Interview with Meg Munro

I offer the fruits of my recent studio visit with Meg Munro. I very much enjoyed our
conversation and the ambiance of her rambling old Vallarta style home (actually a
combination of two). The various patios and balconies with their potted gardens dogs
and cats, sweeping views of mountain, city and ocean is a part of her world that inspires
many of her gorgeous watercolors.

Marianne…How did you come to be in Vallarta?
Meg…Spanish was my minor, I was an English major. I came here to México to study
Spanish and I stayed with a family in Morelia. And it was freezing cold. After my year
was done, I asked them where it was warm. They said “Well, Acapulco or Puerto
Vallarta.” I had never heard of Puerto Vallarta so, just from the images that I had in my
mind of Acapulco, I wasn’t thinking that I’d fit in here at all. Puerto Vallarta, I had no
image o at all, so I came here. I met my husband Jorge that night the very first night at a
disco. And then I still went back & forth for 2 years to Cal Poly, Pomona to finish my BA
and then to ASU where I was working on my Masters’ but threw in the towel pretty soon
after that.
Marianne…That’s one heck of a 360…how did that come about?
Meg…ESL was kind of scripted…..my Dad was a teacher, my mother had been
and my mother was a hobby artist. I didn’t know anyone who was an artist except
in college a room-mate who wore flouncy gypsy skirts and leotard tops. Now
SHE was an artist. It was when I went on a month-long retreat within a self-help
group (I went all over Mexico with this group) in 1990, that I found a deeper
commitment inside or more the self esteem to strive for what I wanted and even
the awareness of what I wanted. At that point I pursued the courses I needed to
get the skill to do what I wanted. Previously I had thought that if you had to study
it you must not really be one. I see it as a series of stepping out of the box. And
one step leads to another that is around the corner from the first step.
I probably would have been an okay teacher too…. I would have met similar
growth obstacles but in a different costume. That’s it, the “exotic” costume was
important to me, not to be ho hum.
Marianne…What inspires you?
Meg…The light…I know that because…see like, that’s not interesting (pointing to a tree
behind us) because it’s all front-lit…so I like the back-lit stuff where you get these
transparent leaves with the light coming through it. Or the patterns that things throw, like
with the baskets you get light things coming through if it’s lit from the side or the back.
Marianne…Oh, yes, I can see that, wow! Now how do you decide what to paint?
Meg…There’s so much push to that, to have a theme, like the baskets, the bottles, the
flowers. But for me it’s the light…just the light…it’s almost like the theme is secondary.
Unless it’s a thing that I’m emotionally attached to for some reason. That’s where I’ve
got bogged down recently…I think because I’m seeing more in things…everybody sees
what they bring to it… like they see the hollyhocks… and think “Oh, it’s like the
hollyhocks that grew in my grandmothers’ garden.” So they buy a painting because
there’s an emotional attachment to that thing…and I can have that too, I can have an
Interview with Meg Munro, December 2013
emotional attachment to something and it might not necessarily make a good painting. I
can get blinded by my attachment, by my stuff that comes forward.
Marianne…So how do you deal with that?
Meg…I let the stuff come forward when it wants to but I can feel that there’s all kinds of
things get triggered inside that are saying, oh my gosh, there’s more & nobody’s gonna
like it voices, with that kind of stuff. It’s more risky to bring out stuff that I’m emotionally
attached to.
Marianne…because you feel like it’s only your stuff, right?
Meg…I guess, yeah. In a way the flowers are the least committed, they’re the most
joyful and the easiest to do. I really enjoy them but they also take me into that nature
world and so they’re easy to paint because it’s happy. The baskets are the hardest
because there’s a lot of repetition of the little basket-weaving that you end up doing
because you have to make all the little lines.
Marianne…Speaking of detail, I was looking at the Zacatecas Cathedral painting that
you have on your web-site and it’s just incredible with detail.
Meg…If I hadn’t had that focus of the 450 year anniversary of Zacatecas, which I was
invited to have that show for, I don’t think I could’ve taken that on. So that’s an
interesting aspect to it too and a commission type thing, right? Where you’re challenged
to do it and where you know that at the other end it’s gonna get seen by something that
already exists…the show, the date, the people, and that’s impetus, it helps fuel you
through a project like that.
Marianne…Do you listen to music while you paint?
Meg…Yes, and very often, but I also listen to things that I’m studying, if I’m at a part
where I know what I’m doing, sometimes music isn’t enough stimulus. I can listen to
talking and I can get even more of a high.
Marianne…Hey! (laughing together) That’s what it’s all about. What types of music take
you to your painting place?
Meg…Classical and preferably Bach, Vivaldi. I like Renaissance era music too
and early church music, choral stuff. I put the Classical on during the workshop
also.
Marianne…Tell us about the workshops you give.
Meg…With the beginner course, we paint together, we do it all step by step, take for
instance the birds of paradise here have been painted as a class example. We draw it
Interview with Meg Munro, December 2013
and paint it together. I’m just a step ahead and everybody’s right behind and watching
and then they paint it.
Now, I have an ongoing studio of people who’ve been with me for years. Some
Canadians, they come for the winter and they all paint very well, and some of them sell
to their friends. They all had a desire and an undeveloped talent in their lives and so
when they came to me it was a good fit. So, every once in awhile, a new one comes into
that or some people leave, but it’s a pretty steady group.
Marianne…Wow that’s really nice.
Meg…It wasn’t natural to have that, it had to evolve, it’s been a whole lot of personal
growth for me to come around to being able to be with people that way and have it not
end up with a headache I have to recover from. Like does that make any sense?
Marianne…It certainly does.
Meg…And I don’t teach really, I just show what I do, that’s why you can’t come to my
studio without seeing what I do, because then you either do your own thing, I don’t care,
but you have to at least see if it works for you. Then, we have a language together.
What would I do? Well, this is what I do, otherwise we wouldn’t have a language, like
there’s people who ask going back & looking at their work…“Well, where do I go now?” I
say, “You’re on your own.”
Of course I let them know if they’re making a technical mistake, but this is a whole
different way of approaching it like that and asking for that feedback, my thing is that we
sit there and look at the paintings and that nobody say anything, we just look. More I
want them to see how they want to go with it.
Marianne…So basically, it’s like a study group where everyone studies together and
watches what you and the others are doing ?
Meg…I encourage that a lot but, there’s a “No-talk Rule” while people are painting,
because I don’t want people interrupting the others. We very often have somebody that
is a talker and that’s not fair to everybody else, so that’s the way to keep that from
happening…like blabbing about their grandkids while everyone’s working or the latest
immigration fiasco. So, it’s an environment that you’re invited to step into and be with
your art.
Marianne…Very cool, so now about your gallery representation.
Meg…I’m a gallery hopper….When I left Claire (Guarniere, of Galleria Dante), I thought I
was going to go it alone, but that only lasted about a year. Then with John (Strawn, of
The Loft) he still let me do my own thing. It was supposed to be a combined effort, but
that didn’t continue to work. So, I went back on my own again, but that’s not the best
way for me either. So, I thought Rodolfo ( Choperena Tiemann, of Galeria Contempo) I
Interview with Meg Munro, December 2013
asked him and he said “Why didn’t you come to me sooner, when I was asking you?”
It’s because it didn’t look like I was his flavor, and so it looked like that was not going to
be easy, He has this other flavor, you know, Pistachio, and I’m Jamocha Almond Fudge!
Marianne…Well maybe he needed a little variety? What do you want your work to do
or say?
Meg…I want my work to be an extension of me. It’s taking the time to do it. Mine
involves plenty of time to do it with as much detail as I want. My work is not about
the rapid gesture or expressive impressionism rather in it’s best moments it
becomes meditative through the discipline of doing it. I believe it is about being
who I am supposed to be. About allowing myself to respond to what sparks
excitement in me and following through with that. And in the following through I
have a discipline and a life. And of course there is the initial excitement of
choosing something to paint and how animating that beginning is!
Marianne…Do you have something you’re currently working on or excited to
start?
Meg…I’m currently working on pieces for a show and that is very exciting as I did
not have a show last year and I am showing in a new gallery, so all of that adds
to the excitement. It will be Feb. 21 at Galeria Contempo.
Marianne…Do you have a motto or mantra that keeps you on track?
Meg…I stay on track because I know it is important to bring myself out through
my painting, that my uniqueness is as important as everybody’s uniqueness and
that expressing it, however that may be is part of why we are here.
Marianne…Thank you so much for your insights and sharing your world.
Meg’s work is showing in Galeria Contempo at Basilio Badillo 252 and her website
is http://www.megmunro.com

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