Friday, March 20, 2020

Return the gift

For what it's worth 62x76cm mixed media on canvas, framed in white, 2019, Megan Chapman
 Currently available through Irving Gallery. 
I am writing this post on Monday. I know my blogs have been backdated A LOT these days. Part of it is due to simply getting out of my routine and part of is that I don't feel as connected to my readers as I once did. I know that my lack of energy for this space and lack of readership go hand in hand. This space is still very important to me. I don't enjoy it as much when it becomes solely a promotional platform and it has been that A LOT lately. I like it more when it becomes a thoughtful, dreamy place where I can write freely and express some other part of my art brain that is usually held closer within and secreted away. Sometimes, I don't even want to write about my studio practice here, so I may feel limited at times by the scope that I originally set for this blog back in 2007. 

I realise of course, that I can write whatever the hell I want to and as I don't have the same dedicated art following here as I once did when blogs were king and social media meant MySpace, now is really the time to regift this space to myself. I am a painter and I write as part of my practice. Sometimes it is overtly connected and sometimes it is not and that is enough. This space is mine. 

Welcome to the re-gifting of Megan Chapman's Studio Blog. Imagine I have cut a long velvet ribbon with gigantic golden scissors and if you want, you are welcome to cross the threshold. It's like an old shoe with a new set of laces. 

I am listening to Beirut's song "Gallipoli" on repeat turned up loud on my big wireless headphones. I am still a firm believer in a good song on repeat to take me somewhere or to give me the space to find somewhere new in my brain, this is my sonic meditation. Music is everything to me. 

So here we are, in our Covid-19 days. I have not been to my studio in 2 weeks. I didn't think when I was there last that I wouldn't be just right back. I didn't gather up materials or supplies to work from home. I wasn't thinking that far in advance to our fast-approaching new reality. I live about an 18-minute bus ride away from my sacred space. I, of course, could walk there and have done so in the past or I could even ride my bike. I am not so sure if that is a good idea anymore. 

Today, I haven't even gone outside across the road to the wee beach (Wardie Bay) as more and more people are going out to nature and not observing the social distancing rules (2 metres/6.5feet) it becomes more difficult to feel safe or to avoid people. So here I am, trying to figure out a way to work from home in this new reality. 

If any of you have visited my studio in Edinburgh or even back in Fayetteville, Arkansas (at the Fayetteville Underground or any of my home studios) you will know that I am not a passive painter and that there are marks left behind on the walls and floors and that I can't seem to politely paint at an easel no matter how hard I try. So, of course, my work will change as I work from home. Perhaps more collage elements, more written or typed bits, or just tighter cleaner wee paintings. Who knows. I have worked from dining room tables, kitchen counters, and small spaces before. And god knows, I love a challenge. Perhaps there will be more accidental portraits but on a smaller scale. I really don't know. 

All of my exhibitions have been canceled and the galleries closed and I won't be venturing out to the post office to mail any art at this time either. So there goes my livelihood along with so many others. My livelihood is probably more predisposed to this type of upheaval. I am used to working alone and I am used to financial uncertainty. I am used to offering up my work for free to view online just make people happy or to infuse some beauty or interest into their days (I see your Covid-19 pet posts, singing posts, cooking posts and I thank you for them). You may now have a better sense of what many artists and creative people's lives are like. That desire to shift the narrative, to entertain, and to help others with whatever you feel you have to give and it isn't about money. 

However, I feel like The Giving Tree right now (I have always been the tree in that book). Currently, I feel like the stump at the end. This is mostly because I haven't been working as regularly (after that 2019 year-end flurry and I've been spending my time this year getting ready for what I thought was to be an exhibition flurry in 2020). Now, I am away from my studio, the galleries and shows are closed, I am not making my Tuesday Studio Video Visits, and I can't even send you art if you wanted to support me. I feel like I have nothing to give. I know this is not exactly true but it is a feeling that has crossed my brain a few times lately. 

And now watch what I do, I will turn it around. I am pretty good at this part, my middle name is Campbell (but it really should be Resilience). One day when I finally get around to making "my weirdest fucking art yet"™ maybe that will be the name I use - Resilience Campbell. 

So, okay back to the turnaround. Here I am, giving you this, I am writing my Studio Blog - better late than never and I think it's going to pretty good so far. I have ordered art supplies today. Just a few things to get me going again - yellow ochre, black, white, pink, turquoise paint (gotta have some colour!) charcoal sticks, brushes. Thanks, Pat for the birthday giftcard to the art supply store! I still need a few other materials (there seems to be have been a run on oil pastels!) and another generous friend has offered to help me with this. Thanks, John! 

Many of the galleries I show with are posting work online across social media and have e-commerce sites or are in the process of developing them so that patrons can still buy art in order to support their galleries and artists. They are thinking of new ways for us all to stay connected and in business with online art talks and more! For all the links look at last week's post.

After posting this blog, I will start to clear a space where I might be able to work (and as the weather warms I will be able to use the outside patio space too and get some fresh air while observing social distancing/isolation protocol). Tomorrow, I will record a Tuesday Studio Video Visit from home and might change up the format a bit. I still want to get the rest of my videos from Facebook and put them on my YouTube channel - and it looks like I will have plenty of time now to do that tedious task. I can update my online shop and can create new incentives for patrons to support my work- as in it's a great time to put a painting on layaway - at installments that you can afford. There are many things I can do to maintain my practice (and it might not just be painting) and hopefully generate a bit of money. Basically, I need to create my own WPA projects and hope that our capitalist systems fall in line with what is really happening with rent and mortgage freezes, utility freezes, support for the freelance, self-employed and gig economy WORKERS around the world and a basic universal income while we are helping each other by staying in place.

Honestly, haven't we all just been thinking of surviving and protecting our loved ones? This is not the best headspace for me to make art and I am not feeling too creative except for in the kitchen (yes, cooking is an art) but I have lived through many times in my life when it was not the best headspace for making art. The art changes and the headspace changes too. We don't wait for inspiration, we create the conditions for it and we catch it in the ether. Today, I vow to set the stage and have my internal butterfly net alerted to catch the wild ideas that float past. I have more to give, I am not done.

Be well, stay safe, distance, and isolate. Wash your hands. We need you and the gifts you bring, now more than ever. 

With love, gratitude, and hope for the world, 

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