Thursday, October 14, 2021

MacGown Art Retreat and Exhibitions

Festivals and Artwalks

It's been a while since I posted here and with Covid still happening, the craziness has continued. Until very recently there were very few opportunities to show our art. But we did get to finally participate in a few festivals and and artwalks starting late last spring and especially within the last couple of months. We did an artwalk in Meridian, the Threefoot Festival in Meridian, Expression Fest, the Prairie Arts Festival, Starkville Sunday Funday, the Starkville Artwalk, the Cotton District Arts Festival, and the Columbus Artwalk. 

We have two more Sunday Funday events coming up this Fall on October 31 and November 21 on Sunday afternoons on Lafayette Street in downtown Starkville, MS. We are headed to the Peter Anderson Festival in Ocean Springs from November 6–7! This is a huge festival and hopefully the weather and buyers will be on our side. 


Back in late February through the end of March, Joseph MacGown and I had a really nice exhibition of our art at the Fine Arts Gallery at the Meridian Community College! 

I had a small piece entitled EC's Dreamasaur in our Starkville Area Arts Exhibition called "Time on Our Hands" this past summer. This ink on Claybord piece was inspired by my creative stepdaughter, Emma Claire (EC). 

EC's Dreamasaur, ink on claybord, by Joe A. MacGown

Both Joseph and I had work accepted into the Cotton District Juried show, which is still on display through the end of October. Joseph had three cool ceramic pieces accepted and I had two weird pen drawings that made the cut. My "Microverse 1" won first place in the drawing division! 

Microverse 1, ink on illustration board, by Joe A. MacGown

Three Rabbits, ceramic pieces by Joseph H. MacGown

I have a collaborative drawing called "Honeymoon" done with Bernard Dumaine in a show in France up this month! The Exhibition entitled "Un autre Monde" is at the Galerie Art en Valois in Angouleme, France and includes sculptures by Olivier Martin, Lou Henix, and drawings and paintings by Bernard Dumaine, which include some of his collaborations! 

Collaborations by Bernard Dumaine with others

Honeymoon, ink on paper, collaboration by Joe A. MacGown and Bernard Dumaine

Interview with The Mississippi Presenter's Network

The Mississippi Presenter's Network out of Oxford, MS recently did a series of videos about me and my process of making art. Here is the forward they wrote: "Starkville-based artist Joe MacGown doesn't consciously come up with ideas for his work. Instead, MacGown likes to let what he sees happening in the world, be it people, nature, politics, religions, stir around in his mind for a while and come out in its own way through his drawings or paintings. he calls his approach subconscious meandering." 

These videos and others can be found on the Mississippi Presenter's Network FaceBook page:  Here is a link to one of the videos done about me:

MacGown Art Retreat concept

Over the last few years, we have been actively trying to create an art complex of sorts at our property in the Sessums Community just outside of Starkville, MS. The work has been slow, but continuous based on time and money! Basically, any art we sell goes to this project. We currently have a functional studio (very packed!), are almost done with a cool rustic art cabin, have started a gallery to show our art and conduct small workshops, my wife Jennifer and I are finishing up an artistically designed house, and our existing house will become an art house where visiting artists can stay or visitors for events may choose to rent the entire home or individual rooms.  The backdrop of the structures is a revamped 3 acre+ pond with a pavilion all surrounded by Black Belt Prairie and Oak Hickory Forest habitat.  We hope to start having small events as soon as the spring of 2022. In the meantime, our studio is open by appointment ( 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day inspired -Resignation Painting

I created Resignation using various brands of colored inks from bottles and fine tipped Koh- I-Noor Rapidograph pens on primed wood. I started it in early December, and after a lot of binge drawing, finished it up early 2017. 

Lately, I've been looking for more unique or interesting ways of framing my art. I have framed many of my pieces with traditional type frames myself at a friend's framing shop (Mark Wood, Chalet Arts in Starkville) or had them framed there. But I've wanted to do more interesting framing since I was young. It was only recently that I purchased a table saw, a decent jigsaw, and a miter saw to potentially create some more unique frames. Also, I randomly keep an eye out for interesting old frames that might be used in conjunction with some of my art. Indeed, that was the case here, as I found the frame used for "Resignation" at a local pawnshop. This frame, and two others, were mirror frames, and it took a bit of bartering before the owner sold me the three mirrors for a decent price. The next day, I started two pieces for these frames: "Resignation" and "Love Thyself." 

Of course, when I start a piece of art, I have no idea of what I am going to do. At best, I may have a simple design in mind, but usually not even that. In the case of Resignation, I wanted a strong piece with perhaps some intrinsic meaning to pair with the over-the-top gaudiness of the mirror frame, that likely would have found its way into the bedroom of some double wide trailer. I cut a piece of wood to fit the place once occupied by the mirror, and then I added a couple of coats of white Kilz primer. Priming was done unceremoniously with a cheap ass house painting brush from Dirt Cheap. I don't smooth dried brush strokes out, because I like the random textures created from my casual brushing. 

After the second coat of primer was finished and dry, I began randomly applying colored inks from bottles (assorted brands). I brushed the ink on with different sized brushes and poured ink directly onto the wood. While applying inks, I let it flow about, moving the wood to aid in the flow. Before ink was dry, I used crumpled pieces of paper towel to blot areas and create patterns in the ink. I like the way ink moves on the primed wood surface and how different types of inks react to one another while still wet. As with similar pieces, I apply the color inks in many light, almost transparent/translucent layers, letting each layer dry before doing the next. This process takes many days, but I like the end result. 

Typically, I work on several pieces simultaneously. At some point, I look at the piece, and start seeing shapes, so I start drawing with my fine tipped pens with permanent black ink. The drawing part is very time consuming because the pen is easily clogged on this primed and inked board. I have to basically caress the picture with the pen. Thus begins the back-and-forth process of drawing areas and adding additional color where needed. At first, the image is an amorphous soup of green chaos with no direction. But, gradually, one thing leads to another, and shapes begin to coalesce. The picture basically draws itself. A story unfolds as I simply hold the pen. This takes place over many hours at various times of day and night. I don't need inspiration; I simply need to time to let it flow out. Every once in a while, I take the picture and stand it up elsewhere, looking at it from afar, to see what's growing. 

Although I don't start with a particular idea, all of my pieces represent the myriad thoughts I have. And obviously, as an entomologist, and someone who has studied nature since I was a kid, there is a strong connection to science and biology represented in my artwork. However, this connection has little to do with where I work, as I was doing similarly styled images as a young kid. More likely, I work where I do because that was my interest to begin with. 

Resignation, ink on wood, by Joe A. MacGown

At some point in time, a somewhat saddened face emerges from near the center. This guy–me–you–the composite face of mankind–becomes the focal point of the picture. He's concerned but resigned. About what? Well, whatever is in my head I suppose? Currently, we have leadership of our state and country that is anti-education, anti -environment, anti- science, etc., and mostly concerned about personal gain at the expense of everything else. My having studied nature is certainly a big part of this picture and others as well. Life is chaotic, but ever so interconnected. Every single thing we do has some repercussion, be it good or bad. Our planet is being filled to the brim with people. We are dead set on destroying the planet, wiping out forests, destroying aquatic life, killing off species daily…this can't go on indefinitely. Of course, many people do things in the name of one religion or another. It is easy to not take responsibility for something when you believe in a fantastical god who could make everything perfect in a second if he or she or it wanted to (and apparently does not want to). Many people actually believe everything happens according to some incredible plan and that among the gazillions of star systems, there is only one god and only one planet with life and we are special, and we are loved by god and he will take care of us and we can continue screwing up the planet because it is our toy. Unfortunately, we are truly causing serious problems with life on this speck of a planet in the vastness of the universe. Too many people, too much greed, too much everything. Resignation. Mother Nature, Father Earth, God? What would they say if they could? If they existed?? Mutate, reproduce, absorb, integrate, segregate, accumulate, intertwine, become one, become none–life. All life is dependent and interconnected with other life and the inanimate. Perhaps, even with some other spiritual system in another dimension. Who knows? Viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms abound. Perhaps the results of mankind's folly will be good for other life forms. Maybe we are but a small part of the bigger picture. A larger flow. Let the ink flow where it may. I'm resigned to my fate, whatever it may be. Meanwhile, I rejoice in the greenness that is left. 

Resignation in a gnarly frame

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Finished up a few pieces this week and of course progress on others!

Some of my art takes a long time to do because of the ridiculous amount of details I enjoy adding. It is not unusual for me to start a piece of artwork and then put it away for years before coming back to it. In many cases, I come back to working on it multiple times. This week, I have more or less finished a few older pieces and plan on framing them this week! Also I finished up a new commission that was pretty fun and full of bright ink colors!
This joker is almost done! 
"Emma's World",  about 4 feet tall, inks on wood.  This piece was a commission and so it is already sold. I will make prints of it.
Boo! Watercolor and ink on cold press illustration board
"Floaters 2", ink on cold press illustration board

"Chaos", ink on clay coated board

"Microverse 1", ink on cold press illustration board

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Covid, Art, and Change

 Wowzers! What a year. I retired from my job as a scientific illustrator/research technician on July 1, I got remarried on October 10 to Jennifer, a wonderfully creative lady, and we have made lots of progress on building an art retreat at our property located in Sessums, Mississippi. 

Joe and Jennifer MacGown

Yep, I have long wanted to create an art retreat of some type where people can come look at art, create art, participate in art and music events, to enjoy and learn about nature, and even to start an artist in residence program. The idea sounds a bit crazy, but I believe it is feasible. 

the front of our art house

living room area with art on wall and art border


We plan on turning the existing house into a place for resident artists to stay while visiting and using other rooms as inexpensive sleeping options for various guests who may be at an event or something. We will be building a small cabin near the pond to live in, which gives us this amazing option! If all goes well, we are hoping to be ready by the fall of 2021. We already have a functioning studio, are about 80% complete on a cool art cabin/studio, have started building a gallery/workshop, and have a cool pavilion on the pond, which would be perfect for musicians to play on! 

pavilion on a snowy  day

art cabin

gallery/workshop started



One goal is to have an artist in residence come stay for one to three weeks, with perhaps 3-4 artists per year. I would like each artist to leave their footprint on the property in same way such as creating a sculpture, painting a mural (or helping), doing a painting, or some other expression of what they do. Also, I am hoping to have artists conduct workshops in the gallery/workshop building that I recently started building. 

a fun view of studio and pavilion from pond

painting in the canoe! 

I am looking forward to completing these projects so we can get started on hosting art events as well as showcasing our own art! 

current work

love my inks

some of Joseph's whimsical ceramic pieces

Happy new year!