Featured Artist: A Conversation with Maggie Madole




Q: Hi Maggie! Thank you for meeting with us. When did you start making art? 

My mother is an artist and I grew up making things, so in that sense, I’ve always made art. I recently discovered a diary entry from when I was ten years old where I talked about wanting to be an artist when I grew up, it is something that has always been in me. I remember the first moment I realized that art making and communication were linked ... I must have been about five years old and I was taking all of my rage out on a piece of paper with a black crayon. 

Q: What has your experience as an Artist been like so far? How have you changed in terms of creativity and direction over time?

Because I’ve always known that I wanted to be an artist, there was never any question about shaping my life around having the time to make work. I oscillate between wanting to support myself via commissioned freelance work or having reliable day job income to supplement my artwork. It’s all about balance, time-management skills, a lot of persistence, and some luck.

I have learned that my creative practice benefits most from being routine based and nearly non-negotiable... which can be tricky because my inspiration has a distinct ebb and flow. I go from feeling like there is an effortless and straightforward path to follow, to being stuck in a bog of complete and hopeless heartbreak. The hopelessness is a sign that an idea is trying to make it out into the world. I’m working hard on learning how to trust my own voice and to embrace that horrible feeling of vulnerability as a good thing; to be more available for shepherding that idea into the world.

Q: What mediums have you experimented with?

My attention span is flighty which makes it tricky to master one medium or style. I used to see this as a weakness, but I’ve since accepted it as a personal truth and I’m trying my best to embrace it as a strength. That being said, I’ve used almost everything you can think of to make marks on a two dimensional surface. In college, I studied printmaking and painting, now I work mostly with oil paint, graphite, gouache, watercolor, and ink. I’m currently taking courses on digital mediums to have a better grasp on that as well.

Q: Who / what has been most inspiring for your work and creative development?

All naturalists, the painter Agnes Martin’s writings (and paintings) and my family; my mother is a painter, her sister is a painter, and my father is a composer. I grew up watching them persist in their work alongside countless life changes and difficulties. Even if they have to set it aside for years, they find a way to return to their artwork. This has shown me that it’s something you can never really abandon and that if it’s what brings you joy, don’t ever give up hope.

Q: You mention on Instagram that you like to draw things you observe on nature walks. Do you photograph plants, animals, etc. that inspire you and draw them later or do you bring supplies with you and create on scene?

This has been an ongoing experiment and the challenge changes with the seasons. When "Small Things" started, it was winter and I was walking my dog every single day on the exact same route. By walking the same route every day, it was easy to spot little changes in the landscape and because it was winter, I could easily pick up something tiny and bring it home. That picked up "Small Thing" could sit on my drawing table for any number of hours before I got around to making a drawing of it. In the spring, the plants and flowers are so ephemeral that it’s nearly impossible to get them indoors and drawn before they completely fall apart... but I was attached to my routine and I couldn’t break the spell of needing to have them on my desk. I’ve finally come around to carrying a camera instead of clippers and working from photographs. I prefer working from life but reference photos offer their own kind of creative freedom.

Q: What is the significance for you in pairing words with your drawings and paintings?

The words were originally meant as a sort of indexing system, like a tiny, tiny almanac entry of the weather, basically to jog my memory of when certain things happen or bloom, without using a date.

Writing is a key part of how I process my surroundings, but it also falls deep into the category of things that make me feel completely and terrifyingly vulnerable which is a good sign. Perhaps you’ll see more words with my work soon.

Q: Are there any online resources you look to for inspiration, artist opportunities, etc?

I’m a little bit allergic to the internet, but I do listen to a lot of podcasts, my favorites are "On Being" with Krista Tippett and "Design Matters" with Debbie Millman, both of whom interview a very wide range of creative people. I love www.brainpickings.org and http://austinkleon.com/ for similar reasons. I do spend some time poking around on ello.co and instagram, but probably not as much time as I ought to be for them to start to feel more like communities and less like marketing.

Thank you for meeting with us Maggie, looking forward to your future works!

All artwork © Maggie Madole 2016