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Conversations with Meghan Wilbar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meghan Wilbar.

Hi Meghan, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
My story began with a roll of butcher paper and countless hours of drawing with my sister at the base of my dad’s drafting table. Art was always encouraged in our house, with my dad working at home as an artist/architect. His strong work ethic and creativity made me believe a creative life was possible. I decided to attend a liberal arts college in the Midwest so I could explore my possibilities and naturally, I gravitated toward the arts program.

After Knox College, I headed to the New York Studio School. The Studio School was a crazy, immersive plunge into the arts. It was founded by Mercedes Matter, a student of Hans Hofmann, and upheld the principles of formalism. I gained a strong appreciation for color relationships, form, and craft, and received my MFA in 2005. I threw myself into learning the Studio School approach to art, then it took some time to come out and really decide what I wanted to create.

I held onto their strong drawing practice but turned inward on how to create work that was unique to me. I returned to Colorado and really embraced the landscape and the light we have here. My work shifted from tightly constructed abstractions to a more expressive blurred line between abstraction and realism. By continuing to draw, my work has slowly evolved into the drawings and paintings I have in my studio today.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I can’t say my road was freshly paved but it’s been a beautiful dirt road with bumps and turns along the way. Time and money are always hurdles in the road. After college, I saved enough money to attend the New York Studio School for a semester. I arrived in NYC and spent the next year sleeping on an air mattress, working an overnight retail stocking job, and attending every lecture, critique, and studio session I could stay awake for.

I managed to stretch my funds for a semester into an MFA degree. I always equate living in NYC to double dutch, once you’re in and jumping, it’s a pretty good time, but one false step and the rope hits you in the face. I managed to keep jumping for the next nine years with a lot of freelance work.

On any given day, you could find me at museums installing and packing art, or at a bar mitzvah assisting a photographer. But with the juggle of the city, I didn’t end up with a lot of dedicated studio time. Returning to Colorado, I was able to have one part-time job and a studio at Artists on Santa Fe in Denver. It was still a balance between studio and work time, and after six years, I decided to try out a year of artist-in-residences.

That year, I had the time to create, but the struggle became finances and storage. I didn’t realize how much being an artist was not only making the work but storing it. I’m still finding my path, but I have a full-time studio practice and a strong desire to keep that going.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’ve always considered myself a painter but when looking through my work, I’m definitely more of a mixed media artist. Drawing has always been a necessity in my practice and over the years has evolved into a torn paper and drawn line technique.

During the days of staying close to home, I’ve been drawing in my car with a pencil and an assortment of papers. It’s a process of careful looking and deciding what story gets told through the lens of shifting impermanence. I pare down the landscape into shades of brown and cream to uncover the essence of the open road.

I return to the same landscape and rip shapes and draw lines until I feel like I have the muscle memory to take that experience back to the studio. In the studio, I’m free to use color, layers, drips, and texture to create a painting that reflects those moments. I like to think of my landscapes as being more than depicting the landscape; they are the experience of the landscape.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
I think the ability to show up for opportunities and to pick yourself up after failures is the key to success in any field. I stay organized, follow through on projects and always show up on time. I think artists get the reputation of being flakey, but in truth, we’re all small business owners that are working to stay afloat and flourish.

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