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).

Show Your Art Love

Disconnected from Time, ©Patricia Steele Raible 2016, 12″ x 12″ x 2.5″, mixed media on deep wood panel

So how do we show our love for art? Is it as simple as producing good art or going to openings or events? Or is there something else that is required? I was reminded recently by a blog by Goda Smiligyte (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-say-love-art-so-how-many-artworks-do-own-goda-smilingyt%C4%97/) that supporting the arts requires more than buying tickets to a play or going to a concert. It requires buying art that isn’t mine.

No Excuses

Because we have such limited wall space and storage, I admit, I don’t buy much wall art. Perhaps it is also why I have produced quite a few small pieces lately—no room (https://www.etsy.com/shop/PSRaibleArtMaker?ref=shop_sugg).

I have bartered for a couple pieces and bought one small original when we were in France years ago. Otherwise it is prints—and yes, early in our marriage signed posters. But we are better about other types of art. We have a decent pottery collection with inherited pieces and those purchased from places we have traveled (though we are trying to curb the habit). Still, I recently purchased several pieces from a Kings Mountain, NC, potter Renee Matthews. I have purchased numerous pieces of handmade jewelry over the years (the last piece from Lark and Key Gallery https://larkandkey.com/ ), and we also have a carved box from David Anthony Fine Art in Taos http://davidanthonyfineart.com/ ).

The Queen of Art Love

One of my artist friend Jen Walls (https://www.jenwalls.com/ ), who now lives in her beloved Portland, is wonderful about buying art from other artists.  Not only that, she always shows a photograph of the art and gives a shout out on Facebook. She is also great about commenting on other artists exhibitions, events, and publications.

Active Passion

So, if we love art and/or produce art, we need to find ways to support art beyond just buying tickets and drinking wine at a gallery opening. There are so many wonderful artists and craftspeople that produce not just paintings and sculptures, but handmade journals (Jackie Radford, https://etsy.me/2VQShWU), jewelry, carvings, clothes, and so much more.

And when we love a piece, it would be nice to let others know.

Elevator Speeches for Introverts…Like Me

“Seeking Warmth,” 20″ x 16″ x 2.75″, Mixed media on Deep Wood Panel,
©Patricia Steele Raible 2019

I really don’t like elevators with or without speeches. They make me nervous, and no matter how hard I try to relax I always feel like I’ve left my legs on the floor where I got on. So I tend to smile nervously, face the door, and think there is no way I can turn and talk to another passenger.

No Infomercials

Having read advice in books and blogs from quite a few marketing gurus, I’m always thinking about what I should say when someone asks what I do. If I say, “I’m an artist,” I am usually asked a follow-up question about what kind of artist. If I say mixed media and leave it there, I know I’ve missed out big time. I have learned that this is an opportunity to share myself and to get to know someone if only for a very short time.

If you listen to the experts, they would have you prepare a two-minute statement that tells someone “why you create.” Unfortunately, I have found that doesn’t work for me. As an introvert, I come across as stilted, pompous, or stuffy. What I’m learning to do instead is tell them something about my current work. Chances are I’m excited about it and that comes through in my body language. It doesn’t come across as prepared or memorized.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I’ve got less than a couple minutes, so I have to keep it really short. Second, if I want this to lead to a look at my website, a visit to my studio, or a possible friendship, then I need to know at least one thing about this person. So after describing my most recent work, I ask a question. “Are you involved in art, who is your favorite artist, what kind of art do you like?” Then I have a real conversation that I can continue briefly when the door opens or I can exchange information for a later date.

In my excitement talking about what I am working on, I have to remember not to overwhelm them. They don’t need an artist statement or a curriculum vitae. I try to connect with them by using descriptive language they can understand. If they seem sincerely interested, I invite them to a show or just to my studio.

Being Real

While I believe in being as prepared as possible, a canned elevator speech just doesn’t work for me. I can’t make it sound authentic. I have found it is far more important for me to be genuine—to be myself and talk about something that I am passionate about. That makes me sound…well, like me.

“It’s Something Else Now”

After Time, © Patricia Steele Raible, triptych, 9″ x 24″ x 1.75″, mixed media on board


Space Is Limited

It’s getting crowded again, but not in a bad way. As I look around the studio, I see a lot of unfinished work, but I also see what may be politely referred to as “reworked paintings.” Does this say something about my current work habits (well perhaps) or does it also say something about many of us who just enjoy creating. Artists are finished when they are finished. But after living with a artwork for a while they may simply feel the need to change it a little, or change it significantly.

In a 2014 article in ArtNews, author Ann Landi wrote, “choosing when to stop altering a piece can be a highly individual decision, as idiosyncratic and personal as style, and there are instances in which a work is never fully done, at least in its creator’s mind.”

I lean in this direction, but I am also afraid of a painting being “overdone.”

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

In Landi’s article, she describes sculptor, Nari Ward, (http://www.artnet.com/artists/nari-ward/) who recycles pieces of one sculpture using it in another. He says “simply changing a venue for a particular work can mean it has to be re-formed to fit its site.” And he admits that sometimes the original artwork can disappear. When a gallery asks if a particular original work is available to sell, he often has to admit, “no, it’s something else now.”

Does the Art Change Or Is It the Artist

I believe that unfinished work and work that is being recreated  may actually be a sign of changes in our own lives—not just in our art, but in ourselves. We are not the same person at 30 or 40 that we were at 20 and different events change us. We don’t even stay the same when we are much older, so neither should our artwork. Our artwork would or should reflect who we are in that moment.

The artist is the real story here, that and their ability to put it on canvas, or metal, or wood, or whatever materials they converse with. And if that conversation changes over time (as surely it must), we the listeners are the richer for it.

 

Front Row Girl

Keeping A Promise, 18″ x 20″, mixed media

So 2019 is upon us, and it is time to make those changes, those new year resolutions. And I have decided to occasionally be a “front row girl.” Now this is a term I heard in yoga class, when I teased another woman about moving up to the front row. She replied, “I’m not a front row girl. I don’t like the attention.” (I go to the front row because I can’t see.)

Wearing A Hoodie Through Life

Now, if you look up “front row girl,” you will get blogs and stories about a Milwaukee Brewer’s fan named Amy Williams who comes to most of their home games and sits…well on the front row. That’s not the front row I’m talking about. I’m talking about a different type of “front row,” one that includes taking more risks and being more involved in the things that matter to me (or to you) whether it is art, education, affordable housing, or fighting those who insist on speeding and running red lights.

Too often I find myself not doing things because it makes me uncomfortable— even though I realize that it’s something that could make a difference in my life or someone else’s.  If it is a problem, I complain, but still take a back seat because I’m an introvert and don’t like making a fuss. And sometimes even when I believe I have a good solution to a problem, I don’t speak up for fear that it can’t really be that good or someone else would have proposed it, or even for fear of rejection. A hoodie is nice when you’re cold, but it may feel good to throw it off once in a while.

Peaking Through

But this is the year. At least once a week I will be doing something I haven’t done on a regular basis—whether it is as simple as introducing myself and talking to someone I haven’t met (but should have), or speaking in a more public forum. Already I am pushing myself to change my paintings, adding more contrast, more color. I am also pushing myself to write more, about art and about life.

While winter is just beginning, I’m going to pretend it’s spring and that I’m always a “front row girl.” Some of us are late bloomers, admittedly very late bloomers. But our flowers are just as beautiful.

Creative Source or Distraction?

The large bulletin board that occupies a wall in my studio. Today it’s a mishmash.

What I stare at each morning before I begin work is the huge bulletin board pictured here (about 4’ x 8’). It once occupied my studio at McColl Center for  Art + Innovation when I was fortunate enough to spend 11 months there as a resident several years back. Later I decided to hang it in my home studio.

Throwbacks Can Be Helpful

While the contents change from time to time, the simple structure and its flexibility does help to keep me focused—and inspired. I’m sure there is an app for doing the same thing, but I still need the quality of touch. We know writing something down helps us remember. And as a former writing instructor, I believe something happens between yours eyes and fingers and your brain.

When I look up this morning, the bulletin board contains in the center a picture of my brother who died last year and to the side photographs of my mother and me when she was less confused. There are quotes that inspire me, and awards that gratify me. Artwork by my grandsons is tacked along the bottom. It is a mishmash today. I doubt that I would focus anyway this close to Christmas, but I have noticed that it helps to constantly look at elements of my current projects.

Sometimes the Switch Is Always “On”

It is amazing to me how many artist friends say that they are ADD, that they have difficulty focusing. I’m showing my age here, but I’m not certain there was such a diagnosis when I was in elementary school or perhaps it was the small size of my school. From the comments on my early report cards I certainly had the symptoms of this “ability.” I won’t call it a disability because as current research indicates,  it is just seeing the world from a different perspective—and don’t we all do that in some manner. 

From the second grade on my report cards would say,“Patricia can not seem to sit still and focus. She will wad up clean paper just to get up and throw it in the trash.” In the third grade, there were at least three comments about talking too much. The final was “Patricia is a good student but she does entirely too much talking!” Talking continued to be a problem for me. It wasn’t until high school that I became really good student and surprised many teachers by being a member of the National Honor Society. I had figured out a few ways to focus that worked for me. Go figure.

So this large bulletin board is my saving grace for both creativity and focus. If I only want to think about color, I can fill it with color. If there is a subject that interests me, I can pin up everything about it (and I help the pushpin manufacturers).

But for right now, the bulletin board is a jumble of all sorts of ideas and so is my brain. All I want to know is how many more days until Christmas.