SJM: Who are you and What do you do?
MEGAN: I’m Megan Welch. I’m a painter, educator, wife and mom.
SJM:Why do you do what you do?
MEGAN: I think that my “why” has a lot to do with my family. I spent a lot of my childhood in community theatre with my entire family. My grandmother sewed costumes, my parents directed and acted in shows, my brother’s a great writer and has worked in a variety of technical positions. A creative life equates to normalcy to me. Growing up I was never discouraged from a life in the arts so that’s probably how I got to this point.
SJM: How do you work (explain your process)?
MEGAN: Typically I work in series. Once I find something that inspires me, I try to exhaust the topic from a variety of differing imagery in sketchbooks, through quick studies, until I have the basis for paintings. I use my daughter quite often as a reference, sometimes she’s a stand in for me, a symbol of something I want to say, or simply herself. She’s pretty young and probably wouldn’t sit for me for the length of time I’d need for her to in order to paint from life, so I generally take reference pictures of her to paint from. I also paint my friends, I try to not take up too much of their time so I take reference photos of them as well. I usually don’t end up with one perfect reference for each so my paintings are usually composited of a variety of reference photos I’ve taken. Once I have my reference photos I generally create a charcoal and chalk drawing that will serve as my roadmap for a painting. Once I’ve done that I create my substrate, which is usually canvas. I do a good amount of underpainting with red, burnt sienna, or pink. I’m not sure why I gravitate to those colors, but one of my grad school professors tells me Titian began his work similarly so I guess I’m in good company. Once I get the underpainting done, I start in with the parts I’m most afraid to paint first, I like to get the nerves over with early on. Stare down the beast. I keep a pretty disciplined studio practice. Each night around 8:00, I go into my studio and I work until I reach a stopping point, usually around 11:00. Weekends I work in the morning until someone in my house wants to go do something and I typically come and go frequently, not really sticking with a time period. Toward the end of a painting, I like to leave it for a day or two between passes because I tend to become blind to the faults in the work toward the end. I have a few artists I’m friends with who I show my work to for feedback. I also show my work to my mom and one of my close friends who don’t mince words with me. If something’s wrong, they’re going to tell me. At this point I will usually begin the process over again with another work or go on to a commission if I have one.
SJM: What is your background?
MEGAN: In retrospect, I think I was a pretty weird kid. My theatre family didn’t always get me cool points with the kids in my small southern town and being raised a vegetarian didn’t help either. What I think was so valuable looking back, is that my parents instilled in my brother and I, a great reverence for the arts and the importance of living a creative life. Fitting in wasn’t something that was important to our parents, so we learned early on that we should be fulfilled in more substantive ways. As a result, I went into my BFA Painting program at the University of North Florida without an ounce of worry my parents would cut me off like so many of my classmates did. In my undergrad, I realized how special my family was, and that not all kids grow up with parents who love the arts so I wanted to be the person in the lives of art students who told them that they could. That they could carve out a life for themselves in the arts. That they could be fulfilled and successful in the arts. So four days after I graduated, I walked into my first teaching job. Twelve years later, I’m still loving it.
SJM: What has been a seminal experience?
MEGAN: It’s weird to me how someone’s birth can remind us of our mortality. When my daughter was born I wasn’t doing much creatively. Yes, I was teaching art, technically I spent everyday creating, but I wasn’t making work that was my own. I realized that I didn’t even have a space to create in my house. The thought of my daughter not realizing I was an artist felt deeply upsetting. It was so strange to me, that feeling of wanting to impress this tiny human, but it worked. I started out strangely enough drawing these goldfish I saw on Instagram. I wasn’t really doing anything profound with these fat little fish, they were just something to draw, but they helped me get back into the habit of creating. So I guess the birth of my daughter has been the most formative experience of my life so far, and weirdly enough, some goldfish.
SJM: How has your practice changed over time?
MEGAN: I’m getting my MFA right now at Savannah College of Art & Design and early in my first studio class I realized that many of my creative “choices” were really just fears in disguise. I was avoiding working with subjects I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough to paint. I decided then and there that I would go after what I was afraid of. I wouldn’t let my fears stop me from where I wanted to be as an artist. That was the first class I painted a portrait for. I haven’t stopped since.
SJM: What aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
MEGAN: The best moments are the heady, giddy feelings when I step back from a work and I can’t believe I made it.
SJM: What food or drink inspires you?
MEGAN: Anything that is made by someone passionate about their work. Whether its local produce, my mom’s peach salsa, or wine from Tuscany. The love is palpable.
SJM: What is your strongest memory of childhood?
MEGAN: Painting with my grandma. We used to sit in her “Florida Room”, which I guess most people would call a back porch, I’m not sure why we called it the Florida Room, is that a thing? I digress… We would paint Bob Ross copies out there for hours and the smell of the oil paint would hang over us and stick to our skin like the swampy humidity outside. I loved every minute of it.
SJM: What is your scariest memory of childhood?
MEGAN: My friends and I used to do some pretty stupid things growing up. By far our most dangerous involved us rollerblading down the steepest hill we knew of. We would fly down the hill and if a car came while we were flying around the curve at the end of the hill we would throw ourselves into a retention ditch before presumably getting hit by the car. As an adult, I cannot think of much in my everyday life scarier than almost hitting an eight year old, only to watch that child fling herself off a cliff into a ditch. Who even knows how we didn’t break every bone in our bodies.
SJM: Have you had any other jobs besides being an artist?
MEGAN: Being an art teacher. I’ve taught all grades K-12. Now, I teach at Nease High School here in St. John’s County. I also worked in restaurants waiting tables and bartending while in college. Nothing teaches more about humanity than waiting tables.
SJM: What has been your most memorable response to your work?
MEGAN: I recently painted my daughter as a hot pink Creature from the Black Lagoon-esque monster. She didn’t see it until I was pretty much done with painting the portion that included her and she wandered into my studio one morning without me noticing. I was in our kitchen and I heard, “MOMMA. I am NOT a MONSTER… but I do like being pink!”
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