Accidentally on Purpose: Megan Triantafillou's Story Through Painting
Photo by Daniel Smyth
Life is not black and white, and neither is the vibrant artwork of painter Megan Triantafillou, who won the William Duebber Artist Award for this year’s “Art Comes Alive” contest. Triantafillou’s mesmerizing paintings were enough to draw us in for a closer look and she revealed some of the deeper purpose behind her abstractions.
Venue Magazine: How did you discover that you had a passion for painting?
Megan Triantafillou: In elementary school, I had a fantastic teacher who encouraged my creativity. I had learning disabilities as a kid and was constantly told I was doing things wrong. That’s probably where I fell in love with art, because no one can tell you that your creative process is wrong.
I graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 2001 and started having children right away. Unfortunately I didn’t really learn my voice in school, so it took me a few years to discover my process. My mom just encouraged me to keep painting, and I think she saw something there even when I hadn’t yet. Really digging, making roots and being confident and strong is what makes it happen. If I didn’t have a strong support system of others telling me I should keep doing it, I don’t know that I would have made it here. But it happened.
Once I got a feel for my process, I expected that if I just worked every single day something would eventually happen, and it did. I started making a living off of my artwork about seven years ago. Maybe three or four years ago I realized that this really isn’t going away. The work and customers got real steady, and now I’ve sold over a thousand paintings in the last 15 years.
VM: Was there a time when it became obvious that this was your calling?
MT: Several years back I started collaborating with patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and their families, letting them work with me and next to me. I would sort of connect their puzzle, and I just fell in love with it. There were so many pieces that I felt like I needed to keep and work with. I think that if we don’t collaborate, art becomes cannibalistic. There are no mistakes. I started really implementing a process where if I’m not thinking, the magic happens. It’s like meditating in a way. I think growing up “special,” being seen as having a learning disability, actually made me “special” in pushing me to think outside of the box. I’ve always had to make my own tools and find my path away from the norm.
VM: Can you tell me a little about your art and what it expresses?
MT: This might sound strange, but I don’t feel like the paintings are “mine”; rather, they’re made through me in a way. It reminds me of a poem by Kahlil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you …
(“On Children” from “The Prophet,” 1923)
The thing I love about making abstract art is the fact that no matter what I see, other people can see and feel something entirely different, and that means something real. Every edge that I make creates an edge to another shape, and in a way that’s how life works too – with people, with interactions.
I don’t plan out what I’m going to make beforehand. I try not to think so much and just allow the art to come through and develop onto the canvas. I only start to discover obvious figures and images in the painting afterwards. Once I find these images, I turn on my “thinking brain” again along with my fine arts education, and I put some of it together in a way that makes more sense. But being able to walk away from a canvas that isn’t totally finished is important.
VM: Where do you see your work taking you?
MT: The words that come to mind are “accidentally on purpose.” It’s oxymoronic, and there’s a blurred line between the two. The figures in my paintings are unintentional, but once I see them appear it’s always my choice to react and develop them. I think I want to explore that a bit more and see where that takes my art. I absolutely love abstract because everyone can come to it differently and even see it differently depending on the day. The subject and the meaning aren’t handed to you. Recently I’ve had more figurative elements to my work, but I definitely want to keep it abstract. I’ve also been working on larger canvases than before, and I’m branching out.
I’m working nationally now, selling to a lot of clients in California and Georgia, and I really enjoy working on commissions like I have been lately. People come to me wanting this size or that style and it keeps me motivated. I can take a piece that I’ve already done and transform or take elements from it and still discover something new.
Through painting, I’ve seen how much more there is to everything, and I want to express that in my work. I really want to inspire people who feel like they haven’t found their voice because that was so crucial for me. My best advice to artists is simply this: Just show up and paint everyday, and don’t be afraid to make lots of mistakes.
VM: Do you think you will stay in Cincinnati long-term?
MT: Absolutely. I love the art community here in Cincy. It’s incredibly tight-knit and I feel like it’s been thriving for years. There are always so many people at Hyde Park’s art shows and the people who show up are so pleasant. The community of artists has simply been phenomenal from my point of view. It’s not a super competitive environment and it is incredibly supportive.
Also, my fiancé, Joshua Goldschmidt, collaborated to design and build my new studio. We’re extremely excited to finally open the doors since it’s been a longtime dream of ours. Joshua and I first met in grade school at St. Mary’s, reconnected in 2011 and we’ve become a true creative team since then. Goldschmidt Landscapes has been in business for over 20 years, and I love growing my roots here.
If Triantafillou’s work piques your interest, visit www.abstractartbymegan.com. She also welcomes private viewings of her home studio upon request.