Once-lers Anonymous

“It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become.” ― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

A Painter At No Loss For Words

on September 10, 2011

Megan Chapman walked confidently through the groups of people in her gallery. She smiles warmly as family friends step up to her to congratulate her on her new collection, “Sometimes I Love You and Other Stories.”

Couples and groups of friends attending the city of Fayetteville’s First Thursday slowly work their way through the 22 paintings adorning the white walls of the Fayetteville Underground. Women teeter on their high heels as they cross the concrete floors, left unfinished after the bank that inhabited the building before left.

An older man stepped up to Chapman as she finished talking to a group of women. “Did you make these paintings?” he asked.

He grabbed her hand, and pulled her across the gallery. The man pointed his hand at one of the paintings. Tears welled up in his eyes. He shook his hand at the painting. He tried to speak.

The words nestle on a small yellowed page in the upper right corner of the white canvas:

Not of the past but of the future
You sing in my ear
I am alone and you are asleep
But
Still your voice is so close
And I am no longer alone.

“That’s my wife,” he said softly, the wife who had just passed away.

 

“It’s like a curse,” Chapman said in her tiny studio in the Fayetteville Underground. Paintings cover the walls, and dark paint splatters outline a blank space of wall where a canvas no longer hangs. “I don’t have a choice in this. I can’t stop making art.”

“I knew from the moment you’re old enough to know something like that, that I wanted to do something in the arts,” Chapman said. “I was really lucky, and I was encouraged by my family.”

Her mother, an art and English teacher in Fayetteville, always had art in their home, even if the Van Gogh or Modigliani prints came from yard sales, Chapman said.

Chapman tried studying art at the University of Arkansas, but it still took her some time to find her way. “I left in 1993, because I felt kind of aimless,” Chapman said. “(My boyfriend of the time and I) just headed out west.”

They ended up in Eugene, Ore., and after six years spent in and out of art classes, Chapmen earned her bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing from the University of Oregon.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get a mentor who ties it all together,” she said, and for her that was Professor Ron Graff.

“Megan was a terrific student,” Graff said. “She was innovative, constantly pushing the boundaries, had a tremendous amount of energy, never settled for what she could do, and continues to push herself as always.”

Chapman’s final project at Oregon was called “Books.” She created a living room setting with a couch and coffee table, festooned with small books. In each book, she glued and taped the pages away, covering them in white paint and then filling them with her own stories and small abstract paintings.

Chapman’s work has been displayed in galleries across the country since then, with more than 20 individual shows from Oregon to Washington, D.C.. She even had a piece show in the Liverpool Independents Biennial that she collaborated on with artist Steven Heaton.

However, while all these stories were going on, another larger story was developing in Chapman’s life.

She first came into contact with Scottish artist Stewart Bremner through the website BlipFoto.com, the Scottish based “daily photo journal for everyone,” according to their website.

“It was totally an innocent ‘I really admire your work,’ and he found out I was a painter, and I found out he was a painter,” Chapman said. “We were just really good friends for two years, or something.”

Two years of friendship slowly began to evolve, and in April 2011 Bremner made the trip from Edinburgh, Scotland to northwest Arkansas to visit Chapman before his photography exhibit went up in the Fayetteville Underground in May.

During Bremner’s visit, they decided to collaborate on a large canvas painting together. Ten-minute turns would be long enough, they decided, and the other person could observe in the mean time. Watching the other artist destroy each cherished brush stroke as their turns slowly wore on caused them to work on the canvas simultaneously, Bremner said.

“At first I thought, ‘This sucks. Who is this person?’” Chapman said. “And then we went away for a day or two, and then we came back to the work and noticed what we managed to do. … We could see something of value in it.”

The pair made a few last adjustments to the painting, hung it, and their jaws dropped. “We said, ‘We are victorious!’” Chapman said, her voice rising with childlike excitement and glee while an uncontrollable grin spreads across her face.

It was difficult and vulnerable at times, Chapman said. “There are going to be times when I say, ‘Really? That orange is hideous.’ And he’ll say, ‘Really? I think your olive green is horribly depressing.’”

Art is a private experience for Chapman. “I don’t want to bore you with all the mistakes that are underneath every single one of my paintings. I don’t want to be watched when I making that really bad move, when I (suddenly) grab brown, when brown is ugly.” Painting with someone else leaves you vulnerable, and exposes all of your mistakes, she said.

“I Thought I Would Find You Here” became the first of nine pieces they collaborated on during Brmener’s visit. Now it hangs in the back of the vault opening out of Chapman’s gallery, and appropriately framed by her new collection, because the words, in all but six of the new paintings that have no words, were inspired by Chapman’s long distance relationship with Bremner.

“They’re about him, or they’re about us,” Chapman said. “And it was really nerve-racking, because basically we’re in the beginning of this relationship.”

“Normally, I would have shown him works in progress, or sent him snapshots, told him the words,” Chapman said. However, she kept the details of the new collection closely guarded until Bremner returned to Fayetteville the week of the show.

“I felt kind of…uncomfortable,” Bremner said. “Then you here the stories of the patrons and the viewers and how they see it….It becomes less about what we have and more about what everyone else sees in it. … That discomfort is gone. … It becomes their story.”

The title of the collection, “Sometimes I Love You and Other Stories” came to Chapman long before the concepts for any of the paintings. “There’s always more to love, and there is always more to relationships, and no one really knows what is going on in people’s lives and relationships,” she said of the other stories. “There’s no one set kind of love.”

The paintings each happened spontaneously. Chapman sat at an old borrowed typewriter, and created the pages she would later embed in her canvases. A few typos add to the raw emotion of the paintings. Words run together where there was no time for spaces.

“If you can find someone you can sometimes love,” Chapman said, “you’re actually doing really good in this world.”

“Being who I am and how I was raised, that emotive stuff, (that’s not) an attractive quality to me,” Chapman said. “I was able to break past the way I was raised. … I had written words that other people wanted to write themselves, but they too had told themselves that you’re not supposed to say these things. You’re not supposed to take these risks.”

“It may go horribly wrong, but I’m not gonna regret these 22 paintings. There is nothing wrong with that.”

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2 responses to “A Painter At No Loss For Words

  1. bretschulte says:

    I like the opening scene. You’ve got a good eye. But your verb tenses are inconsistent. Mistakes like that can’t happen. Generally, use past tense.

    –Megan Chapman walked confidently through the groups of people in her gallery. She smiles warmly as family friends step up to her to congratulate her on her new collection, “Sometimes I Love You and Other Stories.”

    You need to explain what First Thursday is if you’re going to mention it.

    –Couples and groups of friends attending the city of Fayetteville’s First Thursday slowly work their way through the 22 paintings adorning the white walls of the Fayetteville Underground. Women teeter on their high heels as they cross the concrete floors, left unfinished after the bank that inhabited the building before left.

    An older man stepped up to Chapman as she finished talking to a group of women. “Did you make these paintings?” he asked.

    He grabbed her hand, and pulled her across the gallery. The man pointed his hand at one of the paintings. Tears welled up in his eyes. He shook his hand at the painting. He tried to speak.

    The words nestle on a small yellowed page in the upper right corner of the white canvas:

    Not of the past but of the future
    You sing in my ear
    I am alone and you are asleep
    But
    Still your voice is so close
    And I am no longer alone.

    Good, but this is a fragment. Fix it. And we use ‘died’.
    “That’s my wife,” he said softly, the wife who had just passed away.
    like:
    “That’s my wife,” he said softly. She had recently died.

    something like that.

    This graf is good. Good quote:
    –“It’s like a curse,” Chapman said in her tiny studio in the Fayetteville Underground. Paintings cover the walls, and dark paint splatters outline a blank space of wall where a canvas no longer hangs. “I don’t have a choice in this. I can’t stop making art.”

    But then you need a nut graf. Tell us your theme/angle on her. Tell us why we should care about her as a profile subject. Give us some facts/figures/examples of why she’s significant/interesting. Then dive back into the narrative.

    So she grew up in Fayetteville? Say so.
    –Her mother, an art and English teacher in Fayetteville, always had art in their home, even if the Van Gogh or Modigliani prints came from yard sales, Chapman said.

    Tell us somewhere in here what kind of art she was doing at the time, the journey of her exploration. What was she interested in? What media did she try? What subjects? etc.
    –They ended up in Eugene, Ore., and after six years spent in and out of art classes, Chapmen earned her bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing from the University of Oregon.

    “If you’re lucky, you’ll get a mentor who ties it all together,” she said, and for her that was Professor Ron Graff.

    This is out of mainstream and needs context/explanation. What is a piece show? Why is the Liverpool Biennial a big deal? Why is Steven Heaton significant?
    She even had a piece show in the Liverpool Independents Biennial that she collaborated on with artist Steven Heaton.

    If they’re in a relationship you need to say so. and for the narrative to work, you need to mention that she broke up with the aforementioned boyfriend.
    –It was totally an innocent ‘I really admire your work,’ and he found out I was a painter, and I found out he was a painter,” Chapman said. “We were just really good friends for two years, or something.”

    Two years of friendship slowly began to evolve, and in April 2011 Bremner made the trip from Edinburgh, Scotland to northwest Arkansas to visit Chapman before his photography exhibit went up in the Fayetteville Underground in May.

    I assume that his work going up in the Fayetteville Underground is connected to Chapman. You need to say so explicitly.

    Ok. You describe it to us. You can’t say their jaws dropped and not tell the reader what the painting looked like. Your reader will not care for that.
    –The pair made a few last adjustments to the painting, hung it, and their jaws dropped. “We said, ‘We are victorious!’” Chapman said, her voice rising with childlike excitement and glee while an uncontrollable grin spreads across her face.

    who is the ‘you’ in this quote? Needs context.
    –“I don’t want to bore you with all the mistakes that are underneath every single one of my paintings. I don’t want to be watched when I making that really bad move, when I (suddenly) grab brown, when brown is ugly.”

    Again, you need to describe the artwork.
    –I Thought I Would Find You Here” became the first of nine pieces they collaborated on during Brmener’s visit. Now it hangs in the back of the vault opening out of Chapman’s gallery, and appropriately framed by her new collection, because the words, in all but six of the new paintings that have no words, were inspired by Chapman’s long distance relationship with Bremner.

    Overall, the structure of this story is solid. You need a better kicker. You need to explore their relationship more, and that will likely sharpen the angle of this story, which it needs. I’m not sure why we’re reading about this artist as opposed to another artist. You need to fix that. Again, I like the opening scene. Obviously her work has power. Build on that idea in the rest of the piece.

    We also need some more biographical information. Her age, why she came back to fayetteville, what that was like. the relationship that has inspired this art work ( how unique this art work is). we need more sources, maybe an art professor or art critic who can speak about her new show or the work she and Bremmer did together. Where does she want to go in her career? Her life? Etc.

  2. Yani Ko says:

    I love your detail and language, but I am also confused about the relationship aspect. I think it should be played up more because it is the aspect with the most tension, if not the only aspect with any tension at all. It could be a really interesting love story (if that’s what it is?) without being totally cheesy because you have such a mature style.

    I love this paragraph – “The paintings each happened spontaneously. Chapman sat at an old borrowed typewriter, and created the pages she would later embed in her canvases. A few typos add to the raw emotion of the paintings. Words run together where there was no time for spaces.”

    And, again, she seems like an interesting person, but I’m not sure why. I think you need a little more background on her life story. Overall, I think you did a great job!

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