Sunday, July 31, 2011

Downhill Painting

Rather than smile shyly and scuff my shoes on the ground while you gush forth with compliments I’m just going to say it right up front:  This is a mighty fine painting.  I love it, in fact.   

I knew the minute I saw this grove of trees south of the Platte River by Kearney, Nebraska it would make a wonderful painting.  The dark silhouette of the trees, the stragglers – or leaders, depending upon your personality, intrigued me.  I could even feel my arm move to create the brushstrokes I would use.  

I don’t usually spend a lot of time in preliminary work.  Despite the best efforts by teachers along the way to convert me into doing things "The Right Way", I don’t do sketches before hand to test compositions and values and color schemes.  For me it’s a quick sketch on the canvas to note landmarks, a glance at a color wheel to focus my thoughts and then jump right in before my brain has time to get in the way.
©2011 Patricia Scarborough  18x24 oil
Working this way requires a delicate balance, kind of like riding a bike down a steep hill. Equilibrium between experience and improvisation will get you to the bottom with limbs intact - most of the time. Often enough to get me back up to the top of the hill to try it again, anyway.
That may be partly why I love this painting. It’s the sweet memory of the ride, dodging potholes and parked cars with confidence, finding myself  at the bottom of a steep hill with no real idea how I got there. 
It's probably not a smart way to work.  I crash as often as I succeed and have the scars to prove it.
When the ride is good though, oooh, baby, it is soooo good.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fresh Start

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how good it felt to clean out my studio after weeks of diligent painting and preparation for exhibits. Leftover piles from dozens of projects threatened to put me in contention for a television episode of "Hoarders".   As I cleaned up from weeks of creative focus, it felt good to release old clutter that acted like a snag,  clogging the flow of fresh ideas with piles of "almost, some day" projects.

This week, it was a lovely feeling standing before an empty canvas, fresh piles of paint lined up neatly on my bright and shiny palette. 

Diving in bravely to a 30 x 40 canvas, I'll to share with you the nearly-finished results of this effort.

Copyright 2011 the Artist, As Yet Untitled, oil on canvas

I can see a few small changes  I'll make this week, nothing major, but small tweaks that will bring the painting to completion.

It's a project that's been on my mind for quite awhile.  It took a good cleaning of my studio to open up those neural pathways that allowed the concept to form clearly in my mind. And when it did, my palette and taboret were organized and ready to go, offering exactly what I was looking for when I needed it.

How do you get unstuck?  Are there practices that you use to clear out the junk so that new art can be created?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sailing and Other Lessons

I DID IT!!  IdiditIdiditIdidit!!  I did it.  I DID it. 

After being ballast on various sail boats for the last several decades, I learned to sail solo yesterday.

A certain Fine Young Man spent a wonderful afternoon tutoring his mom in the fine points of sailing his gorgeous, banana-yellow Escape Rumba.   Turns out he’s an excellent teacher; patient, kind, and willing to turn the tiller over to a rookie without hesitation.  Maybe it was the confidence he had born of his own experience, plus the certainty of a small lake, gentle breeze and really good life jackets.
My first lesson: Go that way.

Fun is not the right word to describe the event.  Total focus, delight, deep satisfaction, - oh yeah it was fun.  Memories of sailing with my dad, the delight of hanging out with my son, hot sun, perfect wind, Handsome Husband watching from the shore enjoying a cigar, it was a complete blast.

Fine Young Man recognized early on that an important element of my lesson was to learn what to do when things go awry: getting dumped and righting the boat.  Once that was accomplished – both being way easier than I anticipated – the rest was just fun zigging and zagging across the lake like I knew what I was doing.  Handsome Husband could hear me laughing from the shore.

Sailing, like living well, seems to be about balance, both literally and figuratively.  Being too careful puts you in a position to wallow or flounder, meaning, quite simply, you don’t get anywhere.  Taking too many risks or not paying attention and you’re swamped before you know it.  Keeping yourself in the sweet spot takes experience and knowledge plus a willingness to experiment and except the consequences.  You can’t learn to sail by reading a book; you have to get wet.
Tim and I, soaked, sunburnt, and loving it.
There are lessons in all that for a studio practice as well, of course. 
Balance: risk, safety; pushing, pulling; standing boldly before the easel or checking email just one more time…

How is your balance?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ABC's of Cleaning

Cleaning out is actually a wonderful way to restore a creative spirit.  All those “almost” projects pile up and act like spider webs, catching unsuspecting, delicate ideas and wrapping them in dusty confinement.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know I’ve been busy.  LUX Center for the Arts hosted an exhibit for me in May & June for which I created a series of paintings titled Private Property.  Four days after taking that one down, I opened an exhibit at The Burkholder Project with an entirely different group of paintings called A Larger View.  The day after that opening reception I hosted my community’s Art on the Green, part of our Independence Day festivities. 
I’m not complaining, I’m just sayin…
All this creative hustle and bustle has created quite a pile-up in my studio.  In an effort to multi-task my multiple events, I managed to build multiple mountains of half-finished, almost-but-not-quite-done projects.  You may know the kind:  you start “A”, but you can’t get “A” done because “B” needs doing immediately, and then there’s  “C” which got started last week and is now in the way, so you scoot “C” over on top of “A”, and then your eye is caught by bright and shiny “D”, which looks like waaaay more fun than anything else you’ve started. Using this formula, I’ve run through the alphabet several times over, piling ever higher and wider. At one point I couldn’t tell where one project ended and another one started. My creative space was one long interrelated complicated … mess.

Mom was right, a place for everything and everything in its place

I can’t work in that kind of situation.  Tripping over piles of artistic detritus doesn’t inspire me to creative heights.  My studio is small enough without walls of rummage closing in on me.  I'm not saying I need spic'n'span surfaces and shelves of books alphabetized by author, but it would be nice to know under which pile my 4' x 8' work table could be found.
All surfaces accounted for
So, 4 days and 3 large garbage bags of pieces-parts later, I’m all tucked in and ready to go again. My second hand nearly new taboret is cleaned, painted and stuffed full of all the right stuff. I’ve got room to move, and better yet, room to think.  Those delicate webs of lovely ideas have been released and are dancing in my imagination, waiting patiently for me to respond. 
I can hardly wait.
Hot off my shiny clean easel  © Patricia Scarborough  12 x 16 pastel, as yet untitled

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekend Whirlwind

Last week I promised you a busy weekend of art activities, and I'm a woman of my word. 

My weekend in pictures:

That's me, posing for the obligatory Reception Photo at The Burkholder Project, with a surprise last second appearance by one Fine Young Man. (I mean that. How he managed to skid to a stop before bowling me over was impressive.) Friday night was the opening for my exhibit, A Larger View

This exhibit is comprised of paintings from south central Nebraska, a bit of a change from last month's exhibit at LUX Center for the Arts, which was made up of paintings created from one small private property. 

Creating two bodies of work in a short time is challenging and exciting, and opening receptions are a great opportunity to visit with folks about how that happens and what it takes.  The Burkholder Project always draws a terrific crowd of art loving people. 

Then it was dash home Friday night for a few hours of sleep before setting up Art on the Green, part of our community's Independence Day celebration. 

After a few rumbles of thunder during the night, the morning dawned cool and clear. Our weather was heaven for artists who plan on spending the day under their awnings sharing their talents with the public.

Of course I got great pix of Chris Haussler wowing the crowd with his lampwork beading, and neglected to take photos of my own booth. I was there, I promise.

I'm delighted and grateful to know artists like Jim & Janet Butler, Sally Jurgensmier, Jean Cook, Barb Dedrickson, Dianne Brei,Chris & Steph Haussler, Nancy Fairbanks, Helen Johnson and Suzann Johnson and Carrie Marx.  I'm especially grateful to Handsome Husband, who is always there for me and keeps me on track.

It's been a busy week. My goal today is to lift nothing heavier than a glass of lemonade.

Eddie, winner of the Happy Hounds Contest, and I wish you a safe, enjoyable Independence Day celebration.