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.

The Little Black Dress of Painting

Texture in art is comparable to the “ little black dress” in fashion.

"Not Intended For Ground Contact," Mixed media on deep wood panel, "17 x 23"
“Not Intended For Ground Contact,” Mixed media on deep wood panel, “17 x 23”

Texture in art is comparable to the “ little black dress” in fashion. With texture you will “never be underdressed or overdressed.” It is always appropriate.

Carlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson (http://darleneoliviamcelroy.com and https://sandraduranwilson.com) in their book Surface Design Workshop provide over 45 technique for creating texture which they call “a unique surface that has both history and mystery.” I think that is one of the reasons I am drawn to texture. It creates a mystery for me to solve.

In my artwork, even after the gesso or gypsum is applied and sanded, I am likely to add crumpled paper or fabric and more gesso or gypsum—even before painting. This can add movement or a place for the eye to stop. I also use texture to create depth, pushing back one element and bringing forward another.

How Can the Same Texture Appear Different?

Texture appears different if I use a dry brush, a wet brush, a fluid paint, a heavy body paint, gesso, or gypsum. And certainly, if it is different if applied with a palate knife, it will be heavier and perhaps structural. The real key is determining what type of texture fits the painting and finding the correct tools to apply it. Is the painting a landscape, a nonobjective abstract, or a portrait? All paintings use some type of texture, but the amount depends on the artist and what they hope to convey to the viewer.

Van Gogh’s thick and expressive brushstrokes created a flowing texture that added interest and energy to his paintings. It is almost like being on a roller coaster ride. Robert Rauschenberg went even further than the textural qualities of paint incorporating objects with their own textures in to his artwork. In Anselm Kiefer’s work the elements are not contrasting but layered to produce the desired effect.

Why Add Additional Texture?

Despite my fairly heavy use of tactile texture, I almost always add elements of visual texture. Sometimes these are pieces of photographs that relate to the subject or symbolism in the painting. I often use words torn from a magazine or book or just paper I have hand-colored or stamped. In the final painting, these elements may or may not remain recognizable and may even be painted over completely. But they are there for me the art maker, adding meaning and continuity, and I believe informing the painting. Texture can also create enough interest to motivate a viewer get up close—to see exactly what the painter has done and find their own meaning in the piece.

 

 

 

SWEETTEA

APerfectSummerDay1
A Perfect Summer Day 24″ x 18″ Acrylic and collage on gallery-wrapped canvas ready to hang.

It has been close to 100 most of this week. But that’s not unusual. Summer in North Carolina means hot, humid hot. Day after day. If you are very lucky, it also means sand and water. Otherwise, follow me to the porch for sweet tea. I really do think that should be one word and probably capitalized.

I rediscovered this painting recently. It includes color, angular boat sails, a beach towel, and the tide.

 

 

Collage Detour

 

How many shades of yellow are there? No it is not a trick question. And what about blues? You see I got distracted from the 30-in-30 paintings this week. The initial idea was to test out some of the on-line classes and glean a few good teaching techniques. I have to admit I was a bit amazed at the variety and the quality. But it was one on color that got me into trouble this past week.

That very question about yellows is where it started. I found I didn’t own a primary yellow except in craft paint. And the only primary blue was in student grade. My head is hanging…almost to my toes.

To start with, I was happy no one had me pull out my color wheel. We made one. Well, several. And then several more collages. That’s when things began to get blurry—at about 5 or 6 collages. Yes, everything from analogous colors (which I admit I love) to developing contrast with hues and intensity.

I certainly picked an excellent online course to review. I felt at home with her teaching process and came away with several ideas for my own classes. It was also an excellent review of color and made me wonder why I don’t collage as much as I use to.

And then there’s the purchase. One online art supply store is very happy. And primary yellow and blue are among the paints I ordered. While I won’t bore you with my color wheels or the six collages I did, I will share two and try to get back on track.

 

Intersections

Intersections2
“Intersections”

We all know life isn’t a straight line. But I am always amazed at its circular patterns whether in nature or in fashion.

It seems to me though that it is at the intersections that we have the most to learn—that we need to stop and take a breath.

Intersections

10” x 13,”mixed media on board

unframed, $85