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!