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.