megan porpeglia

“The longer you look at an object the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.”

                     Lucien Freud

“All the cooking happens in the sketchbook. It’s the raw, uninhibited part of the practice.”

                     Megan Porpeglia

You need to start at the beginning is to understand how Megan Porpeglia’s sketchbook practice took root. In elementary school, she always carried some type of small notebook to draw in, provided by her mom and dad. But the real foundation of her sketchbook practice was laid in her middle-school art class through assignment-based prompts. “We were given twenty prompts at the beginning of the semester. Each week, we had to pick one. Respond to it. Write which one we completed and cross it off the list. This was my introduction to collecting visual assignments and organizing them in one place.”

The realization that a sketchbook could house multiple forms of ideas in a bound format didn’t come to Megan until she was in the undergraduate painting program at SUNY New Paltz. Her freshman foundation sketchbooks included one from her Design Color class. One of the weekly assignments was to print out an advertisement, analyze the image, and write a response to the color relationships in the ad. “This is where the molding of the visual imagery and written word paired for me.”

These books and their pages became cargo vessels for storing and transporting sketches, ideas, and school notes. “My professors presented the sketchbook as a tool for collecting research.” As it is for many artists, the sketchbook was a resource for her thesis. “I gathered my loose ends together for my thesis, and used the sketchbook process I had learned to write out my thoughts and notes more organically.” During her graduate degree at Pratt, Megan maintained a sketchbook for each semester. She developed her graduate thesis in her books, from drawings to gallery layout to her artist statement.

The sketchbook fundamentals Megan learned and embodied became the core of her painting and drawing practice. She sketches from observation, focusing on objects in her environment. “Because my jumping-off point is observing the objects and things around me, I need to know them. I had to figure out a way to be around them and capture my immediate energetic response. Then I want to push the response further for a final piece.” Once she realizes the first drawing in the sketchbook, the drawing rather than the original object becomes the reference for the next sketch. The second sketch serves as the reference for the third sketch, and so on. “So the sketchbook ends up as a vital aspect of the process. Seeing. Observing. Recording. Drawing. I start out with observation, but the sketchbook pages help me see the object differently. I look at the potato masher once but then go off what is already in my sketchbook.”

Visiting an object once and then working from consecutive sketches isn’t Megan’s only process. She also has a more “spread-out process” in which she develops a relationship with an object/image and revisits it more than once. “The object becomes a character in the sketch so I like to revisit them. It’s not a one-off. It’s going to stay for a while.”

Sometimes Megan will move a sketch out of her sketchbook as the possible seed of a painting. She’ll even collage several sketches together. “Sometimes it takes two sketchbook sketches to be molded together to make one piece.” I was curious about how she arrives at the decision to move from a sketch to a painting. She shared that it’s when “they’re not a closed loop. They still have a wiry energy to them that I can work with outside the sketchbook.”

To transition into a painting, Megan redraws the sketchbook drawings on sheets of craft paper, continually sketching to “capture the form and the space distribution correctly.” Multiple iterations on this loose paper all serve to support the painting. She is grateful that the sketches have lost their “preciousness” by this point. “The sketches are preparatory to gain muscle memory for the painting. But there can be frustration because sometimes the sketch WAS the finished piece! I look at my sketchbook and think those are the gold. I ruined it by making a painting!”

These days, Megan is “interested in the range of what can happen, from object to abstraction. The sketchbook comes into play even more because I start realistically and move slowly, not in huge leaps, into abstraction.” The seeds that were planted during her school and early college years are the core of her art. “I realized what a tool the sketchbook was for my own unprompted practice of getting visual ideas down and using them to create larger, more cohesive pieces.”

Would you like to know more about Megan and her work? Visit her website or on Instagram!