Meg Black is the featured artist in Helen Hiebert’s The Sunday Paper

Helen Hiebert is recognized as an expert in the papermaking community-from her knowledge of properties of various pulps to sewing and binding techniques for handmade paper books, Helen is a vital presence in educating papermakers around the world. Given her recognized expertise, I was honored that she asked me to be featured in her blog.

Helen shared my recent commission, Seafoam, which I created for a corporate space in 2018, as the featured image for the blog-good choice, Helen, its one of my all time favorites.

Seafoam, 2018. Corporate commission. Photo: David Margolis

Here is the text from Helen’s blog:

Meg Black is an artist who has earned an MFA and Ph.D. in art history. The subject of her work-both as a researcher and a visual artist-is the study of nature and its impact on our sensory experiences. Black creates her work with pulp – largely cotton and well beaten abaca – for two reasons: (1) this material has not been widely used as a painting media, thus she is constantly discovering its potential and is challenged by its capacities which allow her to be a pioneer in this process; and (2) the texture of this media provides an almost three-dimensional quality to the finished surface, thus mimicking nature in all its splendor. Black’s unique process and careful attention to craftsmanship provide a seductive, textured surface that lends itself to the natural subject matter of her work. In 2014, Black was the recipient of a 1% for art grant awarded to her for her installation of six large pulp paintings featuring the white birch, the state tree of New Hampshire. Other examples of her pulp paintings are in hospitals, corporate offices, private collections, and town halls and libraries throughout the United States.

Thank you Helen for featureing my work on your blog. I have been following Helen’s blog for years-so happy to have my own feature and am enjoying my 15 minutes of fame with Helen’s readers.

Using over-beaten abaca to my seascape painting of the Cape Ann coastline.

The finished painting. Cape Ann Shoreline, 2020. Mixed media painting.

Last summer I received a call from the U.S. State Department Art in Embassies program director.The U.S. Ambassador to Belgrade would like to have an exhibition of American seascape artists for the embassy residence for the year 2021. The Art in Embassy staff shared my website with the Ambassador. He read my blog posts about the painting Cape Ann Shoreline and requested it for the exhibit.


I cannot tell you how honored I am to be included in an exhibit that celebratesAmerican seascape artists to diplomats, foreign officials and visitors to the embassy from all corners of the world.

Me in front of my painting Cape Ann Shoreline, (2020). 40 x 40 x 4 inches. Mixed media (abaca and cotton pulp, pigment, acrylic paint, mounted on Gator Board).

Follow me as I paint the sea: an explanation of the medium I use.

The painting as of August, 7, 2020.

At first glance, my paintings appear to be oil on canvas or similar. It is upon closer inspection that viewers observe the textured surface of the work. In fact, the most common comment I receive is “I love the texture of your work-it is so engaging. It’s like I’m actually there. Just what is the medium?” The medium I use is abaca, an extremely strong fiber from the inner bark of the banana tree and is used for marine cordage and sails for sailing vessels.

In the 16th century, Venetian artists-Venice at the time was a powerful seafaring nation state-began using the canvases of sailing vessels as surfaces to apply their paints. These canvases were made from durable fibers such as linen, flax and abaca.  It is for this reason that these now famous works have survived to us through the ages. 

Using these same fibers, I have embellished on this idea and created an actual painting method that is just as durable and permanent, and pigmented with light-fast colors to match the rich hues of nature.

My process provides a textured, almost three-dimensional quality to the painting’s surface, thus mimicking nature in all its splendor . . . from its rocky crevices along the ocean shoreline, subtle shadows in a garden path, the fullness and detail of a treed landscape, and the smooth surface of a still lake.  

Natural fibers, beaten into thick coats of pigmented pulp, provides the perfect media with which to create these modern interpretations of representational art.  

painting detail showing texture.

If you can’t make it to the sea this summer, follow me as I paint it.

The Cape Ann Seacoast, the inspiration for the painting.

Like many of us, I am drawn to the primodial pull of the sea. For me, it is not just any seashore, but the north Atlantic, with its harsh terrain, ice cold water, and thunderous crashing waves. Here, rocks are thrown to the shore by an unrelenting tide.  The rocks are stronger than the water, but the water can be fiercer and can move the rocks at will. This is for me the metaphor for our own lives: we long for smoothness of the water, but we are shaped by the steeliness of the rocks.  
Using an array of textures and colors to illustrate this metaphor, I will depict in my painting this emotional pull of the sea and tell my story much like a poet would use words. 
As you move with me through this creative process, feel free to chime in and ask questions. I have been sharing my process on Instagram live. For updates on live sessions, follow me at https://www.instagram.com/megblackstudios/
And as always, thank you for your support.
Meg


The Genesis of the painting: preparing the background drawing.

The yet to be titled painting at the end of the first week of work.
A black and white print of the image is laid out on the surface of the poured sheet. A sheet of carbon paper is sandwiched underneath. I use a bone folder to trace the image onto the poured sheet as a guide.
The painting in its early stages of completion.

Next week, the painting will be adhered to the frame. The final size will be 40 x 40 x 4 inches.

Paper making at home with children.

This video shows simple steps to make paper at home with children. Paper making is the perfect creative activity for home schooling or during the pandemic quarantine.

Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People influences Rocks and Water Composition.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, is a giant painting in which the allegory of Liberty charges toward the viewer ahead of an angry crowd who tramples over freshly dead bodies as they make their way through the streets of Paris. We, the viewer, are clearly in her way, and given the gun tooting youth on her right-holding a canvas bag that had until moments before this action was captured, belonged to a then living soldier, had better move out of her path quickly. The composition used by Delacroix captured in his most famous painting is a simple triangle, a classic compositional technqieu used for centuries before him to highlight action and drama-perfectly incorporated here at the height of the Romantic art movement and its underlying philosophy of the sublime.

I chose this same triangular composition for my seascape painting, the working title of which is Resilience. By anchoring the rocks on the bottom of the painting’s composition, and capturing the image just as the rock in the distance is showing its jagged surface, I sought to create the idea of an anchor, rising movement, the coming of drama, and the idea of the sublime-one can smell the salt air, bust stand in this spot long enough and the waves will charge right at you, knocking you over, tripping you over the hard rock and uneven sandy surface.

It is this idea of the triangular composition, used so often in art history, that informed this painting. Like Delacroix, I seek to include the viewer in the composition from the angle of which they would be standing, the make sure they feel the tension and energy of the action, and to stand their ground or move out of the way. Either way, Liberty will trample over you, as will these crashing waves.

Applying over-beaten abaca to the surface of the painting.

In this short video, I demonstrate how I apply abaca, that has been beaten for 20+ hours, to the surface of the rock and water painting, to give the illusion of pebbled rocks.

How to make handmade paper paintings-applying abaca

Overbeaten abaca refers to a fiber harvested from the inner bark of the banana tree, that has been beaten for approximately 20 hours.  Abaca is a gorgeous fiber, ivory in color, that will not disintegrate when wet, which is why abaca is used to make tea bags.  I strain some of the water from the abaca (the abaca is beaten in a hollander beater, which uses approximately 20 gallons of water per beating), and mix it with pure pigment, which will not fade.  I apply the abaca to the surface of the painting, shown in the pevious blog, with spoons and an old turkey baster.  
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Latest Creations from my studio



My latest work is a wall relief based on the symmetry of Ancient Greek art. The Ancient Greeks created intriguing compositions by balancing and counterbalancing shapes, colors and figures throughout their pottery. These designs told a story, and the viewer was welcome to “read” it according to their ability to interpret Greek mythology. This four panel work balancing color and shape on either end with the middle panels both playing off the end panels and acting as a resting area for the eye. In this way, the concept of Ancient Greek art is being imitated, even though the subject is considered “abstract” or “color field.”

Other News

I am excited to attend my upcoming gallery opening at Cove Gallery (ww.covegallery.com).  The opening is Saturday, August 15 from 6:00-8:00 pm.  I will be showing new works including seascapes and floral paintings such as the Hydrangeas painting shown above.  Hope to see new and returning clients at the opening!  Meg