Whimsical wonderlands created by artist Megan Myers
written by Sheila G. Miller | photography by Emily Green
Among the first words that come to mind when you see one of Megan Marie Myers’ paintings is “charming.” Meet her in person, and the same word will be on your lips. Myers’ paintings, filled with whimsical animals, children and landscapes straight out of the Oregon wilderness, lull you with their muted color schemes and dreamy vibes. There are animals in the clouds and the smoke, tiny cabins and knapsacks and pup tents. Looking at her art is seeing what you hoped your last camping trip would have been.
Myers, 35, grew up in Medford. She remembers her school days being filled with art—every subject seemed to incorporate art in some way. “I was really encouraged to be artistic from the get-go,” she said. “Plus, I was an only child and my parents were busy, so it was sort of self-entertainment.” At Seattle University, Myers majored in studio art with a concentration in painting. After graduating, she began a career in arts administration, knowing she wanted to be involved with art but taking to heart the advice countless artists have heard—doing it full time just isn’t realistic.
For three years, Myers ran the public art programs for small municipalities near Seattle. Then she took a job as the project manager for Dale Chihuly, the celebrated glass artist, first handling public and private commissions and then gallery installations all over the world. “It was an intense experience, but I also learned so much,” she said. “So much of what I did then applies to what I do now. And it definitely gave me an insider’s eye into the art world.” The job was part of a huge operation. “Dale would do the designs, but then there were teams of glassblowers to make it a reality. There were thousands of pieces of glass for each piece.
They would build these steel armatures and then attach each piece of glass to them.” If the piece was a commission, the piece would be put together for a client visit, then taken apart piece by piece and sent to, say, China or Kuwait. A team would travel there to reassemble and install the piece. “It was all-consuming,” Myers said. “It was my whole life for five years.” “I thought it would satiate the natural space in my heart that I had for art,” she continued. “But I kept thinking, ‘What if I put all this energy into my creative spark?’” She had no free time for painting. So Myers took a job at Trader Joe’s, with the idea that it would give her more time for her art. Instead, the art came to her—she became the lead signmaker at the Trader Joe’s in the Hollywood District of Portland.
“It gave me the mental space and the schedule to work on my painting,” she said. “I could go there and practice and get better, and then I could go home and create.” Eventually, Myers relocated to Bend and decided to give it a go as a full-time artist. “It’s just my whole life. But it’s different because it’s something I care about,” she said. “It’s my baby.” Her first lesson in owning her own business? Find a schedule that works and stick to it. “I felt like I was constantly interrupting myself,” she said. “I’d get so caught up in the email and computer stuff. I would sit and paint and stop in the middle to check emails. Painting and design really takes uninterrupted concentration.” So she created a plan, breaking her day into sections for administrative work, personal time like exercise, and designing and painting.
Myers’ style is distinctive—at first glance, the playfulness looks ready-made for a child’s room. But a second look reveals more to her pieces, which straddle a line between illustrations and fine art. Myers said she began drawing her human figures as a child, and she believes she was inspired by the Hanna-Barbera cartoons of her youth. Her trees, in particular, appear inspired by the forests of Jellystone. “As a kid, I was always engrossed in cartoons, but I wasn’t necessarily following the story so much as studying the way things were drawn,” she said. “I had this one image of Dino from ‘ The Flintstones’ that I would just draw over and over.”
Myers was also taken with The Little Prince, a French book about the importance of getting rid of life’s complexities and focusing on the things that matter, like love and friendship. And she points to Calvin & Hobbes, a comic strip written by Bill Watterston. She loved the magical world created in that strip—what was real? What was imagined?—as well as the poignant messages hidden among the lighthearted banter of a boy and his stuffed tiger.
The goal is to strip away the complexities and the things that get in the way,” she said. “What are the important takeaways? I try to present them again so you take another look at something and help you see it as universal, see it as your own experience.
Myers doesn’t draw when she’s out and about, but if she’s struck by an image she may take a photo. Then the alchemy happens. She reinterprets, abstracts and stylizes that experience into what we see on the canvas. She described her interpretations as comparable to tasting how something smells. “I don’t present it as it looks,” she said. “I bring it back out with a filter, with a feeling I have got inside about it.” Designing a painting takes a lot longer for Myers than putting brush to canvas. She goes through a lot of versions, and once she settles on one, uses an old-school overhead projector to project the design onto her canvas, then works her way from the background to the characters in her pieces. “It’s to honor nature, which is so important to me and is important to a lot of people,” she said. “I want people to look at my painting and say, ‘ This is how I feel when I’m on a mountain, or when I’m out at Smith Rock.”
Myers’ studio is a small shed across the yard from her home in Bend. “ This is not a Pinterest art studio,” she warned, laughing. And indeed, it is bare bones—but there’s a charm to that, too. She hasn’t improved upon the subflooring because, well, painting is a messy job. She recently spilled an entire can of white paint on the floor. But the original shed now has windows, lights, drywall, even a heater for the winter. ere’s plenty of shelving, cans full of paintbrushes, and inspiration everywhere. She has a large plywood easel she built that allows her to work on large paintings.
In addition to prints and original artwork, Myers also sells postcards, calendars and other paper goods. She recently did a collaboration with Bend-based Free Range Equipment, which screened her paintings onto backpacks for its Canvas Series. She’s illustrated a board game and is hoping to do more murals. Myers fields these collaborations, like a recent one to work on an animated storybook, with one thing in mind—is it in line with what she wants to do? “If it’s not in my heart what I stand for, it’s probably not going to be one of my projects,” she said. “It’s about staying on track.”