Friday, January 4, 2019

2018: Year End Review

For those of you that have been following this blog for a number of years, I used to end each December with a year-end review. It was a long and unwieldy post and I always say you deserve a gold star if you read it all. It's really for me.

A snapshot of the past year, the process of writing this blog works with my "gathering the evidence" ethos. Sometimes we all need reminding of the good and of the progress we have made in order to celebrate or even to just acknowledge that we are working towards something and moving forward. In a society that doesn't always understand or support artists and only measures success in terms of money earned, I think this practice is even more important. I think I skipped last year's review but this year, I really need the reminder. Perhaps this practice is something you could benefit from as well. This year has flown by at record speed.

January: Stewart and I wrapped up a Christmas holiday trip to see my family and friends in Arkansas. It was a wonderful and happy visit and I fell in love with my homeland in a different way than I had before, accepting that the city I was born in had virtually disappeared but for in pockets, and that the rural land of the hills spoke more of home to me now. I was inspired to take some of the stillness and atmosphere back home to Edinburgh with me and put it into a body of work. I kept creating my Tuesday Studio Video Visits while I was back home, this last one from before we left to come back to Edinburgh, sums up how I was feeling and what I hoped to bring back with me into my work and heart.

By the 19th of January, I was back in the studio and slowly getting ready to create a rather large body of paintings. First, I worked on paper, creating three 16x20" abstract paper pieces, two of them found homes. One of them was my first sale of 2018.

I wrote, "There is something approachable about paper, it's not too precious yet it's surface offers many rewards. I set myself some modest goals, mostly just to return to my space regularly and to my routine. This wasn't about pressure or stress. Thanks to my low-key intentions, work dripped from my fingers each day." When I ran out of that paper, I switched to some small brown paper sacks from the Chinese market. I loved the quality of the paper and how the paint looked on the warm brown. The paper sack series was born. 

I wrote: "I am feeling productive as I expand my work. I am also trying to be a bit more intentional and organized, taking note of what I am doing here and there and sharing my progress along the way. As I expand my work I also hope to expand my art community."

After the paper sacks, I was ready to go bolder and I was inspired by the the grey blue wintering mountains and valleys of home. Suddenly my paintings got quite large, and the beginnings of my series, Echoes and Memory began to emerge.

I wrote: "Paint big, dream big, live big, and take up space. Take up space and make it beautiful. Take up space and make it bolder. Take up space with pure nothingness. Take up space with the edge of a charcoal smudge. Let the white envelope you and the blackness tell the secrets locked in your heart." And so I did. 

February: The work exploded and the new series was coming out of me at record speed. I would say almost the first half of my series was completed in February. I was exhausted, excited and very inspired. I painted my favourite painting from the series (and perhaps of all time), All that I am, during this month. Three pieces from the new series are accepted in the Spring, Thy Name is Colour exhibition at The Velvet Easel Gallery in Portobello, Edinburgh. One of the new large pieces goes to the &Gallery on Dundas street. The year is off to an amazing start. I write: "It is moments like these where every question and doubt, every frustration or worry, quiets and I know once again I am on the right path. This path I have been walking down for over twenty years. In fits and starts, my dedication to painting never truly wanes. I am grateful for all the lessons I have been taught and continue to learn through art." During this month I also had a productive meeting with Union Gallery and had more of my newer works put on the site. I remember at the time that it felt good to have work in a flurry of brick and mortar galleries here in Edinburgh and back home in Arkansas. I felt like I was returning to something I had lost since the financial crash of 2008 (when many galleries closed) and since I had moved to Edinburgh in 2014. I also talked to management at the Drill Hall about orgnasing more events and open studios and we started to hatch a plan. It was this month that I decided to take a break from drinking and I am still on that break and feeling all the better for it.

March: "Spring, Thy Name is Colour" opened at The Velvet Easel Gallery in Portobello. Four more new paintings in the series started to pour out of me and I remember spending a portion of my 46th birthday in my studio before Stewart and I went out to celebrate. 

I wrote : "The sun came out today and it felt like a miracle. I forgot how good it feels. While out walking and enjoying the sun, I met a fox and he told me to tell you to pay attention to how unexpectedly beautiful the world can be. He then jumped up a wall, making easy work of it. You and I might have looked at that wall and thought we were trapped but he didn't even think of it as an obstacle. He asked me to have you think about that too." The fox story and the sunshine has nothing to do with art but everything to do with life and I needed the reminder and I thought you might too. Two more paintings were completed this month. 

I wrote: "Again I am flirting with harder shapes and angles combined with an ethereal atmosphere with an icy yet earthy palette. In these pieces, I enjoy playing with the consistency of the paint as well. As the series progresses, I continue to expand on the concept of "what is enough" to tell and teach me when to stop with these works. Less is more." 

This month I also decide that I want to return to mentoring artists again and very gently offer my services in a few lines on my blog. I ended up working with several wonderful painters during 2018. Thank you Rosalind, Isabel, Kris and Catriona for taking me up on my offer and for making beautiful work. It was an honour to work with you all. There will be more on this very soon as we move into 2019. I worked on four more pieces in the series, resolving three of them during the month. I was also asked to be part of a summer exhibition at the Union Gallery. I remember feeling thrilled at the opportunity to showcase some of my new works in this beautiful gallery space. This month I was also notified that my painting "Acceptance" sold from The Velvet Easel exhibition. I was so excited! It was the first piece from the new series to find a home! 

April: Working on the new series continued with another large-scale work being completed. I was contacted for an upcoming interview in the blog of a national (UK) art supply retailer (This turns out to be Jackson's art supply piece but I was being coy at the time - more on that in a bit). I attended the initial planning meeting for our upcoming Open Studios at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall which was scheduled for June. I finished another large 80x80cm canvas in the series and created three small works (20x20cm/8x8") in the series as well. Towards the end of April, it was all about the documentation of the series. Thank you, Stewart Bremner. Not only does Stewart support me so that I can continue to be a painter but he also varnishes, documents, and deals with the digital aspects of my work. So many of us think we have to do it all and know it all, but that is simply impossible. I am grateful for all his help during this busy and exciting year. For those of you who don't already know, Stewart is a painter and a graphic designer and runs his own successful small business, IndyPrints (check it out). During this month I started twenty-three small works. I wrote: "There is some sort of hunger or reaching for something or waiting for something to happen and I can feel the tension of it. I'll just observe it for now. Perhaps it is some sort of longing. Spring is about to burst open and I want to be out there in the midst of it and not miss anything."

May: I continue on making small layered works on canvas, Communication techniques of the easily silenced which are the small works included in the Echoes and Memory series. I write, "I have been thinking more about what I love about the south, the wildness of it, the heavy air and the electric charge that comes with the change in the weather. I would say that all of my work since I have returned to Scotland from visiting Arkansas in December and January has been an atmospheric homage to where I am from." 

Layers of paint and paper continued to be added to my latest canvases from my "Communication techniques of the easily silenced" series of small works. I also finished another wee square work on canvas (20x20cm/8x8") and worked on two large 80x80cm canvases, getting one of them close to completion. After working on the large series and smaller works I switched back to using throw away materials, painting on cardboard to loosen up. At the end of the month there was exciting news as HBO bought three of my limited edition prints from The Distillation Process to use in their award winning series, True Detective!

June: I had a studio visit from Alision Auldjo about an upcoming exhibition that would end up featuring 5 of my works. I also turned all my attention to preparing for our Open Studio event that we had been working toward and planning, it was quite successful. This is what I wrote about the open studio event. "Open studios went very well. It was a lovely event that reminded me of everything I love about being an artist and being part of a community. Besides painting, it's the conversations and communication that I really enjoy. It is always a thrill to witness folks take the time to breathe and let go as they view the work. A wonderful exchange of space, energy, art, and thought happens in these moments. I can sense it when it happens and it fills me with joy. I feel seen and understood, this is a rare gift. I am not being the cool or aloof artist, I am open to questions and the sharing of my process with fellow artists, patrons, and the non-buyer alike." After open studios, I continued to sell some of my small works from the series online. Also during this month an article, Megan Chapman, A Strange Alchemy was published about my latest work and my dedication to abstraction. I reflect on the priviledge of being a painter in this post. During this month, I am very pleased to have my work (2 pieces) in The Velvet Easel upcoming exhibition, "Defying Sameness." The exhibition opens on 7th of July and stays up through the 28th of October.

During this month I am getting ready for the "Summer Garden Party" exhibition coming up at The Union Gallery I am thrilled to have five pieces featured in the show.

July: July = Art. "Defying Sameness" at The Velvet Easel Gallery in Portobello. "Summer Garden Party" at Union Gallery in the West End. "Makers Marque" Open Studio at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith. It was a wonderful month. Later in the month there were ramblings of a manifesto for art, and thinking of new ways to bring my art to the world and community. I even went to so far as to proclaim "I want to be a budget Peggy Guggenheim." I have ideas of subverting the gallery system, creating a collective and putting on exhibitions in non traditional spaces. At this time I return to my books series with the idea of created new books for the 20 year anniversary of my BFA terminal exhibition books coming in June 2019. I enjoy returning to the yellowed pages. In other news, one of the galleries that had carried my work on a trial basis since December contacted me to ask me to collect my three paintings.

As luck would have it, the same day other opportunities opened up - alternative space possibilities were discussed (for curating the collective exhibitions), as well as a solo exhibition opportunity and an upcoming highly visible one-night-only exhibition were all mentioned over a 10-minute impromptu meeting. The next day, Jackson's Art Supplies, an international art supply shop, based in London, published an interview with me on their inspirational blog on their website. It is quite an honour and I am grateful for the opportunity. The interview was happily splashed all around social media.  At the same time, The Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith, chose me as their featured artist of the week. So many good things were happening with my work, despite the set back of having to collect my work from the one gallery, however at the end of July we got some bad news, we needed to move out of our flat. This added tremendous stress to everything.

August : I tried to keep working through the stress and turned to some new works on handmade indian paper. However, suddenly all my time and energy turned to the cause of looking for a new place to live. Everything else seemed quite small in comparison. Regardless a 4 piece series, The Dark Anchor, a new series of works on paper, is born. At this stressful time, I work with a coach Jenny Pope. Jenny was getting in her hours for her training and offering a rate I can afford, I work with her about my art and trying to make peace with my calling. I have many questions and as we continue to view and look for places to live the answers do not come easily.By the end of August, I am really struggling, and I write an open and vulnerable blog about it. However of course I return to work. I write: "This week found me back in the studio passionately working and it felt good. I returned to my paper series that originally started off as "the dark anchor" but now seems to be evolving into something larger and perhaps less dark. I am looking forward to framing these, I think these might fit in the expanded Echoes and Memory series once complete." Also this month, I announce that I am having a solo pop-up exhibition on Friday, September 21st from 7-9pm at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall! I am honoured to present my work in conjunction with Maggie's Centre Culture Crawl, a fundraising event happening in 12 cities across the UK to support people affected by cancer. This month I also start working on my first four piece commission for an interior design and art consultant, Paper and White. All the while the flat hunt continues, with various appointments and viewings.

September: At the start of September we are still stressed while looking for a new flat to rent (we have about 6 weeks before we have to be out). My studio rent went up £20 a month and another gallery in Edinburgh contacted me to pick up all my work. Yet, still I rise. I turn it around to try look at the positives.

"I know we will find a place to live because we just have to. My studio rent went up but I believe it now includes high-speed internet in my studio and the gallery gave me back all my work butnow I am able to present even more of my latest body of work at my solo pop-up exhibition, Between Memory and Story on September 21st from 7-9pm for the Maggie's Culture Crawl at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall. I am grateful for my meditation and yoga routine at this time, I feel it is holding me together, I write this post. This month, with Stewart's skills and eye for detail and my vision together we install my solo exhibition, Between Memory and Story.My plan for the installation was to create a meditative tunnel that pulled the viewer through the exhibition and gave space to each piece so they could be seen individually and yet also as a whole. It is light, bright and airy. The Drill Hall is the perfect gallery space for this work. The one night only show is held over for a week. I am grateful. By the end of the month I am exhausted and grieving the loss of a very dear friend. I write, "My brain feels like it is going one thousand miles an hour. A ping-pong match mixture of happiness, excitement (my show and open studios), disbelief (at world news and American politics), grief over the passing of a dear friend and relief for having found somewhere to live (finally!). This is how my brain feels even after my yoga and meditation. Honestly, I think I am totally worn out. The stress of the constant search for a place to live over the last eight weeks was pretty intense and has caught up with me. I am grateful for all the leads, help, support, and just general good vibes we were given in the search. Now I just want to get in the new house and make it ours, a fresh start is needed. I also need to process my grief over my friend. This will probably happen when everything slows down or when I am least expecting it, at least I will be by the sea." I open my studios as part of the Makers Marque on
Sunday 30th September.

October : New Home! I write, "I am not sure how we decided on this place, I think it was imminent homelessness nipping at our heels. We saw it all of ten minutes and it was in a bit of a state, nothing I would usually want to live in but at the same time it had "something" many places did not, a feeling that a potential metamorphosis could take place with a bit of care and vision. We saw it at 10:30 in the morning last Thursday and by 2:30 that day it was reserved for us. It's only 15 minutes away by bus to the part of town I know and love most, and we are technically still in Edinburgh, so I need not worry but trust in the only constant, change.

When we got the keys, I was very excited to walk through it again while the workers were giving it a fresh lick of white paint. I sat on the carpeted floors and looked out the windows. I stood on the concrete of the back patio and rejoiced that I had a place where my feet could touch the earth. I imagined all sorts of scenarios, pots of soup and cups of tea, and a meditation on the wee beach across the road. How will living in this new space and community affect my painting? Only time will tell. Perhaps, we all need to move every four years, to shake off the old ways and start again."

The moving process takes me away from the studio for awhile as we try to get settled in our new place. After a week or two and we get a bit more settled I return to my routine at the studio and to my meditation and yoga after a bit of a break. As with the studio rent, our new cottage by the sea is also more expensive so I decide to have an impromptu studio sale for several weeks. I am grateful that it does well and I sell a number of small works.  During this time I also deliver 4 pieces to be included in the "5 Years" exhibition at The Velvet Easel Gallery. These works are from a series painted in 2017 called "All the ways."

November : Autumn is here. The clocks went back last weekend and now it gets dark around 4:45. I am drinking big pots of tea and wearing jumpers. I managed to not only pack and ship more pieces that were sold during my studio sale online but I also worked on a few drawings and a painting! I decided that I have found myself in a residency of sorts in my own studio. My studio G23 has currently become an incubator. I spend my time in my windowless room, pacing the floor, reading snippets out of art books and watching video clips and interviews from other artists. I am firmly in between series and returning to my art practice. I am showing up and putting in the time, my hand is in active exploration as it crashes through the different mediums. My experiments are peppered with research and the gentle quelling of the questioning voices in my head.

I work pretty full on in the studio Monday through Wednesday and took Thursday and Friday off to keep up with BREXIT news and because I was worn out. I needed a break. In those three days at work, I put paint on the surface of eighteen substrates; a mixture of newsprint, canvas, and some miniature canvas boards. I made pretty good progress on two larger pieces as well. I end up focussing on thirteen colourful mini works called "You said I made a bad decision" based on a song lyric by the band, Ladytron. I make these for the upcoming December open studios. These are mounted in small cream coloured tray frames and prove to be quite popular, I sell all but two. This month I also sell my favourite piece from the Echoes and Memory series, "All that I am." This is hugely exciting for me and I adore the patrons who purchased the piece. The piece represents me at my best and everything I love about painting and being a painter. It was a joy to see it going to such a good home.

December: By the first week of December I probably should be pretty tired but I am excited by the recent sales, paintings and the beauty of living by the sea. I have hope for the future and feel that I am finally establishing myself and my work here after moving here four years ago. It's not time to rest just yet. I write this post. I have two large commissions to complete on a very short timescale. This is probably one of the most challenging and exciting commissions of my career. Everything that can go wrong, does but still I rise and complete the job. I am wrecked afterward but oh so grateful and pleased. I look forward to working on more projects with Paper + White. You can read about the commissions here.

Afterwards, all I wanted to do is spend time with Stewart and our cat Theo in the sea shack and prepare for the holidays. I decorate the house and go sticker crazy, putting removable tile stickers over the exisiting bland rental tiles. The place is looking better every day. The sea is blue and green and wild and I love it.

A wonderful poem, Keeper by Jane Murray Bird was published in The Pickled Body. Jane's poem was inspired by my painting from 2015, Memories of distant places. I love the poem and am very honoured and happy that she has had it published. Jackson's art supplies reshares the interview they did with me back in the summer so I pick up a few new followers here and there across social media platforms and then suddenly it is Christmas and all that entails and then suddenly it is the end of the year and we here we are.

That's 2018.

Writing this blog was a challenge and I know I am mostly doing it for myself. I have to say I have shed more than a few tears while writing it as it gives me clarity on a busy and complex year but it also gives me pause for all the bridges crossed and all the art created. It's something to celebrate. I am still here, still working as an artist after all these years. I still have my doubts and I still have my pitfalls and I still require so much help to get all the things done to be the artist that I am.

Thank YOU.
With love in my heart and with gratitude.
Thank YOU.

And if you read this, you do deserve a gold star. Leave a comment (it can be as simple as "read") to be entered into a random prize draw to win a small painting. 


  1. What a ride you've had in 2018! Thanks for sharing the good, the bad and the unpleasant. I'm so glad the year ended so positively - it is truly reassuring to read about someone elses's authentic life - and not some Instagram-filtered presentation of perfection. Your positivity has kept me moving forward - away from some dark places. Thank you, thank you Megan - and here's to 2019!!

    1. Oops ... tis Elaine here from (not the mysterious UNKNOWN) ... LMAO!

    2. Thank you, Elaine. As always I really appreciate your reading my blog and your thoughtful comments. I am glad could offer something you resonated with. Onwards we go. xx

  2. What a year! Wishing you all the best for the new one! Much love, Ben

    1. Thank you, Ben. Thanks for your continued support and patronage and for being one of the best brothers. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing (in "language of the heart") what it is to be a working artist over the course of twelve months. I was introduced to your work whilst visiting a schoolfriend in Edinburgh and happening upon Union Gallery - it stirs me enormously, so thank you. We have a spare blank wall at home (a large one) and I am saving for a commission :-). Wishing you all the very best in your new place for 2019 - Jo x

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. I am so glad you happened upon my work in Edinburgh and that it stirs you. That means a lot to me. Thank you. I would love for you to live with my work someday. Happy 2019! x

  4. Wow what a year you've had Megan (yes I did read it all!). Thank you for your unfailing honesty in your posts, particularly this one, it's such a help for other artists going through stressful times in their own home/working lives. It has also inspired me to be more open in my own future posts, art doesnt exist in a vacuum after all, it's influenced by what is happening to the artist. I've always tried to avoid being too personal in my blog as I worried it might turn readers off, but your own blog proves the opposite I think. Your work is also incredibly inspiring too, best wishes for 2019.

    1. Thanks so much, Mari. I am so glad you appreciate my honesty. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum...aint that the truth! I understand holding back, and I still do as well, but my main goal is to demystify the process of art and create the relationships between artists and patrons and art lovers that sustain me. Best wishes in 2019! xx

  5. Thanks so much for sharing all that you did! Yes, I read to the end, as well. I enjoy reading how other artists work, and knowing I am not alone in my art practice. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, I am glad you got something out of it. You are not alone, we are really in this together. Happy 2019.

  6. i followed the link from instagram [i am not on fb] eloquent and honest writing, and speaking on the studio blog, a rare gift to share, the resilience, integrity, generosity and grace, the hopes, challenges and experiences vitally expressed through your art. i would be interested to work with you if you are offering mentoring this year, you have given me much to think about reflecting on my own difficulties over the last couple of years, thank you once again... with best wishes for the year ahead.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comment. I am offering mentoring this year, it is a passion of mine. We are stronger when we share and explore this process together. I will be launching my mentoring website soon, but feel free to send me an email before then. I am so glad things here have resonated with you. Best wishes in 2019.