Meg Franklin is a fellow artist, New York Academy of Art student and good friend of mine. She is an incredible talent and one of the most creative individuals I’ve met in quite some time. Not only does Meg work as a visual artist, she also has her MFA in creative writing. She runs a naming website called Gabooldra that combines both her creativity with text and drawing. I’m a frequent visitor and big fan.
When I began these artist interviews it was a delight to find out how hard Meg was working this past summer. As with all studio visits, I couldn’t have been more honored to be behind the scenes in her painting environment.
Meg is originally from a small town in the Appalachian Mountains called Young Harris in Georgia. She came to New York about three years ago for work and describes life as a student in this city as “really wonderful.” When I asked her what drew her to NYAA she describes the location as being essential. “There are so many advantages to studying in New York: some of the best teachers, gallery exposure, access to the best museums in the world, constant gallery openings. Also, of course, I was drawn to the academy because my work is primarily figurative.”
Maria: “What does your artistic background look like?”
Meg: “I studied creative writing, specifically poetry, before landing on painting. I actually have a MFA in creative writing from the University of Florida, which I received almost straight out of college. I had a great experience there, but soon after finishing the graduate degree, I realized that I didn’t enjoy the act of writing. In fact, it sort of felt like torture.
I fell back on painting, which I’d always done for fun, and after a few years of working on portraits from my apartment, I began to take my painting very seriously. I enjoy the act. And I found in painting something that I didn’t even fully realize was missing from my writing pursuits: it holds my attention. In fact, painting completely lords over my attention. I think the word “passion” is kind of cringe-inducing, but it’s the only word that really fits what I feel for painting.”
Maria: “Why have you chosen to pursue becoming a fine artist?”
Meg: “Because I love painting, because I don’t mind being poor, and because it allows more personal freedom than most other jobs.”
Now into her second year at the academy, she says her experience so far has been both enlightening and exhausting.
Maria: “What’s the most valuable thing you learned last year?”
Meg: “My drawing really improved. I used to rely on gridding, but now I can draw and paint without the grid. I still wouldn’t say I’m even close to the top of the class in terms of accuracy in drawing, but that’s fine. I got where I wanted; I refined my skills while retaining a bit of my personal hand–scrappiness included.
Also, I learned not to be afraid to put a lot of paint on my palette. I used to treat the stuff like liquid gold and would only squeeze out pea-sized amounts to work with. I quit that.”
Maria: “What is the class you learned the most from?”
Meg: “Probably my two painting classes.”
Maria: “How were you able to bring your own ideas into an assignment heavy first two semesters?”
Meg: “I chose subject matter that I thought was very rich.”
After an intense year, Meg found herself spending the entire summer in her studio just ten minutes from her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It was a shared space in a nice building just far enough away from any main streets to be comfortably quiet. When first walking through, the bright white walls and cubicle like spaces could’ve felt cold and unwelcoming. This wasn’t the case when I came to photograph Meg’s actual studio space. Natural light came through a large window to show off walls of paintings, drawings, trinkets, and still life set-ups. The large spot towards the back of an aisle of other studios (that were empty) felt like a little piece of home.
Maria: “How important is your studio space to your creative practice?”
Meg: “Very. I wish I could say that I would happily paint anywhere, but that’s unfortunately not the case. My perfect studio is the one I have this summer: close to my apartment, mostly private, distractionless, large, and with a big window.”
Maria: “Do you work on several projects at a time or just one?”
Maria: “How long does a piece take you to complete?”
Meg: “It differs. Sometimes a few hours, sometimes months.”
Maria: “Do you listen to the radio or music while creating?”
Meg: “Yes, music.”
Maria: “What are your favorites?”
Meg: “This summer: really just the Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Neil Young. Sometimes after I finish that rotation, my iTunes moves on to Britney Spears’ latest album. I know I’m really into a painting if I let it iTunes get several songs into “Femme Fatale” before I notice and turn it off. Britney has her place. But it’s not the painting studio.”
Maria: “Have a favorite color?”
Meg: “I like titanium white. And caput mortum, partially because of the name, partially because it’s good with shadows on skin.”
Maria: “Any favorite painters?”
Meg: “Giorgio Morandi and Wayne Thiebaud are my two favorites. Then I like Fairfield Porter, Alice Neel, early Vuillard, Lesley Vance, and Khalif Kelly.”
Maria: “Is there anything you keep in your studio for luck or inspiration?”
Meg: “I usually put on the same Bill Callahan song when I start a new painting. I’m not sure why. It’s called ‘From the Rivers to the Ocean.’ ”
Meg tells me she might be interested in too much and feels like someone coming into her studio might assume that three or four people might use the space. Her productivity this past summer shows her dedication to all of her interests. Viewing all of the work together in one space, I don’t share her opinion. For me, it’s very clear that the hand in all of her paintings is the same. It’s refreshing to be able to look around and see so much. You become quite captivated and just want to keep looking around.
“This summer I’ve painted people sleeping, made multi-media 2-D diamonds, composed and painted still lifes made up of unidentifiable objects, copied Morandis, done portraits of friends from life, painted geometrical abstract works, and built on my website, Gabooldra, which combines my drawings with a strange fixation I have with naming things. There’s probably more that I can’t remember.”
Maria: “Where does your drive to create come from?”
Meg: “My brain chemistry? Who knows.”
Maria: “Any thesis ideas brewing?”
Meg: “Right now, I’m pretty into the still lifes made up of non-object objects, aka pieces that the viewer can identify as real physical things, but can’t quite tell what they are. The confusion is not because I’ve painted them especially abstractly, but just because they are objects the viewer has never seen. They have no real function.”
Maria: “Any advice for artists thinking about grad school?”
Meg: “Go when you’re a little bit older. See what the real world is like before jumping into graduate school. You’ll appreciate your school experience more and take it more seriously.”
Two months into her second year now, Meg has picked up her summer studio and moved it back to school. It looks pretty similar to her comfortable summer spot and she’s working just as hard. A few of her pieces are currently on display through the halls of NYAA but if you can’t make it to New York, feel free to check out her work on her website: http://www.megfranklin.com