Friday, March 21, 2008

The Map, and then the Reality

Part 1: The Map

It is time to get serious for my upcoming exhibition."Evidence of the Disappearance" to be held at the Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas in June and July 2008. I head to the studio early one morning to find the paperboard backing off an old newsprint pad and I grab the nearest sharpie marker.

I make a map or diagram of what I need to do.

Preparing for a show is a long process and it can be overwhelming so, I like to "map" out the grand scheme and then eventually break it into more manageable chunks and set daily goals. I scrawl the title across the top, and start visualizing how many paintings I want to create to fill the space and of what size and orientation. I write a few ideas to keep me in line, things I know I want to incorporate into the show, a little of the theme, and some reference points. I draw boxes representing the paintings that I have completed, started and finished. I will mark these "done" as I work through my plan, with dashed lines, X's and checks- these markings will mean something to me. I am already feeling some relief. Some structure is a good thing; when I set parameters, I can then relax and let go and know that the process will take care of me in the end.

Once I have my visual map, rather than thinking "upcoming show=a ton of work," I can break it down, "Today all I need to worry about is starting three paintings, or revisiting yesterday's 10x10's etc." I take an index card or any scrap of paper and write down this smaller daily goal and pin it to the bulletin board in my painting area. I rarely look at it again except to mark it "done" when I am about to turn off my studio lights for the day. These little organizational tools help me to keep a cool head. I have these goals, but I also know I may not always meet them. I may get caught up in a particular piece and drift away and loose track of my "map" for the day and that is fine. I use the map and small goal cards to jump start me into action, and to bring some order to an initially unnerving situation. There is always room to deviate and meander through the process of preparing for an exhibition.The map and cards are simply my good intentions actualized, and we all know that saying about good intentions...

Part 2 : And then the reality

I shout at the muddy fragmented painting, " you're killing me!"and then suddenly it yields unexpected and positive results. The floor of my studio becomes littered with blotter paper and partially finished paintings. I am listening to every Interpol song ever recorded and I know I am in the zone.

Random words, sections of remembered dreams and song lyrics filter through as I work. Occasionally, even a potential title will reveal itself. This hum runs through my mind as my music gets turned up another notch. I jump, clap, and sing loudly, as I am painting. I am an active participant but I am not really here at the same time. I am watching all this happen from the other side of the room. One painting leads to another, one problem after the other, they keep pulling me along as I gain momentum.

This is my process at 5am (and sometimes earlier) every morning when I am working on a show. Some days are amazing, the music has never sounded better and the paintings on the easel are flowing like electricity. And some days, in the bright lights of my studio the paintings are awful, like pulling teeth or learning a new language, tears come too easily and it feels like I have never painted before. At times, I feel like giving up and getting a job at Target. Voices in my head, (the inner critics) say "hide the gold, hide the aqua- you know you are just imitating yourself!" So, I use some other colors for the sake of freshness and they reward me with a vividly hued mess. I then yell at the canvas "Are you kidding me?" The painting is so ugly it's embarrassing. I turn off the studio lights, my brow furrowed,"Am I really going to leave that on the easel to greet me when I return?" Sadly, I think so.

This impasse also signals break time. Perhaps, a MySpace login is in order (hello friends!). After a few minutes of quick greets, best wishes, and emoticon winks, I march back up the stairs to my studio and once again disappear into the process. I find a strong yet dreamy song and set it to repeat, and for the next few hours it helps to silence the questions, and I will dive back in. I know I will repeat this process again and again for months until the "Evidence of the Disappearance" is realized...

Now, for an exciting announcement: It is time for the paper painting give away, the response was tremendous last month! I will be giving away a small original painting on Arches paper to one lucky reader that leaves me a comment on today's blog. I will mail to anywhere in the world. To enter, please leave a comment on this blog entry. I will randomly draw a number to correspond with the comments in the order they are received. The giveaway runs from today through Tuesday of next week, so get your comment in between now and Tuesday at midnight. I'll post the winners name in my blog next Friday, along with an image of the piece they will receive so please be sure to check back, so that I can then contact you to get your postal information. I appreciate everyone who reads and comments on my studio blog. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. It means the world to me. GOOD LUCK!


  1. Hey, hey! I'm the first to commment! I must be a stalker....aghh...Megan runs in horror down the street...
    Hee, hee!
    Your blogs are always so honest and real. They touch the hearts of people like me who are just starting out on the journey as a professional artist. I am blinded somedays by the canvas, and I feel like I've never painted before. You echoed my experiences in your blog today and I feel comforted by it.
    You map your journey out in the blog and you use language that lets us into your studio as if we can actually see it like a visual documentary. You are so willing to share - you are a blessing to the artists community.
    Thanks Megan.
    Have a happy easter weekend - remember to treat your inner artist child with a chocolate treat!!
    Best Wishes
    Debs x

  2. totally interesting and fascinating as ever. . . thank you for your honest and clear blog : )


  3. Megan, love your work! As well as your informative, and creative, blogging! Wishing you all the best, Michelle

  4. Great blog once again Megan!

    I can totally relate to a lot of what you wrote. I love the part about wanting to give it up and get a job at Target. Sigh. Yes, I have been there. The days where work just flows and the music sounds like you've never heard it before are the days that keep me going, and you too I am sure.

    Good luck with your upcoming show. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

  5. great blog megan i agree i like the honesty

    i walked today and thought about your blog a lil

    when i feel like i am having a conflict with a painting i leave and go on a walk ussally i like to walk b4 i paint to stay out of conflict i like to look at my work as a partner a friend and if theres conflict it gets in the way of the nature of the work
    i also notice when i am doing my work as a process theres not as much nature

    looking foward to more of your work

  6. Megan: I have been in the biggest slump about drawing. Sometimes I think I have totally lost any talent I had, other times I think it might have been the subject I chose and I get discouraged. After reading your blog, one of such honesty, I want you to know I feel inspired to get started again. After reading about your moments of frustration, I can get going again. I love the comment about how you think at times you think you should get a job at Target! LOL

    Your works on paper that you are giving away are awesome. I especially like the ones with a little plum color in them, like the lower right corner one! You seem to mix the right colors together. I am glad I stopped by to read your blog. Thanks for sharing. I needed it.

    Honestly, on this holiday weekend, I am seriously off to draw!

  7. I have it on good authority that anonymous (above) is V.A.(a myspace friend). I needed to write this in now before I forget... Thanks everybody... Keep the comments coming! I appreciate it. Don't forget to identify yourself in some way even if you sign in as anonymous. I want you to be eligible for the paper painting!

  8. I'm lucky. I live like 3 blocks (uphill dammit) from Megan. AND I represent her. So I get to see the Target where she would work. Would she be a cashier, stocker, returns person or dressing room attendant? I think I'd find her in hosiery - rearranging the colors and strips and textures.

    Megan's a damn hard worker. She claims to slack a lot - but I don't believe her. She basically lives, eats and breathes her craft...non-freaking stop, always working it.

    I must say, it is refreshing to see someone be honest about the struggle and how to work through it. A lot of my visits to Megan's studio were met with prestine-ness, but then I got to it see pre-show. She's not perfect! She gets frenetic. She pulls it off, becoming graceful, as if it was pure pleasure. It is, isn't it?

    Good job boss! (Megan and I call each other boss.)

  9. Woo Megan Art. I like reading about how you mapped out your show. As I said on Facebook, I look forward to seeing how the exhibit plays out.

    Keep the blog entries coming. They are interesting.

  10. I love reading your blogs, its like you open a gate way to your mind and let us in!!
    GOOD LUCK with the upcoming exhibition, come do a show in Australia, please.

    P.S. I am glad to know I am not the only one who shouts at a painting ; ) PB XX

  11. Megan,

    Love the map of the work!

    Sign me up for some free art,

  12. eloquent discription of the working artist's mind. Love your setting of daily goals, Love the struggle, that's where the paintings get their soul... Your on the right track Megan. Keep the faith. Michael Dubina

  13. Your map and goal lists are just great.

    "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Maybe that means making a map and a schedule?

    Inspiration, however, does come when I visit your blog :)

  14. When I added you as a friend I sent you a short note saying I hoped your postings would help me get back to my own art. They have. I am your friend Brenna from myspace. I draw chairs with pastels.

    Thank you. I love your work and I hope I win.

    Brenna in Little Rock

  15. Megan,

    This Blog encapsulated everything I'm feeling about painting right now. Get out of my head please!

    Thank you.

  16. Hard work! As always - great to see what goes through an artist's mind. It isn't a perspective you get very often.

    But, why is learning a new language so awful?

  17. great blog (im not commenting for the free art, please dont include me because ive already won one o your wonderful paintings) but i can tell you her small paper paintings are wonderful. Megan you are a delight as well. i really appeciate hw you take the mystery our of producing art and try to help others with the proces as well. i hope to get back into practicing my "ART" more. you are insprational with your organizing and getting motivated blog. thanks

  18. hi, nice blog. here it is in the middle of the night, going to sleep, but will come back later. finest thoughts. nicolas

    tim lane made me aware of your blog

  19. Interesting to see among all the careful planning and execution there is still chaos. I'm gonna have to work on some sort of single file, size, order system for myself.

  20. I want art too. Please sign me up. I am still happy that you're my sister. And will be forever. Thanks.

  21. I just found your blog today. 23 is my lucky number!

  22. Just finished your latest blog, it was great. Love to hear how other artists deal with the pressure of an approaching show. Thanks for your openess and insight. Hope it is not too late, we would love some more Megan Chapman on our walls.
    Randall Good

    (posted by Megan, Randall was having some trouble)

  23. HI MEGAN

    (posted by Megan, Darrell was having some trouble)

  24. Basil preparing for a show = total chaos.
    Mapping out is way sensible, perhaps I should try being sensible. Linda always asks me how many paintings I plan to complete for the show; I give her a different answer every time. I think I'll give this mapping thing a shot. What am I doing? I should be taking notes!