Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Meredith Pardue. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Meredith, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Learning the craft is often a unique journey from every creative – we’d love to hear about your journey and if knowing what you know now, you would have done anything differently to speed up the learning process.
I began studying the fundamentals of drawing, composition, and painting from early childhood and continued to do so though my undergraduate education, which was rooted in historical methods and techniques. In other words my training began with a traditional academic background. My studio practice was accompanied by art historical studies. In addition to a minor in Art History, I independently studied artists whose work inspired me especially Alberto Giacometti, Cy Twombly, Jen-Michel Basquiat, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Rauschenberg. All of these things provided a solid foundation for my next phase–making large scale abstract paintings.
The fundamental skills of realism and being able to depict life accurately in a two dimensional space were essential to being able to create successful abstract work. This process cannot be rushed, so there is no speeding it up if it is done thoroughly and correctly. There is no shortcut. I taught drawing, life drawing, design, and undergraduate painting at Parsons and at University of Louisiana at Monroe, and I always told my students that you cannot effectively take something apart and put it back together in a different way unless you understand how it was put together in the first place.
I really went “all in” studying art. I was obsessed during my undergraduate and graduation educations and painted almost the entire time I was not in classes. Friends and I created and curated exhibitions together. I think the only way I could have learned more in that period of time was if there were more hours in the day. And I believe that is what it takes to really succeed as an artist. If it is not in your blood and bones, then you will probably burn out after a few years. It is not a “fake it until you make it” kind thing, especially as one grows older, has a family, financial responsibilities, etc. An artist must build his or her life around their work and practice.
Meredith, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I am an artist creating primarily mid to large scale abstract paintings with a wide variety of media including colored inks, acrylic paint, pencil, charcoal, oil paint, oil pastels, oil bars, and various mediums. The forms in my work are derived from those found in nature, but my work is not necessarily about nature. Rather I use these forms as a point of departure to explore the infinite possibilities of paint within a two dimensional plane.
When I am painting alone in my studio, I go into a state of flow. Because I have practiced extensively, I am able to execute my work without much actual thought. In other words I create from an intuitive, fluid internal place, not a cerebral one. Creating from this state of being allows the work to emerge into existence–and when I get it really right–gives the pieces an ethereal quality through the layering of washes of color and form.
I create the pieces in my Austin studio, then ship them to the commercial galleries who represent my work. I am currently represented by Ann Connelly Fine Art (Baton Rouge), Gruen Galleries (Chicago), Kelsey Michaels Fine Art (Laguna Beach + Newport Beach), and Laura Rathe Fine Art (Dallas + Houston). I have two solo exhibitions a year at Laura Rathe Fine Art, one in April in Houston and one in the fall in Dallas.
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
First off, every human is creative and creativity is an essential aspect and function of being a person. It manifests in different ways for different people, whether it is building and developing a business, growing an herb garden, developing a new means of performing a surgery, designing a school or educational format, innovating technologies, and so on.
What is unique to being an actual artist is that ultimately, creating a work of art serves no utilitarian function whatsoever. A work of art exists solely because an artist manifested nonphysical energy into something into our three dimensional world. There is something spiritual about this transformation of one kind of energy into another. In order to do this and to do it well, an artist must be in tune with their internal energy as well as the energy surrounding them–the energy of earth and nature, the energy of their immediate surrounding space or environment, and the energy of the relationships in their life. So, there is a lot of energy flowing through an artist, and sometimes this can feel overwhelming and not great. Sometimes it is too much, and the artist may need to clear their energy or protect themselves. Some things that clear my energy are the act of painting itself, solitude, certain rhythmic music, being submerged in water, prayer, and being in nature.
We are all connected to each other and to the earth and the entire universe, but some of us were born with an extra sensitive nature that must be cared for and dealt with in a special and different way. Not all human beings are built this way, so people who do not have this kind of energy sensitivity may not necessarily be aware of this. It is a blessing and a curse, but it is also the source, the well from which we draw, that gives an artist the ability to create.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I have three children. When I had my first child, I was teaching at the university and selling my work, primarily though commercial galleries. I quickly realized I wanted to work from home to be with my son, so I converted my one car garage into a studio space and resigned from my teaching position to work full time as an artist. I was nervous, but I knew it was the right path for me. This decision exceeded any expectation I could have imagined, and I am so thankful that with the encouragement of my father I found the courage to make that leap. Not only am I able to enjoy a fulfilling and fruitful career as an artist, I have also been able to raise my children in a home filled with creativity, visual art, music, possibility, and freedom.
I have learned that for me freedom is found within structure. My studio hours are the same as my children’s school hours during this phase of my life. Without structures of time schedules like set studio hours, short and long term goals and deadlines, as well as systems for inventory and supply management, bookkeeping, tax schedules, artwork documentation, and website management, there would be complete chaos. So, the difference between chaos and freedom is that freedom can only be present within an organized framework. I apply this same principal to the management of my household and parenting.