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.