Brushing off the Dust

May 28, 2016

Last week I finished a full size painting- something I have not accomplished in over two years. I have started paintings. I have been working tirelessly in sketchbooks. I have been reading about art. I have been viewing art. But this is the first thing I sat down and finished. It is intended to be 1 of 4 paintings in a series of Night Paintings.

night painting 1

Untitled (Night Painting #1), Megan Call


Art fuels me, but for some time I had lost sight of what my passion is. I recently visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it put the kindling on the fire. I then did an art night with a friend where we both worked on pieces, and it was inspiring.


Danae, Egon Schiele

But what does an artist do when there is no inspiration? Chuck Close is one of the many artists who has commented on inspiration, “Inspiration is highly overrated. If you sit around and wait for the clouds to part, it’s not liable to ever happen. More often than not, work is salvation”. I had professors in college who told me 85% of life is showing up. That has been what I have been challenging myself to- showing up, even if I don’t feel like doing it. I have been finding a rhythm to suppress that spoiled child who says, “But I don’t want to!” I have found peace in doing the work, even when it is ugly, even if it feels unfinished.


Self Portrait, Chuck Close

It is the doing that makes us artists. It isn’t about the finished or completed or show worthy pieces. It is about the work we do behind the scenes. The tears and sweat and splashing of paint and water are the things that make the difference- it is in the showing up. It is the act of getting the palette out, picking the colors and sloshing them around, even to make something you end up hating. That is where the ideas are found. That is where all the masterpieces began- mixing the wrong color, having the wrong proportion, tearing up the work and doing it all again the next day.

I am thankful for all the artists that showed up and continue to show up. After all, this world would be quite dim without art.

-Look. Listen. Respond.



To Polish or Not to Polish

November 10, 2012

Looking back at old sketchbooks and quick studies, I find myself falling in love with the smaller quick works I have done. In my last couple semesters of art school, I definitely struggled with the concept of what a completed work was and how much “finish” it needed to have. This question is not unique to me; throughout art history you can see artists pushing the boundary of what was considered a wall-worthy piece.

Of course the first piece that comes to mind is Manet’s scandalous Luncheon on the Grass:

Manet, Luncheon on the Grass

This image is now an important part of art history. It draws my attention, not because of the nude woman with the clothed men or because they are in modern dress, but it grabs me because Manet has played with the proportions, the space. The woman in the “back” of the scene is too large according the space Manet appears to be setting up. Despite how refined this piece seems to be, to me it represents Manet rebelling against the conventions of his time, against the polish.

As I began taking an inventory of other “rebellious” pieces of work I could recall, I thought of both favored and hated pieces.

Munch, The Village Street 1906

Alice Neel, Pregnant Woman 1971

Julian Schnabel, St. Francis in Ecstasy 1980

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Skull) 1984

R.B. Kitaj, The Autumn of Central Paris 1972-73

Egon Schiele, Girl with Purple Stockings 1913

Jenny Saville, Time

Then, there are the beautiful pieces that we don’t even know if the artists themselves considered finished pieces, but we put them in museums or on pinterest anyways.

Degas, Nude Woman Drying Herself 1880

Rembrandt, Self-portrait with Open Mouth

Kirchner, Ruhendes Paar

Picasso, Portrait of Fernande Olivier

A completed piece of work cannot be labeled under the narrow characteristics of quality materials, a polished look or value according to a gallery owner. Fun, quick, or un-polished pieces continue to exist because the artists allow/allowed them to. While beautifully rendered works strike me with awe, these strange or misfit pieces speak to something more human in me, just like my own sketches. I am glad that both types are able to exist in this world.

Look. Listen. Respond.