Sunday, December 21, 2014

Your Holiday Guide

If the amount of dire warnings and special offers from my inbox is any indication, the Great Day of Gift Giving is nearly upon us.

Some of you are behind the eight ball. You’ve postponed your shopping safari for the creative individual in your life and now little sweat beads are beginning to form on your upper lip when you realize you have no idea what to do.

Take a deep breath, I’m here to help.

The following is my handy dandy idea gift list for those of you who have loved ones who construct, discover and imagine.

Sadly for you, Handsome Husband is already taken. He’s one of a kind, sorry ‘bout that.

Otherwise, consider offering -

A quiet space to work. It doesn’t have to have 12 foot ceilings or north windows - although that would be really awesome. A space all ones own, even if it's just a comfy chair, is important.

Time; time to ponder, time to wonder, time to put down in whatever medium they choose the results of that wondering and pondering. Time to grow.

A self-cleaning work space. (Oooh, I wanna get me one a those. Maybe next year.)

Acceptance. Of them, of their field, of their output. 

An ear. No, not like Van Gogh. I was thinking more in terms of listening. We creative types need to vent, mostly in a way that lets the fears and frustrations and delights and victories and annoyances out. Notice I didn’t add ‘advice’ to that. Ears open, mouth shut.

Toss in a few open-ended questions. Something like; how do you feel about that? Tell me about…, or how does that..?.

Exhibits. Go! Spend time looking with your sweetie. Use a few of those open ended-questions to find out what they find interesting. 

Pick one, two, or all of the above. Wrap them in ribbons and a hug. You'r welcome.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Nebraska Project

If you've never been to Nebraska, you really need to see this.

If you live in Nebraska, you really need to see this.  
©Patricia Scarborough Loup River oil

Seriously, it is good enough to snag the attention of the Washington Post Photo Editor Nicole Crowder.

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting photographer Bill Frakes and his partner in Straw Hat Visuals, Laura Heald. They were traveling headlong through the state, creating and collecting images and conversations of what the uninformed call ‘fly-over country’.

©Patricia Scarborough Turkey Creek pastel
The result of their travels is The Nebraska Project, a collection of exquisite photographs and videos showcasing the people, rolling hills and endless skies of this place.

They see the Nebraska I see. They see the shadows, the rhythms, and textures, and I am reminded again of how lucky I am to live here.  They also see the people of this state for who we are; deeply thoughtful, hilarious, well-read, quirky, and really, really interesting. Pretty darned good looking too. Actually, we're alot like people everywhere.

As serendipity would have it, they ended up at my house one very foggy morning in the middle of their trip. I wrote about it toward the end of October.  You can see the final result in the segment titled Makers.

©Patricia Scarborough  Morning Song  oil
So go see what Bill and Laura saw. Listen in on the stories and lives of those of us who live in the center of the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Gee, I’m kind of impressed with myself.

©2014 Patricia Scarborough   First Hard Freeze 9x12 oil  

It’s been 6 ½ years since I started this blog. Six years and six months, over 300 posts.  Several hair styles, dozens of tubes of pigment, a handful of brushes and at least a million words, some of which even made it to the final posting.

As memory serves, the origins of my writing were begun as a response to an Alyson Stanfield coaching directive: An artist must have a blog. And so I did. How’s that for an inspired beginning?

This weekend a lovely afternoon was spent sifting through the thoughts and fears I’ve shared during my foray into this artist’s life. My ramblings and your kind responses were like leafing through my high school annual. Oh, the way we were!

I find I’m a fair writer, and a middling thinker; not so smart that you can’t follow along, not insipid as to cause you to look away and never come back. You’re reading this after all, aren’t you?

But has it helped me in my studio? After all, that was the point of my leaving the comfort of a steady paycheck. How does sifting ideas from piles of disengaged thoughts make it easier to use paint? What do words collected in cob-webby spaces have to do with images squeezed from paint tubes? Has writing to you made it easier to be me?

Y’know, I think it has.
©2014 Patricia Scarborough  Breaking Skies  30x30 oil
This practice has allowed me to take all of the study, the painting, the exhibiting, reading, practicing, success, failure, triumph and dismal disappointment, one week at a time. It’s been easier – not easy, but easier – to identify the frustrations and ironies and hilarities and loneliness and grand celebrations of a creative life by separating myself from them with a certain detached observation for the benefit of the blog. Reading through them now allows an older, more certain me to reconnect more sweetly with those realities.

Who’d a thunk? I’m not writing for you, I’m writing for me.

To prove I can. To show I don’t have to. For the challenge. For the pleasure. For clarity. To reveal – or to veil - a truth.

To accept that I'm impressed with myself, ever so politely. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014


There are days I just never know who will show up on my doorstep.

Bill, one time quarterback for OutWest High School, and Pulitzer prize winning photographer.

This past week I had the great pleasure of sharing a 2 hour conversation with Laura Heald and Bill Frakes of Straw Hat Visuals - a Southern Media Company. (Take a moment to look at their site. It's awesome.)

Laura, rising star in multi media productions.  (PS, Laura, my husband said after seeing you in this photo he'd have made an effort to stop by to say hellow.)

I met them through Amy Sandeen, Executive Director of Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning in Hastings, Ne., herself an expert photographer and all around delightful human being.

Amy, in an executive pose.

 Bill and Laura are in Nebraska working on, among several things, a piece called “Makers”, a film which will focus on creative types who do their work outside the framework of The Big City.

What an honor to be thought of in this context. They brought in lights and cameras - action!

Dozens of hours and  thousands of precious brain cells have been worn out honing my artist’s statements over the years. Mountain ranges could be made out of the piles of paper I have used up in the quest for just the right words.  It's my job to explain what, why and how I paint. 
©2014 Patricia Scarborough  Blue River Reclamation  22x28 oil

So wouldn't you have thought that when Bill said in a very sweet, soft voice, “talk about why you paint Nebraska landscapes”, I would have been ready? Wasn't this the moment I'd been waiting for? 

Maybe I was distracted by the fact that he asked me to sit in a chair with wheels - and not wiggle. Or tilt my face so my glasses would not catch the light. Or that I really wanted to impress Amy so she would be glad she chose me for this opportunity, or that Laura was holding something called a Dead Cat just out of sight of the camera. Or that the camera itself was staring back at me, waiting…
©2014 Patricia Scarborough as yet untitled 6x6-inch oil  
Why do I paint Nebraska landscapes? Because I can't see Kansas from here?  I desperately searched the empty spaces of my skull for the well thought out, intelligent discourse I knew was hiding in there, just behind … around the corner … somewhere. Dang.

I should have asked them to go for a walk with me. I have brilliant ideas when I’m walking alone with no one to distract me. In fact just this morning I thought up some pretty amazing things. Some day I'm going to bring a recorder to prove it.

Honestly, I have no idea what eventually came out my mouth. Amy very sweetly said they had gotten a few good sound bites.  A sound bite. Not a meaty mouthful, just a bite; a little bitty nugget that’s easy to swallow before you even know it’s been chewed; a teeny tiny glued together run of words strung like  fake pearls, slightly mismatched - but if you keep the lights down low nobody will notice.
©2014 Patricia Scarborough Meditation 6x6-inch oil
What I would have said if my brain were engaged is, "Well, Bill,  I respond to shapes, intervals and light as they describe the forms in the landscape . I love watching the way the land drifts away to the horizon. To lay globs of paint on a canvas in a way that imitates all that, and tricks the eye into believing that a flat surface carries miles and miles of land and sky is a privilege and a delight. That the communication that happens between my art and the viewer, the  ideas and shared experiences that transcend words is an almost holy event."

So, Bill and Laura, if you’re reading this, give me a call. I would be happy to read this for you over the phone. Maybe you could dub it in. Or come back and we'll go for a walk. 'Cause I'm pretty smart when I'm by myself.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Small and Mighty

Tis the season...

and since everything I have written today sounds like bad copy for a strip mall luring frazzled customers into their holiday sales events, let me just say that I'll be participating in two seasonal exhibits again this year.

The Lux Center for the Arts Wrappable event will open their holiday extravaganza on November 1st with dozens of wonderful artists who have created some very cool work at a variety of price ranges.

The Museum of Nebraska Art will open their 25th year of A Kaleidoscope of Art on November 1st & 2nd.

I'll be offering small, very lovely paintings at each venue so that you can prove to your special someones that you are indeed a very classy person.

A sampling to wet your whistle -

©2014 Patricia Scarborough First Star 6x8" oil

©2014 Patricia Scarborough Great Plains 6x8" oil

©2014 Patricia Scarborough Homestead  6x8" oil

©2014 Patricia Scarborough Loup River Valley 6x8" oil

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Your Path to Success

We’ve all seen these television and movie scenes: someone is running for their lives, usually through uncertain terrain filled with humps and dips, trees, and vines that grasp and trap the victim.  Each and every time, the poor person running running running looks back every 10 or fifteen steps to see if the villain is gaining on them. 

2014 Patricia Scarborough 6x8 oil  Success? Yes! A substantial amount was raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation when this little jewel was auctioned off.

Man, if someone were chasing me, my face would be pointing toward the distant horizon, followed by my pumping fists and pounding feet. No way would I risk bouncing off a tree because I was looking around for someone else while charging forward at 35 mph. (Okay, maybe 10 – no, 5 mph. I’m out of shape.)

Lately I have been part of a running discussion about the idea of success. (Hang with me, this will all come together in a minute.) I call it a discussion, although at times it sounds like something else; carping, grousing, questioning our choices, wondering when success will land upon us like fairy dust or white bits in a snow globe.

It’s an issue with artists because success is a very nebulous goal.  What are we talking about here? Is success defined as popularity? Sales? Juried Exhibitions? Accolades? We want it, but how do we know when we’ve got it? And how to keep it once we think we've got it?

Handsome Husband offered a song he’d heard recently as I bounced success ideas off him. “The Climb”, written by Jessi Alexander, is a 2009 sung by Miley Cyrus, back in the day when she wore clothes. Poke this link to read the lyrics .

2014 Patricia Scarborough 6x8 oil  Sand Hills Hike

According to the song, success is about the effort, desire, keeping at whatever it is you’re doing regardless of what others think. Success is doing what your heart needs you to do. It is not running pell-mell in any direction while looking backwards to see if anyone is paying attention.

More definitions from fully clothed grownups: Winston Churchill, a grown up if there ever was one: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

Stephen Covey: "If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, "you will find your definition of success."  

So what, dear ones, have we accomplished here?  HH just this very moment said, “I look back at what I was doing a year ago, and often I wonder what the heck I was doing.  And that’s a good thing. I can see how much I’ve grown and learned.” He deserves his own Wikipedia page.

Friends, in this humble artist’s opinion, success is not about achieving a sale, a deal, gallery representation or award. It’s about negotiating the path set before us. Walking, running, hopping or skipping that path without worrying about who is behind us, beside us or ahead of us. Which means there is no "getting", since being on a path implies movement, a journey or an evolution. 

2014 Patricia Scarborough  Success? Not quite yet, but I'm close.
There is no arrival. Success is keeping our faces forward to see where we’re headed, and then moving in that direction.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Not Just Yet

I'm just a little late posting today because I was doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing - which is working in my studio.

I've often wondered how that little nugget gets put at the bottom of the list when life coaches and business coaches and art coaches give out their recipe for success. Get a website, get a blog, get a FaceBook profile, get a gallery, get a resume, get a residency ... oh, yeah, sure, don't forget to do the creative work.

I've been standing that template on its head lately, spending lots of time learning how to paint, and far less time telling you about it. It seems sensible that a really good painting will far outlast a marketing plan for a really good painting.

What's exciting - at least to me - is that I've some mistakes lately, which have actually turned out to be pretty interesting experiments in paint application. I'm looking forward to more mistakes in the future.

I'm not ready to share with you just yet the fruits of my labor. Despite the hue and cry to share share share, I'm just not gonna do it.  All in good time dear friends, all in good time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hearts to Valentine

Last weekend I enjoyed teaching a wonderful group of students at a workshop in Valentine Nebraska.

I use the word “student” loosely, some of them have ribbons from national awards hanging on their studio walls. More accurately, perhaps, I stood in front of them and demonstrated my painting style and talked through my color choices and methods, while they sat patiently, watched, and asked probing and intelligent questions before going to work at their easels. I was more guide/entertainer/host than teacher.

Workshops are tough. There are visitors to be dealt with and table-mates to befriend. We’re out of the comfort zone of our personal work space and don’t have the usual access to the coffee pot, the fridge, or the proper radio station.  Lunch comes unexpectedly. The day wraps up too quickly – or not soon enough.

My first demo, based on Labor and Plenty, a painting in which I'd already figured out some of the problems I wanted to address.
Each of us has a problem we want addressed, or a question answered, a method explained - or simply left alone to work out problems on our own while keeping half an ear on the conversations around us. 

Often the problems and questions we set forth as students are not answerable to our satisfaction. How-to’s are very personal to each artist. Simply receiving information does not qualify as experience, and it is the experience that gives us the answers we seek. I believe strongly that the teacher can only point the direction, then step out of the way.

And, to be quite honest, we want to have some fun. Not necessarily belly-laughing fun, but a warm camaraderie we’re-in-this-together kind of fun.  Painting in private space is one thing, no one else watches while you wipe off your painting for the 3rd time. The potential of being observed while making mistakes is not for the faint-hearted. It was natural for the group to enjoy watching me stumble around while I attempted a demo using a long forgotten photo of a wooded shoreline with long reflections in still water while they relaxed awhile. Yike.

Second sweat, I'll paint it into submission one of these days.
I’ll show them. I’ll give that demo some concerted effort in the privacy of my studio and show them what several layers of paint and hours of work can do to rein in a wayward painting. Wink wink.

Thank you Valentine area Sand Painters for a really great experience. It was an honor to share work space with you. Huge thanks to my personal host Debby, who treated me like a dear friend - which we now are. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hold the Worms

Often times – too often perhaps – I paint by the seat of my pants. I’ve got the idea in my head and trust enough that my mental image and experience will be enough to carry me through. This habit of working comes from years of standing at my easel focused on the task at hand. I rarely invite others to watch me work, therefore I rarely worry about my step-by-step procedure.

Me, evidently trying to get the words out...
One of the challenges of teaching a workshop is taking all the muscle memory, the habits and the gut feelings and putting them into a coherent format that another person can access. Workshop participants are usually not satisfied with grunts and long pauses.

Composition, color, value, rhythm, spacing…they’re all vital parts of a complicated whole, and challenging – at least for me – to put into paragraphs. In the college years these concepts would each be given weeks or semesters of time. Most workshops cover a weekend at best.

There’s also the issue of the students’ previous experience. In a class of, say, 20 students, there could be photo-realists, impressionists, weekend painters and dedicated lifers. How to leave room for their personal quirks and style, yet also balance that with information I can provide so they can further develop those quirks and deepen that personal style. My job, I believe, is to help them become better at what they do, not become better at what I do.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much and what to cram in to these two days of workshop I’ll be leading soon with a terrific bunch of artists in Valentine Ne. I’m doing somersaults to make sure I’ve got it right, or at least close. Color? Value? Composition? Good golly, lifetimes are given to understanding this stuff. Am I giving enough?

Yet it occurs to me that I’m not the only one who needs to prepare for class. While it is a fair question to ask, "What is the teacher going to teach?", there is another question that deserves to be asked, and that is, “What do you plan to learn?” 

Taking a workshop is not all about sitting in a safe nest, mouth wide open like a baby bird waiting to receive nourishment. Little bird, it’s your job to watch how others fly, and to flap your wings as hard as you can to leave your comfort zone and take off on your own. You get to exercise those muscles, take off with your new found knowledge and be willing to bounce off a few branches and land hard on the ground a few times before figuring out how to do it your way.  Mama bird gets to encourage, offer some helpful advice, and eat worms while baby bird works their tail feathers off.

So that's my lesson plan. Present, nudge, and push a little. Watch you fly to new heights. Hold the worms.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Goodbye Graham

When it comes to doing things the proper way, sometimes doing things the wrong way is the way to make things happen.
Yours truly at the Graham Gallery door in Hastings, Ne.
Most, if not all, of the art gurus will tell you that the proper way to approach a gallery for representation is to do some homework on the gallery, create a classy portfolio of the work which would represent you well, and make an appointment for an interview.

Of course, that’s not the way I did it, and from that began a lovely relationship with Angela Graham and Graham Gallery in Hastings Nebraska.
C2007 Cathedral Road, one of my early sales at Graham Gallery
My intention was to drop by quickly, introduce myself, and if I didn’t keel over from pure terror, suggest that my work was available for her gallery walls if she had just a little space to spare. 

Angela asked if I had anything with me she could look at. Since I was on my way home from taking down an exhibit in a nearby town, I had a trunk full of art. Feeling like the Fuller Brush Man, I unloaded nearly all of it into her showroom. A few moments later she agreed to take six or seven pieces and that was that. I recently found a contract she’d given me, neither of us had bothered to sign it.  I’m sure I giggled all the way home.

Much has changed since I stood on shaky legs, fingers crossed behind my back pretending to know what I was doing and hoping Angela would not see the truth. My resume now includes many solo and small group exhibits, commissions and addition to some fine collections, a few awards and a couple of recent profiles in Nebraska Life as well as L-Magazine.

c2014 Blue River Reclamation, a recent oil

This weekend Graham Gallery closed its doors and turned off the lights for the last time. Looking back I am immensely grateful for a kind and gentle introduction to the world of gallery sales.  As I continue to develop my skills and deepen my commitment to my practice I will hold the people and memories of that place in a special spot in my heart.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Burkholder Project July Exhibit

Taking my laptop to the computer spa the day of a big art exhibit opening reception was not well thought out.

My plan was faulty from the beginning. Coming from a small town, it isn't unusual to combine purposes; drive into The Big City and squeeze everything you can out of the day; pick up some groceries, shop for curtains, try on shoes, stop at the lumber yard, get a hair cut, drop off the computer for a quick check and head for your very own opening reception at the art gallery.  It was the quick computer check part that got me. Turns out there's no such thing.

Another glitch in my plan arose at the public library. Turns out I can look at porn right next to the 2nd grader who is playing a shoot'em-up computer game, and I can download just about anything a human being can think up, but I, upstanding citizen and all around delightful person, cannot upload images to my public blog. Harumpf.

So here I am, a little late but still determined to share a really lovely evening at The Burkholder Project

Without further ado, images from the evening -

 Ceramic artist Sharon Ohmberger and I shared exhibit space in the main hall. Despite our different ways of looking at the world, our artwork combined to make a very beautiful display.

A quiet moment before the doors opened for the evening, and then...

The halls of The Burkholder Project filled with friends, family and art lovers.

It was a wonderful evening. I'm honored to share exhibit space with Sharon. She's a pro. 

You've got just 10 more days to enjoy our exhibit, as well as the collections of  Karen Krull Robart in the Skylight Gallery, Tom Quest and Susan Hart in the Outback Gallery, and dozens of wonderfully talented artists in studios throughout the building.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

During a recent conversation I was asked a question that I wasn't quite sure how to answer.  "Are you still having fun", she asked, "or has your art become just a job now?"

c2014 Patricia Scarborough  Labor and Plenty  22x28 oil

Does anyone ever ask their grocer, dentist or plumber if they are having fun at work?  
"How’s the accounting business? Still fun? Or has it become just another column of numbers?"

For some reason it seems that the result of all creative activity is supposed to be “fun!” As in, the final product should bring delight and happiness and enhance the furniture. Or sit on a shelf and attract attention. Or be cute and induce smiles and satisfaction, like a home-made rocking horse or patio planter.

If it doesn’t engender a smile; if the final product is thoughtful, or a challenge, or discordant somehow, or maybe there’s a little whining that goes along with it, a problem has arisen, now…well, now it’s just a job.

(As if having a job creating things is unfortunate.)

Here’s what I wish I had said:

“Fun is what I have when I’m hanging out with friends and family. As far as my studio work, I am challenged and frustrated and delighted and I can hardly wait to get to work every morning. I am successful just often enough to think I can work out to a satisfying conclusion the problems I’ve set for myself. I am frustrated with my inadequacies and stunned at my (occasional) brilliance. There are elements of my day that I find less than thrilling, like picking titles and prices and keeping records. I'm sure all jobs have that same problem. Yet when I squeeze tubes of paint into piles on my palette, or set out my pastel boxes, my heart quickens and I feel a satisfaction deep in my bones that tells me I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
So, yeah, I'm having fun and I've got a job. And I'm having fun at my job. Thanks for asking.
See the results of my efforts, and the efforts of fellow artists Sharon Ohmberger, Karen Krull Robart, Tom Quest, Susan Hart and many others at The Burkholder Project in Lincoln, Ne. beginning July 2nd through July 31st.  Come say hellow at our opening reception, Friday July 11 from 7 - 9 pm.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dear Emily, And the Answer Is -

Dear Emily, your comment on my last post got me to thinking about how to answer to your question.

What have I learned? How do I work smarter? And how to translate that into something for you?

©2014 Patricia Scarborough 18x24 Oil 
Still talking my way through it...
My thoughts go back to a conversation I had with an Experienced Artist. I held up my end of the conversation by complaining about a painting; I lost the center of interest, the color is too intense, I don’t know what to do, ad nauseum. My goal, if I must be honest, was to pry some of his experience from him, and for his end of the conversation to contain magic formulas to fix my painting’s woes.

That’s the way it works, right? The student sits passively by while the instructor, well, instructs. Or rather, makes the decisions, does the thinking, shares the recipe for success. I hoped for - expected - an easy 3-step program; do this, this and this and presto! Your painting is lovely! Congratulations, and here is your purple ribbon!

My Experienced Artist friend didn’t do that. After I listed all my woes - quite clearly I might add, so he’d know exactly how to fix them - his response was this: “Okay, well, now you know how to fix it”.

Or, as David Bayles and Ted Orland wrote in "Art and Fear":
“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece.”

In other words, everything you need to know is right there before you. 

This problem is yours to wrestle with. 

So, my sweet Emily, I can’t give you the magic recipe that will lead to purple ribbons and adoration of the masses. I can tell you that it’s up to you to gauge your satisfaction with a project; to think, really think, about that last thing you did. That’s where the answers lie…lay…are.

If it helps, I’ll admit that I talked out loud. I stood before a painting that had lost its way (okay, okay, I lost my way) and listed out loud the points of frustration - not to berate myself, but to validate the fact that I could identify what was wrong – and could then identify how to fix it. I’m pretty smart once I put my mind to it.

I lost the center of interest.  Find it again. Reestablish the focal point. Pick the spot.

The color is too intense.  Grab a color wheel. Learn how to mix more subtle colors. Think more carefully about where to put them.

I don’t know what to do! Yes you do. Yes   you   do. What excited you at first? Do that.

You know in your heart what to do Emily. Do that.
(Smooches back atcha babe.)