Friday, January 25, 2008

Flow along with the tide

The type written text on my old painting to the left says " to day. Each of us should be willing to flow along with the tide and not set up resistance against anything that comes. This is necessary so that growth and redemption can occur." I wish I could say where this text originated, all I know is that it came from a free bin book I retrieved from the Smith Family bookstore in Eugene Oregon. The text then became a part of my art in the book series I did in 1999 for my B.F.A terminal project. This message has come up for me in many places in my life, and was an unexpected gift when I started writing my blog today.

I was stumped for the first time, I just didn't know what to tell you this week. Then I thought about returning to my origins and sharing some of my older work with you and the process that inspired it. I knew I liked this piece of mine, but I didn't remember this powerful note on the cover. Those words must have struck a chord with me when I was 27 and they still do today at 35. There is so much resistance to battle inside ourselves, especially when it comes to creativity. I remember that book was supposed to be my artistic version of an imagined "cult deprogramming manual." I put duct tape on the spine of this flimsy book, painted it a stark white and glued my red and black paintings in the middle of the taped together and painted white pages. The idea was that the imagined cult member would look at the book and the images would reset their memories and they would be restored to the person their family remembered from before the cult. This was when assuming characters and scenarios were an important part of my work. In school anything was possible as long as I could convince my professors of it being authentic and fully considered. Nothing was for sale, so I was truly free to explore all the levels of my creativity. It was hard, and sometimes ridiculous "art school" fodder but it was so rewarding. Today, I explore my creativity, dream up stories and conceptualize my current work as well, but it has changed.

The photograph below is the first black and white photo I made and developed in a dark room. I took one photography class while in school. It was the most nerve wracking experience. I was always a nervous mess in that class. I was so out of my element, but I found a voice inside of me that I never would have known about, if I hadn't done it. The dark room for that term became my anxious friend, long hours in that warm darkness with the chemicals. I felt so accomplished when I spent time in there.

The photographs I took were all about detachment and abandoned living. I was living in a slum apartment in downtown Eugene that I dearly loved. I loved it because of its decrepit beauty. The enchanting style of the 1930's courtyard apartment was still easy to see even with the gangs and junkies nodding off on the stoops. The cast of characters that lived in the apartment became my family and sometimes my subjects. This photo captured one of my neighbors on his stoop, a day in the life. He was extremely tall and lanky and I liked his fluid movements.

We all have origins to our art, I am now known for my use of color washes and texture but the origins of my work are black and white with dark dirty colors and text. What makes us do the work we do and what makes us change? I was living in Oregon, and feel sure the rain and atmosphere of where I lived helped to inform my work at the time. The freedom of being able to create art for art's sake while living frugally on my student loans and work study surely influenced my work as well.

Here is another page from "the cult deprogramming manual," and this was my favorite page of the book. The book consisted of a cover image
(at the top of this post) three images inside, and then an image on the back cover. On this page, I loved the way the charcoal and white gesso
swirl together to create a cloud like form. I actually think this piece is one my favorite pieces I have ever created, yet it remains closed up inside this book, except for times like this when I pull it out. That was another thing about my books, the paintings were closed up tight and not on display. They required action by the viewer to get to them and to receive them. At this stage all my peers in school were painting large glossy abstract paintings, and I was vehemently opposed to them. I enjoyed their work but at the time I didn't want to go along with the crowd. I now make much larger, sometimes glossy abstract paintings full of color and I am not living off my student loans anymore, in fact I have paid them all off. I may have compromised, but I have also expanded my ideas as needed to fill a need in myself and others. Back to that statement above, " to day. Each of us should be willing to flow along with the tide and not set up resistance against anything that comes. This is necessary so that growth and redemption can occur." See how this keeps making sense?

There are many serious artists, art lovers and collectors in the world. There are also people with plenty of judgements. I think artists are the harshest judges of themselves and their work and each other. We want to make "real" art, not something easy to digest and gentle on the eye. We want to stretch, we want to impress, we want to feel something and for others to feel it as deeply as we do. Yet, to live this artistic life money is now required. Sometimes we resist this, sometimes we hesitate and we second guess our authenticity.

In this photograph, on the left side is an old and abandoned child's wheel chair, and on the right a close up detail. This was found in the "prop closet" in the drawing room at the University. What always struck me were the wooden toys across the arms of the seat. How long was this child going to be in this chair? I had never seen a chair like this. The toy's wooden beads were now faded, and an old colander was in the seat. I liked how beaten up it was. At the time the photo was made I was focused on the objects beauty but I was also probably grateful that I was never required to draw these items.

Where are your works' origins? Do you question the work you are doing? Are you making the work you want to be making? Will you compromise in order to really make a go at this? And how much? Are you judging yourself or others too harshly? All I can say, as I ask myself these same questions is...
Keep moving forward, keep flowing, and keep fighting.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

One Artist's Week in Review

It has been another exciting and busy week! First of all, thank you for all your comments about last week's post. It was great to hear from so many of you and of your personal experiences with rejection in the art world. I was very happy that I had my studio blog so I could channel my energy and feelings about that subject into something positive and useful. I am very fortunate that I have this forum to share my experiences in this business with you. I do feel your support and encouragement, and I appreciate it.

This past week, four of my pieces were placed in the Arkansas World Trade Center in Rogers, Arkansas. My work will be showing along with the work of Kathy Thompson and Helen Phillips for the next three months. The DDP gallery in Fayetteville managed the selection and placement of the works, and the paintings will be for sale through the gallery as well. I am excited to have my work in this facility. I will let you know when they have updated their website to include my work.

In other gallery news, I am now represented by the fabulous River Market Art Space located in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas! I am very pleased to join their stable of talented artists, and look forward to participating in the 2nd Friday art nights as often as I can. I think my work will be a good fit for the gallery, and I am excited to be in the heart of Little Rock River Market area. So, if you are in Little Rock or plan to visit, look for my work there starting late January or early February. I will update you when I have a presence on the River Market Art Space's website as well. I am no longer represented by the M2 gallery in West Little Rock. I had a wonderful year with the M2 gallery and the wonderful artists represented there.

Last night, I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at the Young Emerging Leader's event, Secrets Revealed: The Fine Art of Art & Wine. The event was held in the Ft. Smith Town Club and Remy Fine Art. I was there to discuss my work, process, and what all it entails to be an professional artist as well as the joys of collecting original art. I also tried to dispel some myths in the art world as well. I encouraged the group to ask questions and think for themselves when it comes to buying original art; to let their personal tastes alone and not the fads or trends, guide them in the process. I believe if they do this, they will be satisfied with their art buying experience and the art in their collection will keep giving to them in ways they haven't even imagined. The group members asked some fantastic questions, and seemed very receptive. I was very nervous about my talk, but of course once it started, I was in my element and I had the greatest time. It just solidifies to me that this is my passion, and I am so lucky to be able to do this as a career. So a big thank you to the wonderful Y.E.L. group and a massive thank you to Jeanne Parham at Remy Fine Art. My exhibit at Remy Fine Art closes today, so if you are in the Ft. Smith area and have not seen it yet, please go check it out. The gallery will keep a selection of my work for sale, and will continue to represent my work in the Ft. Smith area. It has been a wonderful exhibit and experience, with 5 of my paintings selling so far.

Tomorrow, I will be headed back to Ft. Smith to pack up part of my exhibit and then share parts of it and trade out art with the Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs and the River Market Art Space in Little Rock, and at the DDP gallery in Fayetteville. In other words all the galleries that represent me in Arkansas will soon have new and exciting work in time for February. I am looking forward to trading out my work, and making everything fresh just in time for Spring. It is never too early to think of Spring!

To top this already busy week off, I have been in the studio working away. My time there has been exciting. I currently have 11 new paintings in progress right now! I think many of these new paintings will go to Gallery Fraga in Bainbridge Island, Washington. A new energy and vigor has taken hold as I am experimenting with new shape ideas, color combinations, and a bit of a new design element. As soon as I get the work photographed I will share it with my blog readers first.

So, that is a week in the life of this artist, thank you so much for being a part of it.

A commissioned painting for a patron
through the Blue Moon Gallery
Mixed Media on Canvas 2007
Megan Chapman

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rejection: Surrender into this Ocean

Oh the joys of being an artist, and the spectacular ups and downs that come with it! Just this week, I received news that a couple of pieces of my work had been rejected. It was quite a blow and a major disappointment. I can't get into all the details but I can say that it would have been a pretty big deal if my work had been accepted.

It is still a big win for me personally that my work was even considered and made it as far as it did in the process. Anyway, it wasn't chosen in the end and now I have to sit with that fact. I decided to give myself half a day to be really upset. I am not usually this pragmatic, but it seemed like a good way to handle it at the time, and I think it worked out well. I am no stranger to rejection, as in this business, it is simply a part of the experience of being a working artist. I usually try to focus on the positives and move on.

In this instance, I had been waiting to find out if my work was accepted for 6 months and I was given every indication that my work was "in" right until the very end. So, when I got the news that the work didn't make the final cut; I was shocked, sad, and numb. Quickly I decided on the half day plan of unabashed sadness, but not much more than that. I listened to dreamy nostalgic music, I cried and I ate a pint of soy ice cream. I emailed everyone close to me that knew about this potential opportunity and told them the news. I started to feel a little better and I then started to see all sorts of positives from participating in the experience. I could feel the weight of the past 6 months lifting off my shoulders. I am not a patient person, so the waiting was very nerve wracking. Now, the gig was up and I decided I was ready to move on.

As artists, we all know that rejection of our work is an occupational hazard but how you deal with it really makes a difference. I wondered how I would react if this was the news all the while I was waiting. I was pleasantly surprised, I did not let it derail me. I gave the news its due and then moved on. I got back in the studio right away, armed with a new play list on my iPod to build me up. Blaring songs of power and a little defiance, and they sounded so good. I had the most fun just rockin' out singing loud and painting.

There are so many reasons why our work is rejected, and there is no reason in wondering why or trying to conform to something you are not. Notice that through this whole post, I used the term my work, your work or our work is rejected... I am adamant about not taking it personally. I am not being rejected, perhaps some of my ideas or color combinations, designs or the lines I made are. I know I am a part of every painting, in fact a part of my best self is in every painting, but the experience I have while making these paintings is golden and is all for me. I keep that within no matter what happens with the work.

How do you deal with it when your work is rejected? Do you give yourself time to feel it and then move on? Or do you sweep it under the rug? Do you stuff it down deep inside and carry it around like a dark cloud, letting it interfere with your work? Let me know your thoughts on the subject in the comment section.

Know that you are not alone, and that rejection can be a valuable part of the process if viewed in the right light. It can give you the resolve to fight even harder for your work and just like the old song on my play list says,"you gotta Rise Above!"

See " Spaces between Insight"
by Megan Chapman
at the DDP gallery
located at 7 East Mountain St. Fayetteville.
Open: W-F 12-7 and Sat. 10-5 and by appointment
The DDP gallery exclusively represents my work for all of Northwest Arkansas

Friday, January 4, 2008

Small Steps and then a Swift Kick

Here it is, almost a week into the New Year... I wish I could report that I have been in my studio everyday since the clock struck midnight on the 31st, or that I have been eating well and running a mile everyday, living in a perfectly ordered and measured world of my creation, and fulfilling my wildest dreams.

Yet, instead reality sets in, and hits me like a ton of bricks.

If you have found that your new year's plans have not manifested themselves yet, rest assured you are not alone, but I bet you may be on the right path, even when the obvious markers of this are absent.

I am looking for the small markers to show my progress. I have not been painting yet, but my studio is clean and ready for me when I decide to. I have all the supplies I need. I have solved a small logistics problem, by buying some coveralls at a thrift store- now I don't have to change clothes 2 times a day or ruin my "good" clothes when I paint. I am organizing my music files on my computer and cleaning off my ipod, and have myself a new batch of inspiring tunes loaded up. If you read this blog often enough you know how important music is to my creative process. So these are all small steps in the right direction. What small steps are you taking in the right direction? Please give yourself some credit this year.

Once, I was very stuck in my art and I wrote to one of my dearest friends to share my frustration, and he sent me the perfect note that really helped me change my direction. I keep it tacked to my studio wall and look at it often. Today, I would like to share it with you.

"Action is where it's at for you right now. You are very talented, very creative and have the right ideas and a deep belief about what art can do for you and others. What both of us need to do--right now is lighten up and act. Pretend you're loving it, pretend to yourself that there is no fear. LET GO of the inaction because I know I cling to it sometimes and I think you do as well.

Do not do anything you do not have to do but paint and go do it. If you need to use cheap materials and assume that whatever you end up doing is going to be burned anyway, DO IT. Do a watercolor on the wall of your shower and erase it, do drawings and burn them, but get your hands moving and don't be afraid.

Get away from the couch and distracting responsibilities and start doing some stuff--if it's crap, burn it and if its crap again, burn it, and if it's crap again burn it. Just keep moving."

So, there you have it, and on that note I will put on my "new" coveralls, get away from this computer, climb the stairs to my studio and paint.

See my painting "Flirtation" at Remy Fine Art
720 Garrison Ave. Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Open: T-F 12-5
and by appointment.

"Secrets Revealed" Works by Megan Chapman and
Steve and P.J. Robowski
December 6-January 18th