Megan Gray's Happy Place
By Margaret Goddard
This studio interview is part of the new series "Studio Spotlights." These profiles were born out of curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes at our artist members' studios. We look at the tools they're using, the objects they keep around for inspiration, and their current projects.
Megan Gray is a landscape oil painter and a mother of three. We visited her studio, composed of her backyard shed and the corner of her kitchen, to learn how she dreams up her landscapes.
Originally from Monmouth County, Gray loves exploring the area with her family. But she’d rather not work while she’s out walking. She gets too focused on making the painting look like what she’s seeing. Instead, on returning from a hike, she heads to her studio full of inspiration. Upon a cool or warm ground, she paints dark shapes that then dictate what the composition will be. She comes up with an imaginary landscape from there by wiping, erasing, and scratching into the paint.
Why do you make art?
I make art because it helps to calm my mind, and if I don't create I start to feel anxious. It's just something that needs to come out of, or through me to keep me sane. My art also helps to add to our family's income. I am proud that my children can witness that first-hand. It helps to show them that making a living from creative work can be a reality if you really want it to be.
How does your medium influence the art you make?
I love oils because there is such a history with them. I paint landscapes, so the more connected I can feel with nature the better, and more naturally derived mediums help with that too.
Where do you find or look for inspiration?
I always get inspiration from nature. Spending lots of time outside hiking, and visiting local parks with my family is where I access it the most.
Do you work in silence or with music or the radio on?
Music on always. It's rare that I don't have music playing. Once in a while I listen to podcasts or audio books while I paint too.
She’s trying to branch out from, as she puts it, “Radiohead-on-loop.” She likes Philip Glass for his repetitive quality. She recommends podcasts Savvy Painter, Artist/Mother, and Aaron Mahnke's Lore and Cabinet of Curiosities.
What have you been thinking about lately?
I have been thinking a lot about color and doing tonal landscapes in blue. And I always obsess over a good sky filled with clouds, or an amazing sunset.
Who’s on your radar right now?
There are so many artists that I love on Instagram. Too many to list. But I recently came across Peter Frie's landscapes and I'm a bit obsessed.
Do you have an object or a reference that you keep around to inspire you?
Always inspired by a beautiful sky.
What is your quirkiest studio habit?
Well, my husband says that when I dress to be outside in my studio during colder weather I look a little quirky with all of my layers, hat, and finger-less gloves on. Haha! My outside shed turned studio space is not insulated so when it starts to get cold I have to bundle up.
What three words would you use to describe this studio?
My happy place.
What’s a piece you’ve made that you’ll never get rid of or sell?
I have a small oil landscape that I did on paper to fit into an antique frame. It's of a path leading towards trees with lavender-colored flowers along the sides of the path. Very impressionistic. It's one of my favorites, and for now, I can't part with it.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I would have given more patience to myself. It's a journey, not a race. I still have to remember that at times.
Megan’s Favorite Local Parks
The batteries at Hartshorne Woods
You can find Megan Gray’s art for sale on her website, through her Instagram, and at Beauregard Fine Art in Rumson. She has a painting in Monmouth Arts’ member exhibit Out of the Blue, open through January 24th. She'll be in Field of Dreams at the Art Alliance of Monmouth County in February.