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Q&A with MINImax Award Winner Meg MacKenzie

Horse 17, mixed media, by Meg MacKenzie. Winner of the Eleanor Boudreau Jordan Award for Best in Show (small works).
Horse #17, mixed media, by Meg MacKenzie. Winner of the Eleanor Boudreau Jordan Award for Best in Show (small works).

You’ve seen the Best in Show from the “mini” (large works) portion of “MINI max.” Today we’re sharing our conversation with mixed-media artist Meg MacKenzie, whose painting above was selected as Best in Show among the small works.

It’s titled Horse #17, but the artist has painted far more than 17 horses:

Can you describe the series that Horse #17 is part of?
Meg MacKenzie: Struggling to name my horse paintings, I decided to number the paintings that contain a single horse. I am up to Horse #30.

Why horses? What keeps you coming back to that subject?
Around 10 years old, my family was going to the beach on the Mediterranean. Along the sandy path from the parking lot to the beach, a man was leading his white pony toward the water. I ran ahead up to him to pet his pony. Although the man did not speak much English or I Italian, he lifted me up and set me astride his bareback pony. I was beyond belief. And sold on my love of the horse.

I started drawing horses. For Christmas and birthday presents I would ask for ceramic horses found in gift shops. I would arrange them and sketch them in imaginary landscapes.

His Majesty by Meg MacKenzie
His Majesty by Meg MacKenzie

Around 15 years old, I discovered art class in school as an elective and fell in love with the different media possibilities. But raised in a military family, my father did not believe in art as a legitimate living wage. I did not really know what direction I wanted to pursue in life. I tried history, math, Russian language, and finance. After meandering through a career as a business manager with a defense contractor, I eventually stayed home to raise my two sons.

A friend of mine was starting to teach an acrylic course which I eagerly decided to take for a year. Then, in 2000, another friend asked if I would be interested in watercolor classes we could both attend and carpool together to at The Art League.

I received much encouragement and kudos with my work. I started entering shows and professional art groups. Then, during one abstract art class, I started seeing horse images in the abstractions and was possessed. For the last few years, I have dedicated my artwork towards celebrating the majestic power and beauty of the horse.

Scott Ver 7, watercolor, by Meg MacKenzie
Scott Ver 7, watercolor, by Meg MacKenzie

Why are you a painter? What different media do you paint with?
I love the process of creating an image. I use mixed water media and collage.

What’s your creative process like, from an idea to a completed painting? How do you arrive at your color choices?
I usually throw paint on a surface, willy nilly. I may end up with several layers of transparent paint before I see my image emerge, e.g. a horse.

I literally throw color on paper. (See Ralph Steadman, For No Good Reason.) Maybe I see a horse initially or I continue to layer colors and collage. My color choice depends on my mood, maybe inspired by something I’ve just noticed, like the color of my viburnum today.

How do you know when one is finished?
I usually set the painting aside in a location I can glimpse at occasionally. I have unframed paintings that I had thought complete to add something extra!

Do you listen to music while you work? What kind?
Yes. Anything from bagpipes to rap … no classical, though.

“Mini MAX” is open through December 7.

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