Move On

What we can’t live without is each other.

The best part of moving—a box fort.

Renovating and now moving has kept me away from writing and art for weeks. I’m getting cranky, so I must ask myself: Is there any creativity in moving? Probably not unless getting rid of 37 years of clutter frees my mind. I would say 14 since that’s how long we lived in our previous house, but until this move I think we had mostly gathered it all up and lugged it along behind us (We humans do love our possessions.).

This time we moved into a smaller space that we also renovated (Don’t try it unless you are under 40; you won’t like it.). We gave away or threw away at least a one-third of our “stuff” before we moved. Yet, here we are still going to Goodwill, Habitat, and the used book store (Will we just bring the books back? Even the same ones?).

In the studio, it meant dumping all the bits of paper and string, packing material, and rusted metal. After all, I will find these things easily as I need them. One container is all that I allowed myself. And not even the paintings were sacred unless I could paint over them. I donated a heavy matt cutter I haven’t used in years to a young art teacher. There isn’t even be room for all my tables, but we’re keeping those in the garage for family dinners.

On a recent visit with grandchildren my ex related a story about their backyard shed. The way he told the story it was full to the brim with “things.” Not very sturdy, a surprise, heavy snowstorm caused it to collapse. He and his wife finally decided not to even go through what was there but just to have it hauled away. He swears they never missed a thing.

If you are asking my advice, start early on keeping only what really matters. I know there’s the chance that you could wind up purchasing that same item two years from now, but it’s not likely and of course, it will be “different and improved.” Keep a few objects from childhood; keep a few precious items that belonged to your parents; and keep one or two objects from your children to pass to their children.

I found there is truly little that we can’t live without except each other.

Moving On

I found there is truly little that we can’t live without except each other.

The best part of moving—building a box fort.

Renovating and now moving has kept me away from writing and art for weeks. I’m getting cranky, so I must ask myself: Is there any creativity in moving? Probably not unless getting rid of 37 years of clutter frees my mind. I would say 14 since that’s how long we lived in our previous house, but until this move I think we had mostly gathered it all up and lugged it along behind us (We humans do love our possessions.).

This time we moved into a smaller space that we also renovated (Don’t try it unless you are under 40; you won’t like it.). We gave away or threw away at least a one-third of our “stuff” before we moved. Yet, here we are still going to Goodwill, Habitat, and the used book store (Will we just bring the books back? Even the same ones?).

In the studio, it meant dumping all the bits of paper and string, packing material, and rusted metal. After all, I will find these things easily as I need them. One container is all that I allowed myself. And not even the paintings were sacred unless I could paint over them. I donated a heavy matt cutter I haven’t used in years to a young art teacher. There isn’t even be room for all my tables, but we’re keeping those in the garage for family dinners.

On a recent visit with grandchildren my ex related a story about their backyard shed. The way he told the story it was full to the brim with “things.” Not very sturdy, a surprise, heavy snowstorm caused it to collapse. He and his wife finally decided not to even go through what was there but just to have it hauled away. He swears they never missed a thing.

If you are asking my advice, start early on keeping only what really matters. I know there’s the chance that you could wind up purchasing that same item two years from now, but it’s not likely and of course, it will be “different and improved.” Keep a few objects from childhood; keep a few precious items that belonged to your parents; and keep one or two objects from your children to pass to their children.

I found there is truly little that we can’t live without except each other.

The Warmup

“Pre-game Warmup”, © Patricia Steele Raible, Mixed Media on Board, 36″ x 12″

Baseball is still on the brain as well as the color purple. You see we are moving. What’s the connection you may wonder. Well, renovation, and buying and selling houses has gotten to be too much. So, of course, I turn to art to soothe my mind and purple because it’s a diversion. And baseball comes in because  I am warming up for the big game—the move—and I want to be sure I’m ready.

Are We Ever Ready

Warming up is very important to both baseball and moving because you use muscles and joints in forward-backward movements. You may be jumping, twisting, or making forward lateral movements (hopefully), and according to the experts, it is important that your body be prepared.

Experts also advise arriving early, familiarizing yourself with the field and the equipment. Then they suggest stretching since your muscles will really get a workout. A few sprints (can I skip this one) they say will increase blood flow in the muscles. Okay, okay I’ll do a few.

It’s Always the Hip Flexors

Then there are the knee lifts which loosen the legs and hip flexors for better motion and movement. Squats (please no) they tell us will loosen up your ham strings, quads, and glutes. They even want you to add a few arm crosses. Finally, they suggest playing catch and fielding. Now they say you are ready for the game. I’m ready for a nap.

Soon But Not Yet

Luckily the move is not yet, but they keep telling me it’s just a few weeks away. I’ve had to pack up the brushes and paint (a bummer.) I am telling myself that collage in my journal will be perfect—just what I need, planning time.

“Pre-Game Warmup” is the last one on the easel for now, a companion to “Home Run.” When I first stood back and looked at it hard, I couldn’t tell if the game had started. Perhaps the bases were all loaded, and we desperately needed a hit. Or, did we need the third out?

Oh, well. You decide. You’re playing too aren’t you?

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Home Run, 36″ x 12″ x 2.75″, Mixed media collage on deep wood panel

Having spent my recent Saturday night at a minor league baseball game, I have begun thinking that as an artist I am no different than one of those players dressed in a striped uniform. I too must warm up, size up the opposition, determine how to play the game, learn from and correct my mistakes, and still pull off a win before the 9th inning.

Play Ball

Last Saturday we got there a few minutes early and everyone seemed to be frantically throwing balls to each other. But I could tell something else was also happening. I knew that with every throw they were also checking out the opposing players as well. It’s what I do every morning in my studio. I look at what’s on the easel or table and hope I’ve left myself a note as to my thinking the day before. If not, I miss the ball and have to chase the grounder. Do I start by reviewing new art by artists I love? Do I write about the art I am working on? Do I sketch? Do I start with a collage or just random painting? Sometimes it feels pretty frantic, so I imagine it looks that way as well. And yes, at some point during the day, I will definitely check to see what other artists are up to, though they are not opponents since no one is keeping score. Are they?

Right Off the Bat

It is always important to determine direction—to know what to do next. Am I working on a new painting or finishing one that is not yet complete? If I have made mistakes (never…), can I correct them easily or will it stretch into overtime. Every once in a while, a painting will come together quickly. It is probably because I have carried the image around in my head subconsciously for days or weeks. You would think that such a painting would be my home run.

Out of the Ballpark

But my home runs are different. It not a hit the first time I come up to bat. It’s the third or fourth time with 3 balls and 2 strikes. It’s the painting that I struggle with the most and that finally comes together. The others are just base hits, a double or a triple. When you put hours and hours into a piece and it finally feels right—when you know it’s good, that is the home run. Then you really feel as if you’re floating around the bases to home.

Sometimes I do strike out. And every once and while, I give up on a particular piece. It seems overworked and tired. But I immediately start again, sometimes on the same piece with a different twist. You see just like baseball, art gets into your blood. It becomes essential to your everyday life. There is no season; it’s a year-round pursuit. You are always in training, always playing the game.

So when do I get the striped uniform?

The Color Purple

Leap of Faith, 30″ x 30″, 2014; Riverview II, 15.75″ x 15.75″, 2018; and Fight Song, 36″ x 24″,2017,©Patricia Steele Raible.

One of my favorite books in the 1980s was Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” and I was even more impressed by the movie. In this particular case though I am literally talking about Golden’s liquid violet dark. It isn’t a color I use very often, but I think perhaps I should.

Why Purple

What else can I say about say about the color purple? If it is dark, it is the color of eggplant. If it is pale it is the last wisp of sunlight on a summer evening. Besides the violet dark, you find both a light violet, a medium violet, and a pale (which I quite like). But as you know, it is just as easy to mix it.

So purple is a color that many believe is feminine. But I would counter that purple is also the color of bruises—bruises perhaps gained from athletic endeavors (and yes, plenty of women are athletes).  I would also counter that using purple requires a lot of imagination. 

The Advantages of Purple

Purple is becoming a color I turn to when I am not satisfied with what I see on my easel. When a painting’s too humdrum (For now, humdrum is still in the dictionary, still a word.) I also try to use purple when a painting starts to look too realistic. I am not criticizing realistic, I just don’t do it well. This is pushing me into a new habit: using purple in place of colors on what I call a “messed up painting.” If there is a dark brown or dark blue, I use dark violet. If it’s a neutral gray I mix an amethyst and if it is a light green or gray a light or pale violet.

Purple Has An Attitude

I believe it really helps to change to colors that you aren’t as comfortable using. After all, painting is about experimenting. For me, changing colors can mean that instead of an abstract landscape that leans toward realism (and not good realism), suddenly I will have a completely different painting, one that has a bit of an edge, a slight attitude. It’s smiling, wearing sunglasses, and also has a definite smirk.

Ah, the color purple.

It’s All Beautiful

Pink Beds Loop, Pisgah Forest, NC

Think of how often we say something is beautiful—a painting, a home, a young person, especially a young woman. But what is beauty? How do we define it? Is it a vista of pink mountain laurel or a sunrise over a calm ocean? Is it red cheeks, softness, or tallness? And if we are visual artists, is it bright colors, a specific form, smoothness, roughness or texture? Or if we are musicians or dancers, perhaps it is sound and movement?

It is easy to understand why there are so many ideas of beauty—whether we are describing a person or a piece of artwork or the natural world.

Looking for Perfection

While I was hiking the Pink Beds Trail in the Pisgah Forest this past weekend, I noticed the numerous contrasts in nature. I photographed early flowers like trillium, mountain laurel, bluets, and one or two rhododendrons. But I was most drawn to the beauty of the dead trees either those left standing as food and habitat for birds and those already fallen lying in the bogs or creek.

Perhaps I was attracted by the rawness of the visual or even the shapes and dramatic look of the dark colors against the bright green and the pale sky. Whatever the reason, they touched something in me. I found these decaying trees beautiful in their less than perfect form.

Recognizing Myths

In a recent “Brain Pickings” blog, Maria Popova wrote “there are so many kinds of beauty.” She was writing about love and living with purpose, specifically writing about Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator, which she called an empowering retelling of the Cinderella story—a story in which Solnit’s characters become their “truest” self—even the stepsisters.So, the limited view of beauty is certainly not the only myth expressed in this childhood story. There is also the limited view of love and what makes for a happy life.  

But perhaps if we can look at beauty differently, then we can also realize that there is more than one way of living a beautiful life.

Whose Story Is It

Embrace, 39″ x 34″ x 2.75″, Mixed media on board, ©Patricia Steele Raible 2019

Sometimes I feel that I am not so much the painter as the conduit for a painting. That is the case with many of the pieces in my current series about dementia. “Embrace,” the one you are viewing here, is about my personal journey with my mother, but it is also about other people. First, it is a story created by people who traveled the same path before me, though with less science and perhaps less support. It is also a story about those that traveled with me, those that cared for and about my mother. Finally, it is also about the people who are still on this path.

My Story

To me an embrace is normally a good feeling, a comforting feeling. But the term also describes how the lead and partner function on the dance floor as they glide across the floor. I always thought dancing was magical. Yet, after taking lessons, I found out about the hard work and frustrations as well as the rewards.

My husband and I were taking ballroom dance lessons just about the time my mother was diagnosed with dementia with Lewy Bodies. My father had already died; my brother was in another state and ill as well. So her care fell to me. I usually just take charge, but that doesn’t always work with someone whose judgement is impaired. She resisted strongly; I became frustrated. Much like a dance, we went back and forth and back and forth. I came to wonder was I her lead, or her partner?

Her Story

In reading Daniel Siegel’s The Developing Mind, one quote stood out : “A story is created by both teller and listener.” The quote made me question if this could also true of the visual story in my paintings.  When I paint, is it my story alone or is the viewer involved?

With my mother I attempted to understand how she was feeling? But I also realized that my capacity for endurance, pain, and suffering was different from hers or even my husband’s. I was left with my imagination and hopefully, my empathy. But I did wonder how she felt about being told she must move into assisted living, that someone would to be there when she showered to make sure she didn’t fall, and when she toileted to keep her clean.

Their Story

So what about the viewer or the listener?  I now recognize their part and know that they can add to the story or even change it.

I look at myself and other artists as both archeologists and architects.  We are diggers of history and truth, gatherers of ideas, and manipulators of bits and pieces. Perhaps none of my of my paintings are completely my own for I am history, a bit of this and a piece of that, a part of her and some of them.