Monthly Archives: January 2017

Q: Would you share your elevator pitch?

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

A:  Here it is:

I live in New York and have been a working artist for thirty years.  I create original pastel paintings that use my large collection of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art – masks, carved wooden animals, papier mache figures, and toys – as subject matter.  

Blending with my fingers, I spend months painstakingly applying dozens of layers of soft pastel onto acid-free sandpaper.  My self-invented technique achieves extraordinarily rich, vibrant color and results in paintings that uniquely combine reality, fantasy, and autobiography.

My background is extremely unusual for an artist.  I am a pilot, a retired Navy Commander, and a 9/11 widow.

Please see the extensive interview (14 pages so page through) at

http://barbararachko.com/images/PDFS/ARTiculAction-July2014.pdf

and see images and more at http://barbararachko.com/en/

Comments are welcome!  

Pearls from artists* # 232

Studio entrance

Studio entrance

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Think of this distance we travel between home and work, between family and art, between our everyday responsibilities and the life of the imagination as our own version of a rush-hour commute.  We’re not standing on a platform, boarding a train, shouldering our way through crowds on our way from home to office – a ritual that creates its own buffer zone between the two traversed worlds – but we are still making a journey.  It’s a solitary trek, and to a casual observer it might not seem like we’re going anywhere at all.  We might, for instance, be sitting in the same exact spot.  We might be wearing the same clothes we slept in, or maybe we’ve actually showered and put on a semblance of normal attire.  But no matter.  We are commuting inward.  And on Monday mornings – or after a long holiday, a summer vacation, any time we have been away from the page – we have to be even more vigilant about that commute.  We are traveling to that place inside ourselves – so small as to be invisible – where we are free to roam and play.  So let the electric company wait.  Let the mail pile up.  Turn off the phone’s ringer.  The voices around us grow quiet and still. We travel as surely as we’re in our cars, listening to NPR, our mug of coffee in its trusty cup holder.  We know that once we enter the place from which we write, it will expand to make room for us.  It will be wider than the world.   

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing:  The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life 

Comments are welcome!

Q: What do you dislike most about being an artist?

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

A:  I am not the only artist who would say this, certainly, but the low pay is a continual frustration.  

The expenses of doing business continually increase and most other professionals get to pass these on to their clients.  But for artists it’s different:  it’s just tough to pass along costs to collectors.  One of the reasons I spend so much time educating people about the process involved in making my pastel paintings, is to provide some understanding of the serious amounts of time, effort, travel, thought, education, money, etc. that are essential to creating them.  

It always surprises me when non-artists don’t appreciate the unswerving devotion and plain hard work that are required of professional artists.  It makes me wonder what people imagine artists do all day.          

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 231

Working on "Charade"

Working on “Charade”

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

This is the one experience that has been confirmed repeatedly and to which I have progressed slowly after a fearful, despondent childhood:  that the true advances of my life could not be brought about by force, but occur silently, and that I prepare for them while working quietly and with concentration on the things that on a deep level I recognize to be my tasks.

The Poet’s Guide to Life:  The Wisdom of Rilke, edited and translated by Ulrich Baer

Comments are welcome!

 

Start/Finish of “Palaver,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26″ x 20″

Beginning

Beginning

Finished and signed

Finished and signed

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 230

On the Indian Ocean in Tanah Lot, Bali

On the Indian Ocean in Tanah Lot, Bali

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

I like excitement as much as the next person.  Perhaps even more than the next person.  But I get overstimulated easily, and I can feel my brain shorting out when I have too much going on.  And it doesn’t take much:  a good piece of news, a nice review, a longed-for assignment, a cool invitation, and suddenly I can’t think straight.  The outside world glitters, it gleams like a shiny new toy.  Squinting, having lost all sense of myself, I toddle with about as much consciousness as a two-year-old in the direction of that toy.  Once I get a little bit of it, I am conditioned to want more, more, more.  I lose all sight of whatever I had been doing before.

One of the strangest aspects of a writing life is what I think of as going in and out of the cave.  When we are in the middle of a piece of work, the cave is the only place we belong.  Yes, there are practical considerations.  Eating, for instance.  Or helping a child with homework.  Or taking out the trash.  Whatever.  But a writer in the midst of a story needs to find a way to keep her head there.  She can’t just pop out of the cave, have some fun, go dancing, and then pop back in.  The work demands our full attention, our deepest concentration, our best selves.  If we’re in the middle – in the boat we’re building – we cannot let ourselves be distracted by the bright and shiny.  The bright and shiny is a mirage, an illusion.  It is of no use to us.

If there is a time for that brightness, it is at the end:  when the book is finished and the revisions have been turned in, when you’ve given everything inside of you and then some.  When the cave is empty.  Every rock turned over.  The walls covered with hieroglyphics that only you understand – notes you’ve written to yourself in the darkness.  But it’s possible that something interesting has happened while you’ve toiled amid the moths and millipedes.  Once you’ve acclimated to cave life, stumbling toward the light may have lost some of its appeal.  What glitters looks shopworn.   The sparkle and hum of life outside the cave feels somehow less real than what has taken place deep within its recesses.  Savor it – this hermetic joy, this rich unexpected peace.  It’s hard-won, and so easy to lose.  It contains within it the greatest contentment I have ever known.       

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing:  The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life 

Comments are welcome!

What’s on the easel today?

Work in progress

Work in progress

A:  I am in the very early stages of a large pastel painting.

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 229

"Epiphany," soft pastel on sandpaper, 38" x 58"

“Epiphany,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 38″ x 58″

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

After his own cancer diagnosis, [Donald] Hall writes:  “If work is no antidote to  death, nor a denial of it, death is a powerful stimulus to work.  Get done what you can.”  There is this – only this.  It would be good to keep these words in mind when we wake up each morning.  Get done what you can.  And then the rest is gravy.  

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing:  The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life 

Comments are welcome!

Wishing you an Inspiring 2017!

New York

New York