Local Artist Megan Carty
I was introduced to artist Megan Carty’s work recently, and was immediately smitten by her vibrant paintings and her open and honest attitude. Her seascapes are filled with such beautiful color, and her new series on wedding bouquets is bold and unique. I jumped at the chance to chat with her about having a career as a painter, finding inspiration, life with three kids, and more. Read on!
LC: How did you start a career in the arts, and how did you transition from graphic design to painting? How did you build up a clientele?
MC: I went to art school at Syracuse University. Although I majored in Advertising Design, I had a huge focus on drawing and painting. I’d had a life-long love for painting but didn’t have the confidence that I could make a sustainable living from it at the time. (Now, the internet makes it possible to reach people globally right from my home! It’s been a game-changer — I don’t have to rely on a gallery to sell my work!) Once I graduated, I spent several years doing design work for small agencies and in corporate environments. I was always creating work for someone else’s objectives and that gets hard when you have so many creative ideas of your own just itching to come out. It was a very depressing time for me…it’s hard to suppress your biggest gifts and desires. You feel outwardly uncomfortable and like something is missing when you are not using your talents as you should be. I stopped designing when I had my children; but still felt that aching urge for something MORE. I started an Etsy shop and began selling letterpress cards, stationery, and wedding invitations. Later, when all that became too much, I began painting and drawing the way I had for fun all my life and instantly found relief and peace from the doldrums of daily routine.
I began to paint whenever I got the chance (not much when you have 3 small kiddos!) and I felt energized every time I picked up the paintbrush. Now, I’m trying to make paintings ALL the time! Building a clientele has been difficult. I spend a lot of time building relationships via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, online chat forums and through my own website. I try to comment on blogs and build friendships wherever I can. Word about my work does not get out on its own and I rely on the kindness of others who appreciate what I do to share it; and it’s also my job to share others’ gifts as well! Contrary to popular belief, being a successful artist in business is more than just creating the work. You have to do your own PR, your own marketing, your own advertising, your own website design, your own writing, your own accounting, your own photography… the list goes on and on. There are a lot of hats! It can feel overwhelming but it is worth it to do what you love and believe in. I enjoy the challenge and all the learning and growing that has taken place. It’s half the fun!
LC: Where do you find inspiration?
MC: The short answer would be in COLOR. I see wonderful color combinations in random places like toy catalogs, magazines, Pinterest and in nature itself. I just HAVE to capture colors as I see them; they bring me so much positive energy and delight…I feel like I have to shout them from the rooftops and share them with the world. Painting allows me to do that and share a tiny piece of how I feel. It’s like sharing a juicy secret, as dorky as that sounds. The colors in my paintings are always very saturated and exaggerated. Color has the power to soothe, uplift and inspire… that is what I love about being in nature and seeing the sky hit the ocean; it never seems to look the same twice. The colorful boats on the water stand out like jewels… there are so many visual treasures on the coast it sometimes seems impossible to tear myself away. I guess that’s why I love to paint ocean scenes; it’s often a place of fun, discovery, and renewal.
In the day-to-day, I enjoy listening to art podcasts like The Jealous Curator, perusing blogs (like The Boston Day Book!), reading artsy magazines and scrolling through Instagram to see what the world is up to. That also helps me feel connected because being an at-home mom can be isolating.
LC: Your art comes from a very personal place of sharing happiness with others. How did you come find this goal for your work?
MC: I’ve suffered from pretty severe clinical depression for over 20 years. I feel like I’ve seen it all with this disease. It got even worse when I was pregnant with each of my three children and then went on to be just as bad after giving birth to them. When an episode of depression hits there’s a feeling of uselessness and lack of motivation that takes over… I become withdrawn, exhausted and disinterested in everything around me. I become unable to think clearly, unable to make clear decisions, and I get overwhelmed to tears over the simplest tasks. It is an ongoing disease that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
But, the gift in it is I have learned to take charge of my feelings and I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it. I’ve learned to climb out and find joy in the smallest every day things. I’ve found tremendous amounts of help through proper medication, prayer, and the support of my husband and family. During my first pregnancy I felt this nagging feeling that there needed to be something MORE. What was the reason for it all? Why have I had this struggle? What is my greater purpose? This emptiness nagged at me for years as I tried to figure out why I felt so restless and out of place. I began to pray and pray and I started painting again (it’s always brought me comfort in the past). That’s when it all clicked for me. I felt so at peace and found such a lightness of joy! The delight others showed in my work made me feel so content and I loved knowing I had made someone smile or brought peace to someone else, even if it was in my own small way. I realized I’d been given the gift and passion for art because I was meant to SHARE it with others and leave my mark on this earth in a positive way.
Some people think they have to do these huge acts of sacrifice to feel they are doing good in the world and that’s simply not true. We can make things better around us; right where we are. When I connected my gifts with my struggles, I realized that I could share my joy in what I do with others! I can put my positive energy and light into my work and hand it off to someone else who needs it. You can notice this when you hold a piece of original art versus a print…the original work almost vibrates with the energy of its maker. Whereas the print just feels lifeless. I always say I want to “bring joy to your walls,” and that is my truest mission…to give you a perpetual hug from me through my art. I keep this mission in mind every day; it carries me through my darkest moments of doubt.
LC: Working on your own can be challenging, especially with three children in the mix! (I’m finding getting other things done with one at home is a challenge!) As a new mom myself, I would love to hear how you try to balance family and work.
MC: Balancing family and work seems to be a myth in my eyes. It’s a juggle that never ends I’m afraid. I’ve had to take a firm stand with my children (ages 7, 4 and 1) and remind them that I’m not a cruise director… I’m their Mom! They must learn to play on their own without me all the time. I find myself yelling (like my own mother) “GO OUT AND PLAY!!!!” I’ve had to trust in their abilities to become independent and creative in their daily play. Of course, I still make time to play with them one-on-one, but I also need to do household chores and work!
In all transparency, we hired outside help for cleaning our house once every two weeks for that deep clean I never seem to have time for. We also have a guy come do our lawn/landscaping so that my husband can spend his free time with the kids on the weekends. He is the key to my success. Chris, my husband, comes home from work and does household chores I didn’t have time to do during the day because I was either working or with the kids. He often folds laundry while watching TV in the evening or he does the dishes as I’m finishing dinner. He’s very active with our children and often takes them on adventures when I need to get work done. Nothing I do is possible without his help; in that way we are a true team. To help chores along on my end I’ve started doing one load of laundry every single day so that it doesn’t pile up and take so much time away from things I’d rather be doing. I also let some things just be messy. Ha! There’s always this huge pile of papers and mail at the end of my kitchen table. It’s like my fourth child or something.
I’ve let go of perfection and I’ve let go of the need to control every situation. Three kids will do that to you. I know what it is like to pour all of yourself into your children; but there comes a time when self-care needs to happen. For example, I now make sure I do reading for fun during the day…even if it’s just for 10 minutes. The kids see me doing this and connect reading with something comforting. It’s also so much more restorative than surfing the internet or watching TV. Another tip is we make sure to schedule our date nights with a babysitter whenever we can (once per month is our goal). It is easy to let the day-to-day life take over; but if I can schedule the dentist, the doctor, the oil change, and the hair cut then I can jolly-well schedule precious time to have fun with my husband, right?! My family means the most to me, so I want to prioritize that. That being said, I use the same tactics with my work. I figure out what exactly I want to accomplish that week and break the tasks down by day. I have to be realistic with what I want to do and I often do it with kids yelling at my feet. (Paint in your hair anyone?) But, it’s possible. Where there’s a will there’s a way! And it gets easier as the kids grow. Sometimes I do feel guilty; like I’m neglecting my kids while I’m focused on a painting or working on marketing tasks. But, when I look at them they seem happy and thriving so I’m doing something right! We have to be nice to ourselves and say “Hey! I’m doing my best! I’ve got this!”
LC: As someone who was raised in Maine and currently lives in Massachusetts, what are your favorite local spots?
MC: Oh boy! There are so many! Our favorite date night dining experience is at L’Andana Grill in Burlington. The food is to die for, the atmosphere is swanky and the service is impeccable. I’ve never had a bad experience there. Another special place is at the Boston Common. There’s a section of land there where the paths converge called The Carty Parade Ground. It’s named after my husband’s grandfather and it’s where my husband proposed to me. It’s fun to go there and walk around with the kids and talk about family things. In our small town of Pepperell we love taking the kids to ride their bikes and scooters on the the Nashua River Rail Trail. The trail spans from Nashua all the way to Ayer and it’s filled with cyclists and runners… totally car free! It’s a nice scenic route. There’s also a new little shop in the center of our town right at the trail called Hippie Lizzie’s Vintage where some friends of mine are selling reclaimed/refinished furniture and home decor with a shabby chic bent. It’s a fun little hole in the wall with some real affordable treasures!
As far as fun with the family I’m a big history buff, so I enjoy picnicking and walking around the Minuteman National Park in Concord. We love to visit the Old North Bridge and wander through the amazing gardens nearby. It’s a serious slice of heaven there. I can’t think of a more relaxing place. And wandering all the amazing independent shops in Concord afterward is an added bonus! On days when the kids are restless and I need to get us out (aka, Mom needs a break!!!), I take them over to an indoor kids’ play place called BB Kidz Klub over in Westford; not far from Kimball Farm Ice Cream. They have a huge play area; it’s safe and it’s fun. My kids never tire of it; even my one-year old can’t get enough! Getting ice cream at Kimball’s after is always a special treat. And finally, our favorite spot when I need to be by the coast is to take a drive up to Rockport. The shops are diverse and full of great gifts. I like to stock up for all the different holidays and birthdays for my loved ones in one big swoop there! Boom! (ha!) We love to sit by the water and just enjoy watching the boats as the workers go about their day. This state really has so much to offer it’s hard to name just a few favorites! I always miss Maine, but Massachusetts offers so much greatness it’s hard to beat.
Megan, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! I love your positive energy and passion – it is so refreshing. You can find Megan online at www.megancartyart.com, or on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Take a look at the paintings for sale in her shop. We love having original art on our walls, especially from local artists!