Winter is here. The holidays are too. Time to pause. Rest. Refuel. Allow space for new ideas, while making an honest assessment of the year's work. How does one look at their own work with fresh eyes? For me, I clear my studio walls and hang each piece -- one at a time -- and just look. I talk to myself. Make notes. I take a long pause while I listen for that knowing voice. In the end, I hope for direction. Something to take hold of me. A quickening that I recognize as "go this way". That's it. Another year begins to unfold. We will see what is to come.
My Growing Up series explores memories of a place – my childhood home in Maine – across decades. The layers mirror memory: images come into focus, images fade, memories cover over others, and a larger picture emerges from accumulation. These paintings investigate a universal experience of living we all share. It began when my father grew ill and I was spending a lot of time with him in my childhood home. I made the sketch below. A few scribbles, some words, and then the series. READ THE NARRATIVES.
Studio visits have often made me uncomfortable. Mostly because the range of my work is quite wide. "Is this all your work?" I used to explain why. Now I let it be. The fact is, I am a many-faced artist. My "stylistic periods" overlap. In part due to my constant push to find myself, more so, due to painting like a "mood" dresser. I paint how I feel. I did most of the work (above) after the recent death of my father (Peter A. Scontras, 1928-2017). I needed calm and at the same time I was (and still am) processing the mystery of heaven and earth, impermanence, our physical bodies versus our spirit. Stay tuned.
While not specific to visual art, Johannes Brahms' quote invites us to examine the time frame we impose on making art versus allowing incubation. While he probably didn't have as many distractions as we do today, the concept of leaving an idea or a beginning alone, is worth examining. In my view, the first few notes of a song or a painting are often filled with promise. Have you had the experience of pushing through a good beginning? What about this notion of letting an idea sit until you "know what to do". It's a practice worth cultivating. Put the idea away, and let it percolate. Until it beckons you.
Still life paintings from 2010, 2016, 2017
I hear this a lot. It's not the comment itself that I struggle with as much as the pregnant pause and the self-judgement that follow. I think to myself...for better, or for worse? It's similar to other personal, open-ended questions like: Did you get a haircut? or Have you lost weight? It's hard not to explain yourself or to get caught up in a negative thought pattern. Question is: how do I respond to commentary about my work (good, bad, or indifferent)? I used to offer an explanation of why my work has shifted so much. Almost in my defense. After repeatedly hearing myself banter on about it, I realized I don't have to respond. I can choose to take in comments and remain neutral. With the understanding that it's all as it is. So, saying nothing wins. My, I have changed!
Recently, my life has been filled with a lot of distractions. It happens. Family needs, bad weather, this meeting, that obligation. I try to maintain firm boundaries around my studio practice. When I don't, my work suffers, and I suffer. Believe me, there are days when I invite distraction, but in general, studio time is not negotiable. When I feel distracted, I allow myself to experiment. Often I begin by mixing paint. Creating colors I love. I add other materials whose color, texture or shapes interest me. Then I begin to build. No expectations. Here's a shot of what distraction looks like at the end of the day.