Sunday, October 5, 2014

Artist Focus: An Interview with Meghan Tutolo, painter

Blast Furnace enjoyed a morning cup o' joe over the summer with copywriter/poet/painter/ukulele player/professor and self-proclaimed insomniac Meghan Tutolo. Raised in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (a region well-known at one time for its role in the aluminum industry), she has seen her work published in Arsenic Lobster, The Oklahoma Review, Chiron Review, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Little As Living, is available now from Dancing Girl Press.

Following is our conversation with Meghan about the arts and her creative process, accompanied by photographs of some of her splendid paintings. 

How did you get interested in the arts?

When I was younger, it wasn’t about the Game Boys, or the Nintendo DS, etc. When I went anywhere it was always that I had pencils. I used to draw people. Real people. My mom is artistic, my dad was somewhat creative in his own sort. I don’t know, I just always did it. It was never premeditated, like ‘I’m gonna take an art class.’ The only time it was ever poignant to me was when I had to decide what I was going to do [as a career]. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, so the question was did I want to be an art teacher, or did I want to be a writing teacher. There were two art teachers at my entire high school and six English teachers. It seemed a little too impractical at the time, but art is so much easier to me. It was scarier that I would teach writing than teach art. Writing involved more ‘up in my head’ for me. Art was really organic. 

"Spring up" - acrylic, artboard by Meghan Tutolo
There was a barista at Starbucks in Greensburg, her name’s Jen. She was a graduate art therapy student at Seton Hill. It used to be that all I did was hang out at that Starbucks. The people there became like family to me. Jen was doing her thesis and told me she needed a family to come and do art therapy. She was looking for something non-traditional. I’m not [traditional] so I knew she had some good material. Jen came over [to my house at the time] and told us to draw how we feel. She was very professional but my girlfriend and I sat on the floor in the living room. Jen busted out some pastels and said ‘I’ll give you ten minutes to whatever.’ The pastels did it [for me]—the physicality of it. The physicality of art—its process—is its own type of therapy. That’s where it differs from writing from me. In art there’s something very different in each stroke.

The result of art therapy was, we realized I had an easier time talking and thinking when I was doing something physical. I began to doodle constantly. I’d go out and have coffee with someone and I would doodle. I realized that I feel more purely and articulately even when I’m [doodling]. Art can be feeling and not logic. It can be not taking measurements and instead exploring. How do you see it.

"Constellation 2" - acrylic, canvas by Meghan Tutolo
What paint/materials do you utilize?

There’s the work I sell and the work I do for me and my friends. I do cards a lot, doodles. I use acrylic [paint]. I rent a room in a house. I’m all over the house but I paint in my room, I write in my room. I’ve never spent so much time in a room before. Because of that, doing something like oils would be tragic. Watercolor is fascinating to me. When I was a child growing up I hated it, but there’s something super subtle about it that I really appreciate in adulthood. It’s a layering process. You paint a little bit. You paint a little bit. For as impatient as I am, watercolor works. The sky is watercolor to me. It’s just so fluid. 

"This Universe" - acrylic, canvas CURRENTLY FOR SALE by Meghan Tutolo (feline NOT included)
Of the creative outlets you pursue, which do you practice most heavily?

Everything with me is momentary in a way because it all depends on what I’m going through in life. Lately I have gone to art because I over-analyze everything. Sometimes I don’t want to think. People go home and watch TV and keep themselves occupied with shutting off. I’m not saying art is like shutting off, but it’s much easier for me to confront the canvas than it is words.

I think there is no absolute with me. I try to explain who I am and what I am with people and what I do, but I can never nail it. I’m hopefully progressing but am constantly changing. Things happen in my life where I experience so much I feel like I’m being Punk’d!  Lately, my writing is very frantic. It’s not premeditated. Like it might be that I’m going to go to the coffee shop today and write. But it’s not every Tuesday, for example. I can’t plan it. Everything I do is based on how I feel. I might be logical in a lot of ways, but…I have a manuscript I hadn’t touched in three months, and all of a sudden I stayed up ‘til 3 AM and worked on it because it was there and I was ‘in it.’

Add "City Orbits" - ink, paper by Meghan Tutolo
I haven’t had formal training. There are people who create visual arts in a way that is so detailed and amazing. My [art] is not precise. Everything I do—though it might not make sense logically—I feel. I’m not narrative, I’m not realist. I want people to feel something [from my art]. When I look at art, whether visual or reading it, I need to feel something because it’s so passionate, for better or for worse.

I love every college education experience I’ve had, but academia really sucked the life out of writing for me. I write for myself. Anybody who says they just write for the public is a different writer than I am. For some people there’s a distinction there. There’s a person who needs to write, they need to be artistic. Then there are people who treat it as a job or skill. That doesn’t factor in for me [when I approach writing]; I have to do it. The process of it is for myself, but when I’m reading it and sending it out into the world—it is to reach someone. If it gets published, great.

"Abridged" - acrylic, maps, wood by Meghan Tutolo
Who and/or what inspires your art? Are other artists inspiring to you?

I’m not an art aficionado, but two people I have met personally that [impacted me] are Gabe Felice, from Greensburg [Pennsylvania]. He has a very distinct style and I really admire his colors and his process. He truly lives the artist’s life. And Seth Clark [of Massachusetts but currently living in Pittsburgh]. It’s rare that art touches me like that. I’ve seen his art here and there and he is very meticulous about disaster and I love that. He visits desolate, abandoned houses and turns the ugly into something incredible. I love destruction. I think it’s beautiful. The collapse of buildings. I’m not a fan of realism at all. When I started drawing I was like, ok, I have to make things look like they are. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized I didn’t have to do that. 

"Waxing & Waning City Series 2/6" - acrylic, maps, wood by Meghan Tutolo
Where can people see your art on display / purchase your art?

I’m not super traditional with my work. I’ve had a few shows, but I typically paint and then post it on Instagram or Facebook. Some people say, “Hey, I want that.” And then it’s sold. I’m also open to commissions.

Also,, and facebook, Pinterest, twitter, YouTube (1flychicken).

Editor's Note: Meghan will be reading her poetry at 7 PM EST on Saturday, October 18 at Biddle's Escape, Pittsburgh for the Versify reading series.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always intrigued by other artists/ thought and processes. I've been checking out some Los Angeles abstract art exhibits, and learning what I can about the artists. I find a lot of them say things similar to Meghan about working from their "gut feeling" or heart.