Megan Dunbar is an artist based in Sheffield. Having studied Art and Design at South West College, she went on to study Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. She recently unveiled an exhibition in Ulster Bank, Darling Street, Enniskillen as part of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Pop up Exhibition Programme. Way out West caught up with her to hear about the exhibition, her experience at South West College, and her life and work in Sheffield.
Way Out West: What can you tell us about the exhibition currently on in Enniskillen?
Megan Dunbar: Fermanagh and Omagh district council have a new Pop-up exhibition series and I was lucky enough to get involved. I have made work specifically for this show. All the paintings are based around my upbringing in Enniskillen and specific memories.
WOW: You studied Art and Design at South West College. What was your previous educational and artistic experience?
MD: I studied art at Mount Lourdes Grammar school before South West College. I have always painted – even when I wasn’t studying, it has always been my passion. I don’t really feel as though I could have done anything else other than be an artist – and I tried other things before I decided to study at South West College.
WOW: How was your experience at South West College? What did you learn and how did it impact you as an artist?
MD: I had an amazing time studying at South West College. I believe this was because of my tutors – they always pushed students and their art practices. This is really helpful when entering the art world and university. You have to be open to ideas to make it anywhere and South West College taught me this. You learn most techniques at South West College, from photography to sculpture, and I actually continue with a lot of them. I still use photography throughout my practice and batik painting. I am very grateful for having the education and tutors that I did when studying – they truly prepare you for University and the art world.
WOW: Why did you decide to study in Sheffield? How important has the city been in your life and on your work?
MD: I decided to move to Sheffield to study at Sheffield Hallam because I fell in love with the city. Sheffield is very busy and fast moving but the Peak district is only a bus journey away and there you can escape. Being from Fermanagh, I was keen to move to somewhere that was not totally isolated from the countryside and Sheffield is exactly that.
I have built a life for myself in Sheffield – it has a very tight knit art community and this is one of the bigger reasons for staying. Many small art galleries are more than willing to support and exhibit artists and of course this is very helpful for getting your name established.
My practice often comes back to memories of Ireland and I find this easier to do when I am away from home.
WOW: Your uncle, Adrian Dunbar, is a respected actor. How big an impact has your family had on your work?
MD: My uncle is very supportive and always there for me when I need advice.
My mother and father are both creative influences on me. My mother has always been a good drawer and encouraged me to paint and draw since I was very little. My father is a true craftsman and even though he is very unwell he never gave up on creating and making. I find this very inspiring.
More than that my parents taught me to follow my passions. It was very difficult to commit to a life of art as many will tell you not to. My parents taught me to be true to myself and to appreciate the small things in life. These are ongoing themes within my practice.
WOW: As a full time artist, what is your working routine? How important is it to you to be able to devote yourself to your art?
MD: I have a very strict routine outside of my practice, this allows me to be totally creative within my studio. I wake up at 6am get everything I need to get done and then head to studio for around 9am. My dog often joins me. I won’t leave studio until 5pm but sometimes it goes on longer. It is very intensive working alone for long periods of time. My practice includes photography and video work too so often I am around Sheffield recording clips but my heart lies in painting.
It is of utmost importance that I devote myself to my art – I have always felt I had no choice but to devote my life to making work. But I am very happy about that!
WOW: What do you consider your most significant achievements to date, and what are your ambitions for the future?
MD: I am proud of achieving a first degree with honours in Fine Art. I am very proud to show in Enniskillen. It is something I have always wanted to do. It feels wonderful to show friends and family what I have been working on. I also run an events business and I too am very proud of that and the many creative projects that have stemmed from it.
I am most proud of keeping my practice going, living independently and staying true to myself.