Sunday, July 17, 2016


From here on out my blogs will be posted to a page on my website.

I'll keep this blog open for a good long while, there's some good stuff written here and I'd hate to lose it. Peruse the past, or hop on over and keep track of me at

On Becoming an Artist

People in creative endeavors are often asked if they've always been artistic.

Years ago my 7th grade class was assigned the task of creating a painting, with the addition of a story or poem to round out the project. The details escape me; I was a determined out-the-window-starer and it was not unusual for me to miss the fine points.

Prang Oval 8’s appeared and I went to work. My only memory of the written half of the assignment was that the movement of pigment on paper inspired me to write something about “…watercolor skies…” I’m sure it was earnest and sappy. And then I promptly forgot about the whole thing, windows nearby grabbing my attention with interesting shapes and shadows.

Weeks later our teacher smiled and moved slowly to my desk, a packet in her hand. Not used to being singled out, my thoughts were something like “Why you lookin’ at me like that?” Excuses began to form quickly in the back of my panicked brain.

“Congratulations,” She said smoothly. “We’re proud of you!”

There in the packet was my painting, the poem, and a purple ribbon.  Seeing the painting now, I have the feeling the poem carried the day.

Watercolor Skies 11x14 watercolor

On that day I became an artist. Eleventy-hundred years later I’m still painting. I’m still staring out windows, too. My poetry has slipped by the wayside, having peaked in 7th grade. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Making Hay

The heat has abated – slightly. Humidity is high, rubbing the edges off the shapes and sounds that come with early morning.

2016 Patricia Scarborough  First Cut  6x9 pastel

The bales are fresh, maybe just a day or two old, still light on their feet and round, not yet weighed down with heat and their own tonnage.

The sun seems to be unwilling to make the effort to lift itself higher so the shadows have stayed long and cool.

This is the first cut. Another will be made in the fall. This field will give me sustenance for many paintings I think.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

It's Just the Idea

Like so very many things, I love the idea of activities more than the actual doing of them.  Plein air painting, for instance.

A year or so ago I took an outdoor painting class. We students anticipated receiving the holy grail of plein air painting; the magic that transforms simple rolling hills into slashes of paint strokes in brilliant hues balanced against the subtleties of color found only while standing in high grass early in the day. Our instructor made it all sound so worthy. So very artistic.

Getting comfy, in a nest of chiggers.
 We met early, 7 am, ready to paint. No sun came creeping over the horizon to light the hills and lift autumn shadows from their moorings. In place of the anticipated fiery ball of orange and pink, heavy grey clouds full of drizzle wrapped themselves around us. And then the wind picked up. And because we all paid for the privilege, and by golly we were plein air artists, we began painting.

On a high hill, the calm before the storm.
The game of “IF” began. If the sun were to break through, said our instructor, it would look like this. And if the sky were blue, it would be this color. And if there were cattle on yonder hill, they would stand like so.

And if there were a coffee pot nearby it would smell and taste like heaven. And if we'd had any sense we'd have retired indoors and painted from sketches or memory. As it is all I accomplished that morning was to lose 2 good brushes when I got tangled in wet grass on  my way to a higher, dryer spot.

And yet the allure of out door painting is strong. Just a few days ago I was so taken by the lovely colors and textures in my garden I gathered my gear and hauled it all into the yard. In the few moments it took me to set up the temperature had risen 15 degrees and a swarm of no-see-ums had claimed my space. Handsome Husband came home for lunch and wondered aloud about my sanity.

Ain’t it grand to paint outdoors? 

I’m not always very smart, but I’m also not stoopid.  If I am to stand on a hill under heavy skies in a stiff wind pretending the sky is blue, then I can certainly stand in my studio pretending the air from a fan is a breeze wafting over me. My spotlights are a fine replacement for the sun's warmth. The average temp in my studio is 75 degrees. I can see my garden from the window.

I like the idea of that.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Paint Like Superman

I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who paint sitting down.

I’ve tried it. Sore feet, knees and hips notwithstanding, sitting seems to restrain creativity. It’s hard to feel expansive sitting down. Unless you’ve had a rod inserted in your spine, it doesn’t take long to begin to slide and slump, getting lower and lower as the day goes on. It’s hard to paint grandeur with your chin on your knees.
Me, in full expansion mode.
During workshops, when a student comes to a point where they’re not comfortable with progress, we usually have a little talk. “Stand up straight”, I say. “Pull your shoulders back. You’re the boss, you own this. You own your ideas. They’re good. Take a deep breath and make it yours!” My cheerful exhortation echoes across the room.  Inevitably said student grins awkwardly, peeks over their shoulder to see who’s watching, and adopts a pose similar to the man in blue tights.

And weird as it may sound, things go better after that.

Now, after reading “Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self toyour Biggest Challenges”, by Amy Cuddy , I am gobsmacked. Amy Cuddy, TED Talk darling, Harvard Business School professor and now bestselling author, shares actual scientific studies that show that – drum roll -  I’m right. Mark your calendars please.

“Presence” is a book about how nonverbal behavior, the way we stand or sit, influences us and others. Cuddy’s studies show without a doubt that our bodies, the way we carry ourselves  literally, allows us to be the best version of ourselves.

A few quotes:
 “…holding an upright position rather than a slumped one can yield many benefits.”

“Expansive postures also reduce anxiety and help us deal with stress.”

“Expanding your body frees you to approach, act, and persist.”

In other words, stand up in your workspace. Pull your shoulders back. Lift that chin, put on your blue cape and paint like you know what you’re doing. Just like I said.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thank You Mr. Rand

For artists who use acrylic, w/c, oil, gouache, anything that squeezes from a tube; we owe a debt of gratitude to a fellow who has received far too little appreciation.

Few things have changed the way we artists work than a sweet little doohickey created by John Goffe Rand.

Without his clever invention we would not have had a little group called the Impressionists. Abstract art would have been a mere glimmer in Hilma Af Klint’s eye.
Kilma Af Klint 1907 The Ten Biggest No. 2, Tate Etc. Issue 27, Spring 2013, courtesy
Landscape painters would still be wistfully looking out windows. Yellowstone would still be waiting for Thomas Moran. 

Most recently, daily painters would find it impossible to make their quota.

Mr. Rand’s gift to artists and art lovers?

An apparatus for preserving paint. A collapsible paint tube.

My stash. Notice the lack of pig bladders.
For centuries artists would grind their own pigment, mixing it with oil to make just enough paint to get them through the day. More recently clever artists would use pig bladders, stuffing them full of pre-mixed pigment, and poking a pin through the skin when they needed paint. Working anywhere away from a studio was difficult and impractical. And pigs didn't like it much either.
A bladder used to carry paint
©Tate Photography, London, 2003 

And then…the tube. Claude Monet knew a good thing when he saw it and promptly hauled his easel, brushes and shiny new paint tubes out into the French country side. 

The artist herself enjoying painting outdoors.
No longer were painters restricted to interior images or creating landscapes from memory. Easels were set out right smack dab out in fields, gardens and beaches. Light itself was the subject.

©2016 Patricia Scarborough 12x16 The Last of the Hot Days

Mr. Rand, thank you. This deceptively simple gadget has allowed me access to a way of life that has been fulfilling, and I am deeply grateful.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Enjoy the Experience

I was all set to wow you with an intellectual discussion of some ideas that I've been turning around in my brain. Not to worry, I'll get to it...some day.

As a visual person, that is, an individual who gets, keeps and dispenses most experience and knowledge via images in my brain, the reaction I felt this morning upon wandering into our yard was one of utter, sheer delight.

And just so we're all in agreement that I'm an artist, and this is primarily and art blog, I'll use art-y terms to show you why:

Shapes in the petunias

Textures in the moonbeam coreopsis

Space in the cone flowers

Interest in the shadows in the huechera 

Movement in the lobelia

Complements in the Japanese maple against the bright sky

Intensities of the wave roses and their waxy dark leaves

Form in mondo grass and vinca

Lights and darks of a climbing rose against the blue spruce

Rich textures from aging tree carvings against the milkweed

If you'll excuse me from my intellectual pursuit, I'm going to sit on the patio with my Handsome Husband. It's a good day to turn off the theory and enjoy the here and now, and simply...enjoy.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Wildflower gardens are the best. That's the flat out truth.

A goal of mine for years has been to paint flowers, either in their natural setting or in jars, vases and whatever else I can find to put them in. (sorry Mrs. Gallant. "In which to put them".)

Who knew that these delicate lovelies would be such a challenge to harness in paint?

The textures, colors and tangles are harder for me to keep track of than the acres of blue sky and flat horizon that has been my stock in trade for the last many years.

The painting started out so beautifully. Peonies holding up pink heads full of promise, caressed by delicate catmint...oh!

Sadly my skills were not up to the task. Yet.  It'll come. 

That's my mantra. It'll come, be patient. It'll come. Be patient. It'llcome, bepatient. It''llcomebepatientit'llcomebepatient.........

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Vacation Destination

Handsome Husband and I have traveled a fair amount, visiting interesting and enlightening destinations.

We've seen the biggest ball of twine, and Monet's Agapanthus Tryptich at the Nelson Atkins Museum in KCMO. While we were there we happened upon James Naismith's hand written list of basketball rules and paused long enough to play a little badminton.

We've stared into the faces of Mt. Rushmore, dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean. While HH was otherwise occupied, I cruised a few graveyards in New Orleans and watched a fellow stand still for a good long time.

I just found my next destination.

For us art geeks, this is just the coolest thing ever:

I'll send you a postcard.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Good golly. I’m coming up on my 8th anniversary of writing this blog. Eight?? Can that be write, er, right? Correct?

Whaddya mean it's time for another post?

As I peruse the list of posts from so many months I come away with a feeling of self-contentment I didn’t expect. Some of my posts are pretty darned decent. 

This knowledge makes me a little sad that I’ve not written regularly the last 12 or so months.

 It’s not that there aren’t lots of things to write about. For instance:

There’s the time I dropped my exact-o knife off the table and into my calf, miraculously landing so as to merely separate the skin from the muscle underneath. (More blood was shed when the Dr pulled the wound apart to see what the heck I did.)

Or the day I crashed my pastels all over the floor in my studio. No, not this time, another time. (Yeah, there have been several crashes over the years. Some are more blog-worthy than others.)

Or the day a dear sweet gallery employee apologized for dropping a painting, and made up for it by Super-gluing the corners back together…almost square. Now that I think of it, there are several stories to be told of wayward gallery employees knocking my artwork off the walls. A little paranoia may be in order.

Or the day a gallerist I admire told me she hated the painting that was the centerpiece of an exhibit I was in the process of hanging in her shop. 

In fact, I’ve got a whole list of things to write about, having written a page or so of items for consideration…last February.

So what gives? 

Laundry needed doing; a window needed staring out of.  I fell off the wagon, lost my mojo, ran out of ink.

It appears the world did not slip off its axis, nor did the polar ice cap turn to mush on account of my absence. And neither will either of those things happen if I continue to write – maybe that’s why it was so easy to let another day…week…month slip by.

And yet…
like broccoli, writing regularly is good for me. Reading my posts is good for you. I’ll get back into a proper routine again and write more often.  Laundry can wait. I reserve the right to continue staring out the window.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spirit at the Museum

It's been an amazing busy weekend, and about all the energy I've got left is to poke the 'upload' button to share some photos with you.

Every couple of years the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney, Nebraska (where else?) hosts a very classy fundraising event.

Over 50 artists from Nebraska are invited to participate by making a few pieces of their artwork available through either a silent or public auction.  Two things make this event pretty great. The first is that at least half of the invited artists are women, thankyew very much, and the other is that the artist is offered a respectable percent of the final price.  This puts the Museum of Nebraska Art in the forefront of classy fundraising events.

A few highlights of the weekend:

The museum itself was decked out beautifully

A gourmet dinner was provided in the big tent outside.
Handsome Husband and I clean up pretty good in anticipation of the evening's event.

Cherry County pastel Sold!

Rumble, 30x30 oil Sold!
Proceeds will help continue the great work of this gem of the plains. Do I have to tell you how proud and delighted I am to be a part of such an event?

Huge thanks and appreciation to the entire staff of the museum. It must have taken many dozens of dedicated people to keep track of the millions of details required to keep the evening running smoothly. Every one of them was kind, patient and very helpful.

Here's to the next two years of magnificent exhibits and outreach from the Museum of Nebraska Art.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Change is a Monster

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” 

Image result for frankenstein
This quote came to mind recently. As you may know, I experienced a great and sudden change last week when my carefully laid-out trays of pastel sticks leapt off the table and scattered themselves across my studio floor.

Imagine confetti during a parade down 5th Avenue in New York City, only not nearly as much fun.

I’m usually fairly careful about the way my pastel trays are organized; like hues in one area, arranged lightest to darkest. That way I know that if I’m looking for a dark dull warm red, it’s going to be in one small area, maybe 20 square inches. If it’s not there, I don’t own it. No time is wasted pawing through blues or yellows; lights or brights, scouring acres of potential for just the right color.

Locating a particular stick of pigment became automatic, just the way I like it. No time for distraction, there’s a painting waiting for attention.

It has been proven that the brain loves patterns and habits. Over time certain movements are hard wired into the circuitry of our grey matter so that no time is lost thinking about, well, everything. This explains why Frankenstein’s monster walked so oddly. Where your brain and mine take over the complex task of placing one foot in front of the other, balancing and coordinating hundreds of muscles, the monster had to figure it out on the go, so to speak. If he’d had a chance to practice just a little longer before his official debut to the public, things might have turned out differently.

A hundred years or so later, Henry Ford, industrialist and car collector, said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Since Doctor Frankenstein made a monster and that didn’t go so well, I’ll listen to Ford and accept some change. My pastels are now, rather brazenly I think, arranged in a manner that has my brain saying, “huh?”

Look out Madame Frankenstein. There’s a new bride in town.

My brain’s circuits are humming with change. I reach for a habitual warm blue and find a brighter, greener color in its place. A tangy scarlet has replaced a more humble red - why not grab it and see what happens? What, am I going to create a monster?

2016 Patricia Scarborough    Promise   12x12 pastel
Well, sometimes yes, but more often than not, my brain is pleased with the new activity.

I'm not suggesting that you go all Doctor Frankenstein and start making great and sudden changes, but a little tweak to the usual can get you to new and interesting places.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Me and My Town

Channel 10/11 News stopped by a few weeks ago to hang out in Geneva and see what makes this community so special. I was privileged to spend a couple of hours with Lance Schwartz and yak a little about my life here as an artist.

Here you go!

2016 Patricia Scarborough  First Light  9x12 Pastel
This is the final painting, started while Lance was breathing over my shoulder. To see what else happens in the life of Geneva Nebraska, check out Our Town Geneva on 10/11 Now!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It's Just a Name

To this day I don’t know what happened. I zigged when I should have zagged, or the earth shifted to the left, or maybe my studio is haunted. At any rate, 2 entire trays of pastel sticks leapt off the table and crashed to the floor. That would be maybe 250 pieces of pigment ranging from palest to darkest in blues, greens and violets.

  Y’know those times when you are so stunned all you can do is gape like a fish?

As luck would have it, a friend had recently sold me the last of her high-quality stash of pastels, and I knew that someday, somehow they would be integrated into my already full trays. What better time than the moment I am ankle deep – literally – in sticks already strewn hither and yon?

Four days later…

I ask you: what color is “wode”? Where does “heliotrope” fit on the color wheel? Is “aerial yellow” yellow-er than “atmosphere”?  And what about “#106”? Is it warmer than, say, “B712”?

I'm an equal-opportunity pastel purchaser. Great American, Diane Townsend, Art Spectrum - if its the right color, I'll buy it.

Oil paints are mostly labeled according to a historical system using clarifying words like ultramarine blue. This is a warm blue, always a warmer than prussian blue, which is always a very cool blue. Always. Cadmium red is an established color that varies only slightly from brand to brand. It is red

Pastel sticks are numbered and named according to whomever owns the label. Is “dead head” warmer than “sinopia”?  P12 lighter than 782.10? Compare 106 to orange, please.

Would you buy a painting if you knew it were splattered with “dragon’s blood”?
Same color, different value. Or is it? 
Is it warmer than "purange"? For those of you who keep up with my meanderings, as it turns out, purange is most likely dead head. Or sinopia. Caput mortuum, maybe. One of those. 

At any rate, re-configuring several hundreds of sticks of color has opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities.  Two weeks ago my hand would have grabbed a color out of habit. Now I scan new hues, intensities and combinations, (regardless of their name). 

2016 Patricia Scarborough Coming and Going  9.5x9.5 pastel
What started out as disaster has actually given me a bump in a new direction, and I like it. 

Still, would Ray Charles's masterpiece sound the same if it were "Am I Wode?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hunting Purange

Stalking the elusive purange ...

In starting a painting recently, I heard myself say:

“I’m looking for…a particular color for this spot…a warm tone, but not too warm…maybe a cooler version of warm…looking for a purple, but not quite a purple…warmer than that…

Too orange for violet -
 ...I’m looking for a purple-y orange – or an orange-y purple.”

same stick of pastel, too violet for orange

I'm looking for  purange!

Those Francophiles among you might pronounce it puhr-ahnj. 

"Purange" is what I'm calling that mysterious stick of pastel I grabbed to indicate "road" in this piece. The name will have to do; over time the paper wrapping has fallen off - that would be the wrapping that indicates manufacturer, pigment and other helpful tidbits that are useful for identifying and reordering. 

Gee what a good idea to have all that information right at my fingertips! 
"First Light", the painting I created using purange, is nearly done. It may indeed be one of a kind, the identity of that pastel stick used to create that gorgeous orangey purple area toward the bottom of the road that I find so lovely is unkown. 

Unknown. Not violet, not orange. In the middle. Unknowable. Once that stick is's gone.