Art in the Time of Corona Virus

We have two Guest Bloggers this month. Ginny Burdick is an artist and Gallery owner who now finds herself dealing with Safe-at-Home practices. She touches on the new reality of living in the time of CoronaVirus.

Artist Cindy Schreck Gillett wrote a beautiful little story about her experiences with a family in Italy as they, and we, deal with the pandemic.

Ginny Burdick

An artist’s thoughts from seclusion/shelter in the studio

I am an artist, or so says the degree on my college diploma. I am Ginny Burdick and I live in the Sierra foothills in a town called Coarsegold. Through this blog I am hoping to connect with other artists and PSWC members and talk about how I am meeting this solitary challenge, and what I am doing to grow as a person and artist during this time. 

At the suggestion of my husband, I started a daily journal or diary to capture what I was doing during each day. At the end of the day I could look at my accomplishments and also see the time I wasted. When we have nothing but time it is easy to let is sneak by us. This blog will be part of my journaling. 

The first day we were here, I spent the morning wandering around my office in the studio not accomplishing much, but I was quite successful at just moving things around. The second day, it was time to tackle the studio. I set up separate work areas for pastels, oils, and watercolors. I am very fortunate, and a little spoiled, that I can get up in the morning leave the house and be in my studio in minutes, still staying within the shelter-at-home rules. Below is the house, the inside of the studio, and the view out my studio window. From this angle you can see the pastel and oil set ups. My studio is in an old barn on our property and up the hill from the house. 

Path to the Burdick Studio
In the Studio
View from the Studio

When I left corporate America to start the next phase of my life, I was determined it would all be about art. Knowing that I do not do well in isolation, I opened a fine art gallery about 45 minutes from where I live. Each day, 5 days a week, I make the trip to the gallery. I have the opportunity to not only represent some fantastic local and nationally known talent, but I also teach both pastel and watercolors. In addition, I sponsor nationally recognized artists to teach workshops in the gallery. Like so many other small businesses, the doors are closed until such time as we can safely open them again. 

Like you, I now find myself learning how to organize my day and life in a new way and still at the end of the day feel as though I have accomplished something. I have many more thoughts and ideas to keep us all motivated and creative but will save for another day. 

Another day….

The Studio Barn

Back at the desk and looking to share some more thoughts. My studio is in an old barn that we remodeled about 16 years ago to provide a separate office for my husband, and office for me, and a large studio space. The office is now cleaned and ready for work. 

Even though the gallery is now closed until we can again open it again, there is still work that needs to be done each day to support the gallery. Just because the doors are closed does not mean that there are not bills that need paying. I also maintain a web page for the gallery and have taken much of the artists’ artwork online and available for purchase. 

As artists we also have to have business insight, looking for ways to keep our names and art out there. With the current shelter-at-home I have seen so many of the artists’ workshops being cancelled all over the country meaning that artists are looking for new ways to supplement their incomes. I have enjoyed watching social media and artists talking about the challenge of being home. Even though creating art is solitary, I find myself being tested to paint when all I have is time. It feels like I am being forced to be creative. I have managed to start a couple of bad. When this happens, I go back into my office get on the computer and look at what other artists doing and get inspired. In talking with artist friends I know that I am not alone in this creative black hole. 

Another day ….

Locally there is a group of artists who have been painting in the gallery every Saturday for about 5 years. This time has become very special for us as it gets us painting, talking, and even providing some feedback to each other. Not only is the gallery closed, but our Saturdays are gone as well. We are scheduling this next Saturday to try an meet remotely.  One thing I know it will do for me is get me back at the easel again. 

I am also fortunate to be on the Executive Board, as Treasurer, of the International Association of Pastel Societies. Even though the world feels as though it has been put on hold organizations like IAPS need to still keep moving forward. We have monthly meetings via Zoom and so I have another opportunity to spend time with other artists remotely. It also gives me some important responsibility I cannot shrug off. 

Another day…..

What I am also missing, during what is feeling like solitary confinement, is my students, many of whom I have worked with for nearly 7 years. I have loved watching them gain more confidence and grow in their craft. They have also become special friends that I enjoy my 2 hours each week that I spend with them. When I opened that gallery, I also began teaching pastel. The class structure has been working with the students one-on-one. All of us learn at a different pace and in a different way. For most of my students, working with me was their introduction to the pastel world, though they all had had experience in other mediums. 

I have tried find a way that I can still spend time with my students. To that end, I have set up a virtual studio on Zoom (www.zoom.us), and I can meet to talk about what they are working on and any challenges that I can help with. They send me a photo of their work; I post it on my desktop, and we can both share the screen and talk about the piece in real time. There are even tools available that I can mark on the work and point things that could be changed or enhanced. This is a good learning tool for us both. It gives me the ability to continue to teach and mentor, which helps me grow as well. 

The other thing that I have done to keep myself from self-pity is to give myself a schedule to follow each day. It also keeps me from always arriving at the studio in PJ’s and staying in them all day. I begin the day with exercise to keep the body and mind healthy. When I was working at the gallery, it meant leaving the house at 8:00 am and not getting home until after 6:00 pm, hence not always great food on the plates, but with all this time, I am also getting artistic with the meals I prepare. I am enjoying watching what others are posting on social media about the food they are making. I also have made cookies and muffins and shared them with neighbors. 

After breakfast it is time to go to the studio, check emails, Instagram and Facebook. It is hard not to spend too much time on social media as a way to feel connected. Then it is time to do art. I consider myself a full-time artist, but this is way too much full time. To get myself inspired, I have been watching videos of other artists I admire and reading articles and blogs they are doing as well. We need to find ways to continue to learn. Without the direct contact with other artists, we need to find other ways to get feedback on the work we are doing. I am hoping getting back with my Saturday group will continue to do that. We call ourselves the Sierra Art Collective. In fact we just hung a special show of our work at the gallery, had the artists reception, and the next day the Governor sent us all home. I did put the show online on the gallery’s web page so it could still be seen virtually. I continue to work on my own personal artist web page to make it more robust. 

What we also need to be doing is making ourselves a list of all the things we have not had time to do. Those things we have put off, with no more excuses about lack of time and could actually do now. Like finally learning how to use the camera on my new iPhone 11 Pro Max, which I have had since December and have not had the time to learn. Finding all the new features of the phone and make use of them. Learning to draw better on my iPad Pro, now with all this extra time there are no excuses. My list is now at 19 things, with no check marks yet. 

Another day …………

At 10:00 am on Saturday, the same time that we regularly meet at the gallery, the group of us met online on Zoom and painted together. It was fantastic. We all felt that we were in the same room. We all were in our home studios ready to paint, and we did. There are 6 of us that meet on a regular basis. Even if someone is out of town, whoever is in town meets to paint. We have developed such a strong comradery, and this last November went to Carmel to plein air paint together for 5 days. We then came home with the intent to hang a show of the work done there and the work inspired by the trip.

Find a group of artists that you can paint with each week, don’t worry about being at the same level or style. Our group has many different styles, one is even a print maker who does her linoleum carving at the gallery then goes home to print them. Our group started when Daniel Keys became one of the artists I represent. He wanted to meet more local artists, and so we decided to start painting on Saturday and slowly found some other artists that we would ask to join us. I think it has been about 5 years now. And I can tell you we have all gotten stronger as a result. Daniel is not there to teach us only to paint beside us. Our friendships have really grown, there is a lot of trust and confidence in each other. 

If you can put together a similar group with the goal of painting together once a week, it will help you keep on track and painting more. We critique each other, we laugh and joke with each other, and we share who we are with each other. We also share ideas about how to get our work out there. I had never done Instagram before and started posting there at the suggestion of one of the artists. Now that we are at home in our studios and not having direct contact with each, we can still paint, talk, laugh, and share. We even all managed to have lunch together over the video. Our Saturday lunches are a big deal with this group, and we were not going to let the miles stop us. There was no need for negotiating where to get lunch, we just all walked into our own kitchens and back again. 

This group has also taught me it is okay to take risks and to paint a bad painting, because we are all learning. Yesterday I painted confidently for the first time since sheltering at home. I felt really good about what I was doing, but in the middle of the night the painting came into my thoughts and I knew there was something that was not right. I came into the studio this morning and wiped off a section and now I know what the painting needs before the signature is added. Just to validate my thinking before the paper towel was in hand I photo’d the painting and sent the image to one of the artists, who agreed with my assessment. She also wants me to send another image of the painting to see what the change meant to the overall piece. I am so lucky to have a group of artists will to share and take time to help make me better at my craft. 

Cindy Schreck Gillett

Comfort Zone by Cindy Schreck Gillett

In these crazy times we all need to find our “comfort zone” while being as careful as we can regarding the pandemic that is COVID-19.  

Today I’m honoring all the pets around the world who are in isolation with us, providing more comfort than ever before. Jack, the Jack Russell terrier is currently hunkering down in Verona, Italy with his family. You can find Jack on his Instagram page: Beautiful Jack Alfonso.

That’s where I recently found his photo which inspired this painting.  I reached out to his “mom” and have instantly found a new virtual friend. Someone who is by now well versed in what it’s like being in isolation in a country besieged by this virus.

We have been messaging each other during the past few days and she has provided me a glimpse into her world…the world we are beginning to experience here in the United States, an uncertain world indeed!  So, my message would be: find your comfort zone, take care of yourself and your loved ones, reach out to a stranger and connect…social media can provide some scary information but it also can provide us hope and a way to connect with others around the world.  We can pray, connect, protect ourselves and continue to have hope that one day, we WILL dance again!

Endorphins, Synapses and Making Art!

This is a painting of my son in 2012 when we were riding along the New River

Thoughts, Emotions, Techniques and Inspiration from the Easel

by Laura Pollak

http://www.laurapollak.com

I have a friend that I call when I get down in the dumps and just plain cranky. The first thing she asks me is ‘when was the last time you rode your bicycle?’

On our first date, my wonderful hubby of 36 years, took me on a bike ride. I’ve always loved the freedom and the wind whistling by, not to mention the gorgeous scenery. But just recently, I’ve realized that my ‘creative health’ is very dependent upon how much I exercise.

A couple of months ago, when all my paintings were turning out like doodoo, I kept trying to force myself to get some mental clarity, and everything just went downhill. I felt that exercise was a luxury I couldn’t afford. WRONG!!! Jeff (my hubby( said I needed a bike ride (he was the brunt of my general crankiness, poor guy!)

When I got outside onto my bicycle, I immediately felt the endorphins kick in (sorta like the feeling you get after a great belly laugh or eating chocolate) and a sense of well-being rushed over me. Not to mention the eye candy of the gorgeous scenery of the rolling North Carolina countryside! What was amazing…was that old and long forgotten, happy memories kept popping into my head. AND one after the other, I kept getting new ideas for paintings that I wanted to try. Mental connections were buzzing in my brain!   Like little doors opening, rapid fire! Those endorphins were letting my synapses fire and creativity was ablaze! 

Now, I try to make exercise a scheduled activity. (I know that most of you already realized this, but I’m a little late to the game.) Yesterday, I rode 35 miles in the morning! Yes, I was tired but my brain sure does feel better. And on days when I can’t take a few hours to ride, a walk in the neighborhood does the trick.

All I’m saying is our brains need to be well oiled, just like our cars. Neither performs well without stomping on the gas and cleaning out the carburetors. So, if you’re in a creative slump, hop on your bike, take a walk or a swim. Watch what happens and let those endorphins kick in!

An Affair to Remember!

My 45-year-old love affair is still going strong…

By Mary Beth Sasso https://www.marybethsasso.com

It was the summer of 1975 when I was first introduced to the love of my life. I’d just turned 15 andnever experienced such a rush of exhilaration. It was a journey that I happily embarked upon andnever once looked back even for one minute. My life would never the same from that day forward.Looking back I was very fortunate to have started this love affair at such a young age, an age whereI had no preconceived ideas of what to expect. It was a fresh new chapter filled with warmaffection, passion, and an unwavering devotion.

Today, that love affair with pastels is stronger than ever. They still remain vivid, pure and intense, but most of all never change as the years go by. It’s still a thrill when my fingers touch their scrumptious velvety soft surface.

I love the fact that they are always accessible to me at any given moment and best of all I can makechanges anytime without a major commitment. Pastels are always dependable; staying true totheir color once applied to a surface. They never let down me down. Never. I always know what toexpect.

Pastels can be slightly hard or buttery soft, round or square that allow for a wide range of strokes. My favorite way to work with them is to gently layer colors building up to a delicious, rich color combination, and then ever so gently moving the color around with my little finger creating magnificent effects. Plus I let them do the blending sometimes because they know exactly how to create the most beautiful results. Really there are no limitations on what they can accomplish. And don’t get me started on the colors.

Once you get a taste of the hundreds of colors it is easy to become addicted. It’s like going to a candy store and having to choose, it’s impossible to just pick just a few. Impossible. But I love you my beautiful pastels and will never stray to another medium.

My beautiful pastels!

Picasso and Pastel

by W. Truman Hosner

The following is a letter from W. Truman Hosner to the PSWC written in 2015. It is timeless and timely since we are back at the Haggin this year, so we share it here.

Dear PSWC,

     I extend a sincere note of appreciation to everyone at PSWC who worked so diligently to create the Pastels USA Exhibition at the Haggin Museum in Stockton and to award juror Terri Ford for what must have been a difficult task considering the broad quality level of the work displayed. It was my honor to be accepted into an exhibition of work in a medium that I have loved and used exclusively for nearly 25 years and an even further honor to be among the award recipients.

On my “red-eye” flight into San Francisco from Detroit, I reflected on the world of pastel and how much it has evolved in those 25 years, in a large way thanks to PSWC. 

Yet upon my arrival, when I found in the Haggin Museum’s permanent collection a vivid pastel by William Merrit Chase, more alive today than ever, I was reminded of a statement by Pablo Picasso. 

Picasso said; “Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change and with them their mode of expression.”

I thought what I was experiencing in the current PSWC exhibition at the Haggin was not an evolution of the medium of pastel, but rather an evolution of the thinking of the artists using it. Pastel in and of itself has always been a mature art form and we need only look back on the work of artists like Chase to realize it. 

At the PSWC exhibit I found a group of living artists who no longer should be labeled as “pastelists”. Now they must only be properly considered in a framework of; “painters”-who chose to work in pastel.

In their work is a thinking that has evolved. They use pastel to give significance to the subjects they choose. With the language of pastel they best express their joy of the unexpected, their pleasure of discovery, and their spirits stand ajar to the possibilities of the universe.

Painting will always be more a manner of thinking than a matter of medium.

In conclusion I will share a humorous story about pastel:

I couple of years back I attended a plein air event in southern Indiana. In attendance were a number of “heavy-hitters” from the oil-painting world, very nice fellows I might add. For two evenings in a row at dinner one particular gentleman made a point of quite vociferously asking me in front of his associates, “How are your charcoalscoming?” I patiently bit my tongue by always politely replying; “Quite well, thank you.”

Finally on the third evening, when he once again asked his question, one of his associates gave me my opportunity by joining in and asking: “So, Hosner why don’t you work in oils?” 

I slowly looked around the table at my new friends and smiled, and said: “Gentleman . . . why would I want to work in a lesser medium?”

There was a hardy laugh all around, and we all walked away that evening a bit closer.

This week I will be writing a letter of gratitude to Plein Air Magazine thanking them for their contribution of a Full-Page Ad as an award.

Again, -many thanks to PSWC for an exceptional exhibition!

Respectfully,                                                                                     

W. Truman Hosner

© 2015. www.wtrumanhosner.com

Finding Inspiration while Life Happens

Welcome to our March Guest Blogger Laura Pollak

(www.laura Pollak.com

Life happens! Things get in the way. Kids get sick, and parents need our help. Months can go by without standing in front of our easels. And the longer the time away, the scarier it gets to pick up that pastel stick or paintbrush! Then the inner dialogue begins,  and what a mean little devil that Negative Nancy can be!

So here are some things that have worked for me to get going again.

First, as corny as it sounds, physical exercises ‘opens my channels.’ It gets rid of my bad energy and lets happy and productive thoughts seep in. Of course, meditation to get yourself grounded and relaxed is another healthy direction.  

WARM UP

When you’re ready to get in front of the easel try this simple exercise:

  • Pick an artist that you love.  Whether it’s representational or abstract… just look at their work and decide why you like it.   
  • Take scraps of paper; whether it’s your beloved sanded paper, or even brown craft paper.  (You can always use little pieces of paper or paintings that failed and you’ve wiped down leaving a ghosted image.) 
  • Pick up some pastels that have a palette of the person’s work you admire and consciously try NOT TO MAKE A PAINTING!
  • DO NOT TO COPY THE PAINTING. Just experiment with marks and shapes. 

REMEMBER YOUR WARMS AND COOLS AND LIGHTS AND DARKS

Remember that a Concert Pianist doesn’t step out on stage without doing their ‘scales’, warmups and daily practice.   These will be your exercises.     I even took a workshop with a wonderful artist who closed his eyes in front of the class, took several deep breaths and then started painting.   We need to get our brains in the right place!

Continue to work on your warm up project. And take the pressure away, the results will never see the light of day. You are trying to find a new palette of colors that play together nicely. Then look at your values: lights and darks and warms and cools. Try colors you would never reach for and marvel at the interactions!

4″x 4″ WARM-UP Painting by Laura Pollak
4″ x 4″ Warm-up Painting by Laura Pollak

BREATHE

Have you ever noticed when you’re painting that your stomach goes up in a knot! Be aware of that and make sure you relax and breathe! It’s ONLY PAPER!

Well, last month, I went into a panic. Why? Because all the ‘Shows’ have their entry dates coming up and I had NOTHING to enter. I hadn’t painted since October! Is it smart to paint for shows? I cannot think of anything worse. What crazy pressure! But then again…there is also nothing more motivating. 

So, from January 2ndthrough January 27thI painted all day, every day. I came up with a lot of junk., or as a very kind friend said, “They’re not ready for ‘Prime Time’.” Twenty-seven paintings in twenty-five days. Just like fashion photographers…I took a lot of shots hoping somewhere in the mix there would be something worthwhile. Out of all that work came about five paintings that were ‘worthy’ of entering. Every night, I was dreaming about what I’d do next, different ideas, unique palettes, how I might underpaint… you get it. I was on a roll to the point that I could produce two paintings a day! In the GROOVE!

This month, with teaching workshops and gallery exhibits, I’m torn away from my easel yet again, so I have to start my practice of not making paintingsall over again.

Climbing out of a rut can seem impossible, but I can assure you that if you try to just Warm UpRemember Your Warms and Cools and Lights and Darks, and Breathe, and you’ll get out of your rut and into the GROOVE in no time!