Sunday, December 26, 2010

Job Listings

“It is dangerous to let the public behind the scenes. They are easily disillusioned and they are angry with you, for it was the illusion they loved.” (W. Somerset Maugham)

The conversation involved an aspiring artist, and she was looking for advice about getting started in the mysterious world of the Professional Artist. The look of disappointment in the eyes of my companion was surprising. “You see it as a job?” she said with eyebrows knitted in worry. It was as if I had told her there was no Santa Claus. I had just told her that I, as Artist, did not wear a special cape and matching beret. Ouch.

Obviously the words that describe what I do daily are not the words she expected to hear regarding the romantic life of an artist. She was expecting to hear about midnight visits from the Muse and her sister, Inspiration. She was hoping to hear about the fascinating conversations we artists have over tea at the local sidewalk café, and how cool we look in our berets.

What I meant when I used the word job to describe my routine is that it is just that, a routine. I don’t wait for a funnel of fairy dust to pour inspiration down upon my shoulders and onto my magic paintbrush. My job as a painter is to go to work every day, just like millions of others who leave their cozy beds and tie on matching shoes to spend time at a desk or cubicle - or easel. We show up because that’s how the work gets started. Being an artist is a steady and continuous process. We don’t succeed due to dreams or vague inspirational moments or tea-time chats, but in the routine of showing up and working things out. Daily, weekly, yearly.

Inspiration, that sacred being we love to whisper about and hope for, happens to those who are ready for it. They don’t hand out trophies to marathoners who only think about running.

And the muse? It’s the routine of preparation and habit that lays down the path for the muse to follow to your doorstep. The more tended the path is, the easier it is for the muse to find you.

Lest you think I am a miserable drudge toiling with calloused hands and a hardened soul, believe me, I believe that a creative pursuit is the best possible way to spend a life. I love what I do, including the routine. And especially the inspiration. When Inspiration stops by for a quick chat and ends up staying awhile, I have been known to laugh out loud in sheer delight. I get to paint purple shadows and warm yellow suns and yes, I can wear a beret whenever I want. (I do not, however, own a cape.) Being an artist is my job, and it’s the best job ever.

If you think you’re ready, come on along. Bring your beret.

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.”      (W. Somerset Maugham)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Did It And You Can Too!

Greetings Dear Reader-

It's the time of year when we look back on what we did, what we didn't, and what we should've.
Many of you, it seems, are ready to take a leap, but aren't too sure just what you're leaping into. You're talking about daily painting, which at first blush sounds so cool, so artistic and fun.

As you recall, my Canadian friend Mavis Penney and I took on the challenge of painting daily in March of 2009. We agreed to paint - and complete - a 5x7 painting every day for 100 days. Speaking for myself, what I learned and accomplished during that project has served me well since finishing it over a year ago.
Title this blog "I Did It And You Can Too!"

Finishing my thought from the first paragraph, taking on a project like daily painting is cool, and very artistic.  But fun?  Oh, if running a marathon is fun then, yes, I guess you might call it fun.  Not fun like opening Christmas presents fun, or eating brownies right out of the oven fun, however.  Painting daily can be like riding a roller coaster:  lots of ups and downs, a "wishing you'd never bought that ticket feeling" while you're laughing and crying and swearing you'll never do such a stupid thing again.  And then you find yourself getting out of the car and rushing to get in line again. Maybe rewarding is a better word.  You did it and you lived to tell about it, and it makes a really great story. 

The challenge is not simply to paint every day.  The real challenge, the nub, is to finish a painting every single day.  Whether you have a lawn that needs mowing, children that need feeding or a boss that needs attention, your goal, your promise, is to finish what you started before the sun goes down.  I learned starting is easy, finishing is the tough part. And then doing it all over again the next day. Refer to the previous paragraph.

Having a theme really helps.  Whether you decide to paint kitchen gadgets, scenes from your back porch or sidewalk cracks, a focus helps keep you on track.  There's so much out there to paint that it can be overwhelming, and you'll be overwhelmed enough facing that blank canvas again.

@2009 Patricia Scarborough oil Day 45 Concrete River

Get a partner.  Get several.  You won't want to let them down.  Tell people about your project. Not only will it help keep you going, it's a great conversation starter.  It'll go something like this:
Hellow, what do you do?  And you'll say, Well, I'm an artist and I'm in the middle of this terrific project where I complete a painting every day.  And when their jaw drops and they say, "Why, that's amazing!",  you get to smile and say, "Why yes, I am!" And you'll both be right.

It takes stamina to do this kind of work. Know that the world will not stop spinning if you have to take a break.  Sure, the sun might set a few moments later but what with daylight savings time nobody knows what time it really is anyway.  Remember, this is not rocket surgery or a presidential election. After you've taken a few days off, you start again.  And maybe even again.

This next one is important.  Know why you are doing this.  If you're just jumping on the latest bandwagon, think again.  Creating a piece of art because everyone else is doing the same thing is a recipe for frustration and failure. I took on the challenge to learn to paint in oils.  I wanted to have to make decisions about brush strokes, color mixing, surfaces, mediums.  Sure I could have learned all of that over the course of time, but doing it in 100 days made it happen.  Learning under the white hot stare of a daily deadline makes it stick.
Whatever you decide, may I suggest you choose a noble cause?  Maybe you'll want to do a challenge like this to learn to look more closely at your backyard, or to learn to paint smaller.  Or to learn plein air painting.  Or to paint in a certain medium.  Keep it personal.  You'll be happier, and your art will get better.  And isn't that the point?

Go ahead and exhibit them, even sell them if people are interested. But don't make that your main goal just yet.  Allow yourself the luxury of impressing yourself first. And trust me, you will be impressed,.  Get your own bandwagon, and take it where you want to go.

Ultimately, what I learned was mine to figure out. My lessons are my own. What you'll learn is up to you.

Ready to start?  Let me know if you need a pat on the shoulder or a swift kick in the rear.  I'll be honored to be in your corner.
@2009 Patricia Scarborough 7x5 oil Day 100 - Across the River

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa's List for You

Santa's been asking about you. A bit confused over just what to put under your tree, I gave him a few ideas. I hope you don't mind.

My "Gifts Any Artist Can Use and Appreciate" list: 

A hand painted color chart from every tube of paint you own.

A case of frames that are always the right size

Determination to start - again

A kind and patient mentor

Wonderful patrons

Galleries that want to show your work

Distant horizons to reach toward

@2010 Patricia Scarborough, Distant Horizon, 9x12 oil

A stack of materials all ready to go

Free shipping

Willingness to go it alone

photo courtesy Linda Welsch

Full paint tubes

Unstick-able lids

Just the right color

Never ending blog post ideas

Friends that love you no matter what


Self cleaning palette

Stain resistant flooring. (sorry honey!)

Organized storage closet. Maybe even two. 

A full receipt book


The courage to try something new. If that's too much, maybe the courage to just try.

@2010 Patricia Scarborough Couch Series panel

Blue skies for every outdoor festival

A sense of humor

@2010 Patricia Scarborough Clover 36x48 oil


A support group

I've got the only Handsome Husband made, so you'll have to be satisfied with a poor substitute.

Goodness, I hope I didn't miss anything.  Feel free to add to the list if you'd like. Santa could use all the help he can get!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Painting with Napoleon

"A picture is worth a thousand words."
                                                          - Napoleon Bonaparte

Not one to argue with small men carrying large cannons, I leave you with these new pieces.

©2010 Patricia Scarborough, Beyond the Mill  6x6 oil

©2010 Patricia Scarborough, Early Evening, November 6x6 oil

©2010 Patricia Scarborough, Autumn in Fillmore County 8x10 oil

And a little hellow! to those of you who stopped by last week from Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog.  Thanks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Gratitude

As I sit in my over-stuffed chair, feet up, tummy full of the last slice of pie from the gigantic Thanksgiving meal we shared with family, I reflect on how truly blessed I am.  It's important to take time now and then to pause and let a moment like this soak in.
I'm grateful, really grateful.
There are the obvious things to be grateful for, of course. There is my Handsome Husband. He supports me, helps me focus, shares the bright side to my doubts and makes me laugh. A lot.
There are my sons. They support me, and eat what's left over. Being their Mom has helped me become a better person.
There is my family, allllll of them.

I've written grateful lists before. Consider this an addendum.

More things I'm grateful for:
blue Skies and calm winds
long walks
cadmium yellow
online friends
jars of paint brushes
stacks of gessoed panels
a sturdy easel
clean drinking water
my laptop
warm thick socks
a good mattress
funky ear muffs
good lighting
home made bread
utility companies
safe, easily accessible medication
time to paint
good, honest galleries
people who listen
zippers that work
templates for Internet communication
hand made Christmas ornaments
comfortable jeans
acceptance - of you, of me, each of us as wonderful and odd as we are.

Feel free to add to the list if you'd like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


To be painfully honest, tonight I have nothing to say. 
Normally, that doesn't stop me.
I whack away at the keys until something sticks, and then build from there.
But not tonight.
Because lately I've been noticing how much blather there is in the world.  Signs posted on so many surfaces no one bothers to read, music in every corner of every store in every mall no one is soothed by and, yes, blogs by the billion with very little content.
So, despite the admonitions of all the coaches and gurus out there who warn that without my online presence, my presence on the planet will go unnoticed, I'm not going to share anything this week.  I'll take a risk and simply leave a little space where some words could have nestled, a sign could have been posted, a tuneless melody shared. I'll do my part and leave you with some quiet.
Take a slow breath and enjoy it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Un-Organized

It's the season to renew, and I'm not talking holiday diet plans.

By the number of reminders in my mailbox, it's Membership Renewal Time! Arts organizations across the country are reminding me to plunk down $20, $30, even $60 for another year of membership in their exclusive we-only-let-a-few-of-you-in clubs.

The prevailing wisdom is that it's important to join professional organizations to show. . . well. . . how professional you are. 

One priviledge of membership in professional arts organizations is that you, as a member in good standing are allowed to use the initials of that organization after your name.  For instance, signing my name P Scarborough, IAAPPG would show the world that I am a member of the International Amazing Artist's Professional Painters Guild. Proving of course that I am Amazing as well as Professional.

My signature is already tricky enough to scrawl across a painting as it is. 

Not quite messy enough for medical credentials, and not florid enough for signing declarations of independence or anything else, my signature will not improve by adding any more letters.

But I digress.

The importance of adding letters behind a signature is to ensure for Mr. &  Mrs. John Q. Patron the validity and quality of a work of art.  I know this because the organizations with which I hold membership tell me so.
Imagine this scenario:
Mr. & Mrs. Patron are looking at a fabulous painting by, oh, say, P Scarborough.
©2010 PScarborough  Firefly Morning 36x48 oil
In hushed tones, she says, "I love it. I must have it...even if it  doesn't match my sofa".  To which Mr. Patron says, "Of course!  The composition is strong, yet subtle.  The artist is a master of her technique, rendering light with a skill and understanding unseen in other paintings in this gallery.  And yet..."
"What is it darling? " Mrs. Patron responds with alarm.
"There are no letters. No alphabet soup after the nearly illegible signature indicating membership in a professional organization thereby indicating quality."
"No darling.  Without those letters this painting could be, well, un-professional."
And Mr. Patron gently takes Mrs. Patron by the elbow and directs her to another painting, one that matches her sofa perfectly, and has extra letters attached to the signature. "You see, dear?  It's a better piece.  It has letters."
I haven't decided whether or not to renew my memberships for the coming year. It's a risk, not having letters.  Patrons might whisper about me behind my back. They might leave me, unable to stand the risk of adding a letter-less artist to their collection. On the other hand, it's kind of exciting to be a rebel,  fighting the good fight, armed only with a palette, a handful of brushes and a canvas or two.
When did it become de rigeuer to join up? Tell me, do  I need letters?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Take Facebook. . . Please

That's what logging onto Facebook is for me. One low buzzing hum of fascinating conversation about pizza orders, stoopid bosses (reminder: bosses read Facebook), late night crying babies, surgeries (do I know you?), requests for farm aid (call Willie Nelson - please!) and plans for the weekend (I missed that invitation...).

I bring this up because Alyson Stanfield, art business guru, has shared several posts lately on reaching out and touching someone - lots of someones. She believes strongly in networking and sharing our art-based businesses using Facebook Fan Pages. Since she makes it her business to know and share important information about growing an art business, I decided to stop rolling my eyes and play along.

Over the weekend I felt like Sally Fields giving an Oscar speech. After creating a Fan Page, it's important to reach out and "Like" the Fan Pages of others. It's an encouraging thing to do for a kindred spirit. Of course, basic politeness suggests then that they, in turn, "Like" you.  And so it goes.  Build your page and feel the love!

That's me feeling great with flesh and blood Facebook friends.

Despite my curmudgeonly ways, I have to admit there is something to this.

On my Fan Page I get to share with you what I'm doing art-wise. I post, you read at your leisure. No pressure on either of us. You don't have to be a Facebook member to view it either. That's a plus.

Having a Facebook Fan Page shows that an artist is engaged.  We're working, and we're ready to show you what we're working on. You get to participate, quietly if you like, or more publicly if you'd rather by commenting or "Liking". It works for everyone.

Like broccoli, having a Facebook Fan Page is good for me - even if it's not my favorite thing to do. If used judiciously and wisely it will help me share my work with more viewers and, after all, that's what I'm working toward. I'll meet new people and maybe even make a few new friends.  That's cool too. 

So do me a favor, please.  Click on over to my Facebook Fan Page and "Like" me.  Bookmark me and see what I'm up to every now and then. 

You could even tell me about your boss and your next operation.  I'll listen, I promise, because I "Like" you too.

I'm really quite "likeable".

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lessons from a Workshop

Last weekend I had the distinct priviledge of spending 3 days in St. Paul Nebraska at a workshop set up by the amazingly talented painter Linda Welsch, hosted by Miletta Vista Winery, and taught by Hal Haloun. All at the same time.  It was a heady brew, and I'm not just talking about the wine.

Hal has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time.  To be able to study with him, even for a short time was a real honor.  As you can see, we're all hanging on his every word, each of us hoping to discover for ourselves some tidbit of information that will answer all our questions.

The view from Hal's easel

In a conversation with friends after I returned home, one asked a simple question, "So, what did you learn?"  There are the obvious answers, of course.  I learned how to mix a fabulous green from Prussian Blue, Indian Red and Cadmium Yellow.  I learned several recipes for mediums for various phases of a painting.  I learned that Miletta Vista's Work Horse is a delicious red wine, and that owner Mick is a heck of a photographer. I even learned a few ghost stories.
Loup River at dusk
But what else? 
There are deeper things, more subtle ideas working around in my head.  It's not about recipes or lists of items to be ticked off as they get wiped off a brush. There were recipes and guidelines, of course, but it goes beyond that. It's the using of the information, making it one's own, developing those recipes in ways that make them personal. 
Highway 281 heading north of St. Paul and  Miletta Vista Winery

What I learned is that I will always be learning.  Regardless of what color mixes I understand today, there will always be others to be learned tomorrow as I learn to see more clearly, more deeply. Even though I paint successfully today, tomorrow presents its own challenges and with them a new set of questions to be asked and answered.  
Oh sure, you were hoping for the answers, weren't you?  If I could give them to you, I would. 

Hal's 2010 Miletta Vista Winery class

My best answer for you is to ask your own questions and see what you find out. What is it you want to know?
That's me, looking for the answers at my easel. Photo courtesy Linda Welsch. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview with Artist Terry Johnson

While at my brother's wedding to a fabulous woman a few weeks ago, I renewed an aquaintance with Mick's Best Man, Terry Johnson.  Seems Terry's all grown up now and a bit of an artist as well, although in wood and strings rather than paint.  Owner and luthier at Timbercreek Guitars, Terry creates incredibly beautiful handmade acoustic guitars.  While I'm at a workshop this weekend (which I'll share with you next week)  I'll share this email conversation we shared over the past week. 

P: It's been ages since we've seen each other, how long have you been making guitars?

T: I have been building guitars for about 8 years now. I don't build very many each year, which makes each guitar a one of a kind instrument. Right now it is just a sideline, I guess my dream would be to build full time and support myself building guitars as a real job.

P: How did you come to build guitars?

T: Actually I made log furniture for a while, but I have always enjoyed the guitar and found someone who taught me how to build them. It is really satisfying about sitting down and playing something that you made yourself.

P: These guitars not only sound lovely, but they're beautiful to look at. Do you see yourself as an artist?

T: Yes. I think that anyone who takes a simple object and creates something different out of that object is an artist. I try to put my own signature on each instrument in some way,whether it is in the inlay, materials used, or the body style.


P: Is there room for inspiration when designing a guitar?

T: There is always room for inspiration, although I find it hard to find inspiration when I am feeling uninspired. My biggest inspiration is trying to be different than everyone else.
Actually I go to alot of builders shows and look at other luthiers works. I get alot of ideas on design that way. I pick a design that I really like and change it to add my personality to it and make it different. I love different things that nobody else has, so I try to make each one of my instruments that way.

P: How do you get motivated to create?

T: Sometimes I don't touch a piece of wood for a guitar for months. I have to be in the zone when I am building, if I am not I end up making too many mistakes. That can be very expensive at times. When building a guitar you work with such small numbers that it doesn't take much to make a mistake. For instance, when you bend the sides of a guitar you start out with a piece of wood that's 1/4 inch thick. Before you bend it you have to thin the wood down to .080, so 1/1000 of an inch could be a mistake.

P: How do you know when you've created a good one?

T: Sometimes you don't. There are so many factors that make a good guitar, and everyone looks for something different. The first thing I look for in a guitar is the sound. Sometimes I'll get a guitar all together and be disappointed in the way it sounds,and usually end up starting over.

P: What aspect gives you the most satisfaction?

T: The final product,after stringing it up, and knowing that it has the sound and playability that you were after.  I enjoy being different than everyone else. That's why I always try to put a different touch on each instrument that makes it stand out. When you see a guitar on stage that someone is playing there are certain things about the guitar that tells you who made it. Taylor guitars' bridge design, headstock design, and their pick guard are all registered trade marks for their guitars. When you see one of my guitars on stage I made my logo and also my bridge design to stand out for that purpose.

P: Describe your perfect customer.

T: I don't know that there is such a thing. But it makes me very happy to know that a guitar that I made for someone inspires them to write more or different music just because of the instrument. Guitars are like that. Each guitar has it's own sound. Sometimes you're drawn to an instrument and just can't play it enough. Like I said before everyone looks for something different. If you and I were told to go in to the music store and get the best guitar in the store,we would each come out with a different one. I think that's cool.

P: Sounds like guitar making and painting are quite alot alike. I have the same feeling about making a connection with a patron who is inspired by my work.  You're right, it's cool.  Very cool.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the Winnah Is

And the winnah is . . .

©2010 P Scarborough   Treasure  5x7 oil
As you recall, Dear Reader, I promised to draw a name out of my special hat to win the lovely little painting I created last Sunday, 10-10-10.  Painted to use as my holiday card, I thought it would be cool to celebrate this once in a lifetime date with a little Free Gimme.  All you had to do was comment, and you were in the running. 

Are you ready . . .?

After exhaustively cutting up names and putting them into a hat . . .

and washing my hands . . .

and closing my eyes tightly . . .

oh, so tightly . . .

pinching my thumb and forefinger ever so gently . . .

around a slip of paper that said . . .

Lynne!!  Lynne, thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting.  Email me with directions for mailing and I'll carefully wrap this little jewel up and send it to you just in time for the holidays. 

As for the rest of you, dear friends, thanks so much for participating.  There is still time to view "Excerpts", showing at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney for another month.  In November I will be participating in an exhibit titled "6x6", featuring 6 terrific artists at the Burkholder Project in Lincoln, Ne.

©2010 P Scarborough  Ceding the Day  9x12 oil 
Featured at the Burkholder Project, Lincoln, Ne., in  November, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010


No, I'm not stuttering, it's October 10th, 2010 . . . 10-10-10. This won't happen again until...well...never.
It must be time for another Free Gimme!
Say something, anything in the comment box (preferable something sweet and lovely) and  your name will go into my magic drawing hat. The winner's name will be drawn out  in exactly one week, 10-17-10, and will receive this lovely little oil painting.

©2010 P Scarborough  Treasure 5x7 oil

What makes this one extra special, besides the whole ten-ten-ten thing is that this painting was created today, 10-10-10, specially for my 2010 holiday greeting. Patrons and friends will receive beautiful printed cards with this image, and only one will be able to claim the original. 
Will it be you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Value of a Challenge

I'm involved in teaching another pastel class at Lux Center for the Arts this weekend.  My good friend and cohort in art, Mavis Penney, has offered to stand in for me.

“The Value of a Challenge” by Guest Blogger Mavis Penney

There’s a lot to be said for responding to a challenge. A challenge kicks you into high-gear action. It gives you another person’s point of view, and it forces you to be accountable for doing what you say you will do. I’ll bet that you know what it feels like to receive a challenge, and what it feels like to respond to one, too. Patricia Scarborough has dished out quite a few challenges in my direction, and every one of them has repaid me handsomely in value well beyond what I expected.

©2009 Mavis Penney, Muskrat Falls, 5x7 oil

Patricia and I met in a workshop conducted by Alyson Stanfield of, and we started collaborating on painting projects almost immediately. Our biggest project together was our 2009 “Off the Highway” series, in which we each produced 100 paintings in 100 days, and posted our images with our comments to the project blog. Patricia and I have pushed each other to work through online courses, we have read books together, and we have celebrated each other’s successes. And we have each pulled the other out of those places where the temptation to quit was so strong it was just about swallowing us up.

This past summer, I felt I was losing touch with my watercolor technique and also with the freshness of painting outdoors. I whined about it once too often, and Patricia offered me the challenge of painting 30 watercolors “on my back door-step.” She said I would reap the benefits of closely observing the scenery in a very limited area, and I wouldn’t have to go far from home to do it.

The view from Mavis' back step
I don’t think Patricia intended it to be a-painting-a-day challenge, but when I observed that there were 30 paintings to be done and that there are 30 days in September, I got up a head of steam over completing all 30 paintings by the end of the month. And I pushed myself to make the project a fully plein air experience as well. And I pledged to make myself accountable by posting the 30 paintings to my blog. In other words, I overbuilt the challenge. In fact, I made it so top-heavy that I couldn’t keep up with it. And so, I am writing to report that at the end of 30 days, I have completed 12 paintings. Most of those paintings I did do out of doors, and the rest are either from sketches or photos from my back door-step that I completed indoors. I’m about halfway through this challenge. I haven’t met my expectations. But I haven’t quit. I am still painting, still working with the watercolors and still posting the results to the blog.

 ©2010 Mavis Penney, Fireweed Blossom #10, 11x15" watercolor

From the halfway point, I can tell you that the true value of this challenge is not that I am adding to my skills and also to my inventory of paintings, and it is not that I am sharpening my powers of observation, although all of these things have happened. The true value of accepting this or any challenge is that it opens your mind to possibilities you never thought about. The true value of a challenge is that it provides a jumping-off point for new challenges beyond your wildest expectations. Thanks for reading! I’ll be in touch again soon to let you know about the second half of this challenge.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Every Town is an Art Town

"This is not an art town".  

If you told me Houston Texas wasn't a snow skiing town, I'd have no  problem believing it.  Or if you declared that Denver was not a scuba diving town I would probably understand.  The average daily temperature in Houston is not conducive to making piles of snow useful for sliding down, and as far as I know Denver is not near either coast.  Defining a community as an art town however, makes me wonder,  does no one in that town own art?  Are pictures not allowed to be hung?  Are all paints confiscated at the border?
@ 2010 P Scarborough "Holding September", 12x9" Oil on canvas
This painting has nothing to do with this article, except that I just painted it yesterday and wanted to share it with you.

When I heard "X is not an art town" used again recently, rather than let it roll off into the pile of whines that seem to develop around certain artists, I asked the question,"What, exactly, does that mean?" 

It meant that nobody, not one person in City X, purchased artwork from the artist, thereby revealing themselves to be ignorant philistines.

Rather than an entire community falling under suspicion of an artistic vacuum, could there be something else going on? Is there some other reason, besides something in the water, that would lead an entire community to keep their cash in their wallets?

Could it have something to do, dear artist, with you?

Could it be that your prices are high, your work poorly done, your attitude unpleasant?  Does your sales pitch sound like something from a late-night TV commercial? Do you even have a sales pitch? 
Do you make it easy to purchase your work, or do you accept only cash in well-ironed 100-dollar bills?
If your work is displayed in a gallery, do you change it out often, or does the gallery staff have to dust off cobwebs?

Now that I've nailed you down, let me help you out a bit. 

Okay, so you aren't exactly burning up the cash registers.  First bit of advice: don't blame your customers.


@2010 P Scarborough Mill Road 14x10 pastel
Likewise with this one.

Second bit of advice: find out why you're not selling.  Ask your gallery owner, or a trusted friend for a meeting.  In her excellent book, "I'd Rather Be In The Studio", Alyson Stanfield calls it the "Conversations Exercise". It's a way of finding out what others think of your subject matter, framing, statement, etc.  Be prepared to hear an honest appraisal, or there's no reason to bother. Remember, you're doing this to learn.
Speaking of Stanfield's "IRBITS", get  yourself educated.  Read a book or two, and a few blogs as well.  There are several excellent marketing and creativity blogs written for folks just like you.  Find out what else is going on in the art world, who's doing it and how.

It might help if you saw yourself as an educator, rather than a salesman.  I'm not saying treat your customers like they're stoopid, but gosh, maybe they've never seen artwork like yours. It could be they've never considered purchasing original art before, and don't know why they should when Walmart's got such purty things for cheaper.  Let them educate you, too. A ceramicist I know keeps tabs on each art fair she attends.  City A loves plates, City B is into mugs.  She packs accordingly.

The most important advice I can share with you is this:  Treat people as if you want them as friends, not just customers.  You may not sell them any art, but you'll leave as pals, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Matched My Sofa

Dear Readers,

Yes, I did.  On purpose.  I created art just to match my sofa.

Mind you, I've spent the better part of 40 years trying not to do just that.

Like many of you, I was raised with the idea that "Good Art Does Not Have To Match Your Sofa", an admonition espoused by all of my art professors, and the majority of my fellow artists along the way.  It was made even more weighty because the phrase was usually said with a nose tilted slightly upward, so as to make the speaker appear taller and therefore more intelligent.  An eye roll topped off the ensemble.

For years I've looked for an art piece that I could live with that also looked comfortable above my couch.  It's a darn big wall and, frustratingly, nothing seemed to work for very long - mostly because the admonition to avoid "matching" echoed in my head.  To hang anything that carried the same muted tones of ochre, rose, green and blue woven into the fabric of my furniture seemed to be worthy of 40 lashes with a Thomas Kinkaid paintbrush.

Well, to heck with that.  I gotta live with my couch, my wall, and myself. 

I made a play date with my paints. I shrugged off my "serious artist" attitude and spent several hours creating a piece just for me, my wall and my sofa. 

Three hours, 8 canvases, 6 colors of cheap acrylic paint and a really good time later and I've got a pretty fantastic spread of canvas on my wall.  It's a mix and match set.  When I get tired of the current arrangement, I'll simply shuffle them like a fat deck of cards and re-hang in a new way.  Ooh, I can hardly wait.

© 2010 P Scarborough Meditation in 8 Squares 24x54"oil on canvas

My personal favorite-

© 2010 P Scarborough Meditation 5 12x12"oil on canvas

Or, no, maybe this one-

© 2010 P Scarborough Meditation 7 12x12"oil on canvas

Er mmmmmmnno, this one...

© 2010 P Scarborough Meditation 8 12x12"oil on canvas

I matched my sofa and I'm pretty darned happy with it.
Learn to live with it.  I will.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Smaller and Smaller

Greetings Dear Reader-
I've shared with you in the past about my ever more narrow challenges dedicated to learning about what makes up the landscape around me here in south central Nebraska.  I've gone from painting whatever I decide is valuable, such as our fabulous skies, wide open horizons, undulating hills covered with crops, etc. to small, overlooked corners of overgrown city lots.
Eighteen months ago my Canadian friend Mavis Penney and I embarked on a 100-day project painting only what we could see from a highway.  Quite honestly the first weeks of that project didn't change the way I looked at the world much, because highways criss-cross my part of the word at fairly frequent intervals. 
The limitations of that project soon opened my eyes, though and I found amazing, delightful things to paint that stretched my aesthetic and my talents.  That project opened another challenge for me to paint only what I found in a single square mile.  Suddenly I was finding excitement and interest in spaces I'd overlooked before.
And this summer I've narrowed my focus even more by limiting myself to a 2-block area for plein air painting.  Removing choices from the wide range of available options has proven to be a gold mine for learning about myself and what makes up the world around me.
Mavis has gone one step further with her painting challenge.  In order to regenerate her interest in watercolors and to focus her prodigious talents in the act of painting itself, she has taken on her own backyard.  Repeatedly.  Her work is exciting, loose, fresh.  It'll be very interesting to see how she grows, and her work along with her.
Skip on over and take a look.  You'll be imressed, and even inspired to take a closer look at your own backyard. 
And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Way I See It

Greetings Dear Friends-

Last week I shared that I was reading "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger. Published in 1972, it is described on the back cover as being "one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language".

I'll admit right off the bat that I've had to read the first chapter three times. It'll take probably another three before my brain can wrap itself completely around what Berger is saying. It's fascinating stuff actually, but not if you're looking for easy answers.  I mentioned that I read the first chapter three times, didn't I?

My thoughts on the first chapter... you are welcome to agree, disagree, or shake your head in wonder...

The first sentence in this book is: "Seeing comes before words.  The child looks and recognizes before it can speak."  As children what we know of the world comes through our vision, literally. Children accept the world as they see it.  The sky is a blue umbrella.  When Mom goes around the corner into the next room she  no longer exists. (This is why playing peek-a-boo with a child is a universal exercise.) Seeing is pure acceptance of what is before us. The only context at this point is the shared experience of seeing others and their reactions to what we see.
Actually, I love this concept. As a painter, I paint what I see, or perhaps what I interpret I see. It is a simple, honest way of painting, I believe.

  @2010 P Scarborough Daisies in a Blue Jar  7x5 Oil

With the development of language we begin to have subtleties and nuance that weren't there before.  I share my history, you share yours, we blend them and create new meaning, far beyond what was observed by either of us. (There are stars beyond the ozone layer...Mom will be right back...the earth is round)
What this has to do with looking at, or appreciating art, is that the viewer brings - or doesn't bring - their history (of feelings, words, experiences) into the act of seeing the artwork, thereby giving it perhaps new meaning.

Would you feel differently about this little painting if it was titled "Memorial Day"?

The Art Critic/Historian adds mounds of additional rhetoric to the act of seeing, which has the potential to change how the art is "appreciated". We've all read paragraphs explaining the deeper meaning of a paint splotch as explained by an artist with a master's degree.

Now re-title this painting "Jilted Prom Queen".

There is the additional complication of where physically the image is experienced.  Originally scribbled on a table napkin meant to record a fleeting thought, is it now seen behind bullet-proof glass in a museum? Surely that changes what we think of a piece of artwork. (Gosh, it must be good, it's behind bullet-proof glass!)
Finally, Berger introduces the idea of authority into the act of viewing art.  Who decides what the art means?  Who decides where it will be seen? (In a museum, on a t-shirt?) Who decides its value?

Headline reads:  Unsigned Painting Found in Jackson Pollock's Attic!

Unknown Pollock? Worth Millions!!

My niece MHC summed it up neatly when she said: Berger is ... "challenging the dominant point of view, as in, make sure you're not viewing this nude or cornfield, or nude in cornfield, through the eyes of a rich old white guy".

Dang, I wish I'da thought of that.

And that's just chapter one. Reading Berger's book has made me more ... aware of what I'm seeing.  More thoughtful about what I'm seeing.

How do you look at art?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Report Due

@2010 P Scarborough  Tree Line 6x6 oil

It's the end of a long, lovely week.  Rather than blather on about nothing in particular, I'll

@2010 Private Property Cottonwood  7x5 oil

leave you with a few images from the last painting sessions.

@2010 P Scarborough At Dusk 6x6 oil

Tonight I'm starting a book by John Berger titled "Ways of Seeing". Quite frankly, I'm a bit nervous about it.  Writing about art is difficult, and reading about art is maybe even harder.  Surely by next Sunday evening I'll have something to share that I've learned.  In fact, grab yourself a copy and we'll discuss it.
Until then dear friends...