Megan Burak

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Using photo-realism, Berlin, Maryland painter Megan Burak explores ideas about things like privacy and relationships. Her goal with each composition is not to tell one specific story but leave the viewer wondering and imagining a story.

Megan Burak graduated from Salisbury University with a degree in fine arts painting. Since then she has jumped full force into the art business, setting up a website, social media accounts, and a shop on where she promotes her commissioned work.

Megan Burak:
“I graduated in December and the first thing I needed to do was I had to get that website up. And I wanted to get into commission work because, I want to make a living out of this, because this is what my major was. This is what I graduated with. And I want to pursue it. And, I want to do as much as I can with it.”

“So, the short term thing is I want to up the commission business, get more into it. I have learned so much this past six months, about the art business, about the commission business. I had no idea how to get a deposit or what it was or if I needed it if you know what I mean.”

“Right now the commissions have been really great. I’ve made a substantial amount just from those. So if I can keep that going, ten I can make this a daily business and hopefully keep that going the rest of my life. So, that’s the dream. [Laughs]”

Those commissions are for realistic portraits of people and pets. She has even received a commission to paint a portrait of a baseball player on an actual baseball. Megan follows in a long tradition of artists who have used tools like the camera obscura and other devices to create accurate lifelike imagery. She makes full use of modern technology in the production of her art.

Megan Burak:
“Usually I will use myself as a model, just because I am readily available. And, I kind of know what I want to do in the picture. So, we’ll go out. Usually my boyfriend will help me. And, we’ll go to a location somewhere that I think is cool, that I think would make a good painting. And we’ll take a bunch of photos. Then I’ll pick one.”

“I’ll put it into Photoshop and I will edit it. Maybe I’ll make the lighting a little better, just to get the best picture I can get. Then what I will do is I will grid it in Photoshop. And, I will transfer that grid onto the canvas so that each square is how it should be on the canvas. Then I will draw it on the canvas. Usually just something light, just to get the basic shapes. And then I will paint directly from the photo on my laptop.”

“I will put out fifteen maybe twenty colors at one time on a glass palette. Usually it will start from white and go to blue and got to, you know, the hotter colors, and all the way to black. And I like to mix as many colors as I can get. You know, actually, skin it has a lot of colors. Depending on the light it has a lot of greens and a lot of purples. You know, it’s got a lot of crimson colors in it. So I feel like I need a lot more colors in it. You know what I mean? I have a myriad of colors available to me and I want to use them.”

The paintings Megan produced for her senior exhibition included a series of self-portraits with masks.

Megan Burak:
“It was a challenge, you know, to get the detail in the mask, the detail in the face, the different coloring. And when I switched up and did some of my senior exhibition paintings with the masks of the skulls, and they’re not as happy. They’re not as go lucky. People were like “Oh! Is everything ok?” And I’m like “Yes, everything is fine.” But, I tried to explain that it doesn’t always have to be this pretty thing.”

“You know, the paintings I did for my senior exhibition, they were… you know I have observed in my generation that there is this cycle with relationships and feelings. We have these platforms all over the place: Facebook, Twitter. We put our emotions out everywhere. And you know I was observing people in relationships, you know, if one of them got hurt, that was it. We were done with love. You know what I mean? And so, I wanted to comment on this relationship cycle that is going on in my generation.”

When I look at the paintings with the masks they seem to evoke a commentary on how we all keep some of our thoughts hidden even in this age of hyper sharing. The face we present to the world is not always fully who we are. What makes Megan’s paintings interesting works of art, aside from her technical skill, is the fact that they tell a unique story to each person looking at them.

Megan Burak:
“I try to do a narrative in every painting where it doesn’t necessarily have to be the story that I think. You know, what I had in mind with it. If someone else sees it and they’re like “Oh, maybe I had a similar life experience, but it’s a little different and this is what I see in it.” That’s great. That’s what I want people to do. I want people to not just look at it and leave. I want people to look at it and say “What is she trying to say with this?”

“I would definitely say that I use my emotions in my paintings, and sometimes I don’t even mean to. You know, I’ll start and go out to take a few pictures. I’ll have a general a general idea of what I want to portray, what I want people to get out of it, what I want to get out of it. And sometimes when I am painting it, it goes a completely different way. You know what I mean?”

“And, I am just like, “Wait, what am I saying in this? I’m like “Wait…” I was telling someone… They said “Oh, they are of you.” And I said “When I am doing them I kind of forget that I am painting myself.” You know what I mean?”

“But, a lot of my emotions whether I want them to or come out in the painting. And, I like to observe people. I have done it since I was very small. A lot of people are like “Oh, you’re so quiet.” But most of the time I am just observing people. {Laughs] Yeah, with the whole senior exhibition paintings, that was an observation.”

“I mean I definitely have some sort of message in my mind that I want to convey with the work. But I want people to look at it with their own message in mind. Everybody is completely different. Everybody has been through their own, has been through different things in their life, that I will never understand. And they my never understand what I am going through. But there are a few things where we can come together and see the same thing. But, if you don’t, that’s great too. That’s what I want you to do. If you see something completely different in the work, a completely opposite message, great! Go with that. That’s perfect. You know?”

“So hopefully I have an audience of people that really just like to take the time and look at it and see what it is saying and go from there.”