I first met Megan Larson while serving in the Peace Corps.* Our assignments didn’t often call for our artistic talents, but it wasn’t long before I saw and admired the way Megan approached her creative life.
For one thing, ”being an artist” wasn't a switch she turned on and off as needed. Her creativity and artistic nature just sort of permeated everything she did- even if it wasn't "artistic" in nature. Second, she so freely shared her creative energy with others. (Prior to landing in the Caribbean to work alongside people like me, she'd been sharing her creative spark in east Asia.)
Finally, and what I admire most about Megan, is the focus she so effortlessly places on the artistic process itself.
I frequently struggle with overintellectualizing my artwork. I, like many others I think, focus too much on the "art product" and miss out on the magic inherent in the play and experimentation that comes with the process. When I met Megan, I quickly found in her a role model for an intuitive, enthusiastic, and process-oriented approach. We learn so much from focusing on the process- and Megan can hardly be pulled away...
In addition to being a process-focused guru, she is also a very busy person, so it was only after several weeks of gentle prodding, friendly reminders, and frequent bugging that I convinced Megan to answer my questions all about her creative practice. We'd only briefly had opportunities to talk about art in the time we worked together, and from the minute she began raptuously describing printmaking practices, I knew I had so many more questions... And now, we get to ask them!
First, give us some background. What were you like as a kid? Have you always been artistic?
"I have been drawing and coloring since I was a wee-little being," says Megan. She was blessed with a great uncle who lived nearby, and who, as a carpenter, always seemed to be tinkering with something.
"He had creative projects for me and my siblings to work on which included painting Snoopy on his garage door, making kites, and laying tiles to protect tables from hot plates."
Even as a kiddo, Megan was enthralled by the creative process. She describes feeling joy from the act of making, and a sense of satisfaction and excitement that would come with the completed project.
As a teenager, Megan says she began to be more shy and secretive about her drawings.
"Looking back, it seems art was a sacred space to nourish and nurture myself. It was a place where time did not exist. I’d hide away and just let my pencil guide me."
We hear that!
After a little while, though, she says she got the courage to take a high school art class. It was here that she was introduced to new methods and mediums, and "became obsessed with learning new art processes." Her talents did not go unnoticed. Megan says her classmates and even teachers would ask for her drawings.
Having found her passion, she pursued art in college as well, where she could indulge in her love of learning new artistic processes.
"I loved learning new techniques and chose to study printmaking."
And she didn't stop there. She says she's since branched out into learning all about papermaking, bookbinding, and natural dyes, to name a few.
"I have a tendency to get really excited about new processes and to go all in with learning all I can about them."
What about your creating space? Do you have a space set aside for your experiments, or do they just kind of happen all over the place? How do you keep all your different tools and supplies?
"My creative spaces shift a lot," she explains. "For a very long time, I would just set up my work on the floor... which led to many mishaps of staining my yoga mat in the process."
Totally relatable. I imagine many of us are likewise guilty of taking over the dining room table and ruining certain family heirlooms whilst working on a project.
Thankfully she currently enjoys a home studio, but this doesn't mean that she hasn't had to adapt to make her art fit her life. For instance, she says she's scaled down the size of her works, and has learned to enjoy working on smaller, more intimate pieces. "And once upon a time years ago I burnt a lot of art to make more space for creating."
And as for the variety of tools she uses for her artistic experiments, Megan says she's learned to be more organized about things. "As I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more organized with my supplies, but even so, after an art session I find that in the fury I made the studio a big old disaster. This seems to be a part of my process of making."
When asked about these organization tips, Megan takes a very practical approach, with things being stored in their assigned drawers... "until I begin to obsess over a technique. Then whatever tools I need for the process will be ready to be used at my work station."
Managed chaos. Very practical.
"If I’m working, I always have a messy desk and usually have a tidy and clean storage space. Sometimes I don’t want to start work because I know once I begin I’m bound to make a disaster. Generally, I find clutter distracting but in the creative process it appears in the flow.
"Like a scientist, I get so curious about what happen if I try this, and before I know it paper is all over the place and color is everywhere."
Is there anything that stymies your creativity or productivity (or general happiness?)
"I struggle to stay in the making process when I have too much on my plate or I don’t have a creative community."
She says that when she was working full time, while also working an internship, and also taking online classes, she had little energy left for her art.
"I had to make the conscious choice to slow down and reconnect to things that bring me joy. In the words of my art mentor, John Volk, 'Don’t let life happen.' I interpret this as a call to hold an awareness for what is important to you, and don’t let those interests disappear in the rat race."
Finally, how do you to stay inspired?
Megan finds inspiration in the natural world, in mindful self-reflection, and the excitement of intuitive mark-making. "I’m inspired by the process of making and experimenting," she says, and there's no surprise there. "My background is in printmaking because I love exploring materials and naturally gravitate to learning weird or obscure techniques. I find that listening to the material has always been a very nurturing way to connect with myself and moving energy."
Listening to the material is a great piece of advice. Megan also expresses a willingness to change and go with her creative flow.
"In the past, I was big on sketches, but currently I like to flow and respond to the marks I make in the moment which also sounds like a metaphor for my life."
For example, she says she has recently been exploring the art of Japanese marbling also known as Suminagashi.
"In this process, ink floats on water and swims around until you see an image to transfer to paper. There is a big element of surprise because the smallest movement or noise can shake the water and completely transform your image."
Many thanks to Megan for sharing her thoughts and inspiring us to all be a little more open to experimentation, artistic surprises, and going with the creative flow.
If you want to keep up with Megan's exciting art experiments and life adventures, you can find her over on Instagram.
*(if you're a reader of this blog, you may recall that I also met artist, Melissa Eckstrom while serving in the Peace Corps. Peace Corps attracts magical people- what can I say?)