors into my work and into my everything. You can take the woman out of Arkansas but you can't take the Arkansas out of the woman and why would anyone want to? It was a good holiday and I even sold two large paintings to collectors in Los Angeles and Atlanta from my archive. Thanks to everyone who made our time in Arkansas so beautiful and sweet. It did my soul good.

December: We arrived back from Arkansas via Brussels a few hours later than scheduled, jet lagged and without luggage on December 1. I participated in Open Studios at the Drill Hall on December 3rd. It was good to see friends and family in Edinburgh and sell some small originals and prints at the event. The rest of the month was taken up with holiday markets, holiday shopping and family and friends over the festive season and that brings us to today, my year end review. 

In closing here are some bullet points for easy digestion (mostly for myself). 

Maintained my weekly studio blog.
Solo exhibition at The Tide
Online interview in Portfolio Oomph.
Two group exhibition opportunities at Union gallery.
Continued relationship with Cupola Gallery in Sheffield.
Group exhibition at the University of Tulsa back in the states. 
Extraordinary feature article in SOGO magazine.

Twelve large works created (with three in progress).
One medium sized commission completed.
Twenty small works created (with many more in various states of progress).
Fifteen of my small works are now offered as signed limited edition prints.

Sold Twenty-five originals from various series, including small and large works on canvas and paper.
Sold thirty prints from my newest series.
Sold six prints from my older series.

Besides all of this, I am perhaps most happy about the relationships I have formed with other artists and patrons throughout the year. These relationships have sustained me and kept me inspired via social media and out in the world. Special shout out to my Glasgow area patrons and friends, you know who you are!

I traveled, I saw art, and I lived my life. I maintained my health, relationships, and remained as ever, an artist. As I write this blog, I have seen lapses, weaknesses, and plenty of things I could have done differently, but 2016 was 2016 and now it's time to move on. Thanks to everyone who supports my work and reads this blog. You and your encouragement are my currency of hope and you mean the world to me. 

Until next year, keep fighting! 2017 may require more fight than usual and will certainly require you and your art! I'll show up if you will.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Confessional


I am not painting right now and it bothers me. I can't remember the last day I actually painted.

I remember varnishing paintings. I remember cleaning the studio and getting it all set up for open studios at the beginning of December but I can't remember getting lost in the brush strokes of a painting.

It's been a busy couple of months with the three week holiday in November in Arkansas, the open studio event at the start of December, and a studio sale in my Etsy shop. I have also packed and shipped a few orders (Thank you patrons!). I have done some social media promotion here and there. I have seen some exhibitions and art in these past weeks as well.

Of course there was also holiday decorating, baking and shopping and a holiday party to attend. There was also jet lag and getting used to the dark, rainy days. Let's not forget the election news (which is enough to make anyone with sense want to hide in a hole).

Perhaps the last six to eight weeks haven't been meant for painting. Maybe I am collecting feelings, ideas and inspirations. Maybe I am having a holiday from it all even though it feels weird and frightens me a little. I have been here before. In the new year the doors will open, the business of life will settle into a routine again and I will paint. There is no point in entertaining this creeping doubt, I have painted consistently for over twenty years, I am unlikely to ever stop.

I am curious how my trip back to Arkansas will enter into my painting and the grim Scottish winter, will it change the hot pinks that were happening earlier this year? I did dream of a colour palette that I quite liked, will I use it in future paintings?

This post is mostly for me so I can let go of these bothersome, "you aren't working hard enough - you fraud!" feelings (some of the most common feelings for working artists). I know this is an old useless script anyway but I am human and it comes up.

I have now made my confession in the glow of the Christmas tree, with the curtains drawn and the rain pelting the window and I know now in my heart that the ache in my fingertips will produce more art in the coming days. I can rest easy.

Until next week, keep fighting (but not yourself, fight the power, fight the man but never yourself- you probably do enough of that already!) and join me here next week for my annual year end review blog.

Take care one and all and happy holidays.
Love and light. - Megan

Friday, December 16, 2016

Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place

Image from National Galleries Website

Today we took in the Joan Eardley exhibition, A Sense of Place at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Admittedly my experience of Ms. Eardley's work was rather limited until fairly recently. The artist makes a distinct impact once paths cross as she did when I first came across her painting Catterline in Winter as part of the Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors exhibition earlier in the year.

It was a rare treat to see so many of Eardley's paintings together, as the beautifully curated exhibition, Sense of Place guided us from her paintings of Glasgow tenements and children, to the seaside cottages and landscape of Catterline. I felt I was having a conversation with the artist as we walked from room to room through her exhibition.

She is a master colourist and her marks are energetic and powerful. I could almost sense her delight when the colours popped and worked together or when an expert smudge made an expression come to life or a broad stroke created an angry sea. She had such a strong and capable handling of her medium.

There is a fevered passion, dedication and a strength to her work that has left me in awe. Her work made me want to be a better painter and to immerse myself deeper in the craft. I sensed that her paintings and her time spent working on them were her everything and that she was still there somewhere deep within these papers and canvases.

While the artist sadly passed away from breast cancer at the age of 42 in 1963, her paintings feel as alive and vital as if someone had painted them yesterday. Not dated or lost in time in anyway, these works are classic and contemporary at the same time. Transcendent.

It felt as if Eardley was sometimes chiding me as I looked at her work, asking me what the hell I was doing with my time. As I left the exhibition, I felt the need to paint furiously for every day she hasn't been on the planet.

Thank you, Ms. Eardley. Message received.

*********
Joan Eardley | A Sense of Place
3rd December 2016 − 21st May 2017
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art | £9 (£7)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Re-entry : Support & Sales


Last Saturday's Open Studios at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall was a lovely event. I had my studio open from 11-5 p.m. and enjoyed chatting with friends and family who stopped by as well as potential patrons and passerby.

It was a bit slower than last year. The word on the street is that folks are being a bit more careful with their money right now and aren't spending quite as much or are waiting until the last minute for special deals to take the sting out of holiday shopping. #Brexit

I understand this and I appreciate your support during times like these especially. I am grateful for everyone who stopped by my studio and purchased art or had a kind word. I also appreciate the folks that bought paintings from my Arkansas archive while I was in back home visiting. #Trump

For folks that couldn't make it to the open studios or are further afield and are looking for the most value for your art buying pound or dollar, I do have a Studio Sale section in my Etsy shop currently.

These are the last available works from this 2012 series.
£5. Available in my studio sale section.


I am offering a small selection of older limited edition prints and original small works on paper at bargain prices with free shipping in the U.K. and only £5 shipping to anywhere else in the world!

These are the last available works from this 2013 series.
 £10. Available in my studio sale section.

These are the last available works from this 2014 series.
£20. Available in my studio sale section.
I have also changed some of my prices on the original small paintings throughout my Etsy shop to reflect the current market as well. These prices will not be changing again so please have another look if it has been awhile! For example, the remaining small paintings from A Wintering Heart series are £35 and you will find that the remaining small paintings from the series, Deliciously Lost Again, Return to Now and Little Meteors are £74.50. My newest small works are still £85 and my latest signed limited edition prints are still just £15. So as you can see, I am trying to offer a range of prices so that my small Etsy works remain accessible for as many as possible.

Folks don't always realize how much their small purchases add up and make a huge difference in the life of an artist, but they really do. Even just a £5-£20 purchase keeps me working, encouraged and moving forward on the path. Thanks for considering my work either for your own collection or to give as a gift this season. To all my collectors past, present and hopefully future, you have made a difference to me and my work. Thank you!

I believe in art and artists. I believe in creativity. I believe in music. I believe in giving of ourselves and sharing the communal secrets through our work. I believe in supporting other artists on the path. I believe art is the answer to most troubles, so please if you are feeling dark, make or participate with art. Share your work and stories. Put more light into the world through your art or your enjoyment of art. We need it now more than ever. 

Thank you for being part of this experience with me.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Return to Edinburgh!


We're back in Edinburgh and it feels a bit surreal. The past few days have blended together and I am not quite sure where I am. I suppose that's jet lag for you. We were scheduled to arrive very early yesterday morning but our flight got rerouted through Brussels and we ended up arriving about 4 hours later and without our checked luggage. It arrived later today though so all is well in the end. Today is mostly about trying not to fall asleep in the morning and staying up late enough into the night to get our sleep patterns back to normal.



Today is also a very busy day of last minute preparation for open studios at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street in Leith where I work. Tomorrow, Saturday December 3rd from 11-5 pm I will be in my studio G23 with the door wide open and a smile on my face in order to share my work and studio space with patrons and the simply curious. I enjoy talking about my art and practice to interested folks so I hope there will be a good turn out. I will have limited edition prints as well as some special sale items and many of my large scale paintings available.

If for any reason you can't attend the open studios please visit my Etsy shop where I have a studio sale section. You will find some oldies but goodies from several different series at reduced prices.

I must say I feel like I have been caught in a dream of sorts. I am sure I will have more to say next Friday so please tune in then!