Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yeoman's Work


Springtime, Reeds Gap 8 x 10 oil on linen panel. I painted this en plein air in central Pennsylvania's Reeds Gap State Park.

My first "real" job after I finished college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was a full-time gig at a non-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin. Back then, I did web site development and computer programming. My job with the non-profit was a new one within the organization and it had nothing to do with my recently-earned degree in art, but it paid the bills and it offered a pleasant place to work.

Following my initial 6-month probationary period, I received my first performance review. It was positive. One thing that my supervisor wrote stuck out to me because I didn't understand it: "Sarah is doing yeoman's work."

I had to take my 21-year old self to the nearest dictionary and look up the phrase yeoman's work:

of, pertaining to, composed of, or characteristic of yeomen: the yeoman class....performed or rendered in a loyal, valiant, useful, or workmanlike manner, especially in situations that involve a great deal of effort or labor

I was grateful for the acknowledgment of my effort and the compliment. Fast forward all these years later, and that term still resonates with me. Throughout my career as an artist, I've tried to maintain this demeanor throughout what I do. Traveling to outdoor art shows, gambling on the weather and so many elements outside of my control is hard work, even beyond long hours logged in my studio to create my artwork.

This past week, our family lost a loved one following a valiant battle against cancer. Like so many others afflicted with this dreadful disease, he was far too young. Witnessing his death and supporting my husband through this loss got me thinking again about this phrase yeoman's work.

I don't have kids, just a couple of spoiled dogs. For me, my artwork is my legacy in this world. Indeed, one of the biggest reasons why I jettisoned my bright career in computer programming and web site development was because it all seemed so empty to me. I felt that the very next day, I could be replaced and the next person could come in, re-write the code, re-design my projects and poof, there would be no evidence that I was ever there. I wanted to make use of my intrinsic drawing talent and my creativity.

Losing our loved one last week reinforced and reinvigorated this desire to create and to do it well. For as the definition above indicates, being an artist requires a great deal of effort and labor. In the coming months, I'm looking to renew my dedication to what I do. As I saw all too plainly last week, life is short, life is fast. It's such a cliché, but there is no time to waste. And it takes a lot of work to maximize the time we have.

Shown here is a small plein air landscape that is a kick start to this renewed devotion to my work. "Springtime, Reeds Gap" was begun earlier this season in central Pennsylvania's lovely Reeds Gap State Park. I was really pleased with the start that I got on this motif, but I wanted to polish it up in my studio with the final details. I brought it home and I looked at it for days, then weeks, and then a couple of months.

After returning from a harrowing family trip to support others in a time of need and loss, I found that I was having a hard time getting back into the groove in my studio. I was emotionally drained. Suddenly, I realized that I was finally at the perfect point to finish this painting. I rarely sign my paintings with my full name. But following the loss of our loved one, I wanted to add an exclamation point to the first painting finished after the emotional turmoil of shock and grief.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Finding Center, or "Centre"?

Work in progress on my field easel: From the verdant Buffalo Run Farm, just south of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Despite a lot of heavy rainfall this spring (my garden tomatoes are giving me dirty looks), I've managed to thread the needle on a few beautiful days to get out in the field and do some plein air landscape painting as I begin work on a really cool and exciting project for later this year.

I'm partnering with a friend and fellow artist, Alice Kelsey, as well as a local non-profit land conservation group, Clearwater Conservancy, to feature the scenery of our home surroundings here in Centre County, Pennsylvania. The exhibition will open in early November at the State College Framing Company and Gallery and it will highlight the juxtaposition of our area's rural beauty with the small towns and notable landmarks of our area. I'll have more specifics for you later this summer.

Work in progress on my field easel: From the gorgeous panoramic of Everhart Farm, along the edge of State College, Pennsylvania.

We're calling this exhibition "Finding Centre," a play on our county's name and a reference to the balance between town and country themes. Thanks to Clearwater Conservancy, we've been out to some truly beautiful properties. Last week, we spent time on a farm that dates back to the late 1800s, and we got to meet a 3-week old foal! My outdoor art show season has begun in earnest, and after returning from a soggy, stormy, and exhausting trip to an event in Illinois, the opportunity to pet the muzzle of a baby horse was exactly the balm I needed for my soul. It did indeed help me to get re-centered and re-energized.

Baby Horses? Yes, please.

I'll post more photos of our outings as we work on this project throughout the summer. Stay tuned for more sneak previews!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Recent Figurative Work

I kicked off my 2017 outdoor art show season a few weeks ago with my first event in Arlington, Virginia. Since that time, I added an additional event to my schedule and I've been getting out of my studio a bit to focus on plein air landscape work as the weather improves in central Pennsylvania.

But as I head off to my second show, Art on the Square in Belleville, Illinois, I'm excited about some new figurative paintings that I will debut at this event. I'd like to share more with you about them.

Superflash 36 x 36 oil on canvas.

The first new painting is a large oil on canvas called "Superflash." I caught this individual during a beautiful, bright, sunny day in Milan, Italy. If you follow my artwork, then you know that anonymous passersby and storefront displays figure prominently in my cityscapes. I really enjoy exploring the interaction between people and mannequins or their own reflections. This motif was no exception. The bold shapes of this composition coupled with the brilliant touches of pure orange captivated me.

Come Along, Fluffy 8 x 12 oil on panel

The next new painting is much smaller, a brilliant jewel of color and energy inspired by a duo that I observed this past winter in Lower Manhattan. "Come Along, Fluffy" is my first cityscape to feature a dog, which is a little odd because I'm a fanatical dog person and I've been painting for almost 15 years now. But maybe this will be the start of something new? Stay tuned...

Arclight 20 x 30 oil on canvas

Finally, there is "Arclight," my latest interpretation of a frequent source of inspiration: Times Square in New York City. Look, you gotta understand: as a kid who grew up among the endless corn fields of southern Wisconsin, New York City was always a distant, exotic dream destination for me. Now that I live in Pennsylvania, I'm able to visit the city a few times each year. And I never tire of the ostentatious but exuberant Times Square.