All Dried Up

It’s that time of year. Spring. You know—in with the new, out with the old.

Checking the studio supply cabinet, I found ten jars I didn’t recognize. Lined up in front of me, I have to ask: when did I buy that? It can’t have been ten years ago.

But you know how we creative types love to experiment. We tell ourselves unless we try things out, we won’t know if  we like them. (Which is true, but don’t I understand moderation.) For good measure, I also tell myself that a new brush or paint could make all the difference in my painting.

Today I spent the afternoon trying out various supplies with a hodge-podge of found objects from paint trays to pill packaging to test out the types of texture and markings they would make on board, heavy paper, and Japanese paper. Can you believe I had four—no five kinds of gesso. Who knew they made so many? (Well you did of course.) And then there were tubes of dried paint.

Where does all this lead? Hopefully to extra space on the shelf and to well, shopping.  You know, just a little paint…and maybe more gesso.

It’s Always Good to Give Back


“Spilling Over,” 30″ x 20″, Mixed Media on Deep Wood Panel

Artists are asked several times a year to donate a piece of art to charity. There are different opinions about whether an artist should or should not donate. I believe generosity is particularly important in today’s climate.

But if you are an artist, there are a few things to keep in mind before you decide.

Be Sure You Know the Charity

If the charity is not one you know, use your computer and find more information, their rating—or better yet talk to a friend. You want the charity to be reputable since you will donate a piece you love.  The artwork can certainly be a few years older than the work you display in exhibits, but be certain it is among your best pieces and in your current style.

 Ask How Your Work Will Be Displayed

Will this be a private event, an online auction, or a gala? Will it be in a conference room or a gallery? Will you be allowed to attend and meet the potential buyers? Again, a piece that is good quality will get the attention of more donors.

 Don’t Expect A Large Tax Deduction

The person who buys your artwork gets the large deduction. An artist can only deduct the cost of materials, according to the Center for Art Law, because the IRS considers the art a “self created asset.”

However, there are other benefits: increased exposure, the ability to experiment, and new connections.  Artwork Archive featured artist Anne-Marie Zanetti who basically created her career by donating to charity. According to Zanetti, the ability to experiment without pressure allowed her to develop her skills and make contacts.

You can’t deny that artists thrive on exposure. It is how we get noticed by collectors and galleries. Agora Gallery’s advice blog stressed that if there are good opportunities to connect with collectors, galleries, and other artists, then the donation becomes a “win-win.” I would add that wisest charities understand this and make certain it happens.

Did I forget feedback? Sometimes you will get praise directly from individuals and buyers, but it always helps to keep your eyes and ears open. Is there a crowd around your artwork and much whispering? Is the press asking you to pose in front? Still, all feedback should be considered carefully.

Let Your Heart Guide You

Certainly, be pragmatic because art is a business—and a passion. But there are times to lean toward the heart.  As I said earlier, choose an artwork that’s really good, one that you love. Donate that piece. You can never go wrong.

A Little At the Time

Continuous Thread, detail, 16″ x 20″, Mixed media collage on deep wood panel

It all started with a piece of hand-dyed fabric made during a workshop in Ohio almost 10 years ago. Months ago I pulled out the box of fabrics I had made and was immediately drawn to the pattern—lace-like, cellular-like, web-like. And then in one of my braver moments (since I usually hesitate about everything) I glued it down to a blank surface. From there the beginning, simple unadorned, but already connected.

A little at the time, I added paint, a piece of a torn calendar, and words from a newspaper clipping (remember those) about the weather. I don’t believe I thought about the time factor while I was painting, but subconsciously it must have been there, why else the weather and the calendar, why not Shakespeare. Oh yes, there is a tiny bit of him as well.

I added more paint and more texture to pull these elements together, but then I left it for months before returning to finish it just a week ago. I found some more of the fabric, a little different piece with circles that seem to fit my musing. Lately, I so often find myself wanting to pull everyone and everything together ( as I know they should be) or alternatively, to escape entirely perhaps using those tiny circles to skip away from reality. But no matter, “Continuous Thread,” is finished.

The title of the piece was borrowed from Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. In her book she refers to stories and novels following not chronology but rather “the continuous thread of revelation.”

That seems perfect for visual art as well.

Finishing A Painting: It’s Not Magic

Yesterday I spent four hours finishing a painting for a show—finishing a painting that some would say was already finished.  I’m not really complaining since I am delighted to have been chosen for the exhibit, but the task is certainly not glamorous and likely not one that a collector or even exhibit curator thinks about (unless they are also an artist).

By finishing a painting I don’t mean putting leaves on a tree (not to negate something I can’t do well). What I mean is checking the sides for marks, sanding a few spots, repainting those, repainting again when I miss one, waxing, then finally wiring (and making sure the wire is heavy enough for a large painting on board).  Our social media posts seem to only show us smiling with several brushes in our hands and painting with bright colored oils or acrylics —not furiously trying to match a paint color or see through dust spattered glasses with hair tied up on our head.

Finishing a painting is a pretty mundane task, and I’m willing to bet not many artists have assistants to do this. But it must be done and is part of completing a painting for a show or collector. Sometimes I fuss and worry too much over highly textured areas, wondering if I should smooth them down more. But everything most of us do is by hand so it will probably never look perfect. Of course, this isn’t the only routine task we perform. That’s for another blog.

But sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t show more “real” work pictures (no I’m not brave enough yet) or at least put our glasses and work cloth in the frame (that I can do).

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.