Meet Your Neighbor: Artist Meg West
Together with local plein-air Painter Meg West, we encourage you to embrace the gorgeous spring season as plants and landscapes begin to bloom all around us. Featured in Book 2 of Wine & Country Life, Meg West is captures all that a landscape exudes. We encourage to read on for some of the original article from the print issue.
“Although there’s a spacious studio in the charming, art-filled and wood-stove-heated house where Meg West and her husband, David, have lived for over 30 years, West’s artistic interest lies outdoors. A plein-air painter, she is part of an important tradition, in both Europe and America, of artists who engage with the landscape outside the studio, marking the flow of the day and of the seasons. ‘To me, plein-air painting is such a difference. You are breathing, you are in the senses … you have to deal with the elements. But the difference as the art goes is enormous. To me, they’re better paintings.’
So, West’s studio at the end of the hall serves mostly for preparing canvasses and working on smaller elements of their creation. Normally, she loads up her specially rigged minivan and sets herself up outdoors, painting with the custom easel her husband made for her. And when the weather’s very cold … she can be seen painting in her grown son’s old snow pants—not wanting to miss an opportunity for a perfect setting. Her home is ideally situated, so she doesn’t often have to roam far for an auspicious view; and, West can always find a place to go on her five-acre property. If she does begin a painting in her studio, she takes it outside to finish in natural light.
West is familiar with too many local spots to choose a favorite, but Chiles Peach Orchard is right across the street from her house. She paints there in every season—so often that the orchard workers know her and recognize her van. She also tries to paint at Monticello at least once a year, where her preferred views include the vegetable garden. West does like vast views, which are a logical match for her larger canvasses. ‘I am a sucker for the long distant views that are available from any of the mountaintop areas … the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, but even up on the hillside of Chiles Peach Orchard or Buck’s Elbow behind my house off the top of Jarmans Gap. Painting the distant views down a river also gives that same feel that speaks of peacefulness and nature. The interesting thing about plein-air painting is, even if you have painted at the same location before, a different season and time of day can produce an entirely different feel and emotion on the landscape.’
West’s path to professional painting is an empowering tale. At what many would consider to be a busy stage of life, with a part-time career as a graphic designer, and raising two teenage boys, West took stock on her 45th birthday. ‘I asked myself what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and the answer was like a lightning bolt.’ She took classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia and decided to give herself a year to get back into painting, which had been her minor at Philadelphia College of Art. Almost immediately, her work began to sell, and West has made a living as a painter ever since.
While she loves the local landscape and has made a name for herself as a localist painter, West and her husband travel extensively. They do one big trip a year; 2016 took them to Colorado and Wyoming. The year prior, they went to the San Juan Islands and took the kind of camping trips that most people only fantasize about. They load up the van with materials to hold and protect Meg’s oil paintings and, literally, head off to the hills. They often travel close to home but have ventured to Mohegan Island and Acadia National Park in Maine, the Smoky Mountains and Florida.
Going forward, West is looking at other opportunities to immerse herself even more in her work. ‘I love the idea of concentrated time and energy—to do and think of nothing else but painting.'”
Text Excerpts from Book 2 of Wine & Country Life by Catherine Malone
Photography by R. L. Johnson
Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.