Art Maker: Meg Bandarra, pastel painter

  • Meg Bandarra works on a new pastel painting at her home studio in Northampton. She paints outside “en plein air” when the weather allows. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pastel painter Meg Bandarra in her home studio in Northampton. She paints outside “en plein air” when the weather allows. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meg Bandarra works on a pastel painting at her home studio in Northampton. She paints outside “en plein air” when the weather allows. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “Into the Valley” Image by Pivot Media

  • “Hadley Grass” Image by Pivot Media

  • “Night Study” Image by Pivot Media

  • “Catching Sunset” Image by Pivot Media

Published: 5/4/2018 8:35:16 AM

As warm weather approaches — like it finally did this week, at least for a few days — pastel artist Meg Bandarra looks forward to painting outside, something she does both during the day and at night. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, Bandarra works in her Northampton studio, using sketches and photographs she’s taken of places around the Valley. 

After getting her BFA from Hartford Art School, Bandarra worked as a graphic designer, then as a creative director. Now a full-time painter, her work appears in regional as well as national shows; an exhibit of her work has just opened at Amherst Town Hall. She also teaches pastel and gives painting demonstrations to local art organizations and community groups.

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Meg Bandarra: My work mainly consists of local landscapes and cityscapes. I’m interested in the proximity we have to both urban and agricultural environments, particularly how the two blend here in the Valley. I’m trying to capture moments of light and the nostalgic feelings of familiar places. I like to paint outside because it gives me the most direct connection to my subject. I paint both day and night scenes because I’m attracted to the different quality of light found in each.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you have any “Eureka” moments?

MB: I draw inspiration from the places I pass every day; the light and the seasons are constantly changing, so there’s always something new to see. The “eureka” moments definitely happen: Sometimes I pass a place I’ve never considered painting before and it hits me like a ton of bricks that it’s a painting.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

MB: I know a piece is working when it stops feeling like I’m painting a scene and starts to feel like I’m creating a little world. I know I’m done when that world feels complete and authentic.

HL: Name two artists that you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

MG: I admire the work of Scott Prior and Edward Hopper. Scott was the first professional contemporary painter whose work I connected with. I was immediately drawn to the sense of light and color in his paintings. Hopper’s landscapes have a graphic, un-romanticized quality to them that I really enjoy. Both artists have a sense of intimacy and familiarity to their work that also appeals to me.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

MB: I’ve never thought of being anything else and have always worked in creative, artistic fields. However, I’m fascinated by history, and over the last few years have really enjoyed researching my genealogy, so maybe I’d be a historian or genealogist.

HL: What do you do when you’re stuck?

MB: Some paintings take a year or more to develop. I try to work out any problems before I start to paint by making sketches, taking photographs and envisioning how I’d like the piece to feel.

That’s not to say that I never get stuck while painting, though. When I do, I have an app that lets me mix a variety of sounds. I use it to create a soundscape that matches the type of scene I’m working on, which helps me feel more in tune with the environment I’m trying to create. That’s the only time I listen to anything while working in the studio.

— Steve Pfarrer

Selected work by Meg Bandarra is on view at Amherst Town Hall through the end of June. Town Hall is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Bandarra’s website is


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