MEGHAN NOONAN ON EXPRESSIVE ART MAKING, ART THERAPY AND THE STATE OF FLOW
Meghan Noonan (b.1996) is a self-taught artist living in Toronto, Canada studying Art Therapy & Psychotherapy at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute (TATI). Meghan describes herself as an intuitive artist, whose main style of painting is abstract expressionist.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
What kinds of creative activities did you engage with as a kid?
When I was a kid, I drew, painted, played with chalk, and did a lot of eco art like playing in the dirt and with insects. I did not take art lessons or thrive in art classes. I thought of myself as more athletic as I have been a competitive hockey player since the age of 4.
What artforms did you explore in high school?
In high school, I had to take one art credit during grade ten. I chose to take drama as I thought I was not good enough to take art class and get an actual good mark (I feared lowering my overall GPA). I think back now and wish I took art class as I am much more interested in visual arts rather than drama.
How would you describe your first couple years as an adult? What were you exploring / gravitating towards? What did you study? What was the most exciting / important thing you learned about in your undergraduate degree?
I am very interested in Psychology and went to McMaster University with the hope that I would specialize in Neuroscience and Behaviour. However, after my first year I grew passionate about Anthropology and decided to specialize in that instead. I was fascinated about cultural norms, spirituality, shamans, after-life, and creativity. I also took a certificate at Mohawk in Applied Behavioural Analysis and a minor in Psychology. An important thing I learned in my undergrad was the field of positive psychology and how mindfulness can be used to increase your well-being. I also learned a lot about spirituality etc. Some of the most exciting things I learned were from my friends. I made a special connection to a dear friend in my first year who really impacted the course of life and my interest in painting!
You've recently begun a graduate program in art therapy, at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. What has been the most exciting thing you've learned so far?
Yes! I have enjoyed everything I have been learning. However, some of the most exciting things I have learned are the approaches of positive art therapy, art making as a path to spirituality, and person-centered expressive art therapy. All these approaches really speak to me and how I approach painting in my life. It is all about opening to the creative force through expressive artmaking. I love art making for its ability to offer new perspectives, insight, and meanings. I resonate with being a fellow traveler with my future clients on their journey to self-actualization and meaning making.
What does art therapy mean to you?
Art Therapy to me means the process by which we can take our inner feelings, experiences, thoughts, and emotions and represent them in outer forms. The artmaking process is a spiritual and creative journey into the self where we open ourselves up to gaining deeper insight through the arts. It allows us to make representations and learn from our inner landscape! I believe artmaking can increase positive emotions, changes in perceptions and perspectives which ultimately result in more self-understanding, happiness, and wholeness. I am sure my answer to this question will continue to change and grow as I keep studying the field and one day practice within it.
Can you tell me a little bit about the art you make through your business, Meghan Noonan Art? How would you describe this art? Can you talk about your process?
I started to paint about 6 hours ago as a hobby. I never imagined I would be in galleries and selling my paintings internationally. It is a dream come true. My art pieces are a deep self-exploration of the self. I engage in expressive painting, which means I do not have a plan or guideline to follow when I create. I spontaneously paint my feelings, emotions, and experiences onto the canvas. I play a dance with each painting where I express, listen, and adapt from what I hear and interrupt each painting is trying to tell me. The painting process for me is very intuitive and spiritual. It is as if when I paint, I am connecting to the deepest parts of myself and all that makes me an individual human, but also a human part of something greater than myself. When I paint and get into the expressive process, I am in a state of flow, where everything else around me starts to fade away and I connect with my inner-most wise being. Sometimes, of course, I am unable to get into this state, and when this happens, I notice I am not able to expressively paint as I normally would. When this happens, rather than forcing myself through it, I sit with myself and these feelings of resistance and try to honour the process. Artmaking for me connects me to my deepest self and allows me to release my deepest emotions, feelings, and experiences, and gain knowledge, understanding, and meaning from them! I hope to one day share this experience with my future clients and help them connect with their deepest selves through artmaking <3
What is the most challenging aspect of running your own business? What is the greatest reward?
The challenging aspect of running my own business Is marketing myself for sure. I have been very lucky to have great friends helping me design my website and Instagram. It gets very tiring posting everyday and keeping up with online responsibilities to ensure I get exposure and hopefully customers. The greatest reward is realizing that my art speaks to people on so many levels. The idea that someone wants my painting in their home where they see it everyday makes me feel something beyond words. It is like I am sharing a part of my vision and passion for self-exploration through the creative process! My goal is to create pieces that allow others to find something of their own in them.
Why is visual art important?
I think visual arts are important because they are an alternative way of responding and understanding an experience, feeling, or emotion. It incorporates symbols, metaphors, icons, etc. Visual arts can help us connect to abstract meanings or feelings in our lives and learn from them.
What non-visual artforms do you gravitate towards?
I gravitate towards music and dance mostly. However, I do not have training in either of these artforms. I often use music to get into flow when I paint. I love blasting the music super loud and letting it intuitively guide me.
Who are some of your favourite painters?
I have never studied art history or famous painters. With that being said, I do have some favourite painters in mind. There are: Andrea Marie Breiling and Trine Panum.
What's one piece of advice you would give to our readers about establishing a creative practice?
My piece of advice would be to be compassionate and kind with yourself. Establishing a creative practice does not happen overnight nor can it be forced. When I first started, I always felt like an imposter and as if I did not have what it took to make pieces anyone would want. I soon realized it is not about any of that at all. We are human and just from being human we are connected to the creative process and using it as a means of communication and expression! I also love this beautiful saying about how everyday we may not feel creative but everyday we can express ourselves. So, when you do not feel creative or that you can get into the creative process, do not shame yourself and feel bad. Just notice your feelings and shift your perspective to the fact that you can ALWAYS express yourself as a human being. Start small with incorporating a creative practice into your life. Be proud of yourself while you get going on these small changes! Last advice, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and know that there will not be one day where everything just falls into place. Everyday is a process and sometimes I go into doubt and comparison, it is normal. Be kind to yourself and know that you are human and allowed.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to having my own studio space one day! It is a dream to create a place of peace for me to paint it. I hope this will allow me to create more pieces and paint more regularly and continue my passion. I am also SO excited to be an art therapist one day, creating alongside my clients in a space that is supportive, encouraging, and safe.