Monday, December 14, 2009

Fairbanks, Alaska 1995

The Time Between Seasons 2007
12"x16" acrylic on canvas

I arrived in Fairbanks Alaska in the fall of 1995. Seasonal employment with the Alaska Railroad was what brought me to Alaska and during the winter layoff season I began to attend classes at the nearby University of Alaska. To save money I located myself just outside of town in a rustic little log cabin that was surrounded by boreal forest land. Many miles of trails that had long been established by dog mushers, skiers and hikers, wound through these woods and In a matter of minutes I could easily be outside my front door and along one of these trails.  Daily excursions into the forest became a big part of my life for many years and I would often walk alone with my dog and with my thoughts. I enjoyed the serenity of my peaceful surroundings and carefully observed how the changing seasons dramatically affected the look and feel of the landscape. Different times of day and the changing seasons offered great variety for what was to  eventually become my subject matter for many years to come. As I adapted to my new lifestyle, and between work and school, it was a good escape for and I often did my best thinking and reflecting along these walks.

To capture and record these moments I would  tote along a camera or a sketch book and began to do some quick studies here and there on location. I was taking art  classes at the university but it would be a while before I actually used this reference material for subject matter. It wasn't until about 2 years later that I actually picked up a paint brush. To meet class and curriculum requirements I working my way through a variety of other subject matter and other media too. When the time came for the trees I had a better understanding of how to describe not just the images but the emotions behind them with paint. I had observed how other artisans had approached similar subject matter and I had some of my own  ideas about how I would approach it myself. The series which started out as simply my little "tree" paintings eventually got the official name "Meditation Forest."

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Time Between Seasons

I have been traveling and working between the two very different worlds of Alaska and Arizona for almost four years now. It has been an exciting experience for me as a landscape painter as each environment offers very unique characteristics. Both areas are known for their extreme climates and with those extremes come some unique challenges both for a landscape artist and for an individual just living life. With this routine I have staved off complacency and worked myself out of a creativity rut. Being exposed to a different community of artists and scenery has inspired me to try things that I had not considered before. These actions have shaped and molded my ever evolving style to what it has become today. Of course the commute and maintenance of two living situations isn't cheap. The down economy and slowdown in art sales hasn't helped much either. Things have slowed down but they haven't stopped and neither have I.

My husband, lives and works in Arizona. He is a big part of the reason that I started my traveling routine. We met in Alaska,where I live, four years ago and began a long distance love affair. Eventually the discussions began about how we would combine our lives into one, we became engaged, and five months ago we married. There have been some of the inevitable compromises and changes along the way. Between the two of us he is a little more rooted and can provide more stability and security. I am a little more bohemian and footloose and after 13 years in Alaska I was drawn to the idea of reconnecting with the mainstream and seeing for myself what was going on in the rest of the world. I had also been experiencing feelings of geographical isolation from the rest of the art world and a little anxious to do something about it. Alaska has an amazing group of artisans and strong artistic presence but I had been wanting to check out what was going on in other regions too. It was conflicting for me though as I was not keen on the idea of separating from a community and a land that I love and had become so attached too. The thought of trading my simple life in a little log cabin in the woods for a house on the corner of a culdesac in a crowded residential area, two blocks from a freeway did not exactly make me jump for joy. But I love my husband and we wanted to have a life together. We were talking marriage, our lives were headed that direction and I made the move, sort of.

I know this is a time for me to be even more creative and innovative in finding solutions to maintaining this new lifetyle. This would be a challenge for any artist even in a good economy, but I believe it can be done and I believe that I can do it. My goals and my motivation are a strong desire to have a life with and grow together with my husband, to sustain and develop my art career, to keep up the AZ/AK commute and to have a comfortable life. I hope that my husband, who by the way is very supportive of anything that makes me happy, will be able to join me as much as possible on this endeavor. And most of all I want to prove that it can be done. Time will tell if my goals are realistic.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Going Plein Air

I have worked primarily as a studio artist for quite a few years and I've been toying with the idea of painting on location for some time. I am a landscape painter so it seems like a natural thing for me to want to do. I'll have to admit that I have gotten quite cozy working in my studio over the years where I have more control over the environment and work at a slower pace. My references have been quick sketches or photos that have frozen the moment and the lighting.

My first challenge was working out the logisitics of working on location. How do I pack and move everything as efficiently as possible and am I prepared for the challenges of the ever changing elements? How do I complete a painting in one session when I normally work on them over a period of time where I have more time to work out decisions?

I did a few practice sessions in my own backyard and practiced packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down,working nonstop in one location while the light and shadows moved around my subject. I definitely had to work faster with not much time for second guessing. I was more commited to every mark I made and there was a noticeable change to the energy of my painting. Time flew by and I never put my brush down. It was an exhilirating experience and after my first session I knew I was hooked.

I have been done a few paint outs since then (about 2 weeks total now) and I am still working out the challenges of packing around my stuff and how to work with more effficiency. I don't want to spend much money so I am figuring out more creative and innovative solutions for my outdoor painting gear.

Today I entered a plein air "paint out" event at a nearby arboretum. There were about a dozen other artists there and they have definitely been doing this long than me. It was good to observe how the others approached the field, the type of gear and set up that they had and to see what could be accomplished in a very short amount of time. I did well for myself and was pleased with my own work but I have a ways to go. I know that this will be something that gets better with experience so I'll just have to keep up with my plein air sessions and see where they take me.