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April 2018

The Fever

It's been only a few weeks since Spring Equinox and already the days in
Alaska have become luxuriously long. Suddenly we have more hours of
daylight to work and spend outdoors. A recent stretch of sunny dry weather,
following what seemed like a particularly long dark winter, brought on a
fury of activity-- in the home, garden, and studio. At home, I tackled
Spring Cleaning at a frantic, fevered pitch and in the studio, I dealt with the sorry
half of "win some, lose some," that unfortunate stack of paintings I'd
accumulated over the winter that just didn't work. I hauled them into the yard to determine what might be saved. For work on canvas, sometimes only the stretcher bars can be salvaged, but Gessobords can be sanded down to the original surface and re-gessoed to make way for new and better work.

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Inside my new studio, I've installed shelves and a pegboard on the wall in
the eternal quest for organization. I washed the windows, cleared drawers
of junk, and sorted and cleaned brushes. Best of all, I've assembled a
travel kit, hanging by the door, ready to grab and go. In it I've packed
paint, brushes, easel, water, sketchbook, pens, pencils, and bug dope in
anticipation of the next sunny day. The fever is broken; it's time to ditch the broom and dust cloth, and venture out with those beautiful new painting surfaces, so full of potential and promise.


Living in the Moment

Sure. Yes. Live in the moment. But...I also need to set goals for the future! Goals are what motivate me. In my work as an artist, it is thinking ahead to scheduled shows that gets me into the studio. Life is a playground of distractions: books to read, a garden that needs work, cleaning and organizing, meeting friends for walks and swimming; activities that require living in the moment, being physically and emotionally present.

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Yet, once I'm at work at the easel, living in the moment, the moment slips right out of the space/time continuum and I am nolonger present. Deep into a painting, I disappear into what the work demands. I see and obey. The painting requires color here, lines there,shapes here and there, more color, more lines, more, more, more, until it's three in the morning and I've had no sense of the passage of time.

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And when I return to the studio and see the painting, I study it in wonder. How
did I do that? How did it end up the way did? How? The answer is inexplicably simple; the painting told me where to go and what to do, and even managed to stop time while I was working at it. Weird! Awesome! Hard to get started. Hard to stop. If not for working toward the future, I would never experience getting so lost in the moment.


Plein Aire Extraordinare

Forget painting in the quiet evening sunset by the side of a slow flowing canal, trees swaying in unison with the passing of a warm breeze; forget painting outside the café, sipping strong coffee, watching the light change on the cathedral across the square or on fields of grain and haystacks in the sunset. Of course, Monet did it all, and so well, in the loveliest of circumstances...well, okay, he did have the pressure of needing to feed a large family by brush alone. But, forget Monet. Who goes painting en plein aire in Alaska in December

My art buddies, that's who! Sometimes it takes more than one artist to make some paint come out of the tube. That's where the art buddy system comes into play; our mantra, "If you'll go, I will, too," is really put to the test in winter.

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We dress in layers, layers, and more layers, and end up looking very much alike in our long coats, multiple scarves, hats, and gloves. All but one of us, one who is impervious to the cold; she who sits at her easel wearing a jaunty straw boater as the wind whips the icy cold water on the channel into tiny cyclones that speed north toward town.

The rest of us, after a walk up and down the beach and around the old mining buildings, beat a retreat to the relative warmth and shelter of our car, there to devour a picnic of scones with jam and butter, a treat provided by our good friend and neighbor who knew better than to actually join us.

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We took photos, made sketches, and banged our hands together in futile attempts to get our blood flowing down to our fingertips while our intrepid friend completed her small oil painting. Not a lot of art was committed onto paper or canvas that day, but, dazzled by the beauty of sunshine sparkling on the water, ice on the beach, and fresh snow on the mountains, we went home with our fellowship confirmed and our heads full of imagery that might someday become paintings, but that was already securely locked into our memory banks.