Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Making New Friends

With the conclusion of my outdoor art show season last month, I've spent this month getting out and (finally) exploring the landscape of eastern Tennessee.

The decision to move to Tennessee and leave Pennsylvania was agonizing for me. But after 14 years in Pennsylvania, I was well acquainted with the beautiful state parks in the central region where we lived. I'd also ventured to quite a few equally gorgeous ones in other parts of the state, especially near the Poconos Mountains. By no means had I "seen it all," but there was a small, quiet gnawing in me that began to grow louder: I needed to shake up the snow globe and try something different.

Tennessee has a great reputation for its outdoor offerings. But my first months here didn't exactly go as planned.

As I've described in previous posts, the home we purchased needed a lot of attention and maintenance, eating up an inordinate amount of time. But what was worse was that shortly after we arrived, my trusty studio mascot and erstwhile woodlands companion, Maple, was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. This has meant no more woodland hikes together. I mourned this new state of affairs throughout the summer. I was reluctant to go out alone, both from a sentimental and safety standpoint.

Then my father-in-law passed away and I did my best to support my husband while he and his sister got their mom resettled into assisted living, just a year after they lost their brother to cancer. Oh, and it was sizzling hot and humid, too. I was one sweaty Yankee all of this past summer.

Uff dah!

So, it's been a real treat to get out and explore a bit this month. The opportunity to work en plein air has nourished my soul.

I've spent most of my time venturing out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located about 45 minutes from our high maintenance home (did I just write that? Pardon my ruthless cynicism.) Anyways, the last time I passed through the Smokies was as a young and very car sick-prone child during a torturous summer family car trip. I'm on better terms now with the park.

Shown here are a couple of "Postcards from the Easel" with my field easel and small landscape works in progress. I'm slowly making friends with this new landscape, and I'm enjoying the cooler days of fall while I'm at it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From Sketch to Something Grander

Sapphire Night Sketch
Oil on paper, 10 x 12.5


Sapphire Night
Oil on panel, 20 x 30

Many years of formal training as a music performance major in college taught me the value of etudes, those brief, highly technical snippets of music that form the essential foundation of performing ensemble pieces. I carry this discipline with me today in my visual art career by creating practice runs of complex ideas via initial sketches and studies.

Sometimes it's hard for me to restrain myself because I'm so jazzed about an idea that I want to dive into a big, blank canvas and start slinging paint. But initial studies always pay dividends by allowing me to emphasize what I want to communicate and identify any potential pitfalls in my design.

Lately, I've been digging Arches oil paper for this purpose. I can focus on an idea and get the details ironed out before tackling a larger composition. Sketches, by virtue of their smaller size and confined time commitment, are less pressure packed, and often result in a fun personality that I really like.

Here are a couple of recent examples from my cityscapes featuring subjects in New York City and London. The smaller sketches are slightly different in ratio from the finished works because I originally created these as options for a client who commissioned me for a custom painting. Nonetheless, these initial studies helped me work out the ideas before scaling up to bigger versions of the motifs. I think you'll see the relationship here in the side-by-side comparisons. Enjoy!

London Twilight Sketch
Oil on paper, a10x 12.5


London Twilight
Oil on canvas, 32 x 48

Monday, July 23, 2018

Resettled in Tennessee

Uff dah!

Since leaving Pennsylvania for our new home in Tennessee in late May, life has been a blur. We landed at our new home just before Memorial Day. "New home" is a bit of a misnomer, because the house we bought is 91-years old. As with any old home, it has required a fair bit of our attention to resolve some maintenance issues. (We're now on a first name basis with our electrician, roofer, and plumber - egads).

But as we near the end of July, things are rounding into shape and I'm getting back to my easel on a more routine basis. And it's not a moment too soon because I'm looking forward to exhibiting at a couple of shows this fall and I want to share some new subjects inspired by Knoxville, Tennessee.

Click image to enlarge: My studio mascot, Maple, rests on a rug near my painting easel. Part of getting my new space set up involved installing additional track lighting. I also set up a reading nook, toward the right of this image.


On top of moving and settling into a new home that needed some attention, I'm saddened to write that we also lost my father-in-law. There's a generic old saying whenever someone passes away, "He was a good man." But Russell Pollock actually was a good man. On the heels of his loss, we worked hard to get my mother-in-law resettled, too, and it's been a summer of transitions on many levels.

Click image to enlarge: A second display easel, couch,
and work area round out the space.


Nonetheless, I have a couple of pieces in progress now with ambitious goals of many small works in the coming weeks. Until those are ready for public viewing, I'll have to leave you with a couple of peeks into my studio. When we first moved in, my studio space was completely filled with cardboard moving boxes because the floor plan of this house is so different from our old house. With our new location in Tennessee, I've combined what was previously three separate areas (studio, office and picture framing workshop) all into one larger space. It took a while for me to get things sorted out (especially while juggling myriad home repair contractors), but I finally have things organized now. I'm very pleased with the space because I have plenty of room for my art books, a reading area, and lots of great light for my work.

As an added bonus, my studio mascot, Maple, gives the space two paws up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Change is in the Air

Blank canvas in studio

The first blank canvas in my new studio space in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I am super excited to be able to paint in this gorgeous space.


As I write, the snow is flying sideways on a howling, cold wind outside my window. We're now past mid-April, but Mother Nature does not seem to have received the memo that winter should be finished and spring on its way. I know that central Pennsylvania is not the only place suffering under the burden of January the 131st. Nonetheless, even if spring is not yet in the air, then change is.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I purchased a new home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Or maybe it would be more accurate to call it a new old home. We found a beautiful place that was built in 1927 and whose history includes a change of ownership via auction following the stock market crash of 1929.

Its most recent former owners were also artists. They did a jaw-dropping renovation to the upstairs area, where I will soon set up my art studio. To say that I'm excited about this totally new and different space would be the understatement of the year. I've already started to move some of my materials to our new address. Within the next month, we anticipate moving to Knoxville permanently.

But for now, my studio and my creative mind straddle two very different places and it's been an extremely busy time for me. I never appreciated how difficult it is to "stage" and sell a house until this interstate move (HGTV, I'm looking askance at you!), and I hope not to have to do it again for many, many years. It was very challenging given that my husband and I both work from our home and we have two large dogs. But we're on our way now, and I'm excited.

Stay tuned for a series of new paintings inspired by my new home in Tennessee as we get into summer. Until then, I'm off to pack some more boxes. Uff dah.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New Year, New Home

Sarah Pollock Studio is moving to a new home later this year!

My husband accepted a new position as the Haslam Chair Chair of Business and Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. We'll move to Knoxville, Tennessee this summer after he completes his semester at Penn State.

It's a bittersweet decision for both of us because we've grown to truly love the landscape and history of Pennsylvania. Yet at the same time, we feel now is a good time to shake things up. We've always grown personally and professionally with each new home and we look forward to this next adventure. Eastern Tennessee offers the Smoky Mountains within close reach, so we know that we can find beautiful scenery there, too. And we're both ready to live in a larger community with more amenities.

Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee with the
restored Tennessee theater located along Gay Street

I visited Knoxville for the first time a few weeks ago. It strikes me as a "mini Pittsburgh," an old industrial town on the rebound from tough economic times. Everyone we spoke to was upbeat and described a renaissance within the city that has taken hold over the past 10-15 years, kicked off by -- of all things -- a central farmer's market in the downtown square that features over a 100 different vendors. Now, new businesses, residents, and visitors are returning to downtown and the "Scruffy City," derisively named by the Wall Street Journal after it hosted the 1982 World's Fair, is embracing an upbeat spin on its nickname.

The Old City district of Knoxville, Tennessee during a rainy evening.
I think I see a painting in here somewhere...

Knoxville is named for one of my favorite historical figures, Henry Knox. Henry Knox was a twenty-five-year-old bookseller from Boston when he met General George Washington just three days after Washington took command of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It was Knox who marshalled untold manpower and eighty yoke of oxen to retrieve the artillery from Fort Ticonderoga in New York and move all of it to Boston in freezing, icy conditions during the winter of 1775-76.

Knoxville's historical legacy grew during the Civil War, when the city shifted between Union and Confederate control and reflected the larger split within Tennessee about where to cast its allegiance. Following the Civil War, the city became a manufacturing hub for textiles and iron works.

I'm looking forward to milder winters, more restaurants, and new landscapes for painting and bicycling. After I get resettled and set up my studio again, I'm also planning to continue exhibiting at various outdoor art shows along the East Coast. Stay tuned...