Why I Paint

I was once asked by one of my professors if all I did was “paint beautiful paintings”. He was referring to my use of bright colour and patterns as I shied away from anything darker and “less pretty”. I didn’t have an answer for him then, but I always knew that painting “beautiful paintings” was something deeply important to me. It has only been in the last few years that I really understood my motivation.

I have depression.

The stigma surrounding mental illness (and the lies that my own depression likes to tell me) says that I’m whining about nothing. I have a wonderful life! I consider myself incredibly blessed with a loving family and supportive friends. Every day I can head to my basement studio to do the thing I love most: create. I have a deep personal relationship with a loving Saviour. What do I have to be sad about?

Depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s about feeling NOTHING. It’s a thick cloud of grey fog blanketing your senses. Everything is muffled and colourless, and I can’t see much past myself. I’m alone in the fog, struggling to find a way out.

It seems like an oxymoron: Who ever heard of an artist creating beautiful joy-filled work because she’s depressed? But just like an ice fog lifting to reveal a beautiful wonderland of frost-covered surroundings, depression can lift to reveal the beauty of everyday life. I strive to find the beauty in the small joys in life, capturing them with the bright colours and patterns in my paintings. I am not necessarily inspired by the physical beauty that surrounds me, but the spiritual and emotional beauty of moments that make life awesome.

When I feel lost in the fog of depression my paintings remind me of better and brighter days, effectively pulling me out of the fog. I hope that my art does the same for others that might also be lost in their own fogs.

About the Art

I am inspired most by those small moments of joy that make life worth living, though they can easily be passed by if we are not looking for them. The feeling of coming home after a long trip, the sound of a river bubbling over rocks, and the warmth of waking up next to a loved one are all examples of small things that have inspired my work. Abstract painting allows me to express such intangible moments and feelings without being constrained by representation.

I work primarily with layers of colour and pattern, often working without an overall vision, so I can see where the painting takes me. Transparent layering allows me to see the history of the painting as it’s created. It’s an interesting metaphor for life; I don’t know what’s in store for me in my life, but I know that everything in the past has influenced the now and will influence the future, whatever it may be. Layering also allows more depth and detail to be found, inviting the viewer to get lost in the joy of the painting, forgetting about the fog. I love seeing the new colours that are created when layering one on top of another!

Titles for my paintings are all taken from song lyrics. I have a constant selection of music playing in my mind at all times. Pulling lyrics from the song that was playing on my mind’s radio at the moment that inspired the piece helps to take me back to that moment and remember it fully. I purposefully select lyrics that do not call upon any imagery, so I do not accidentally influence the viewer from finding their own meaning and joy in the work.

I work in a variety of sizes and surfaces, allowing me to experiment with colour and drawing on a smaller scale before working on the large scale I love.

About Meghan

Meghan was born and raised in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, where she developed a passion for art very early in life. She studied fine arts at the University of Alberta, finding a love for large scale colour-field painting. Meghan earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2007 and was married shortly after.

Moving from the university studios into a small two-bedroom apartment proved to be an interesting challenge. Meghan was forced to scale her work back dramatically, finding a new appreciation for smaller scale works and experimenting with mixed media.

Having more recently bought a house with a large studio has given Meghan the opportunity to take what she learned through her smaller scale works and apply it to the larger scale she loves. Meghan still lives in Fort Saskatchewan and stays at home full-time to raise her two children and continue her studio practice. Any spare time Meghan finds is devoted to promoting the arts within her community.

Meghan MacMillan

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