The Process

Busybusybusybusybusybusy

With so much going on I don’t feel like I’ve had the time to update you all on what has been keeping me busy. Here goes, bullet-point style!

– January is always busy in the MacMillan house. Both spawn have birthdays this month, which means parties and hosting and epic cake making.

 

Minions Cake! BOOYAH!
A homemade Minions cake for an awesome 2-year-old
 
– I was also hired to do some mural work for a local preschool this month. A Fairytale Beginning Preschool is moving into their new home this weekend! The place looks great, but I may be a little biased.

 

Mural by Meghan MacMillan
Ever feel like you’re being watched?
 
– I’ve been steadily working on some new paintings, because I need to have some stock for Night Of Artists, March 4-6 at St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre. I’ll also be set up the night before for the St. Albert Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Awards on March 3.

– I just finished a large painting that is to be scanned and turned into clothing! Very exciting! I will let you know more as I know more.

– I was approached by an Edmonton gallery owner to have a show sometime in the next months! Details to follow.

– Working on some different product for the upcoming festival season! Stay tuned…

– New large public commission in the works…?

As always, you can find out what I’m up to day-to-day by following me on Twitter and Instagram! You can also find me on Snapchat (meghan_art), but I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet… *shakes cane at all the young whipper-snappers*

 

***Post Edited on Feb 2, 2016*** I’m currently having image upload issues, so the photos from this post have been deleted. Sorry!

***Edited again*** Really hoping the photos work this time… Someone please tell me if they’re sideways for you…

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Thankful

I am thankful for many things in my life, and I will share them with you. But first let’s learn a little bit about me.

I live in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, where I was born and raised. I studied art at the University of Alberta, and married my husband in 2007 shortly after receiving my BFA. We have two children, a 4.5-year-old son and a 1.5-year-old daughter.

I don’t always feel like my son and daughter are my only children, however. I pour so much into every painting I create it almost feels as if they also become my art-children. When someone buys a painting they adopt it, like I’m sending the artwork to live in a different, but good home.

The oldest of these art-children were created in 2006 and 2007, during my last year of study at the University of Alberta. I had struggled throughout my studies to find my voice as an artist, and my fourth and final year is when everything finally came together for me.

That year I created a series of large colourful paintings using layers of transparent paint, a method of colour mixing I still use today. And until this past March, those same large paintings lived in my studio, taking up much needed space. I was unable to simply cast them aside, however. I love those paintings! They were so important in my development as an artist. I was too attached to them to just get rid of them. They needed a good home.

You may remember when I posted in March about my BFA collection getting one last hurrah. In short, the large colourful paintings were being hung in an office in downtown Edmonton for one last showing before they were to be dismantled and put into storage. Unfortunately, I simply could not have them in my studio any more, taking up room both physically and mentally.

Well, it turns out that the kind folks at Pekarsky & Co.  (where the paintings are hanging) LOVE the art. This past week we made things official and they are now the proud owners of the entire BFA collection, along with some of my watercolour paintings.

I can’t express enough how deeply honoured I am, that they would love my work so much to essentially buy it in bulk. I am always joyful when someone loves my work enough to adopt it. It’s a joy that’s only ever surpassed by my family and my Lord. I am also grateful I did not have to go through the painful process of dismantling the paintings.

Thanksgiving has come early for me this year. I am thankful for the talent I have been given, that I have the means to use it, and that others are eager to share in the joy it brings.

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Measuring success

This last Saturday I took down my show in the ALFA Gallery in Fort Saskatchewan.

I’ve been asked several times if the show was successful, and I sometimes don’t know how to answer that. How do I measure success? Sales? Attendance? Guest book signatures?

Most often I will measure the success of an art event by exposure, and in this case, my show was very successful, despite only selling two paintings.

My opening night was well attended, as it coincided with International Women’s Day events. The gallery was open during several well attended events in the Shell Theatre, including some professional series shows and the local music festival. I received media coverage from both the local radio station and the local newspaper. And I signed contracts for two commissions as a direct result of the show.

“Slow it Down” opens this week in the Gallery at Milner in Edmonton, and I couldn’t be more excited. Finally, my work will receive exposure in a much larger market that is more accepting of my style of work.

Already, my show is a success.

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Morning Mandala Meditations

So, a lot has happened since I last published something on this blog a year ago (a whole year?!). Ironically, though, we’re still having a late winter.

After my miscarriage in late 2012, my husband and I conceived again, and I delivered a beautiful and healthy baby girl in January 2014. I completed enough paintings to fill the gallery shows I had committed to for this Spring. My work is currently hanging in the ALFA Gallery in the lobby of the Shell Theatre here in Fort Saskatchewan, and will hang in the Gallery at Milner in Edmonton next month (watch for details!). I have signed contracts for some new commissions to be completed by mid-June.

It seems life doesn’t slow down, even when recovering after having a second child. I seem busy all the time and I feel like I have no downtime. My patience with my children has eroded, and I find that spiritual life is suffering as well.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to take some time every day to draw. Drawing has never been a strong suit, and neither has keeping a sketchbook on a regular basis. But right now, while drinking my morning coffee after breakfast, while my daughter naps and my son colours alongside (or catches up with The Cat in the Hat) I draw a mandala. They are not large, and take only enough time for me to get centered and properly focused on God, so influencing the rest of my day.

It’s no secret that I enjoy drawing and painting circles. I spent a whole year during school exploring the shape. I also spent much time researching Spirituality and Art. It continues to interest me. Historically, circles are an important shape in many religions, Christianity included.

So in the mornings, I combine my love of sacred geometry with my meditations, and I draw. I hope to do this almost daily, for as long as it produces quality time for meditation. I also hope it will begin to inform my greater artistic practice as I literally slow down to produce these artworks.

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Hooray for… Spring?

Ah, spring. Birds chirping, flowers sprouting, and warm sunny days!

Unless you’re in Edmonton.

Spring in Edmonton
Via Meanwhile in Canada.

Growing up I spent many hours watching the same television shows my parents enjoyed watching. One of my favourite shows was “Northern Exposure“, a comedy highlighting the culture shock experienced by a big-city doctor when he is assigned to small-town Alaska. One of the many differences highlighted in the show was the need for the doctor and funeral home director to predict how many people would die over the course of the long winter, to ensure that enough graves were dug before the ground froze.

As morbid as this metaphor seems, I take a similar approach when building canvas stretchers for my paintings.

The workshop where I build canvas stretchers for my paintings is out in my garage. It’s really the only place for it, because once you get sawdust in the house, it’s never ever going away. I also have to take the needs of a napping toddler into consideration. Everything I need for stretcher-building is kept out there: Wood, nails, glue, square, etc.

Generally, I try to stock up on built stretchers before winter, mostly because I don’t want to be operating any power tools with frozen fingers. If I happen to run out of canvas stretchers, I’ll resort to starting paintings on unstretched canvas.

But inevitably comes the time where I NEED to build more stretchers, even if the city I live in just got hit by a rather large spring snowstorm. So when my husband took the wee one out for the day this past Saturday, I jumped at the chance for some uninterrupted building time. I present to you:

How a Stay-at-home Mom/Artist builds a canvas stretcher in the winter Edmonton spring:

1. Get out of bed. Changing out of your PJs is optional, depending on the warmth of said PJs.
2. Get caffeinated. One or two cups of coffee should do it. Take this time to have some breakfast too, if you’d like.
3. Slip on your shoes and coat. Run out to the garage and grab the wood required for the stretchers you are building. Bring it inside to your basement studio. Try not to slip and fall down the stairs. Let your fingers defrost.
4. Basic Measurements and Assembly: Figuring out where you’re going to cut the wood once you bring it back out to the garage.
5. Haul the wood back outside. Cut the wood, not your frozen fingers.
6. Take two trips to bring the cut pieces back to your studio. Let your fingers and your toes defrost.
7. Take another trip out to the garage to grab the nails and staples you need.
8. Take one more trip for the wood glue you forgot.Wood glue for stretchers
9. Realize your wood glue is frozen solid. Dig through boxes of old supplies from school to find more.
10. Discover 8-year-old bottle is glued shut. Proceed to pry it open. Use wooden coffee stir sticks to apply said glue to stretchers.
11. Begin assembly.
12. Pause assembly when toddler arrives home with husband, and needs to nap. Take this opportunity to nap yourself.
13. Mop stairs where you trailed snow and mud before someone breaks their neck.
14. Complete assembly when toddler awakens. Wait 24 hours for the glue to dry before stretching canvas onto your new stretchers.
15. Start dinner.

At the end of my super-productive day I ended up with one large stretcher for a commission, and two teeny-tiny stretchers for the Art Gallery of St. Albert’s Square One fundraiser.

Next Step: Finding time to stretch my canvas.

Completed stretchers for painting
Done!
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Shoot the Puck!

An artist cannot keep themselves cooped in their studio. It is simply not sustainable. Without connecting to the world the art becomes stale and uninspired, and the artist doesn’t get any feedback, good or bad. Most importantly, an artist cannot sell their art if no one know it exists. The artist must step out into the world and showcase themselves and their work.

And guess what? It’s really scary.

Speaking with galleries and submitting your art to them is a nerve-wracking experience, especially if your CV is a little sparse. Self-doubt creeps in: Will they like my work? Will they take me seriously? Do I really need a masters degree like all the other artists they showcase?

It’s tough to silence your biggest critic: Yourself. Eventually you just need to trust yourself and trust that your work is as spectacular as everyone else says it is (to your face, anyways).

So, I’m stepping out.

I’m sending out a few introductory e-mails to galleries who take e-mail submissions. I’m taking note of submission deadlines for other galleries and getting ready to submit via snail mail. In other words, I’m finally getting off my duff, and reaching out from my studio and into the world.

I know I won’t always be successful in my endeavors. Rejection letters will always sting, at least a little.

But you can’t score a goal if you never shoot the puck.

Goal!
Photo credit: CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

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Exciting times

As an artist almost nothing is better than being really REALLY excited about a painting you are working on.

I often surprise myself with how a painting is turning out. I love when this happens! My technique involves a lot of pouring paint then walking away until it has dried. I can guess what colour the paint will dry pretty accurately (which is tough when working with acrylic glazes). But I can’t always predict how the layer I just poured will interact with the ones underneath. Again, I can hazard some educated guesses bases on past experiences and experiments. But sometimes I walk away from a painting to let it dry and magic happens.

I am super excited about one particular painting right now. I’ve had this painting in my head since May of last year, but haven’t been able to get it onto the canvas quite to my satisfaction, until now.

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I will often pour paint while my son naps in the afternoon, then return to my studio after he’s in bed for the night. The other night I returned to my studio, saw how my paint had dried, and literally let out a “Squee!” with a happy dance.

I can be motivated fairly easily, whether by an upcoming show or event, or a commission that is due. But it is so much easier to get downstairs and put paint on canvas when I’m excited by what is happening. Painting is fun! That’s the whole reason I’m an artist.

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Headspace

Ever give something too much headspace?

So much so, it halted any kind of positive productivity for the day?

I’m having that issue right now, and I’m entirely frustrated by it. Something completely beyond my control has me angry and disappointed, and it’s getting in the way of a productive day in the studio while my son takes an extra long nap.

My paintings deal so much with positive emotions and embracing life that I really struggle in the studio when I’m dealing with such negative emotions. I have to move past or rise above the situation and find a happier place to get in a creative mood again.

I know some people will tell me to use that emotional energy and paint something different, but that’s just not who I am. I paint to share the wonderful awesomeness that is life. Painting from a negative headspace would detract from this goal, especially when this world is already so full of negative things.

So, I will vent into my sketchbook (which is used more for journaling than sketching), and try again tomorrow.

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Break the Silence

It’s time to get back in the studio.

I realized it was time when I was virtually unaffected by an Instagram post of a baby shower this morning. It was reinforced by something that hasn’t happened in awhile:

I wanted to paint.

My chilly basement studio was calling to me. With my husband at home to tend the cranky, in-the-middle-of-a-growth-spurt wee one, I wasn’t about to ignore it. So I descended the stairs, cranked the tunes, and got down to business.

I’ll admit, I didn’t get a whole lot of actual painting done. But just being down in the studio, being (somewhat) productive has lifted my spirits.

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