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).

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.

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?

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.

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.

Art Stops Us In Our Tracks

“Can-Can,” Jane DeDecker, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina

This past weekend I had the experience of a sculpture stopping me in my tracks, moving me to tears, and sending me on my way—feeling better and almost hopeful.

The Moment of Intrigue

My husband and I were camping at a state park on the coast of South Carolina and decided to visit Brookgreen Gardens on our way home. We were leisurely walking the paths admiring the plants as much as the sculptures when a small piece drew me forward. At first all I saw was movement, then I recognized them as figures. Finally, I saw them dancing. And since I’ve been working on a painting called “Come, Dance,” I was intrigued.

The Moment of Connection

Called, “Can-Can,” the artist Jane DeDecker, shows five dancers, which represents a cancer victim with four friends helping her through the process of dying. It was possibly more moving because of my mother’s recent death or because I could see the stroke of fingers in the work and was moved by the intimacy. Whatever the reason, I stood for a long time and walked on with a sense of awe in the human spirit.

That is art. It takes you in and moves you forward.