We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Meredith Pardue a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Meredith, really happy you were able to join us today and we’re looking forward to sharing your story and insights with our readers. Let’s start with the heart of it all – purpose. How did you find your purpose?
I paid close attention. I noticed the natural direction of my talents, where I felt the most alive, where my abilities layed, and where I felt the most like myself. That place has always been creativity. As a child I landed on three major practices of creative self-expression – piano, dance, and visual arts. I stopped playing piano at age fourteen and let go of my dance practice at age eighteen, which is when I threw 100% of myself into visual arts. I never thought of creating as my purpose, but rather have always regarded my studio practice as an external extension of my internal self. It is paramount that I live a life of authenticity. Therefore my creative process, studio practice, and my life’s work of painting are distinctly my own.
Appreciate the insights and wisdom. Before we dig deeper and ask you about the skills that matter and more, maybe you can tell our readers about yourself?
I grew up in Monroe, Louisiana, graduated with my B.F.A. from SCAD in 1998 and M.F.A. from Parsons in 2003, and I have been living in Austin for the past 15 years.
Exploring and expanding my mark-making vocabulary is essential for my artistic growth, and it emboldens me to embark on new bodies of work from my true internal voice without the external pressures that come with running my actual business and being focused on deadlines such as commissioned paintings and exhibition commitments. This is the most exciting and adventurous part of my solitary studio practice because the energy is fresh and kind of bouncy before it begins to settle into the new pathway that eventually becomes a new body of work.
I usually create for one and a half to two-hour blocks of time. Then I leave the studio for a bit, returning with a fresh perspective for the next block of time. I try to avoid switching between left and right brain throughout the day because I find it not only frustrates and exhausts me, but results in mediocre performance on both fronts.
My latest exhibition just closed, so I am now using the remainder of 2023 to explore new methods, materials, and techniques with wild abandon and total lack of attachment to the outcome. This is how I run free in the woods.
Looking back, what do you think were the three qualities, skills, or areas of knowledge that were most impactful in your journey? What advice do you have for folks who are early in their journey in terms of how they can best develop or improve on these?
Authenticity, obsession, and consistency.
Authenticity is the birthplace of creativity. It is a true, unfettered, internal honest relationship between spirit and body. Creative energy surrounds the body and must flow through the medium of the human body – in my case my arms, hands, and fingers – and onto my canvas or paper. Authenticity cannot be faked.
My complete and total obsession with making paintings began in 1996 when I was twenty years old. I painted throughout most nights, going to sleep at sunrise, and then dreaming about painting while I slept. I do not feel at ease when I go more than a week without painting because it feels uncomfortable, as if the creative energy is trapped inside of me and needs to be released. I believe true obsession is necessarily present in all artists because it is the well from which one needs to draw to maintain the self-discipline required for a true practice – much in the same way an overwhelming love is necessarily present when a mother gives birth because it is the well from which she draws when the challenges of raising a child arise.
Consistency is repeating a process on a specific timeline regardless of mood, inspiration, or anything else, and it requires self-discipline. It is quite literally the backbone of all practices. It is also the backbone of entering into and remaining in a state of flow. One must become so innately familiar with the combinations of actions, materials, techniques, and skill sets required for execution that thought is no longer necessary. This is the ten, twenty, or thirty thousand hours – and this is where the magic happens.
What is the number one obstacle or challenge you are currently facing and what are you doing to try to resolve or overcome this challenge?
My number one challenge is work-life balance. As a mom of three, navigating these waters has been anything but easy.
I spent much of last year helping my senior prepare to leave for college, while supporting my junior in his SAT prep, test-taking, and college visits, not to mention his role on the JV football team. My first grader is in the process of building new friendships at school, trying new after-school activities and constant weekend events. Because of my own creative career, I want to foster all of my children’s passions so that they find exactly what they love to do in life.
I have heard this phase of life is called the “Sandwich Years” – you are still raising children and caring for your aging parents. My calendar looks like a Monopoly board, and I feel like I am a ping pong ball bouncing around between being a decent mother, wife, problem solver, business owner, artist, friend, daughter, and individual person.
I’m still finding what areas of the studio and business need more support and what avenues for growing my audience and business make the most sense for my career, so as of now I’m looking to outsource additional assistance after doing it all myself for 25 years. It’s never too late to ask for help!