Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deja Vu and Left Turns

As the year comes to a close, I want to thank those of you who have become followers of this blog. I truly appreciate all of you.

Does this sound like deja vu? . . .

"Last post I promised you a very cool surprise. The plan was to unveil it this weekend, and as creative endeavors often go, it had a plan of it's own. Since it's important to make certain that this project is the best it can be, we'll just take a little bit longer to cross all the t's and dot all the i's. Be patient. It'll be worth it. I promise. . ."

Like herding cats, the project I've been tantalizing you with has proven to be harder to master than anticipated. It's not that it's gone haywire, it's really going quite well. And it's not that those involved are not able to carry it off. In fact, it's because those involved are immensely talented and capable that this project is taking longer than anticipated.

Creative endeavors are hard to pin down. It's difficult to discern when they're "good enough". That "before idea" doesn't always jibe with the actual result, and working at it can be enlightening and frustrating. It takes time to release that original idea as well as connect with the new product.

I rarely spray my pastels with fixative. My experience is that regardless of how careful I spray, or how expensive the fixative is, the painting changes. Those tiny droplets of resin grab the pastel dust, and separate and darken the marks. At the point at which I would spray a finished painting, I've determined that it's, well, finished. That means that it meets my expectations and hopes. It's done, and I mark that moment of done-ness by signing the surface.
At that point I don't want it to change anymore.

However . . .

In a newsletter received recently I noticed a remark by an artist I adore and admire, who was extolling the virtues of fixing pastels. And her belief was backed up by experts in the field. So I tried it. My first spray with the fixative produced a lovely field of freckles across the soft greys of my quiet painting. I sprayed it again, hoping to merge the freckles into one lovely complexion. Nothing doing, the fix layed on the surface like a wet plastic sheet, just like I was afraid it would. (Lest you tsk at me, I promise you I read the directions, and followed them to the letter.)

@2009 P Scarborough Square 9 First Version

@2009 P Scarborough Square 9 Second Version

As you can see, colors change. Strokes change. Plans change.

Detail: Streetlight from Square 9, First Version

Detail: Streetlight from Square 9, Second version

The interesting thing is, after I got over the initial shock and panic and nausea, vertigo, hives...headache...and general heebie-jeebies...

I like it. As painful as it was for me to admit, I like the second version better. I enhanced a spot or two, and carefully tended to a few more passages. In the end the 2nd version is interesting and exciting, perhaps more so than the first. Now, that's not to say that I'll ever, ever use fixative again. (I stand by my position: Fixative changes pastels. If I ever ever use it again, it'll be as part of the process of painting, and not to "finish it".) Despite my careful planning, despite my education and experience, this project took an unexpected left turn. Letting go of the original plan, and going with the flow allowed a pretty darned good painting to find its way.

So the project I've been taunting you with for the last 2 weeks will come soon. When it does, it'll be just what the artist wanted - or better. When it's done, signed, sprayed and finished . . . you'll be among the first to know. I promise.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Great Moments

@2009 P Scarborough Square 9 12x12 pastel & graphite

Last post I promised you a very cool surprise. The plan was to unveil it this weekend, and as creative endeavors often go, it had a plan of it's own. Since it's important to make certain that this project is the best it can be, we'll just take a little bit longer to cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

Be patient. It'll be worth it. I promise.

The piece at the top of the post is another in my Square Series. It's a pastel and graphite, which is a combination that I've never used before. This time, it just felt right. Using a pencil to lightly cross-hatch over the soft tones of pastel helped created a tension that gave me what I was after. It's a loose application of both media, less a memorial to this small dot-on-the-map community than it is to that time when dusk becomes daylight in a working class town. It's about that moment that exists in a person's awareness, in the midst of all the lists of things to do and worry about, that instant when the brain is awakened to sunlight breaking through early clouds. It only lasts a second before being washed away by more lists and worry and the detritus of life. I think about this stuff when I paint. It's important to share, somehow.

In other news, I just got the nicest Christmas gift ever. Twice.

A very nice lady said to me the other day: "Since I've gotten to know you, my view of the world has changed. I see so much more color than I ever have. I see shapes and textures I've never noticed. Now, when I see a field of grass, I see so much more!"

And just this morning, on our daily constitutional, Handsome Husband said very nearly the same thing. "I enjoy our walks so much more than I used to", he said. "You've helped me notice things I would have overlooked before."

As an artist, it's my goal to touch another with my view of the world.

To actually hear that I have, in some small way, done that is, well, just really nice.

I understand that my kind of art will not cure cancer, nor will it stop people from fighting. The globe will warm - or not, and there'll be no magic cure for reality. That's okay.
If my small accounting of a flash of sunlight on a dusty grain elevator early in the morning can
snap your overloaded brain out of it's daily grind and give you pause to be refreshed, that'd be lovely.
It's an honor to know that what I create can give someone a sense of peace.
It's delightful to know that what I paint can give somebody a reason to step outside of their oh-so busy life and see the world in a fresh way.
Bring on the holidays, I'm ready. The nicest gifts ever have already been delivered.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Letter

@2009 Patricia Scarborough 12x12 oil

It's that time again!

Tis the season for the Christmas Letter. (Cue the theme from Jaws.)

Like the Boogie Man at Halloween (in my neighborhood it was the Hairy Scratch), or your neighbor at the back door with her arms full of zuchini in September, it's the time of year our mailboxes fill up with long-winded missives from those dear close friends we didn't know we had.
Shiney as a new Sears catalog, these perfect families and their charming escapades, vacations and championships dazzle us with their, well, dazzling-ness.

I surrender.

The only cruise I've been on is up Highway 81 to hit the Walmart store.

The only gold I've received is the gold cap I got for the tooth I broke on last year's peanut brittle.
I did find treasure. It was the last piece of pumpkin pie hidden in the fridge after Thanksgiving. Too bad it was 2 weeks old. (At least I think it was pumpkin pie.)

So, my Christmas Letter to you, Dear Reader, goes something like this:

Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks for your comments. It's always nice to hear from you.

Had a great year painting. Snagged a couple new galleries, taught a few classes, made tons of friends.

Hope you had a good year too.

Happy Holidays my Friends-

Oh, and come back next week. I'm going to reveal a very cool project initiated by a very cool fellow. Consider it your Christmas gift. You're gonna love it, I promise.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Giving In

@2009 P Scarborough, Square 7 'Morning' 12x12" oil

Well lah-di-dah for me! I've been selected as Favorite Artist by Elena of Springview Nebraska Elementary School in beautiful Keya Paha County, Nebraska. I am tickled to pieces!

Thank you so much, my young artist friend.

Elena is working on a writing project and has asked a few questions of me that I've been thinking about for several days. They seemed so simple at first, like all good questions. They're really got me thinking.

Such as...

What inspired you to become an artist? Hmmmmmmmmm. What did inspire me?

Gosh, I tried drumming up memories of a grand moment, a time in history when I got goosebumps and whispered, this is it. I worked hard at dredging up memories of long quiet visits to museums to study and commune with Van Gogh, Picasso, Sargent. Was there a grown-up who said, Good Golly child, you're a genius! Hm, no, I really can't remember anything like that at all.

Honestly, I think I just gave in.

The art room is where I always felt comfortable. I knew the language in that country. There was no worry of losing something in the translation. (Unlike that foreign land, algebra.) To use lines to communicate texture or weight or an emotion was as normal to me as burping after chugging a soda. Doesn't everyone do that?

Some people take jobs to pay rent, buy a car, feed their families. I did that too. Eventually the jobs were about buying art supplies and art classes.

And one day I gave in completely. I surrendered to the feeling that painting daily was the most important thing I could offer this planet.

So I did, and I do. Giving in to this life is the most rewarding action I've ever taken. I'm me, in my own country speaking the language I know.

Thanks for asking the question Elena. It was good for me to answer. Good luck with your project, and stay in touch. Maybe one day I'll be seeing your lovely artwork in a gallery or museum, and we'll talk about the days in art class where we felt so much at home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Down . . .

@2009 P Scarborough Square 6 12x12" oil

I'm still reeling from our Thanksgiving get together. Hope you all had a lovely weekend, and are ready to embark on the next leg of our Holiday Trifecta.

Leave a message, a comment, or just a sweet hello. Whatever you choose, please, please do not leave any dishes in the sink!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Give Thanks

@2009 P Scarborough Square 5 12x12" oil
It seems as though the Pilgrims did not, after all, invent Thanksgiving.
Nor did they have pumpin pie, mashed potatoes, or cranberry sauce.
A truely American 'melting pot' of holidays, our current Thanksgiving is a collection of myths and traditions handed down and mingled with other myths and traditions.
It's original purpose? To take time to honor the humble beginnings of our country and to give sincere and humble thanks for what people had after all was said and done. Needless to say, the table was barely cleared and the dishes put away before the holiday was "improved" upon by well meaning politicians and business owners.
It's been a crazy year for so many people. Crazy good, and crazy bad. Slowing down to honor a holiday dedicated to thanks is probably the best kind of holiday to have. It was 200 years ago, and it's a good idea today as well.
Maybe the Pilgrims didn't mash potatoes, and so what if they probably had fish instead of turkey? However we celebrate, whether by gorging on turkey and football games, or by lighting a candle in a darkened corner, we give thanks.
My grateful list is long, and includes you, dear reader.
What does your list include?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Monumental Bovine

@2009 P Scarborough Square 4 oil on canvas

After a fairly busy week moving artwork from place to place in hopes of snagging a happy patron, I'm settling down to a quiet Sunday evening. For me this means taking the evening off, for you this means you are treated to Number 4 in my Square project.

Pared of all extraneous information the shape and the value that remains gives the sense of a monumental beast. She's just one cow of many in a field that falls within my selected Square Mile.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Create Peace

@2009 P Scarborough Square 3 12x12" oil

After the horrific events at Ft Hood, TX recently, I am humbled in what I can offer.

For those of you who've been living in outer space, a member of our own armed services turned on his own brothers and sisters in arms, killing 13 and injuring - physically - over 30. The emotional toll is deep and it's reach may never be completely known.

It's hard to know what to do now. My painting challenge (thirty square paintings of one-square-mile) seems ridiculously pale in comparison to the challenges our service men and women take on daily - even when they're not under attack in their own backyard.

What to do? I have an inkling of understanding of the admonition to live our lives as normally as possible after a tragedy like this. And do it honorably.

Because there are men and women who are willing to take on the challenge of protecting our country, and because there are people willing to face gunfire - even when it's coming from someone they know, I'll do my part. I'll show up for work everyday, thankful that I can. I'll honor my place in the world, that place that transforms ideas and overlooked places into cathedrals of light and shade. My paintings - and yours - won't keep angry men and women from hating each other, but perhaps they'll offer a sanctuary for hope and peace for a moment in a heart burdened by the weight of living on this planet.

If you paint, sculpt, etch, knit, bead - whatever - keep at it. For all the negative energy in the world, there must, must be positive creative energy balancing that force.

All I have to offer is the result my creative endeavors. I offer them humbly and respectfully, and with the hope that my tiny effort will counter-balance someone else's distress.

I hope you do the same.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Limits On Creativity

Do you ever get the feeling someone's watching you?

I don't mean in the scary sense, like you've got a stalker. I mean it in the sense that certain phrases or words keep making themselves known to you. And they're just the phrases or words that you need to hear.

Lately the term 'focus' has been leaping out at me from blogs and books and newsletters. So much so that I wonder if there's something I need to pay attention to (oh, sorry 'bout that).

It happened again today, just a few moments ago. I received a newsletter from Barbara Martin, author of Reptitude, a cool blog about creative endeavors. Her inaugural missive deals with setting deadlines and other limits for creative effort. And if I may toot my own horn, Barbara mentions Mavis Penney's and my Off The Highway blog which chronicles our 100 days of painting experience as a way to describe different ways of setting intentions - cool!

Ahem, back to focus...

I have noticed that since finishing our Off the Highway project, I've been a bit adrift. No flaming deadlines looming, no one checking to see what I'm up to. I can do anything I want now that I'm all caught up. Interestingly, I' haven't been all that certain what I wanted to do with all that newfound freedom.

@ 2009 Square One P Scarborough 12 x 12 oil

I took my cue from the universe, or whoever it is that's nagging me, and I'm starting a new project. It's all about focus and limits. I'm committed to painting at least 30 one-square-foot paintings of one-square-mile I've picked out north of town. Just like the Off The Highway project, in which we allowed ourselves the leeway of painting anything that could be seen from a highway, I can paint anything within that square mile. To enforce the goal, I announced the project as an exhibit to be shown at The Burkholder Project in March, 2010.

Why a limit on what I can use for inspiration? I became aware that when I was immersed in the Off The Highway experience, I felt a certain freedom to experience more fully what I was seeing when I was limited to the highway. It's called "inspired monotony". If you do the same thing, or a small set of things, over and over, innovation is almost a necessity. It's, well, un-limiting.

Off The Highway Series @2009 Day 57 - First Light Heifer P Scarborough 5 x 7 oil

Marla Baggetta painted 100 paintings using the same simple landscape as inspiration. To relieve the monotony (her selected landcape doesn't include too many cathedrals or fruit markets) she conceived her landscape in startling and beautiful ways. My square mile may not be the most interesting piece of real estate in the world, but I'm fairly certain that by the time March rolls around, I'll have learned a fair amount about what goes on there, and I'll have learned a bit more about painting.

@2009 Square 2 P Scarborough 12 x 12 oil

I'm excited about being limited. It's kind of freeing, in an odd way.

How do you set limits to inspire your new projects?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy International Artist's Day!

Gosh, the day nearly got by me without so much as a 'woo-hoo'!

It seems that 3 short years ago some energetic folks decided that artists needed a day all to themselves. International Artist's Day is also Picasso's birthday. Amazing coincidence.

So, how did you celebrate?

Yeah. Me neither.

I spent a bit of time digging around in my pile of frames and other Important Keepsakes (yes, pronounce it like it sounds. IK.) My new organizing theme is "If it's not a definite yes, it's a no". Sounds simple, but it means giving away all those almost good frames and almost good supplies and almost useable anythings to someone, anyone who is more interested in them than I am. It's a cinch that if that stuff hasn't been used in, oh, say 2 years, it probably isn't all that important to me. I've got a big box full of IK that will go to the 2nd-hand store soon. It feels great, because now there's room for me in my studio. And that's a good thing.

In place of all the IK, in the shiny new spot with nothing in it, I prepared a stack of square foot canvases. It's an exciting new project I'll be working on for a few months. I've selected one-square-mile north of where I live to use as inspiration for one-square-foot paintings. My goal is to have at least 15 by March. 30 by July. After that, who knows? I'll either have it all figured out by then, or I'll be having so much fun that 50 or 60 may look good.

What's the point? By limiting myself to one square mile and one square foot, I suppose I'll learn what exactly a small tract of land is comprised of. Vistas, close-ups, flora and fauna, so much of it subject matter I probably would never have noticed. It'll be a challenge, of course, and an exciting challenge to be sure.

Now that I think of it, I celebrated International Artist's Day by beginning this project. Twelve canvases are primed and ready to go.

I'll keep you posted, of course.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hard Work, Fun Work

What a great day! I just finished a terrific workshop with a terrific group of people.

I hope they had as much fun as I did.

I admire folks who take workshops. It's hard work.

First, students take the giant leap to trust the instructor. As you know, just because a person can, say, paint, it doesn't necessarily mean they can communicate about the act of painting. Color theory, composition and everything else involved really have to be discussed, and it's not easy to get your brain around if it's not something you have experience with. Balancing simplicity with the necessary depth is tough, and takes time to work through, both for instructor and student.

So, when people agree to come to a workshop I'm giving, I really appreciate it, and I work hard to help them have a successful experience. It's really great to share those 'aha' moments with a student when the lightbulb goes on. It's those moments educators live for.

These folks were a blast to share the day with. They worked hard, asked great questions, and
were patient with me as I converted visual information buried deep in my brain into understandable sentences. Thank you for your patience!

Next pastel workshop is scheduled through Southeast Community College and will be held in York, Ne. January 29-30, 2010. Call Deb Schnell at 402.362.6700 or email her at to sign up and join the fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Like Broccoli

Every artist must, must must write an artist's statement. I think it's the law.

I imagine there is some cosmic Art Mother standing amongst the clouds in her sensible shoes with her hands on her hips, fine canvas apron tied neatly about her waist. She's giving me the hairy eyeball, her look telling me to stop fooling around and get that statement written. And when I ask why I have to explain in words, she says in her most motherly voice: "Because, it's good for you."

I've read and written lots of statements over the years. It's a must, a have to, because everyone else is doing it. And I'm here to tell you, we artists create visually because we do not write well. We're better painters/sculptors/creators than we are wordsmiths.

My original plan for this post was to rail against having to write statements. I had some pretty good arguments for not bothering to write one. Interestingly, no matter how clever my reasoning was, I had to admit that writing about my work has proven to be beneficial for me. It's good for any artist to sit with the why. Taking time to think about the reasons behind the subject matter or the color choice or the medium selection can be enlightening for any artist. I've gotta say, I believe that getting a handle on the why will validate and enrich your choices for current and future work.

I take familiar imagery and highlight the beauty and intensity of the moment. I choose sensitive and exciting colors and use energetic strokes of pigment to create an image of vibrancy in an otherwise ordinary moment.

Barb's Pond copyright 2009 P Scarborough

It's not rocket science, but articulating my thoughts about my style and subject matter has helped me know how to approach new ideas and paintings. I'm on a path, and while I'm not certain where it is leading me, at least I know there's a course for me to develop.

So, much to my surprise, I land on the side of Art Mother, hands on hips, sensible shoes. Write your statement. It's good for you.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Paper Pep Rally

(Before I forget, many of my 100 paintings are now hanging at Graham Gallery in Hastings. Wow! Very impressive! They'll be up for just a few short weeks, and then they'll scatter to the four winds...)

I was digging around in my files of Important Papers recently, looking for a snippet of information that would relieve me of the fear and angst that accompanies the starting of a new painting.
(Okay, that might be a little bit dramatic, but sometimes that blank canvas seems to be staring right back at me, as if it were daring me to lay a mark on it. It's a bit much to deal with early in the day.)
When I take a class, or read a book, I write down quotes that touch my heart or rattle my psyche. I keep them in a File of Important Papers, which is a mound of paper scraps that seem too necessary to toss out, but are unable or unwilling to be organized. Sometimes I scrawl them on notecards and paste them on the wall where I can see them easily. My own little pep rally.
It's like reading Christmas cards from years ago, or paging through an old scrapbook. Lots of good memories are stored in those bits of paper, and a few bruise-y ones as well.

A few of my favorites:

"Argue for your limitations and they are yours." - Richard Bach

"Patience! Set up properly!" - every teacher I've ever had. When will it soak in?

"Tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding." - from 'Art & Fear' by David Bayles and Ted Orland

"Know the temperature and quality of light first, before you start painting." Donna Aldridge

"Writing [or painting] is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler

"It's easier to move from a neutral position than to be too dark/light, intense/dull. Move from there." Amy MacLennan

"Paint like you have all the time in the world." - Dustin VanWechel

"Let the student enter the school with this advice: No matter how good the school is, this education is in his own hands. All education must be self-education." - Robert Henri from 'The Art Spirit'.

"There's no short cut, sorry! I'm not making it easy on you. This is what it takes." - Larry Blovits

"Nice picture, who is it?" Handsome Husband upon seeing a recently painted self-portrait.

"Fear doesn't go away. It diffuses with experience." Christine Kane

"It'll be hard, but you can do it." Dr. Gary Zaruba

"I'm Ready!!" - me

What quote would you add to the File of Important Papers?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brain Mapping

Between my husband's propensity toward left-brain thinking, and my right-brain dominance, we might just make one whole brain.

We just returned from a 4-hour trip to hang out with Fun Family. Our journey took us through south-central Nebraska and eastward through northern Kansas. (Didja get that? On a map, it's down, and over to the right.)

(Despite what some say, that area of the country is truly beautiful, especially this time
of year. The hills roll gently toward the horizon, covered with milo, soybeans, corn and sunflowers. In autumn, milo heads are a rich burnt-orange color, and for a few days soybeans dry brilliant yellow before they ripen to a rosy brown. Corn stalks stand tall and brittle. Sunflowers hide their yellow petals under heavy heads on warm green stalks. And the cottonwoods, well, they're fantastic.)

In response to my delighted descriptions of the landscape, Handsome Husband said, "Mhhm. You missed your exit."

"But didja see the shadows? They're a lovely blue-ish purple. " To which he remarked, "Hmhm. You can grab 229, merge onto 29 South and take exit 485. "

I know that exit. It's right by a great big red water tower. It can be uncommonly pretty against a blue sky. Thanks to HH and his attention to detail, we remained in the continental US and arrived in due time at our destination.

We and the Fam had a great time watching KU football and their exceptional marching band. (Some of us gather for the band performance and sit politely through the football game, which, by the way, is played on a luminously green field, a lovely counterpoint to bright blue uniforms with crimson trim.)

A day and fifty belly laughs later we hugged Fun Family goodbye and headed home. I just might add here that we live in a town of just under 2,000 people. We have one stoplight, and that's the truth. Fun Family lives in the Kansas City area. It's just a slightly more complicated kind of driving. Leaving the city we were faced with a backwards rendition of finding our way in to the metro. Suddenly HH's exit numbers were out of order and our interchanges were knotted in the opposite direction. We needed to turn south to go north and merge left to stay on the highway. His logic was being sorely tested.

It seems that in order to return safely to the golden cornfields of south central Nebraska, we were going to have to combine HH's analytical powers with my ability to visually un-knot the tangle of highways we were on.

"I'm just certain we turn here" I declare. "If we turned left on the way in we need to turn right on the way out. Take the loopty-loop backwards and we'll be fine."

And we were.

As we both relaxed into our trip homeward, HH turned to me and said, "Geez, look at the flowers in the ditch there. They're pretty against the orange milo aren't they?"

I smiled at him, pleased to know that he has developed an eye toward subtle beauty in the landscape. "Yes they are, sweetie", I say. "And you just missed your exit."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's for Dinner?

I am too stuffed to think.
My youngest son turned 25 a few days ago. Twenty five!! (Insert your own age joke here.)
Rather than discuss the passing of years and the spinning of time, let's talk about something really important.
If you could have anything - anything for your birthday dinner, what kind of dinner would you ask for?
We celebrated with grilled chicken, cheesy potatoes, garlic asparagus, crusty rolls with real butter, and angel food cake. And laughter. Man, my family knows how to laugh.
It was about as perfect a meal as could be.
What's your perfect birthday celebration?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Art of Bullying

Okay, so I'm a bully.

I made a nice lady cry recently.

Several weeks ago I had a home-town exhibit at which I shared many of the daily paintings I'd done up to that point. Many were well received, many were, shall we say...tolerated. That's okay, I told myself, be brave. It's to be expected. This exhibit is about starting a conversation, nothing more. I gave myself the usual pep talk. You've probably heard it inside your head, too.

"Be patient. Share your purpose. Explain how/why/when you chose to paint that landscape/blue cow/raccoon skull. Smile sweetly when the viewer interrupts you to tell you about their grandma/great aunt/neighbor who paints on barn boards.... Smiiile"

And then Nice Lady asked about purchasing a small painting from me.

Day 72 - Goldenrod Morning @2009

Quite honestly, I was surprised, and told her so. Of all the pieces in this show, this is not the one I would have expected you to select, I said. (In fact, I very nearly didn't put this piece in the show because I didn't expect anyone but me to love that piece. And I loved that piece.)

Nice Lady smiled sweetly and shared with me her reason for buying this little yellow landscape.

It makes me smile, she said. She shared with me her love for goldenrods, her love and appreciation for the color yellow. Her delight in how it made her feel. Looking at that little piece just made her feel good. Really good. And happy tears welled up in her eyes.

I - or rather my painting - had touched her. Deeply. It was beyond words, this moment when we both loved the possiblities of a certain experience created by color and movement. She had her story, I had mine, and the fact that the stories weren't the same didn't matter. We connected deeply, from our hearts, sharing a language that doesn't exist.

That's why I paint. Not to make nice people cry, but for those moments when the work of my hands touches the heart of another person. That pause in time when there is no need for words, when rhythm and color, texture and hue combine to reach from my heart to yours.

If tears are part of the deal, well, that's just fine with me. I'm tough, I can take it.

How tough are you?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Passionate Repose

One of the first books I read about the steps one needed to take to become a professional artist started out by asking the reader to determine if he/she were passionate enough. It stopped me in my tracks. Passion?


That's a pretty big word, full of sweat and temper and ... stuff.

Since then I've read other books, blogs and journals about the trials and travails of the artist's life. Nearly all of them encourage, warn, advise or admonish the reader to find, dig up or uncover passion. Live on it! Let it drive you! Run headlong into your life! Be intense!

I believe what the world needs more of is calm repose.

I'm just now back from two weeks off. Fourteen days of not working in my studio. And honey, I'm hear to tell you, it's fantastic.

I did not do one extreme, emotional, fiery, thing. Read a couple of books. Pulled weeds, washed windows. Watched Handsome Husband fish. Watched two Fine Young Men get sunburned. Watched movies. Picked tomatoes. Visited family. Allowed three really nice people to buy some of my art. The strongest feeling I drummed up was when I got up in the morning..."Ooh, goodie, coffee!"

I eased through the day. I sat and thought. I practiced tranquility. Every now and then I'd move - not much, but enough that the squirrels didn't try to bury acorns between my toes.

I believe in calm repose. I believe it's necessary. I believe we should do it often and with great regularity, daily even.

If I spent time in a passionate dither, would I have time to look at the cottonwood tree across my alley and study the way the leaves changed color when the breeze ruffles through them? Does passion allow contemplating the color in the shadows as they creep across my yard? How do I sit very still in the early morning and catch the sun's first rays on the very tip-top leaves of my maple tree if I'm all wiggly with aspiring fervor?

Passion's fine for teenagers, but it seems to me that what the grown up art world needs more of is deep breathing of the yoga variety. Slooooow down.

Allow time to let the sun cross over your feet while you sit in the garden. Allow your heart to beat slowly. Allow your muse to come to you slowly, surely and confidently.
Allow yourself time to think, time to ponder, time to enjoy your artistic expression.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Birthday List

As you remember, last week was my birthday, which means it's time for another Grateful List.
One item for each year. (Yeah, I know, it's kinda long.)
My Official Grateful List for 2009:
Number 1 - always - my family. All of you.

The rest, in no particular order:

coffee shared with good friends

fresh vegis from my garden - or anyone else's garden for that matter

Angela, Robin, Marcy & Nicole at Graham Gallery

good books

soft blankets on chilly nights

good paint brushes

friends. all of you.


time to relax

calm water

people who make me laugh


Grandpa's recovery

excellent food shared with friends

good framers (Warren Cradduck, Lincoln, Ne., and everyone at Graham Gallery)

cool evenings

a garden full of black-eyed susans

comfortable shoes

good jeans

long car rides with good friends

fresh corn on the cob

honest politicians

smart blogs

my easyl plein air easel

a butterfly bush full of butterflies



modern medicine




understanding that comes with prayer

smart people

eye glasses

starry nights

pre-packaged mulch

folks who build stuff

good haircuts



offers of help

mechanical pencils

Burkholder Project

people who know how cars work

good teachers


digital cameras

hot showers

plain t-shirts

clean windows

people who read my blog

It's amazing how quickly I came up with this list. It's a great way to celebrate, and an excellent exercise in, well, remembering how great we have it. Try it for yourself.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

What are you grateful for this year?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We Reached 100

Whew! It’s complete, done, over. Finis!
Mavis Penney, Canadian painter-coach-mentor-friend and I set out on March 2nd, 2009 to paint one 5 x 7 painting each weekday until we had 100 completed paintings. We’ve been posting them daily since then.

Day 2 - Early March 2009

"By painting each day for 100 days I hope to learn about that which exists off the beaten path, to learn about seeing, to learn about myself."

This is the statement I shared at the beginning of this 100-day challenge.

So that leaves me asking myself that question: What did I learn?

Certainly I learned about mixing colors and making brush strokes and preparing 100 gessoed boards. Loosening brushwork and pushing colors beyond reality was almost necessary after awhile. Painting trees purple or skies yellow was less a risk than an allowing of something that was natural to me. It was nice to have an outlet to allow that expressiveness.

I learned to look for color, beauty and interest where my intellect, and neighbors, said there were none. And most often I found what I was looking for.

Day 6 Raccoon Skull

I learned that sometimes is okay to do something because all the cool kids are doing it. Now that I’m one of the cool kids, I find I don’t need it so much. I am a daily painter for sure. I just don’t see a need to finish a painting every day. I prefer to let things settle a bit, and return later with a fresh eye. Working out a color choice or a composition needs peaceful consideration. It’s hard to do when the clock is ticking.

I learned that doing scary, challenging things can lead to unexpected outcomes. New opportunities have opened themselves to me because of the relationships, energy, and pile of paintings this project has brought about. (Mavis and I are included in a very cool site called Following the Masters, hosted by Michele Burnett. I'm also a new member of the Burkholder Project, due, in part, to the stack of daily paintings I brought in to show Anne Burkholder. )
I learned to know when I'm licked, and by the 74th day I was toast. I learned to allow myself a rest. After all, this was only a painting challenge, not building the Great Wall of China against Mongol invaders.

I learned to take what I do seriously, but not to take myself too seriously.

I learned that setting challenging goals is important for my - or anyone's - personal growth. I believe now that achieving them is maybe not so necessary. The triumph, at least for me, was in the honest attempt. Dealing with inconvenient time frames, the anxiety of starting and finishing constantly, the emotional roller coaster of delight and disaster (sometimes within minutes of each other) and deepening faith in myself despite looming doubt is the true hard work of what Mavis and I chose to do.

Day 100 - Across the Pond 2009

We're done with our 100 paintings in 100 days challenge. As Mavis suggested to me, I'll let out a yelp of triumph and allow myself a dance across the room.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy Birthday!

I know you've all been waiting anxiously to see who gets my Great Big Shiny Birthday Gift.

Handsome Husband was kind enough to draw a name out of a cereal bowl on his way to bed.

The winner of Day 95 - August Cottonwoods is...

Karine !! Woo hoo sweetie!!
Thanks to all of you who commented this past couple of weeks. I appreciate all your birthday wishes.
Karine, just as soon as I'm through blowing out candles and licking the cake icing off my chin I'll package up your new painting and mail it to you. Congratulations!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Big Bold Daily Painting Tips

Pssst. Last week for the Big Birthday Give Away! Leave a comment by 10 pm CST, Sunday August 8th. I'm celebrating my birthday by giving gifts! You could be a lucky recipient - butcha gotta leave me just a quick note so I have something to put into a hat.

I'm nearing the end of our Off The Highway project. Remember? Canadian artist, Mavis Penney, and I agreed to paint one painting each weekday for 100 days. It's been challenging, aggravating, exciting, and wonderful. I have huge appreciation for those artists like Carol Marine who paint daily for years.

For those of you who are interested, consider these tips. Read on, they're free.

My Big Bold Shiny List of Daily Painting Tips

1. Get a partner. Being responsible to Mavis to finish a painting every day and send it to her to post was huge. I did not want to disappoint her. Knowing she was waiting for my images before she retired for the night was a great incentive. I suppose it wouldn't even have to be someone doing the same thing, just a warm body supporting you, and poking you with a sharp stick if you lag.

2. Tell someone. Better yet, tell lots of people. Folks love this kind of project. You'll grow your own cheering section. Countless times I'd get asked about my progress. No way was I going to have to say, "Well, gee, I got tired and gave up." Having to admit I couldn't hack it would be like announcing I'm a giant wimp. It'd be like dropping the winning touchdown at the high school Homecoming football game. Nope. Not me.

3. Blog it. Sharing your images helps you take the project seriously. Face it, anybody can finish a painting every day. A few slaps of the brush and 'tada!', you're finished! You and Koko the elephant from the local zoo. Show the world what you're doing and you'll give it that much more. Having said that...

4. Relax. Try something new. This isn't rocket surgery, it's one little painting. Sure, it ends up being a huge pile of paintings after awhile, but why not make it fun?

Day 93 - Tagged 2009

5. Use a theme. Apples of America. Single Shoes from the Streets. Mavis and I decided we would paint anything we might see/find Off The Highway. After a week or two painting landscapes I started to watch the ditches. Then I began to look up, just for fun. A theme helps whittle down what you want to think about, and at the same time opens up new worlds for discovery.

Day 15 Birds Nest on Linen 2009

6. Pick a number. We chose 100. Without a goal of 100 paintings, it would have been easy to pass off the whole thing as a cute idea gone bad. Your number should be achievable, but not so achievable that you don't have to struggle a bit. That's why hot dog eating contests are so much fun. No one wants to watch you eat just one.

Is it weird to have a list of six? Well, perhaps there's something you'd like to add. Anything else?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Long Weekend

Hooo-ey! Just returned from a great weekend hanging out with my Mom and brother, Mick. Mom's moving to a smaller house after having lived in one spot for nearly 50 years. The Mickster and I sorted and packed under Mom's careful supervision and shared some great stories and laughs about the old days.

All this means that I'm pooped, so I'll just leave you with a reminder that I'm celebrating my birthday soon by giving you something wonderful.

Leave me a comment by August 8th. From all the comments left (It's just a comment. You don't have to be cute or clever. Just say 'hellow!') a name will be drawn to receive a birthday present in the form of a small painting from me!

I'm hoping to have all of my 100 daily paintings done by then, so it'll be a double celebration. You get a painting, and I get a break.
Too cool for words.

Top - Day 86 - Morning 2009
Bottom - Day 87 - Black-eyed Susans 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Me to You

Goodie! My birthday is coming soon.

In just over three weeks, I'll turn 53 delightful years of age.

It's been a pretty great 53 years, and I'm going to celebrate by sharing with you!

Leave a comment in the next three weeks, and I'll put your name into a drawing for a small painting. How's that for a celebration?!

I'm not exactly certain just exactly which painting I'll be giving away, but after painting 100 in the last few months I imagine I'll be able to find something.

So join me in celebrating, well, me!

Sign in and get something wonderful, from me to you!
Top - Day 81 - Jet Trails 2009
Middle - Day 78 - Off the River 2009
Bottom - Day 80 - Cottonwoods by the Pond 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Veterans Thank You

Handsome Husband and I had the distinct priviledge of helping the Fillmore County American Legion and VFW of Geneva host the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall this weekend here in Geneva.

It was a humbling experience spending time with men and women and their families who gave so much of themselves in our country's service.

The setting was our Fillmore County Courthouse, a beautiful and peaceful place to gather and remember - and heal.

Thanks to Greg and the folks in Brevard County Florida for their work honoring veterans. It's so easy for most of us to move through our days without so much as a thought about what it takes to keep us safe and free.

Politics aside, we as a country must accept responsibility for showing respect to the men and women who are willing to do the dirty work.

Even after this experience I'll probably still whine about silly things, but it will be with the deeper awareness of the fact that I can whine, that I'm free to dash to the grocery store after my husband's favorite coffee creamer, that I can sleep at night fairly certain that I'll wake up safely the next morning with my community - and government - intact.

I'm called to participate, in something, in some small way. It's been a good reminder to get involved in our community doing ... anything. A town, a city, a state, our country cannot move without it's citizens doing the moving.

I won't run for city council or school board, there are far better people for that. I can pay attention however, respectfully add my two cents, and maybe even offer my services to a community group.

It'll be my way of saying thanks.