What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
Making art is a mysterious process, and I love being part of this strange alchemy. There is skill, education, and time spent mastering the subject. There are also parts of the process that are intuitive and inexplicable — I live for those moments and the continual risk involved in making art.
I love colour and the dirty grace of a charcoal line. I have known from the time I was old enough to know such things that I wanted to work in the arts in some capacity. I dabbled in art, theatre, dance, and music throughout my childhood. I became serious about being a painter in my mid-twenties.
How did you get where you are now in your career?
I earned my BFA with honors in painting from the University of Oregon in 1999. While at University, I was fortunate to have a brilliant painting and drawing mentor, Professor Ron Graff. Under his guidance, I became confident in my abilities and passionate about abstract painting. I knew from this positive experience that I wanted to focus all my energies on creating a sustained studio practice.
Upon graduation, I returned to my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas not really knowing how I was going to pull this off, but I was determined. I worked a few odd jobs to pay off my student loans and carved out a studio space in every apartment I lived and kept painting.
I formed an art collective to create opportunities for myself and other artists as I missed my art school community. From that experience, I was offered a position to write a weekly art column for a local online newspaper. In 2007, I started a weekly studio blog to document my experience as a working artist in the interest of helping others on the path, as well as keeping my patrons up to date with my work.
As my reputation grew, I started showing my paintings locally, in coffee shops, pop-up markets, juried exhibitions, and finally in galleries, universities, and private collections across the state and country as well as internationally. I said yes to every opportunity that came my way in order to learn, gain experience, and build my CV. All the while, I kept building relationships with my patrons, the community and beyond. Thanks to the advent of social media, I became a part of international arts communities online.
From 2009 to 2012 I was part of an innovative art collective consisting of four galleries and fifteen working artists studios called the Fayetteville Underground. I became a co-artistic director and curated local, national, and international exhibitions as well as maintaining my studio and exhibition practice. When that opportunity ended, I returned to work in my home studio, always moving forward, working consistently.
In 2014, I married a Scotsman, and soon left Fayetteville, Arkansas for bonnie Edinburgh, Scotland, where I now maintain my studio practice, weekly blog writing, and exhibition schedule from my studio in sunny Leith. I have a had a lot of help and support to get to where I am with my art — from family, friends, loved ones, mentors, artists, galleries, and patrons. I am very grateful and feel tremendously lucky to live my life as an artist.
What do you make and what are the ideas behind what you make?
I am an abstract painter. My work is an intuitive, visual diary of my interior language. The foundation of my work is in the balancing of shape and line with colour, texture, and atmosphere.
I enjoy creating meditative places to get lost in, as well as dynamic spaces to explore relationships — such as how we dance between our inner and outer selves and each other. My work uses colour to explore our connection to the world as we navigate the push and pull of life.
What inspires you?
Music inspires me. It transports me away from the world and helps me to go deeper where I can access memory and emotion as I paint.
I am inspired by light, atmosphere, and sudden changes in the weather.
Abstract Expressionism/Action painting from the 1950s is a sustaining influence as well. I am in love with the world most of the time and everything and everyone that comes into my life are put into my work in some small way.
Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I work in studio G23 at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street in Leith. I love the old building and my studio, and I am fortunate that it is just a 4-minute walk from my flat. On an average working day, I like to be in my studio between 9:30 and 10 am. I put on some music and get to work.
I paint for several hours and then take a break to share what I am working on with my online art community. There is usually a cup of tea nearby and always my headphones and loud music.
In the afternoon, I have lunch, do some administrative work or research, and then return to my painting for the rest of the day. If it’s a beautiful sunny day, I might take a walk and look for inspiration. It’s always a balance. I typically work Monday – Friday and leave the weekends free.
What are you working on now?
I recently completed a project called “The Distillation Process.” A series of 180 paintings on paper created in January, I wanted to give myself the challenge of creating six paintings each day, using only white, yellow ochre paint, and charcoal. These minimalist pieces are about movement and gesture, spontaneously capturing my visual language as it is repeated and expanded.
The process was a lesson in commitment, structure, and intuition. Confessional and dark at times, yet also quick and bright, the papers lead me down a new and vigorous path.
Currently, I am in the process of having a selection of these works documented for a series of limited edition prints which will be available soon in my Etsy shop, Artmaven. In exhibition news, April 8th to May 6th, several pieces from my “New Language” series will be in “The Colour Purple” exhibition at Union Gallery in Edinburgh.
In what way does being Scottish/being in Scotland influence your work?
Coming from Fayetteville, Arkansas, in the southern United States, the differences, as well as the similarities to my own Southern culture, fascinate me. Much of the south was settled by Scots and Scots-Irish and I can feel the connection, though distant and faded, to my home.
It is very humbling to pack up one’s life at the age of 42 and start anew in another country. Painting provided an anchor for my immigrant experience and supported me through the many challenges.
That being said, it is also incredibly invigorating to pick up one’s life and start again, and Scotland has provided an ideal backdrop full of atmospheric beauty, ancient layers, and majestic nature that influences my work daily.
I feel that the arts are a priority — understood, supported, and appreciated here, and because of this, I feel incredibly fortunate to live and work as an artist in Scotland.
See more of Megan’s work in The Colour Purple at the Union Gallery, Edinburgh from 8 April – 6 May 2017
Feature image: Out of my mouth come flowers, come barbs, acrylic on canvas, 41x51x4cm, © 2016 Megan Chapman