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?