By Frances Figgart
Although she is a newcomer in Western North Carolina, watermedia artist Megan Richard wasted no time in making herself right at home. Moving to Hendersonville less than two years ago (her sister and brother-in-law were already long-time residents) she has rapidly become a vital part of the WNC art community, joining the ranks of talented artists in a host of local galleries.
A child of educators who became a teacher herself, Richard was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her parents attended university. When she was only three, the family moved to Delaware, Ohio; her father taught geology at Ohio Wesleyan University and her mother was a substitute teacher.
“I grew up in a creative household,” says Richard. “Art and music were a big part of our family life. I have five generations of paintings in my home—paintings done by my great grandmother, grandmother, mother, myself and my daughter.”
Richard creates ethereal nature paintings inspired by memories of her childhood and family. In fact, her work as a whole seems almost to be a meditation on a very specific set of experiences from one particular point in her past.
“The fact that my parents were teachers was really fantastic because the whole family—two sisters, a brother, my parents and myself—had the summers off,” Richard recalls. “We would head up to Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada, to the family cabin on Lake Huron. We didn’t have running water or electricity. We were immersed in nature, cooked on a wood stove, washed our clothes in the lake, and spent a lot of time fishing.”
It was here that she developed her passionate love of nature, cultivating a lasting sense of oneness with the trees, animals and water. Her favorite memory is of going out on evening fishing trips with her dad.
“He had such an intense love for our little place in paradise; his joy became our joy,” she says. “He was a man of few words, but words didn’t matter when you were out on the lake with him. My happiest times were with him sitting in silence on the boat side-by-side listening to loons, watching animals on shore drinking from the lake and embracing the moment—perfection.
“We would head back to the cabin as it was getting dark, watching the sunset and seeing the first stars come out. It was magical. Our cabin faced north over the lake—nothing between us and the North Pole but a little village or two.
“No words can describe the beauty of the night sky,” she says, as if returning from someplace far off. “I try to capture the feeling experienced there in my paintings, a oneness with nature, a feeling of peacefulness and wonder.”
Richard says she is reminded of this special conglomeration of memories when she spends time at her sister and brother-in-law’s weekend getaway, a mountain cabin in Madison County. “The night sky there is stunning and it brings back those wonderful memories of our childhood.”
After she received her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Ohio Wesleyan, Richard got her Montessori teaching credential from the Institute of Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, Maryland. She lived for 35 years near the Chesapeake Bay, where she raised her three children—Daniel, Jocelyn and Nathan— and taught Montessori for 27 years, eventually becoming involved in the art community, where she had many friends and mentors. “I loved teaching,” she says, “inspiring my students’ creative endeavors as well as taking inspiration from them.”
More spontaneous perhaps than most, Richard says she does not premeditate her work. “I don’t do too much planning when I paint; I don’t sketch or use photos. I just start painting and see where it leads. A painting can go through stages—at times meditative when painting the branches on trees and at times exciting when applying color.”
Richard primarily uses watercolors, but likes to use inks and fluid acrylics as well. She paints on heavy 300-pound Arches watercolor paper. Her favorite brand of paint is Daniel Smith. Some of her favorite colors are Manganese Blue, Indanthrone Blue, Aureolin Yellow and Mayan Orange.
“Watercolor painting can be frustrating but it can also be amazing,” she says. “There are so many ways to create texture and interest with things like salt, splattering, cling wrap, masking compound and waxed paper.”
An oft repeated thematic element for Richard is the songbird. “My mother had pet finches and fed the wild birds at our home in Ohio throughout the winter. She sang a little song to them every morning. ‘I love my little birdies and they love me too.’”
Richard says she tries to capture a feeling with her art and hopes that it resonates with the viewer. “I like the idea of the viewer filling in the time and the place that may be meaningful to them.” For her, it’s back on the boat with her dad on Manitoulin Island.
“Even though he is gone now, I feel that closeness to him when I am quietly painting in my studio,” she says. “I think about those times with a touch of sadness but mostly joy that I think can be seen in my paintings.”
Megan Richard’s Studio is located at 18 Old Creek Lane in Hendersonville. Learn more by calling 443.975.1464, visit meganrichardart.com, see fineartamerica.com for prints and follow Megan Richard Fine Art on Facebook.