Art, Emerging Artist

Megan Vanbuskirk: My creative process requires me to trust myself

Megan Vanbuskirk is an Arizona-based artist. She specializes in emotive figurative paintings, exploring themes of femininity and power dynamics. Vanbuskirk creates emotionally charged works of art with her brush and fingers, pouring feelings out on her canvas. Today, we will have a chat about her art journey, and artist identity.

Hello Megan, it is so nice to talk to you. To kick off the interview, I wanted to talk about your main subjects. Your artworks revolve around people, especially women. What drives you to paint humans?

People are beautiful and dangerous. I’ve always seen humans as being different from the rest of the natural world. Where nature is perfect and sensible, people are unpredictable and ego driven. We act in ways that are counterintuitive to survival all the time. There is something that scares me about our nature; myself and everyone. 

I’m drawn to exploring the things that make me feel afraid. When it comes to painting, humans are so super interesting to me because they freak me out. It’s fear and fascination that keeps me focused. I tend to make art that represents the most vulnerable parts of people. Maybe in some way, this is what helps me deal with my own fears of humanity and myself. I’m looking to make sense of us, and making art about people helps me to do that.

Have you always painted humans, how did your themes change over time?

My themes change as I experience life. I, like many people, keep the most painful experiences hidden from myself and art helps me process those things. My last body of work was what me processing femininity and strictly female experiences looked like; but each body of work will change as I grow and develop as a person and artist.

I’ve been drawing and painting people since I was in grade school. Most of the time those people are naked. It’s something I’ve always been interested in. My style continues to evolve and I’ve consciously decided not to attempt to correct what is odd, disproportionate, or strange about my human forms.

Don’t Touch Me, 2022, 18×24”, Oil on canvas
What inspires you the most when it comes to making art? Can you tell us more about your creative process, as to how your ideas come to life on canvas, as well? 

I perceive the world through the lens of emotions. It takes intentional work on my end to not react to those emotions on a daily basis. What is wonderful about artmaking however is that it allows me to feel without questioning how those feelings could hurt or influence myself or others. 

I’ve noticed that my artwork is a reaction to feelings although most times, I don’t know what those feelings are until after the work is made. This was the case with my last body of work as it pertained to feminism and misogyny. 

My creative process requires me to trust myself. I have to invest my energy into what I simply find interesting to begin with. I have to decide to lean into the simple, non-verbal interest I have and make artwork based on those visual interests. I have to trust it will all make sense at the end. And typically, but not always; it does.

Megan Van Buskirk
So, which one of your paintings was your favorite, and where did that one come from?

I think an artist needs to be in love with their work. This includes all the faces of what love can look like. An artist must be infatuated, frustrated, disgusted, enamored, angry, and ultimately enthralled with their work through different stages of creation. 

One of my favorite personal paintings is titled  “The Separation of 2011”. It began as a study on finger painting and turned into a segmented triptych about my experience being raped. I had never acknowledged that experience until I began the painting which allowed me to process what happened to me and how it affected my life over the last decade.

The Separation of 2011, 2022, 12x 60” triptych, Acrylic, paper, & glue on panel
What are some struggles you face as an artist, considering most of your paintings contain nudity? We both know social media, for example, creates censorship around it that is frustrating to most artists.

There has always been a tension and uncomfortability between American culture and nakedness. I have had artwork censored from galleries and group shows. This has been even more true dealing with AI and social media. The computer doesn’t know how to differentiate between art and porn, let alone the nuances of art and something more subtle; so it shadowbans or downright censors it out. This makes growing an audience more of a challenge. 

I have no interest in existing solely online, but social media has given artists this amazing new tool to use that exposes people from around the world to their artwork. I only want to be included in the great wave of global art exposure, but censorship makes it difficult. 

What advice would you give to upcoming artists in the beginning of their art journey?

My advice to upcoming artists and myself is always the same. Stop worrying if you are unique, realistic, beautiful, or powerful enough as an artist. The point is that with time and work, you will emerge. But you can’t do that unless you work. And for me, the work has to come from the body first, not the head. Artworks that come from my mind first often stay there. So begin, start a piece, and keep working on it. A byproduct of artmaking is the trust you build with yourself by starting and finishing something regardless of what your brain says is good or bad.

Moving onto some quick fire questions to get to know you personally, let’s start with your favorite artist.

I love Remedios Varo, Egon Schiele, and Alice Neel. The haunting and intimate way they represent people is beautiful. 

Do you have a favorite quote that you’d like to share with us?

“I am just an egg.” by Michale Valentine Smith from the book Stranger in a Strange Land.  This alludes to the fact that eggs aren’t developed yet. I love this sentiment. 

What about your favorite movie?

One of my favorite movies is The Wailing. Its a horror movie that burns slowly and reveals so much about human nature through the absurd and ultimately horrific imaginings of Na Hong-Jin.

What do you like listening to while working, and your favorite songs?

“Chances Are” by Bob Marley and the Wailers is one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s filled with longing and honesty. When I’m working, I like to throw on movies or shows. It can be lonely working and I feel more relaxed when it feels like I’m working in a room full of people not paying any attention to me.

Check out more of Megan Vanbuskirk’s art on her instagram here.