Its 11:15 pm
A little while ago I was lucky enough to have interview the fantastic artist Louie De Martinis whose drawings of The Shadow just blew my mind. Ever since that interview I have been looking for more artists to talk with but I found out that is easier said then done.
My old friends in the music business will get a laugh about how I met Meaghan C. Kehoe…I found her completely by accident. See,I have been a follower of a small art community center in Oshawa called The Living Room which was founded by the lovely Mary Krohnert for a couple of years now. Once in a while Mary will post on YouTube about community center and upcoming events.
When I saw the Taskmaster Art Challenge video which featured 5 very talented artists creating a project in just 5 minutes and then raffling it to raise money for the center,I knew I had found my next artist to chat with Meaghan.
But securing a interview with a very much in demand artist is no easy task either as Meaghan and I played email tag for while before she able to get a little time to answer her questions.
But the wait was so worth it because Meaghan is pretty damn amazing and I sure am blessed to landed this chance to ask her 8 Questions!!!
Please introduce yourself and share a little of your background.
My name is Meaghan Claire Kehoe and I am a human, feminist, amateur environmentalist, and some would say artist. I’ve always been excited to create things- things that are visually appealing. From drawing pretty pictures when I was a kid and into my teen years, I started to ask myself where I wanted these pretty pictures to take me in life. I went to Sheridan for Illustration, but dropped out after a year and a half when I found I was bored by the direction the program took me in. After months of deliberation, I decided to go safe and do my undergrad in French at Laurier (choosing this university only because my younger sister was applying there for Business). It turns out I loved the structure of university. I loved the critical thinking of dissecting literature and I loved learning about different cultures across the globe. I took German and Italian as well and was hopeful for a future of globe trotting to fill my life with cross-cultural understanding and meaning. In third year, I was finally allowed to go abroad on exchange. I worked full time for a semester as a barista while on a full time course load and was able to afford one semester in France. I went to Tours (for no other reason than our schools had partnerships for course equivalence), and it was beautiful. A small University city overrun with mostly students, shops, cafes and cobblestone (and of course our late-night shawarma place for post-cheap-wine-and-cheese snacks. But it was a single evening that was pivotal in my life’s direction and probably the reason I am where I am. I had managed to get into a figure-drawing class (really had to fight for that one since it wasn’t a normal elective at Laurier) and I remember surprising my stereo-typically snooty french art prof with my skill in the class- he even stopped me after class to ask about my history in figure-drawing (which was an accumulation of Arts York HS and the stint at Sheridan). Anyway, the experience woke me up again. I felt alive. I remember after the class ended, it was already dark out- a late January evening- I literally skipped back to the cafe where I was to meet a friend. Rolled newsprint underarm, blackened charcoal fingers, and a silly grin, I felt weightless flying over the cobblestone. I knew then, or maybe in the days to follow, that it was time to take this thing seriously.
After 6 months travelling Europe, I returned to finish my final fourth year at Laurier and did so with honours, all the while setting myself up to begin the risky journey of being an entrepreneur and self-employed artist.
What drew you to art? Was there a defining moment where you knew this is what you wanted to do?
My mum is an incredibly talented artist. When I was growing up, she went from working as a graphic designer for an agency to starting her own business from home so she could spend more time with us. She has always had an incredible eye for composition and a refreshing use of negative space. This seemed to alway translate to her paintings as well. She created gorgeous watercolours with expressive vibrancy, colour and edge. She was obviously a strong influence in my life and I followed in her footsteps though I did not always want to. I knew I had the natural passion and all the learned skill she’d taught me through the years, but I had watched her struggle with the classic entrepreneur hangups: getting clients to pay her, getting clients to respect her choices and knowledge and experience, and… getting clients. I didn’t think I was cut out for it. I was shy and insecure and I didn’t think I had anything original or meaningful to share with the world.
That moment in Tours, France on my exchange really helped me remember why I painted in the first place. It was enough to do it because it made ME happy. And if I couldn’t do that then what else was there?
What are the pros and cons of getting a art education at a university or college?
Some say a “formal” education restricts artistic freedom,how do you respond to that?
This one is tough for me to respond to since I never finished my post-secondary art program. All I have to say is that it is likely like any other program. It has to be the right one for you, but also there is no program out there that is going to satisfy your needs %100. It takes a lot of guts to go against the grain or the prof and take from the experience what you need as opposed to what is provided, but its worth it to do some digging and soul-searching to make sure you don’t conform for the sake of conforming. There are a lot of opinions out there about what constitutes “real” art, but they are all just that. Opinions.
What does “mixed media” mean?
Mixed media means you are no sticking to strictly one medium in your work. For example, you are not using just oil paint or just acrylic paint. There are some fantastic contemporary artists using mixtures of paints, pastels, papers, photography, and even found objects. (Anya Mielniczek is a great one for this- she’s a good friend of mine who is also an environmentalist and up-cycles trash to create beautiful works).
What is your typical day like as an artist? How do you get your creative ideas?
I’d like to say my typical day is a romantic sepia-toned dreamy sequence of me in cute overalls with a smear of paint on my nose, a brush through my messy bun that I’ll continually be losing and looking for, and a giant canvas on my wall splattered in passionate marks that somehow emerges as a perfectly balanced masterpiece. And it is. Is the lie I’ll tell Spielberg when he interviews me for the biography he’ll shoot about me one day.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of stuff I have to do that sucks my soul (like in any job). I usually start with a to-do list, then emails, any phone calls I need to make to clients, sometimes brainstorming/conceptualizing/sketching designs for corporate murals, sometimes cleaning up the mess of spraypaints I’ve dumped in my studio the night before after a project. There’s taxes, invoices (which reminds me I still have a couple to do today), and walking my dog. I actually get a lot of my best ideas this way. A walk alone with my thoughts, 50 minutes or so, gets a great creative brain-flow going and puts me in a better mind set to get work done when I get back in the studio.
What is your take on “art critics”?
Well, I’ve never been critiqued by one yet- I suppose my work isnt legitimate enough for them. But thats the thing, isnt it? My art isnt for everyone. Nor should it be. Like I said, opinions are opinions.
Do you ever go to museums or art galleries yourself? If so,do you look as a fan or an artist?
I do go to museums and art galleries, though I feel most compelled to visit them in Europe. They’ve put a lot more value into their arts and culture than we have in North America (as well as a longer and richer history) so there’s a lot more to see. Plus, they’re usually way cheaper or FREE! It’s like they actually want their citizens to appreciate art!
What was your first drawing and what was the first piece that you sold?
I really couldn’t tell you what my first drawing was. My mom says I was drawing perfect circles before I could talk. But my first piece I sold was probably when I was 16. I was commissioned to create the cover of Salvation Army’s ‘Faith and Friends’ Christmas zine. Though my mom will tell you that I painted a piece in grade three that all the teachers tried to buy off her. She had it framed and it hung in our dining room for a couple decades.
You have done art in over 50 Starbucks in Canada,how did you get that gig and do you have complete freedom in what you paint?
I got the Starbucks gig through a connection (my sister’s friend’s then-boyfriend was an interior designer for Starbucks and looking for more muralists at the same time I had decided I wanted to get into large-scale wall-art). It was a match made in heaven. I honestly have never had so little control over my work than I did with Starbucks- they are very particular about their branding, but they were really professional and respectful and compensated me well. I had so many jobs with them over the span of a few years that I was able to do things like quit my part time job, buy a car and put money into savings. I owe them a lot.
Are graffiti taggers artists or vandals?
Yeah this one is a tough one. I have to go with both. It’s funny because a certain few street or graff artists have become famous internationally (e.g. Basqiat and Banksy). Their work questioned societies norms in a way that was clever and beautiful and spoke to people. If that isn’t art, then I don’t know what is. But were they vandalizing property? Sure. But many graff artists would say that property is a societal construct and imposition that should be challenged. Personally, I can see it from both sides and its a constant dichotic conversation for me.
You do a LOT of charity work, what drives you to give your gift to others?
How did you get involved with Mary Krohnert and The Living Room?
I think one of the most universal human struggles is finding meaning in one’s life. That doesn’t change when you become an artist. In fact, it is only amplified. Everyone has their own gifts and talents and for me it is crucial to find out why I ended up with mine. The answer is that I still don’t know, but if I just keep helping out where I can, I’m sure I wont get further from answering that important question. Or maybe its just the childhood catholic school guilt… Who knows?!
My introduction to Mary from The Living Room was another serendipitous moment in my life. My partner and I moved to Oshawa two years ago and one day I was sitting on my porch and a pretty lady with a cute dog walked by. So I chased her down to meet her pup (a shy hound named Alice), and found out they were my neighbours from a few doors down. Mary was really excited to find out I was an artist and the friendship bloomed from there. I really believe in what Mary is doing with The Living Room. Any way I can help out, like in the latest fundraiser event where I got to be a part of their very own ‘Task-Master’ episode (a spin off form a British series), is the least I can do.
What is a art battle?
Art Battle is an event that was started around 8 years ago by two guys, Chris and Simon, that began with a competition of two artists painting live and being judged by audience vote and has evolved into a world-wide organization with monthly contests all around the globe between 16 artists at a time. There are three rounds: 1) 8 artists paint for 20 minutes; 2) another 8 artists paint for 20 minutes; 3) the top two painters from each round voted by the audience paint a new painting for 20 minutes and the audience votes for the final winner. There’s a DJ, a bar and a lot of excitement. The winner goes onto the regional competition and the winner of that goes onto the Nationals. I’ve won the Toronto regionals twice in the couple years I painted at art battle only to be beat out at Nationals twice.
The cheetah and I are coming to see a exhibit of your latest work but we are a day early and now you are our tour guide,what are we doing?
Oh my goodness! Okay! Well we’d have to go the the Robert McLaughlin Gallery for sure. If it was the first Friday of the month, I’d take ya to the RMG fridays event where they also feature some local live music. That would be after grabbing dinner at Spicy Affairs (my favourite Indian restaurant in Durham and its right near my house). Before that might be an afternoon at the Botanical Gardens. Oshawa Creek runs through there and in the right season you can see the salmon racing upstream to spawn. They’re huge! Theyve also got cool sculptures and some playgrounds for the kids around there. Before that we would go to Isabella’s for coffee and snacks or to Berry Hill for brunch/lunch. And at the end of the whole night, we would end up at Riley’s for a pint and a couple rounds of pool.
I like to thank Meaghan for chatting with me. I think you have a true gift and that you share it with the world is tremendous. You are definitely doing what you were meant to do here,never doubt that for a second.
You can follow the wonderful Meaghan Claire Kehoe by visiting and bookmarking it by going to her website here.
Thank you for your continued support and I hope you enjoy these interviews as much as I do. I have many more in the pipeline that I think you’ll really enjoy.
Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to pass it on to Meaghan.