Friday, March 29, 2013

Rambling on my mind...(it's spring somewhere)

My new little office space
Yesterday marked the second week of my being here in Edinburgh, Scotland. Today makes it day 15. Time is flying and yet settling in nicely, not too fast or two slow.

Last Saturday, I spent the day in Haddington, Scotland with two friends. It was lovely to get away from the city and enjoy lunch in a gallery cafe. The scenic road trip (getting lost) on the way home was fun too! Later that night I went to a family wedding reception in Leith. I found a five pound note on the ground as we walked there- so that was handy as I later bought myself a pint of Caledonia's Best during the festivities.

On Sunday, I took the day easy and did some family research in preparation for Monday's visit to the Register House with Stewart's mom Pat. It was a good day of research in a beautiful space. I continued my research once I got home as well, as genealogy can be very addictive.

On Wednesday, we walked to the Botanical Gardens for a little fresh air, bird call, and glass house love. I really enjoy it there and the walk to and from was beautiful as well. I think the glass houses could be one of my favorite things. On the home front I created my own little office space in the backroom overlooking the garden. It makes a big difference to have my own small space to read, write and process photos. Creating new spaces or making a new space out of the familiar is always a satisfying experience.

Thursday, I met the lovely Ever Dundas for coffee at a sweet little book shop and we talked non stop for 2 hours. It feels really great to be venturing out more and navigating the city on my own and seeing friends and creating relationships. This is something that I really wanted to do last time but wasn't quite ready for as I was still getting used to things.

Today I ventured out for a bit in the neighborhood and found a great decaf soy latte at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall which is practically right behind the flat. Later in the day we headed out to the High street in the sun. I just wanted to walk around the tourists for a bit and up to the castle. I do love that part of town even with its masses and tourist tat. I picked up 80 postcards and will soon be writing them and mailing them to all my lovely supporters who helped get me here.

It is amazing at times when I find myself far from Stewart's flat, alone in the bustling city walking to meet a friend or stopping on a bridge to take a photograph or just realizing that I am in fact in Scotland. I never thought this could ever be my life. I mean we are talking about someone who was afraid to drive a couple of miles to the Northwest Arkansas Mall and go shopping alone just a few years ago...

The adventure continues...and soon there will be art!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A moment between strangers

The street light in front of Stewart's flat in a rare moment of sun

What a week! I have walked 23 miles since last I wrote. I have seen so much art! It has been quite amazing to go from not seeing much art in recent months to suddenly in one week seeing so much art I find myself completely overwhelmed but rest assured I am not complaining!

The weather was a real mess on Saturday, with rain, wind and even some snow at times. Even with the questionable weather I am pleased to report that I made it to "art club" with Ever Dundas and her friends. I was a little nervous about going as it meant that I would have to navigate the city on my own to get there and once there I would meet new people. That was just silliness of course because everything went fine and Ever's friends were lovely. The art I made was more questionable than the weather but for me it was really more about spending time together and trying something new.

On Sunday, I took it easy mostly and then later in the afternoon we enjoyed a walk to Stewart's mom Pat's place for a visit and a wonderful pizza dinner by La Favorita. It was great to catch up and of course a little genealogy was discussed as Pat has been researching her family for a while and knows a thing or two that I, as a novice do not. I am looking forward to getting together with her again soon and visiting the Register House to do some research.

On Monday we ventured out late in the afternoon to visit the Scottish Society of Artists, Visual Arts Scotland and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolourannual open exhibitions at the Royal Scottish Academy galleries. Whew! So much art! Much of it was quite wonderful but after awhile art fatigue sets in no matter how great the art is. Many works stood out including Stewart Bremner’s painting, Below the Surface. Stewart’s piece gave a powerful punctuation to a rather cool and sedate wall of works with its rough texture and pop of signature orange and deep black. This is now the second painting of Stewart’s that has found its way into the RSA galleries within the year. A very impressive accomplishment and a great start to 2013. There were many other works that caught my eye in all three of these brilliant exhibitions and they were all well worth the walk in the rain, sleet, snow and wind.

On Tuesday we headed out to catch two more exhibitions, the first at Edinburgh Printmakers where we enjoyed the works works of Marilène Oliver: Confusao. It was a fascinating show. Afterwards we checked in with Alison Auldjo at Union Gallery. This is the gallery that represents Stewart’s work and showed four of my pieces in a group exhibition in December of 2011 and January 2012. It is a lovely space and it was great to see Alison again. Currently there is an Audrey Grant exhibition on show and we got to enjoy it while catching up.

After taking in all the art and finding ourselves in the neighborhood of my favorite pub, The Barony Bar, I knew I was thirsty for a pint or two of Deuchars. It was lovely to be back at the pub and sit at what I always considered my table by the window in the back corner. The warm, dark pub felt like home. I could have stayed there for hours.

On Wednesday we headed out and visited the Open Eye gallery, mainly to see the works of Paul Barnes. His works are cute and illustrative and displayed well. We then walked down the street and around the corner to The Gallery on the Corner to check out the exhibition, In Sun, Mist, Rain and Snow. This is an exhibition by Keith Salmon, a landscape painter who happens to be blind. I really enjoyed the work, his color palette was inspired and I am a sucker for an atmospheric abstracted landscape.

On Thursday we just took it easy and had a friend over for dinner. It was good to just relax, tell stories and laugh. I brought a vegan cookbook with me on the trip called "Appetite for reduction" in hopes that we would cook more and eat out less for economy as well as health. So far it is a great book and everything I have made from it has been fantastic.

Today we walked in the cold wind and sometimes snow to visit The Royal Scottish Academy, Princes Street Gardens, Fruit Market Gallery, stopped off for a coffee on the High Street, Central Library, Talbot Rice Gallery, National Library of Scotland and a visit St. Giles Cathedral. 

At the Royal Scottish Academy, I participated in Sogol Mabadi's piece Endeavour no. 7: Unbraiding. I have to say it was a moving experience and I am so glad I went behind the curtain to spend time with this artist. Learn more: It was a strangely quiet and profound experience that I will not soon forget. 

The artist is all in white and is behind a white half curtain in an alcove of the gallery. You can see her sock feet, her legs and her hands resting in her lap. She is just sitting and breathing alone behind the curtain. There is a feeling of nervousness in the room because everyone knows she is there waiting. Besides noticing her, you are also looking at the other art in the gallery that is part of the same exhibition. All the viewers know she is there just waiting and the anticipation is electric. You want to go in and experience a mystery. You are scared yet at the same time excited by the thought. What if you were one of the brave ones and not concerned with looking foolish, playful, or curious in public? What if you were willing to walk into the unknown and share a moment with a stranger? All of this is racing around your head while you are looking at the other art. Nervous giggles and gestures from the other patrons are evident as they are also thinking about going behind the curtain but few actually do. 

You know you have a choice to make. You can go in or you can just leave the room and wonder what it would have been like. I chose to go in. I lifted the curtain and there she was sitting there on a stool. I sat on the stool right across from her and let my bag fall from my shoulder and rest on the floor. She is still breathing deeply. Her face is obscured, covered by her hair braided like a protective mask around her face. She can see you through her hair and you can see where her eyes would be and you look there. You find yourself breathing deeply too and suddenly the gallery seems far away and nothing else exists. We are close and face to face. Our knees are staggered as we sit on the short stools. Suddenly yet gently you feel her knees rock back and forth with your knee in between. There is contact, staring into this face of hair as she continues to breathe deeply and rock your knee back and forth in between hers. A peace falls over you. She leans in ever slightly and gently touches your cheek with the back of her hand. This gesture seems unexpected yet also familiar. Your eyes close as you feel what it is like to be touched by a stranger in a kind yet slightly electric way. You open your eyes and her hand leaves you and returns to her lap. She slowly backs away and her shoulders drop down as you stare again into her face of hair. A smile comes to your face in remembrance of the previous shared moment and you look down, wondering if it is over and maybe even wishing it was not. However, somehow you know it is and that it is time to get up and walk away and so you do. 

It sounds so simple and it is but it is also very complex. When I left the experience I felt a bit melancholy. It seems in the 4-6 minutes spent with the artist you are put through the paces at warp speed of any intimate relationship whether with friend or lover. The anticipation of that first contact, date, meeting, then that tingle of first touch and soon enough acceptance and comfort in another followed by a type of slow withdrawal and perhaps even rejection and then a leaving. Of course we all bring ourselves and our baggage to the art piece so everyone will have a different experience but I found it exhilarating and profound. I have a new respect for this type of art and was very curious when I returned home to learn more about this talented and evocative artist. 

This world is a beautiful place. Until next week, keep fighting!


Friday, March 15, 2013

I am here!

After a crazy week of sad goodbyes, last minute errands, the last minute subletting of my house and of course last minute packing, I finally arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland on Thursday morning around sunrise after being on three different planes and traveling over 4,000 miles. The trip was smooth, all flights were early, airports easily managed and the weather clear. The last flight was a bit more bumpy in spots than I enjoy but ultimately it was fine.

The taxi from the airport sped along the cobbled streets taking a rather circuitous route due to the ever lasting tram works that Edinburgh has apparently been experiencing for years. As we made our way home, the city felt familiar to me almost as if I hadn't left it at all.

Once at the flat, Stewart and I got right to it and unpacked, washed clothes and got organized. We also slept for parts of the day. It feels good to be back and I still like Stewart's small flat.

Right now we are just getting settled and getting our sleep schedules to normal and just making sense of it all. Today was a day of errands and more settling in.

A huge bouquet of daffodils on the table acts like the sunshine in this Gothic world and for now that it is fine by me. Stay tuned as the adventure unfolds...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Edinburgh bound!

Wow, so here I am on the last Friday night I will spend in Fayetteville, Arkansas for six months! The next time I write this blog I will be sitting at the Ikea table in Stewart's small flat and listening to the cars travel across the cobblestone roads in Edinburgh, Scotland. I will also perhaps be a little jet lagged, it is hard to imagine. What is not hard to imagine are all the lovely people that helped make this happen. I appreciate my friends, family and all my generous supporters that believe in me and want me to have this adventure. I am so very grateful. I can't wait to create my online travel journal and share my experiences with you.

I have already learned so much more about my family while doing some preliminary research and I can't wait to take it to the next level by visiting The House of Records and other genealogical research institutions in Edinburgh, to learn more about the Campbells and the other Scottish and English Ancestors I have. I have been thinking about the art I want to make and am feeling excited about all of it.

I am also excited about seeing my friends from over there again. I am trying to say yes to almost every invitation that comes my way while I am visiting. I am pleased to say there have been several invitations already! I have been invited to spend some time in the town of Haddington, invited to a monthly art group and a 10 week yoga class is in the cards too!

However, I must admit I am also feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about being gone for so long and being away from my family, friends and pets but at the same time it will be great to share my family research, photographs and adventures with them all. I think I will be relieved once I am on the plane and actually on my way. Anticipatory anxiety and saying goodbye to those you love are not pleasant feelings, even if you are going on a grand adventure.

While I have been getting ready to leave, I also worked on finishing six new pieces from my latest series "The lines that connect us." It feels good to have created some new work in the craziness of getting ready to leave. These new 12x12" paintings fuse old maps of Scotland, America and Arkansas onto panel. I will have to wait until I return to finish the fifteen panel series.

Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman

The killing frost
Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman 

Where they walked
Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman 

To remain hidden
Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman 

A simple totem
Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman 

Common passage
Mixed media on panel 12x12"
© 2013 Megan Chapman 

Anyway, that is about it. I just wanted to check in and say thank you. Without so many folks supporting me on this trip, it would not have happened. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given and I can't wait to share it with you, my travel companions from the ether. Thank you for going along with me on this journey.

Fear kept me from doing a lot in my earlier life and I will always struggle with its power over me but when I worry I remember these wise words from artist Georgia O'Keeffe: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”

Until next week, keep fighting. 



Friday, March 1, 2013

Get to work! (a gentle reminder to myself)

Two new finished works waiting for varnish

Last week I made a list of the basic questions that I thought would help an artist get back on track. Well, honestly I did this exercise about two times in the past week in my notebook. However, I was more mindful, I just wasn't that good at documenting my progress. I am pretty sure I moved more, looked at more new art by other people, took more vitamins and I know I did more art business than I have been doing in quite awhile. I also managed to look at and work a little on my stalled series of paintings in progress. So, while I didn't 100% follow through with my plans, actions were taken. I am going to claim progress. How did you do this past week?

Today is the first day of March and it looks more like winter from my windows and that is fine with me. It is a new month, a clean slate, the month of my birth and the month in which I will be headed back to Edinburgh, Scotland. I fly out on the 13th! So soon!!!

While I was being mindful of things this past week,  I also came to some realizations about myself and my art. I will make note of some of them here.

As I am getting ready to leave, I wanted to get in touch with the galleries that represent me and perhaps get some new work to them. I also wanted to check my inventory in my Etsy shop. I was strangely surprised by what I found. I currently only have eight full sized paintings in my inventory along with only eight of the collaborative paintings by Stewart Bremner and myself. There are also six of my paintings (soon to be more) at Boswell-Mourot Fine Art.

Why does this surprise me you ask? Well, I was shocked at how little inventory I actually have for one thing! I mean besides these full sized works, there are only eighteen Etsy works available as well.

Great problem to have, you say! Oh yes, it is on the one hand. On the other hand, it is quite telling. When I calculate the last time I had an exhibition of my "latest" solo work, Sometimes I love you and other stories, it was Sept 2011 and Dec 2011! That has been quite awhile ago now. I have been busy in the interim, having countless exhibitions since then of that same work and remnants from my falling into sound. I have also had exhibitions of newer small paper works.

The basic fact of the matter is I haven't been working like I am accustom and it shows in many ways. There are plenty of valid reasons and explanations but those don't really matter. What matters is that I realize this more completely than I had before. The numbers don't lie, the gaps don't lie and you can't sell something you haven't created...

There is only one thing to do and that is to get back on the horse and work no matter what is going on or where I am. I have had two years of selling off the old stock, making and selling the smaller Etsy paintings and sharing two strong bodies of work with as many people as I can. I look forward to returning with focus and curiosity to my work in the coming months and I can't wait to share it with you all.

That's all for this week, until next week keep fighting!