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 15, 2011

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

Small groups attending First Thursday, a monthly art event in the Fayetteville Square, slowly worked their way through the 22 paintings adorning the white walls of the Fayetteville Underground, a nonprofit art gallery in an old bank building. Women teetered on high heels as they crossed the unfinished concrete floors.

An older man stepped up to Chapman as she finished talking to a group. “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 nestled on a small-yellowed page on the right side of the canvas, underscored by graphite lines and floating in streaks of grays and whites.

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. She had recently died.

“It’s like a curse,” Chapman said in her tiny studio in the Fayetteville Underground. “I don’t have a choice in this. I can’t stop making art.”

Chapman has become a staple of the local art community. She had considered leaving Fayetteville for artistic opportunities in other cities when the Fayetteville Underground opened in April 2009. Within the first month, Chapman rented a studio and has remained there ever since.

“I wanted to do (this) because as artists our work is done so completely alone and you can get really wrapped up in your own head,” Chapman said.

Chapman’s passion for promoting her own art also extends to the work of other artists. “I like selling everyone’s work,” Chapman said. “If it’s something I truly believe in, and I believe in the person doing it, then I want to help them succeed.”

Having consistent artists at the Underground allows the community to stay connected follow an artist’s work, said Greg Mack, treasurer of the Fayetteville Underground board.

Chapman operates a studio blog to encourage and inform other artists and help them in their careers, and to help them reach out through their art.

“Her work has turned to a mature direction,” said Cindy Wiseman, an art instructor at the University of Arkansas and an abstract painter. When Wiseman began observing Chapman’s work in 2008, it was more decorative and focused on the division of spaces and decorative forms. Now it is more organic and minimalist, Wiseman said.

 

“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.”

Growing up in Fayetteville, Chapman was not always exposed to a large variety of art.  Her mother, an art and English teacher, always had art in their home, even if the Van Gogh or Modigliani prints came from yard sales, Chapman said. Music played a large role in Megan’s life as well. Her father always had music playing, and he understood Chapman’s need to create.

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

She 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. She experimented with different forms of art, including “heart pods.” The organic shapes were painted with strange dark-oil backgrounds, to represent the part of a person that holds their deepest emotions, she said.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get a mentor who ties it all together,” she said, and for her that was Professor Ron Graff. “I am not sure if I would have stayed the course and continued through school without him.”

“Megan was a terrific student,” Graff said via e-mail. “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, covering them in white paint and filling them with her own stories and small abstract paintings.

Then she returned to Fayetteville to get her bearings after. Her work has since been displayed in galleries across the country, with more than 20 individual shows from Oregon to Washington, D.C., to Liverpool.

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, a “daily photo journal for everyone,” according to their website.

“It was…an innocent ‘I really admire your work,’” Chapman said.  “We were just really good friends.”

Chapman found the nerve to comment on photos with Bremner, and their similarities began to emerge.

More than a year of friendship and conversations slowly began to evolve into a relationship, and in April 2011 Bremner made the trip from Edinburgh, Scotland to northwest Arkansas to meet Chapman in person for the first time.

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.”

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.’”

The pair made a few last adjustments to the painting, hung it, and their jaws dropped. The large canvas had Chapman’s characteristic graphite lines and olive green, forming bars across the canvas, but Bremner’s rusty orange splashed across them, yielding somewhat to Chapman’s structure.

“We said, ‘We are victorious!’” Chapman said, her voice rising with childlike excitement and glee while an uncontrollable grin spreads across her face.

They have their differences, Chapman said. “The way he approaches art is very different from the (organic) way I approach art. He can’t even stand it when I use the word organic.” However, she felt that the experience tested them, and brought them closer together as a couple.

Art is a private experience for Chapman.  “I don’t want to bore (anyone) 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 the artist 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 Bremner’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. It’s a liberating kind of thing,” Chapman said.

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One response to “A Painter at No Loss for Words

  1. bretschulte says:

    This lede is better. Could still be streamlined.
    –Megan Chapman walked confidently through the groups of people in her gallery. She smiled warmly as family friends stepped up to congratulate her on the new collection, “Sometimes I Love You and Other Stories.”

    Small groups attending First Thursday, a monthly art event in the Fayetteville Square, slowly worked their way through the 22 paintings adorning the white walls of the Fayetteville Underground, a nonprofit art gallery in an old bank building. Women teetered on high heels as they crossed the unfinished concrete floors.

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

    Good, but this needs more explanation. why is this Fayetteville Underground such a unique opportunity that she decided to stay? Explain for reader.
    –Chapman has become a staple of the local art community. She had considered leaving Fayetteville for artistic opportunities in other cities when the Fayetteville Underground opened in April 2009. Within the first month, Chapman rented a studio and has remained there ever since.

    I don’t understand how this quote relates. It sounds out of context; like she’s actually talking about her partnership Bremner:
    –“I wanted to do (this) because as artists our work is done so completely alone and you can get really wrapped up in your own head,” Chapman said.

    Thanks for including the link:
    –Chapman operates a studio blog to encourage and inform other artists and help them in their careers, and to help them reach out through their art.

    we need more in the top third of this story that explains what her art looks like and why it’s important and why she should be of interest to the reader. You’ve got a start. We need more, namely this unique partnership, right?
    –Having consistent artists at the Underground allows the community to stay connected follow an artist’s work, said Greg Mack, treasurer of the Fayetteville Underground board.

    Chapman operates a studio blog to encourage and inform other artists and help them in their careers, and to help them reach out through their art.

    “Her work has turned to a mature direction,” said Cindy Wiseman, an art instructor at the University of Arkansas and an abstract painter. When Wiseman began observing Chapman’s work in 2008, it was more decorative and focused on the division of spaces and decorative forms. Now it is more organic and minimalist, Wiseman said.

    I’m glad you got this; too bad he wouldn’t talk over the phone.
    –“If you’re lucky, you’ll get a mentor who ties it all together,” she said, and for her that was Professor Ron Graff. “I am not sure if I would have stayed the course and continued through school without him.”

    “Megan was a terrific student,” Graff said via e-mail. “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.”

    A friendship is a relationship, you mean a ‘romance’ or romantic relationship.
    –More than a year of friendship and conversations slowly began to evolve into a relationship, and in April 2011 Bremner made the trip from Edinburgh, Scotland to northwest Arkansas to meet Chapman in person for the first time

    This really is a piece about how the relationship of art and love. It’s in your lede. And it’s in the story of these two artists. that needs to be made clear to the reader at the beginning, and that theme will make this story a lot stronger top to bottom.

    A lot of quotes at end.
    –“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. It’s a liberating kind of thing,” Chapman said.

    You need to give us some sense of conclusion to their relationship. Are they still together? How do they manage the distance between Fayetteville and Scotland? Will they continue to work together? Etc.

    Some nice edits. The story could still go further.

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