Getting to know Eleanor McGough

Who is, or has been, the biggest influence on your art?
I would have to choose my father for the creative environment he designed for our family. He was an architect who created a one of a kind Pacific Northwest "mid-century modern" house that was built on the perfect site for a kid like me.  It was surrounded by 2 plus acres of volcanic rock outcroppings, natural areas, woods, and unique gardens. I spent my days outside from dawn to dusk collecting bugs and building things with rocks. Inside the house, my parents had a great art collection, and they surrounded us with so much culture -- a book and record collection to die for, and both of my parents loved collecting things from the outdoors like rocks, and dried plants. To this day, I feel that so much of my visual language was formed there.

Which of your works is your personal favorite and why?
This is always an excruciating question, as it is nearly impossible for me to answer. Honestly, I have to say that my favorite work is the thing I haven't made yet, the illusive image that as an artist I am always chasing and never quite catching up with. It's shadow always turns the corner just before I get there. Each time I start something new it is such an exciting moment because there is so much promise, possibility, and excitement. Starting a new work probably gives me the same adrenaline rush that a gambler gets sitting down to the roulette wheel.

That being said, there are many paintings that I hold close in my heart because they were such a particular joy to make, or others that I love because I almost lost faith in them and considered throwing them out, but hung in there through the rough spell to realize that they turned out well.

Of all your travels, which city or place inspires you the most? Why?
I have to answer this with two places. 
Firstly, Seward, Alaska where I went on a boat trip into the glacial Kenai Fjords. Such rugged and awe inspiring beauty, and the kind of massive scale in nature that makes one feel so tiny. I loved the sense of vastness.
The second place that really fed my senses was Belize. The bursting forth of so much life... lush vegetation (a million shades of green), fascinating insects, birds, blooms.  Seeing Leaf Cutter Ants and Army Ants in action was amazing!

What is your creative process like?
Like a monkey trying to repair a spaghetti machine! - No, just kidding (sort of). At times there is this almost out of control, "teetering on the brink" quality to trying to pull a painting to the finish line. I work in a reactive way with materials while holding the vaguest of notions in my head of what the image may be.  I have said before, that I would not start a painting if I knew exactly what it was going to be. I love to make discoveries by pushing paint to it's physical limits, and bringing gravity, water, and odd tools of application in to the painting process.  I like thinking of that Susan Sontag quote:  "It is always good to start something new by breaking a rule."

In contrast with that reactive and chance paint application, I combine my love of detail and line, and these elements of the paintings are the much more cerebral and controlled creative moments.

I tend to work in series, honing in on a theme and expanding it. Beautiful Calamities, Flight Patterns, Flight Vestments, Swamps/Thickets/Marshes, and The Paper Cut-Outs have all been recent series that I have developed and sustained.

What is something quirky or unexpected about you that most people don’t know?
All my life I have drawn silly and absurd cartoons. I have never shared them with the art world, but my friends and loved ones find them entertaining. I love the work of R. Crumb and Lynda Barry.

How has your practice changed over time?
The evolution of my process/practice seems so incremental that it is hard to define the changes - sort of like taking a long walk with each stride changing your location slightly, but in a way that is hard to articulate. I hope my process will always hold on to this sense of wonder, and a sense of never being done.