Lost-and-Found by Patricia Raible

 Mills Shoals Falls, Brevard, NC is one of many beautiful places in the Carolina mountains. See the video    Connections In Nature    that features my paintings and their inspirations on this site.

Mills Shoals Falls, Brevard, NC is one of many beautiful places in the Carolina mountains. See the video Connections In Nature that features my paintings and their inspirations on this site.

Inspiration

Where do you get your inspiration? It's a common question for artists. For me, inspiration comes from many sources. Sometimes ideas come from reading, listening to others, or writing in my journal. Other times it is both as simple and as complex as being overwhelmed by my feelings as I watch waves cut trenches into the sand at high tide or water cascading over rocks from 30 feet above me. And lately it seems, much of my inspiration comes from nature.

The Painting Process

Thomas Merton is quoted as saying “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” With my art based in nature, I find the opposite is true. I usually loose myself first and then find myself again in the painting process. And I do mean loose (set myself free). It is a back and forth, pull and push process that can be frustrating at times, rewarding at others.

My nature paintings are usually based on specific places, but they are not unlike other similar locations. In fact, it is this sameness that interests me most—the connections between what is visible and what is below the surface. It is this connection between the physical aspects of the place and the emotional reaction of the viewer that I hope to capture.

It is difficult to explain what happens during the painting process. I am creating my version of the waterfall, the trees, or the seashells at low tide. But as an abstract artist I am not replicating them. Rather, I am striving to duplicate or even elevate the “experience” of walking up that tight, rugged trail to the summit of Mt. Mitchell. I want the viewer to have the impression of being surrounded by fir trees on both sides and sweating from the effort of climbing over roots and rock. I want them to feel the connections, that oneness with what surround us.

Coming Together

Painting is my method of working out ideas and their relationships to one another. It is a mystery or a puzzle to be solved. Often there is resolution. Other times the search continues, and I paint the same ideas over and over. But ultimately it is all a part of the great energy that is within us and that surrounds us.

Can I Blame It On Gravity? by Patricia Raible

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What We Carry, ©Patricia Steele Raible, 24” x 17.75”, mixed media on deep wood panel

In his book Seeing Places artist Brian Rutenberg (http://www.brianrutenbergart.com) talks about the copy of Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware that hung over his childhood bed, saying it is still one of his favorite paintings. This painting is symbolic for him, and he remembers the first time he saw the original while visiting his grandparents in New York. While I didn’t grow up with art on the walls, by the time I was in my twenties I had begun collecting posters. I now have copies of the art of Georgia O’Keeffe, Alan Magee, Peter Blume and about a dozen originals by wonderful regional artists. They all give me joy and never fail to draw me in.

Rutenberg calls making art a “gravitational pull.” He is right. It is not something I could stop willingly. So if my artwork touches people and they want to buy it, I am truly gratified. But it is also okay if they are moved enough to put an image on their refrigerator. What is critical is whether my paintings resonate with the viewer.

I was particularly pleased to have been asked by a staff member of the St. Simons Island, Georgia, Presbyterian Church(https://www.sspres.org) if they could feature What We Carry on the front of their church bulletin. While my images have been used in my own church, this was the first request from another community. For those at the St. Simons church, I can only hope that the painting provided a path into worship. 

 

For Mother Nature by Patricia Raible

  "Camping," 11" x 14", Mixed media on canvas with paper, fabric, and charcoal pencil

"Camping," 11" x 14", Mixed media on canvas with paper, fabric, and charcoal pencil

It is a very hot July day, and I have just hiked two miles over a moderately difficult trail. Of course I hear it before I see it. That’s always the case for waterfalls, but I do not expect it to be so large and powerful. As the trail flattens out at the last rise there is a railing. I stop immediately, finding myself being cooled and tickled by the spraying water from Rainbow Falls. It is difficult to believe something like this is in the middle of the forest in a gorge in North Carolina. A discovery all my own; a discovery shared by so many. 

Peter Wohllenben, author of “The Hidden Life of Trees,” believes trees speak a “silent language,” one that communicates via smell, taste, and electrical impulses. But it is not just forests. I have also seen the ocean speak. I see people sit and stare at it for hours, bathe themselves in its saltiness, and walk its sand looking for reminders of their visit to what can only be called a sacred place. And now, of course, waterfalls.

These are all magical places. Transforming places. Since childhood, these were places that opened me to myself, soothed my soul, and offered me solace, inspiration, and just plain happiness. So, you can understand why I have a difficult time understanding those who would destroy it for their benefit and who would try to convince me they were actually doing it for mine. 

Artists have either painted or used almost every aspect of our natural world as model or inspiration. We are quite indebted to its beauty and power. I am particularly indebted and have made a small gesture acknowledging my thankfulness. I know it’s a small gesture; “a drop in the bucket” would be the term. However, as I have noticed in many plumbing events at my house, many drops do fill a bucket. So I have aligned myself with a generous site called For Mother Nature which links artists with those who love nature. It is not a direct sales site, but rather a network of artists who support various environmental causes with a percentage of their sales. As part of their network, I have pledged to donate 10% of all my sales to Friends of the Earth. 

Friends of the Earth (https://foe.org) has been around for almost 50 years working to protect people and wildlife through systemic reforms and collaborative effort. They have grassroots groups in 77 countries and currently focus on clean energy and solutions to global warming, protecting people from toxic and new, potentially harmful technologies, and promoting smarter, low-pollution transportation alternatives. They also believe that the fight for justice and the movement to protect the health of the planet are part of the same struggle.

If you are committed to trying to sustain our world, please check out http://formothernature.comand their many artists. If you are a concerned artist, please consider being part of http://formothernature.com.

Finishing by Patricia Raible

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La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, 1901 – 06, Paul Cézanne

 

Is an artwork ever finished? Some artist can say yes, sign it, and let it go out into the world. Others, unless (it goes into the world) will keep changing and refining it. So we have finish as in “complete” and finish as in “process.”

 When I did a little research I found that Paul Cézanne was among the painters who left so many paintings incomplete. One historian blamed some of this on his analytical methods and his use of thickly placed layers of paint since it likely took months to finish any piece. But editors of a book called Cezanne Finished- Unfinished explain that the unfinished areas were possibly experimental at first but were later deliberate and provide us with insight into his creative process.

 This all started because I am constantly “finishing”—one of those who fits both definitions. Luckily, I don’t “finish” as in process (a cold wax rub for my paintings) because if it’s hanging in the studio I keep refining. Just a few days ago I decided that a small portion of a large painting wasn’t right, a painting that had been there for at least a couple months. I was disturbed that a shape in the corner seemed to lead your eye off the page. At least it was an easy fix and had not gone to a gallery or show.

 Harder than “finishing” the painting will be photographing the “newly finished” piece. 

 

Where Is Home? by Patricia Raible

 "Away," 14" x 11", Mixed media collage

"Away," 14" x 11", Mixed media collage

Sometimes home is the place where we live physically, where we earn our living, where our children play in the park, where we walk our dog. Other times “home”  is another physical location, somewhere else—away. Because to be home we must find solace. It must stir our heart.

Some of us have several homes, though similar. Don’t get me wrong. I love the house I share with family, but the place that gives me solace is nature: the mountains, the rivers, the fields, the marshes, the ocean. I think I am made of a bit of it all. I breathe it in and become part of it.

“Away” was inspired by a trip to the barrier islands of the Carolinas.

 

Shifting Fragments by Patricia Raible

   Shifting Fragments    16" x 16" Mixed media painting with collage on deep wood panel

Shifting Fragments  16" x 16" Mixed media painting with collage on deep wood panel

 

We all know you can’t prepare for everything. We want change that is gradual and slow so we can see it coming, but life has way of sideswiping you when you least expect it.

Almost 6 years ago my husband had a “heart incident” as we like to call it. His heart fluttered, skipped a beat and threw a small clot. Even the paramedics could find nothing wrong when they arrived, but he felt a pain like “toothache” in his chest. So just to be safe he went to the hospital. While there was no damage, we discovered that sometimes he has an irregular heartbeat. “Sometimes” was really hard to deal with at first, but now after so much time he just exercises, eats right, and carries nitroglycerine in his pocket.

 I was reminded again of how slowly, and quickly, things change and could change, while hiking the trails in Stone Mountain State Park. The large rock faces with layers and splits big enough for climbing were formed by geological exfoliation. While they seem impenetrable, as if they will be there for thousands of years, the reality may be different. The change to these rocks is climate related and normally happens very slowly, but according to the park rangers because we don’t know the depth of the splits there is always the risk that rocks, particularly those with vertical and horizontal cracks, will shatter and slide. Of course, should there be an earthquake, they could crumble very quickly.

 It’s both a bit scary and a bit comforting how human life parallels nature.   Mostly, the changes are gradual, but we are all shifting.

 

 

Graveyard Fields by Patricia Raible

 Graveyard Fields, 36" x 48" x 3", Mixed media collage painting on deep wood panel

Graveyard Fields, 36" x 48" x 3", Mixed media collage painting on deep wood panel

This new painting was inspired by a hike in late August along a trail called Graveyard Field in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a flat mountain valley just off the parkway surrounded by mountains like Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Sam Knob. The day we hiked the goldenrod was already evident as were the wild blueberries and many people left carrying overflowing hats, pails, and milk jugs.

It was an easy hike except for the climb to the falls, but I was most fascinated by the boardwalks that keep the trail elevated in areas that tend to flood—and the flatness even though you are at 5,000 feet elevation. The Park Service history says the name may have come from a windstorm fell that downed hundreds of trees or extensive logging in the early 1900’s. Either way the stumps eventually resembled moss-covered graves. Later fires devastated the entire valley, apparently heating the soil enough to sterilize it so that plants had difficulty growing. Now some trees, shrubs, and grasslands are slowly thriving.

It is a ghostly landscape, but an enriching one as well. Like most of my trips into the woods I leave feeling very large, yet very insignificant at the same time—and very much at peace.

 

Connections by Patricia Raible

 Detail of "Fight Song," 36" x 24", mixed media on board

Detail of "Fight Song," 36" x 24", mixed media on board

This past weekend was the second time in as many weeks that I visited my mother and she did not know me. There are many possible reasons for this—medication, the progression of her Lewy Body Dementia, the fact that she is waking from a deep sleep. 

It saddens me in many ways, but once I tell her who I am and help her connect, there is still lucid conversation. When I tell her about my four-month-old grandson’s crying and tummy troubles, she remembers my brother who died in August. Then she says: “You were no trouble, always happy.” Of course, this is not what she said while I was growing up or what she would have said a few months ago, but it is lovely to hear. I have to fight the tears because I want us to talk about happy memories, and I want to keep her connected to the present as long as I can.

So how does this relate to art? I think it has to do with the layers that I texture, paint, and collage. I was reminded of this when teaching a workshop this past weekend. My paintings have so many layers, some of which I like and some of which I don’t.  I may bring one to the surface and then decide I don’t like it or don’t like part of it. Or I may create a layer that is a combination of what is below and the new elements I add to the top.

Putting something new on the surface doesn’t change that initial layer; it just adds to it, making it richer, more complex. It connects each piece, allowing me to focus on what is most important. Life is like that too.