Where Am I Going?

MendingFencesinsert
“Mending Fences,” mixed media on board, 11″ x 20″
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Journal entry “Mending Fences”

 

Sometimes I just put paint on paper, moving it here or there, adding a bit of this or that. Sometimes it works out. Most of the time, not so much.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone. Plein air painters produce their best work onsite. And I’ve seen some other wonderful painters who seem to start with one element and just take those twists and turns in the road one at a time until bang—they are in New York or Los Angeles.

If I do that I’m in the middle of no where in Iowa (and yes, Iowa can be lovely), but it’s probably the middle of winter. And while it may be beautiful, it has no focus. I’m one of those artists who needs to have some idea of where they are going, just a bit of a road map. Otherwise, I wander off tract. I see that nice tree over there or perhaps a lovely lake and take a hike. I know that many artists do studies, and I’ve done a few. But the best method for me seems to be a middle ground.

I’ve found that working on ideas in my journal helps me solidify placement of elements, color, markings. With a few little things worked out, I can concentrate on the idea behind the painting and on the emotions and feelings. Hopefully, this produces better strokes, more complicated markings. Doing this also helps when I am in a period that I feel stuck. “I am working,” but because it is in a journal, “I am not exactly working.” Somehow this frees me.

This method has its drawbacks. I can’t be as spontaneous. And don’t think it doesn’t mean I won’t have to redo a painting—but it is a place to start and a way to keep on track.

So what’s your successful method?

 

Separating the Parts

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“Holding Fast,” 10″ x 10″, mixed media on wood

Lately I’ve seen some artists admonished on social media for posting comments or links that reflect their “politics.” I interpret this to mean there are those who believe an artist can separate their art from their “politics.” Perhaps there are those that can, but I cannot.

Here’s why: My art is a reflection of who I am—my joys, sorrows, experiences. When I create a painting it has many meanings. It may be inspired by nature, a beautiful piece of architecture, a poem. But always, there are deeper, more complex questions and emotions. There are bigger pictures. Some the viewer will never see.

Because it is not a party I vote for, but rather for my values and beliefs, then my “politics” will surely be incorporated into my work and my life.

It’s A Wrap

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rCoND8EooA

 My first video is complete, and I feel much like a five-year-old who has finally learned to tie his shoes—though not without tears.

Since I have no technology genes, it took almost two weeks, off and on. Yes, I still remember typewriters and have even used them. So while the video doesn’t have the detail I would like, I’m ( we’re) feeling rather proud. My partner in this venture was my partner in life.

May I also say thank you to those whose posted “how to’s” on You Tube.

Leaning In

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“Setting Boundaries III: Leaning In,” 14″ x 11″, mixed media on deep wood panel

 

We hear so much these days about how divided the country is, how one group is just so very different from another. It true, we are different; yet, we are the same. I personally believe it is not either. It is both.

The problem is fitting it all together. How can we “be an individual” if we are like everyone else? How can we support each other despite our differences? How can we trust each other? How can we bend just a bit to keep the structure whole?

Leaning in is not a weakness. To me it takes incredible strength. Just as the structure of a building depends on every component working together, community is also about support—even when we don’t agree. It’s about leaning in—both to get support and to give support.

Leaning in is not about destroying the differences and making everyone and every group the same. Without the differences, without the sameness, and without the leaning in, the picture would not be nearly as beautiful or bold.

A Whisper Can Be Powerful

I’ve learned that small and quiet can be powerful.

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“Water Timpani III: Whisper,” 10″ x 10″, mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artfinder.com/product/water-timpani-iii-whisper/

It has been a couple of weeks since I hiked the short trail into High Falls at Dupont State Forest. You could hear the roar long before you had any view, a view that is spectacular. But the truly powerful moment for me was a tiny whisper.

When we got to the base of the falls, we sat and I looked at the rocks and water flowing just at my feet. The crowd of people around me disappeared. That soft, playful gurgle over rocks at your feet can be just as magical and engaging as a waterfall plunging 60 vertical feet.

Small and quiet can also be powerful—because powerful is about your heart and mind.

 

Striking the Drum

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“Water Timpani II: Striking the Drum,” 18″ x 15″ x 3,” Mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artfinder.com/manage/patricia-raible/product/water-timpani-ii-striking-the-drum/

Moore Cove Falls in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is certainly not as spectacular as the cascading Looking Glass Falls nearby—and it’s further into the woods. But all along the trail you hear water, soft little gurgles, then stronger burbling as you are forced to hop, skip across the stream. It is a beckoning that reminds me of the Rumi quote that begins, “Come, come whoever you are.” Then when you reach the bottom of the falls it is almost an anticlimax. There is no roar. The fall is a simple horsetail waterfall, mostly maintaining contact with the rocks. But I am strangely satisfied—content to stop and look and just be.

For what fascinates me even more than the sounds are the shapes and textures of the falls. It becomes a puzzle to reduce such an intricate picture into shapes, textures, a few colors, and hopefully feeling. Is this fall square or rectangular? What about the fallen limbs that come out from each side of the creek or the rocks that have settled there hundreds of years before? And what would the markings look like?

A timpanist will beat the head of the drum approximately 4 inches from the edge, knowing this will make the best sound. And that is my job, to find that point, the one that visually communicates whether it is in the center or close to the edge. So painting after painting, I keep trying.

 

When Words are Boundaries

settingboundariesiiweb
“Setting Boundaries II,” 11″ x 14″, mixed media on canvas paper,  https://www.artfinder.com/product/setting-boundaries-ii-3ee0/

For someone who spent a lot years working with words, I find that many,many times what I tried to say was not what was heard. Then every once in a while, I stop and say nothing, and my silence is taken as acquiesce as if I don’t care. When considering the vitriol of our current elections, I can’t help but wonder if the Saxon derivation of much of our language has somehow imparted a measure of staccato belligerence into our speech.

Words are certainly powerful. They can divide us or bring us closer together. They can draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed—at least not without anger and resentment. Of course our world would be less civilized without some verbal and physical boundaries, but the question is whether those boundaries can be crossed to pull us together as communities. Clearly we can’t do this without the appropriate words. Learning how to communicate what you mean and what you feel is not something that happens when we reach some magic age. We must continue to learn, change, and occasionally question the wisdom of our boundaries.