Photos from RI Abstractionists exhibit reception at the Pitcher-Goff House Gallery, May 2022
I packed up a few art supplies, several sizes of canvas, and set up shop to use a shipping container as my art studio for a week. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to create that week in terms of finished paintings, or if I’d just to aim for more exploratory color compositions and sketches for later use. I looked forward to meeting the other artists and to working with artist and curator Nick Paciorek during the residency stay.
I hadn’t painted at an art residency since 2019, before covid and before the traumatic ordeals with my father’s and father-in-law’s deaths. Since January 2022, I had begun painting again after taking time off from all that, and I was painting fairly productively out of my studio again. When I heard about “The Artist Life” experience at the Pitcher-Goff House, I thought it would be just what I needed to work in another space for a change of scenery, and to hopefully open me up to some new ideas or new approaches to my work.
When I arrived, I was assigned a shipping container to work in. The shipping container studio included electricity, lights, studio easel and plein air easel, a large storage cabinet, and a table. One end of the container doors opened completely to provide light and fresh air, and a really amazing view over the hill and into the downtown below. An additional sliding glass door installed in the shipping container provided more than enough light and airflow. Since I was there in late April, the weather was perfect (for me), in not still being too cold or too warm. Later in the week the wind kicked up and the temperatures dropped a little, so I turned on the provided space heater to keep the space cozy and warm while painting. There are four shipping containers arranged around a central courtyard area with patio chairs and tables, all oriented to take in the view.
One of the features of any art residency is the ability to work with and bounce ideas off the other artists. Upon checking in with Nick, I discovered there were two last-minute cancellations, making this a solo experience for me. That actually worked out as a perfect way to ease back into my art residency flow, and it ended up opening the way for me to have a much more personally tailored art residency experience.
It was really refreshing to be encouraged to create without any worries of making a mess on the floor or walls. I had planned on bringing a drop cloth with me, but Nick said not to worry about it. In my home studio, space is much tighter and I’m more aware of attempting to keep paint off the floor and walls.
DAY 1: MONDAY
I began Day 1 with painting a small composition inspired from a spring kayak trip in pond the day before, with lots of greens, aqua, and earth colors. I brought several sizes of canvas, but started small as a warm-up before hopping to larger canvases. By the last day of the residency, I had painted on a 24″x48″ canvas for the first time in two years!
DAY 2: TUESDAY
For the start of Day 2, I worked on a new painting inspired by the colors and composition of the newly-greening buds just barely visible on the tips of the trees within view from the end of the shipping container, contrasted with a blue and cloudy sky. I worked on both paintings simultaneously at different phases, applying dots and daubs to one while adapting and editing the drips and raindrops of the painting’s application the day before.
Between painting sessions, Nick and I took breaks to chat about the broad range of topics related to a working artist life over coffee and lunch: testing markets, work/life/art balance, shipping, art shows, and even how grief and mourning affects an artist’s process. We talked over our inspirations and challenges, and Nick took a genuine interest in getting to know the ins and outs of my rainy oil painting technique, asking critical questions on if I had tried using a particular tool, substrate, or subtle change in how I moved my paintbrush. All week he asked great questions that challenged me about how I approached or thought about my “Abstracted Rainy Moments” body of oil paintings.
DAY 3: WEDNESDAY
In the morning of the third day, the sky was an interesting combination of being both cloudy and also being very blue and clear at times, so following the inspiration, I created a 18×24 painting examining just the clouds and sky, and anticipating how my rain technique, when applied, would affect the painting outcome.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nick challenged me to take one of his own oil paintings, with his distinctive color palette and the composition of a city scene, and to apply my rain drip technique to it! At first, I thought he was kidding, but he was completely serious. I have never been invited to touch up another artist’s painting with my own paintbrush, let alone a world-class international artist inviting me to apply my own technique to the whole painting. It was exciting and intimidating all at the same time. What if I messed up his painting?!
After overcoming the fear and trepidation of messing up his composition, I moved forward with generously applying stand oil, and using my paintbrush to drag color drips down from the top down to the bottom using pressure and a vertical motion. While I was in the beginning phases of using a blending brush to feather and edit the drips into one another, Nick entered my studio and mixed some stand oil with pigment. When I turned away from the canvas to clean my brush, Nick leaned into the canvas and began applying more globs of pigmented stand oil in bold strokes on the dripping canvas in a wet-on-wet technique. This is not my usual modus operandi! So as soon as he paused to clean his brush and mix colors, I frantically started trying to blend the new blobs of color into the overall rainy texture of the painting, holding my breath most of the time. What ensued after that was a dance in which each of us would alternate in pivoting back to the canvas and making or editing marks in the paint. I truly had no idea which blobs he’d add where on the canvas, so I was really shaken out of attempting any control whatsoever of this painting, so I just went with the flow by responding intuitively with where I edited the paint next. An embedded video Reel below shows a fraction of the transformation.
The result was a beautiful dripping rain-looking painting but with a much more abstract, urban contemporary feel. I worked the rest of that afternoon on editing, shifting, and modifying the drips of that painting. Since there was way more extra stand oil on the paintings, the drips shifted much more quickly than my standard rain-painting process, and the majority of the rest of the day was my constant battle of painting the rapidly-moving paint drips upwards against gravity, while blending and adapting the painting. You can see just how much the painting changed and shifted from its original in the before/after slider image below:
DAY 4: THURSDAY
In the morning of the fourth day, I spent most of it continuing to paint and edit drips and surface texture of the three paintings I had created yesterday, and in the days before. Despite tilting my easel on an obtuse angle to slow the overnight drip progress of the collaborative painting, there was still significant changes to the imagery and texture.
After lunch, Nick showed me a color exercise which which now I can’t not think about Essentially, over several rounds of selection, I had to narrow down color swatch cards from 100 down to 20, then down to 15, down to 10, down to 5, then 3. Then choose the ONE color I would want to be stranded on an island with for my remaining days, as he dramatically phrased it. Then I was to pair this final color with its opposite swatch until I could sense the “color vibration” on my eye’s cornea.
These final two colors, and a third, completed the “color world in which I live.” Essentially these are the colors I’m drawn to in life, in my paint palette, what I wear and choos. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised to know that my number one color ended up being a shade of an emerald/aqua/turquoise/blue-green, and its opposite was a very warm red-orange; my third color was a warm purple. These three colors actually were featured as my wedding colors over a decade ago!
In discussing colors for color’s sake again, I challenged myself instead to abandon the landscape-rain trail I had been taking earlier in the week, and instead went non-objective abstract again with full abandon, but still with the rain/drip element that has become my signature style. I created a very simple grid concept using these three colors to see how it would look when each color dripped into the next color as part of the rain. The results were quite exciting and I found it intriguing, looking to observe which small sections of the painting included elements where the colors caused cornea vibrations when adjacent to one another.
At the end of the day, I was treated to the panoramic views from the rooftop of the Pitcher-Goff House, a 360 degree view of Pawtucket and into Providence. In addition to the color exploration painting, I continued to use Day 4 to still continue to modify and edit the drips of the collaborative painting that Nick and I had worked on the day prior. Because it was still really wet, the colors and textures continued to drip significantly.
DAY 5: FRIDAY
Day 5 was to be my last day. I felt like I was just finally warming up and opening up to broader possibilities! My focus for today’s painting was continuing to stay in the mindspace and motivation of continuing this abstract streak. In discussion with Nick, I chose to continue to ride the wave of abstract and color. My idea for the biggest canvas was to do a sheer color exploration of the second-tier hues discovered from the color exercise (which were essentially related to my top 3 chosen ones).
Instead of making thousands of tiny dots as is usually my custom in starting these pointilism-turn-rain paintings, I use large brush strokes of white paint, diagonally across the canvas. Then on the opposite diagonal, I made long and short dash strokes of thick paint of some third-tier colors: a mint green, a darker red-orange, a cerulean blue, coupled with my original three colors of warm purple, turquoise and red-orange. When each stroke crossed paths with white, the color shifted lightly. I applied my stand oil and rain technique and sat back to watch what would happen. I even challenged Nick to try out the rain technique I’ve used, so he tried it himself to my painting for a couple of strokes.
My idea for these next experimental painting is to let the first stand-oil/paint layer dry (I left a few blank areas in order to allow transparency through the next layer) and then to paint another stand oil /paint layer over this one after it’s dried and see how the layers contribute to the feeling of depth in the space of the painting.
With some paint finally on the last canvas on the last day, I felt accomplished but also bittersweet that this brief residency experience was coming to an end. Working with Nick Paciorek during “The Artist Life” residency helped me to push some creative limits of my artwork, and to consider and experiment with new ideas, concepts and approaches, all still tailored directly to my own style and essential subject matter of artwork. Throughout the residency, I made a list of the many different things I want to try in a future pursuit of continuing to evolve my oil paintings of rain. Now the big question is: should I get started right away on trying this new direction, or let it simmer awhile?
I am very pleased to be invited to exhibit at The Pitcher-Goff House gallery for “RI Abstractionists” May 6 to June 10, 2022. Several of my more abstract rainy oil paintings are included in this upcoming group show of 11 artists. Here’s the description from the gallery website:
If you are local to the region, you might recognize that The Pitcher-Goff House is “where the old Children’s Museum used to be,” visible from and easily accessible from Route 95 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The gallery address is 58 Walcott Street, Pawtucket, RI.
**Tickets are required for both art receptions.**
To purchase tickets ($25/each) for the Friday 5/6 VIP Reception (6-8pm), click here.
To download FREE tickets to attend the public reception Saturday, 5/7 (4-7pm), download your free ticket here.
This exhibit features the work of eleven artists: Frank Gasbarro, Kevin Gilmore, Anthony Salemme, Jane Andreozzi, Robert Rustermier, Michele Aucoin, Theresa Girard, Eveline Luppi, Bob Rizzo, Linnea Lemming, and Rachel Brask.
If you can’t make it to the opening events, you can schedule a private showing with artist & gallery owner/director, Nick Paciorek via this link.
Additional details about The Pitcher-Goff House gallery and exhibits can be found at this link.
Recently Rachel Brask launched limited-time preorders of umbrellas (until 4/14/22) featuring her artwork printed with colorful designs from her collection of oil paintings about rainy days. So here are a few reasons why these umbrellas are so awesome.
- Day Brightener:
Umbrellas with the colorful designs of Rachel’s Rainy Days brightens up a typically gray rainy day when out and about and in use. The 42-inch canopy is wide enough to provide sufficient rain protection and to show off your sense of style and color.
- Conversation Starter:
These colorful umbrellas become a conversation starter – on the sidewalk, in line, at the bus stop, at the family soccer game that should have been canceled because of rain but wasn’t…yeah, you know the one we’re talking about. You’ll be the envy of every soccer parent because your Rachel’s Rainy Days Umbrella will stand out as the one person who remembered to bring rain cover.
- Sunburn Protection:
These umbrellas don’t just have to be used for rainy days – bring one to the park or to the beach on a particularly sunny day (especially if you get sunburned quite as easily or as intensely as the artist does). The bright sun will illuminate the colors of the artwork, making them appear even brighter than they already are.
These umbrellas feature a quick-open button to get you dry from the rain quickly. A wrist loop to keep your umbrella nearby in case it rains while you’re out getting your coffee. And they have a handy closing strap, so when the passing storm yields to blue skies, you can just wrap it and snap it, and take your umbrella with you.
- Supporting a Local Artist:
These designs are an extension of the artwork of painter Rachel Brask. By pre-ordering one or more, you are helping to support a local artists and a small business. Your investments in the artist will be appreciated for years to come, and will also give you exclusive access to special art studio events, programs, and sneak peeks of new artwork.
If you’ve been looking for a stylish way of keeping dry for spring showers, click here to browse 18 designs of Rachel’s Rain Art Umbrellas, open only for pre-orders until April 14, 2022.
I recently experienced a day in my working artist’s life that was just so simply wonderful and fulfilling that it reminded me why I love what I do, enough to keep on doing it despite hard days, so I thought I’d share here.
Wednesdays are usually the most jam packed part of my week, some days dashing from teaching one art class in one state, then quickly hopping the border again to teach a private art lesson in another state (mind you, we only live a stone’s throw from the border). Between that are various meetings, virtual and in-person or on the phone, researching connections and following up leads for the business of being in the art industry.
All in one day I got to: 1) start a collaboration with an artist, 2) teach kids art lessons, and 3) share my passion for working with clients on painting commissions.
I started by meeting with a fellow artist for tea at my studio, and discuss a collaboration we’re both very excited about (more info to come about that at a later time!). Her ceramic work and my rain paintings could easily have a conversation across the room together, and it was so refreshing and restorative to chat with another artist friend and brainstorm ideas for our collaborative exhibition. We discussed how we can plan our respective artworks to respond to artworks by the other artist, sharing our stories and touch points behind our work. We have loosely mentioned in passing, “we should exhibit together sometime,” but to actually get it the ball rolling on it was motivating! I left the meeting hopeful, inspired, and honored to be able to work with this other artist on this project. Having this collaboration conversation started gives me some goals to work towards already for next year.
After that, I met a friend for lunch at a local joint that also happens to have my paintings on the wall. It was nice to catch up and laugh and reconnect after the stresses and chaos of the holidays and more.
In the afternoon, I teach private art lessons after school for a 3rd grader, followed by private art lessons with an 8th grader. I’m always amazed at the wonder and high energy level of the 3rd grader, who is super exuberant and engaged with every single art class we have. If there was an Energizer Bunny of art students, this is the one — I wish I had her energy level sometimes! With my 8th grade art student, our art lesson vibes are much calmer but more in-depth. I was super proud of my 8th grade student this week as we worked to help prepare her portfolio for application to a high school with a strong arts-focused program, talking over concepts and strategies for expressing a cohesive message in her art, in addition to showing skill in the portfolio samples. Seeing her light up when talking about how important art is to her life reminded me of why I love teaching art with kids and teens gearing up for their artistic futures (Edit: I later found out she got accepted to the program! Proud art teacher moment! 🙂 )
After these art lessons, I tidied up my studio for a Zoom chat with a couple who were interested in commissioning a painting, after seeing similar paintings of mine hanging in their local coffee shop. Our video chat went really well. I was so excited to hear this couple share stories about the meaning, memories, and feelings that they had tied to a particular location they wanted me to paint– where they had hiked up a very challenging ascent and took in the extraordinary view from the summit. I get very passionate about painting commissions — they’re one of my favorite aspect of the myriad of art-related things I do. I get animated when talking over painting commissions because they enable me to channel the commissioner’s love of their subject and bring that vision to the canvas through paint, and in my signature style incorporating rainy days.
At the end of the workday day, I closed my day planner of completed checkmarks, switched off the light to my art studio, and turned in for the night feeling inspired, highly motivated, and fulfilled. There are many, many days when I wonder, “Why am I even bothering to make my art my profession?” There are days of failure and rejection. But THIS day was a reminder of all the things I love to do as part of my job: collaborate and connect with other artists, teach and inspire young people to pursue art, and to talk with folks who want to commission a painting and the excitement of anticipating bringing that vision to life on canvas.
People ask me why bother being a professional artist. Days like today provide the spark I need to remind me of why I love my job being an artist.
I create paintings of rainy days — essentially skies, land, and water scapes. If you can imagine a landscape, I can imagine that same landscape as a rainy vision on canvas.
This February, I was out for a walk in the woods nearby my studio. I usually walk on most days, but this one was pretty cold and I almost slipped on ice a handful of times. Normally when I’m out on my walk, that’s the time when I get to clear my head before tackling any of the day’s painting production, marketing tasks, communications, or any other general business obligations for the work day.
I’ve been thinking about the heart a lot lately. January 31st was National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, and I’ve probably been rolling in that thought process ever since. As I was walking a tiny thought popped into my head — what if I used the simple form of a heart as the inspiration for a rainy-method painting? My mind brought up two very specific compositions, which I hastily sketched out when I returned home from my stroll.
The first was a simple pink heart, light pink, floating in a field of dark purple, lighter purple at the top of the background grading into a dark red-purple at the bottom. The second was almost the inverse of the first sketch, a deep purple colored heart floating in a realm of light pink descending into red, each heart with a slight shadow under the bottom point of its heart. Valentine’s Day was right around the corner, so I thought, why not have some fun trying something different?
I aimed to keep the shapes simple as I applied a plethora of very thick daubs of paint all over the canvases. Lately, Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ve assigned as my designated painting days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will start a rain painting. I don’t aim to “finish” a painting on either of these days, as my rain paint process dictates when a painting is “done” only after several days. I started the pink heart on Tuesday, the purple heart I started on Thursday.
I have been working on smaller canvases since restarting my art in January, after just about a year-long absence from the studio. In order to warm up to painting again, I’m choosing small canvases 8×10 and 12×16 inches to create and feel achievable without being overwhelming, and I’m gradually moving up into larger and larger canvases, until I get back to my “show pony” gallery exhibition size of 30×40 inches.
To say I was putting my heart into these two heart paintings would be a bit a little too literal, but it also wouldn’t be too far from the truth. After an intense couple of years in which my heart was broken or mourning from pain, grief and loss, just to paint something like a happy, healthy, brightly-colored heart was a measure of progress in itself. I was even worried that people might think my painting a heart would be too tacky, corny, or off-putting from my usual nature-inspired rainy landscapes.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well received these two little “heartspiration” paintings were by friends, family, and social followers of my artwork. When they were finished, the first painting was a prize for a fun giveaway, and the second went to a spontaneous decision to whomever had the best offer out of the first three to bid on it. I’ve never actually done that specifically with my paintings before, but it was a fun exercise in just letting go of my hearts and having some fun in connecting with people. The hearts were more popular than I had anticipated, because I had to evaluate them at first by timestamp because the offers came in at the same time!
In conclusion, this February has been a small exercise in putting my art “heart” back out into the world, to be open to new things, be vulnerable, be hopeful, and embrace light and the goodness of people.
ABOUT RAINY PAINTINGS
While many see rainy days as gloomy, I see rain as necessary for new life, pause, and renewal. I paint rainy impressions to show new perspectives on finding tranquility and beauty in stormy seasons. I see how sheets of pouring raindrops distort scenes beyond, blending colors and shapes together to drip down glass. Colors seem more saturated in rain, and the storm interrupts everything. After I create detailed pointillism landscapes, I use gravity and stand-oil and a brush to wipe them out, leaving a flawed and different outcome, that I then reshape into something embracing imperfect beauty and tranquility. I take on the changes that come from working intensely on editing and blending the remaining drips and paint smudges. In today’s increasingly chaotic and uncertain world, I want a person to be able to look through my rainy day “windows” and find a peaceful, contemplative moment, to take space to breathe and reflect. Our experience in the storm deepens our experience of sunny days.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rachel Brask is a contemporary abstract/impressionist painter originally from the greater Attleboro area. Her current work explores the sensation of looking through windows during torrential rains. Through these “Abstracted Rainy Moments” paintings, Brask seeks to show people a fresh, hopeful perspective on rainy days. She has exhibited in solo exhibitions and juried shows around New England and in private collections in the UK and Italy. She has developed her work at artist residencies in Maine, North Carolina, and Cape Cod. Rachel earned a B.A. in art from Houghton College. When Brask is not painting, she spends her time designing, marketing, communications, photography, and sharing her love of art through teaching community classes and private art lessons. Rachel Brask Studio, LLC is located in East Providence, RI.
For Valentine’s Day I’m feeling like trying something a little different. I’ve created a small painting in my rainy style of a heart in the spirit of leading up to Valentine’s Day. Since this doesn’t fit my normal style of painting content, I thought I’d give away this painting!
This oil painting is 8×10 inches on stretched canvas, freshly created this week and ready to dry and be sent to a new home filled with love! This painting, valued at $100 could be yours for FREE if you win the drawing!
All you have to do is:
1. Follow @rbraskstudio on Instagram; or Rachel Brask Studio LLC if you only have Facebook
2. Comment on any “heart” post with #LetLoveRain2022 and tag 2 friends that you love. They tag 2 other friends to also be entered.
* Bonus entry if you share the post to your Stories!
3. Click on the link in bio to sign up your email for the giveaway!
* Entries open until February 13, 2022 at midnight PST (USA) *
The winner will be chosen and announced via email on February 14th! The painting will be packed up shortly after and sent to the lucky person to rain a little love on their heart ❤
January 31st is National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day! This day is to ponder how art affects our hearts, our souls. I encourage you to think of a time, past or present, when a form of art really, genuinely moved you.
This photo is from a moment I still recall, while visiting Monet’s Waterlilies at the MoMA in NYC. It was the middle of summer, I had been running all over the city’s art museums, trying to take in as much as I could on a single day trip. I was sweaty and exhausted, probably a little dehydrated.
When I walked into the room containing Water Lilies, I wasn’t ready for it. I believe I had just walked out of the very visually exciting Abstract Expressionism exhibit, and thru some glass doors, which I held for the person after me without really paying attention to where I was walking.
When I looked up to see the Water Lillies, everything else literally just seemed to fade away. Immediately a tingly sensation of calm totally relaxed me, and I was just overwhelmed with the stunning beauty of it all. Tears formed and dripped down my cheek, not sadness, but just moved, overwhelmed and in awe. It was beautiful, and unexpected, and a visceral sensory relief after the day I’d had.
I’ve taught art lessons using a Monet and his Water Lilies as examples from books and digital images, but I had never experienced it in person before that moment. I finally got to see his brushstrokes and textures up close; and to see how luminous the colors all are. Standing in the middle, I was somewhat immersed in them, because the panels are displayed in a circular manner. It was truly art that inspired my heart. I went back again later, just before the museum closed, and got to sit alone with just the Water Lillies and me, and it was the most tranquil and beautiful moments of that trip.
What is an artful experience that you’ve had that moved your heart? A painting, performance, book, film, music, poem, song, photo, sculpture, drawing, culinary creation? I’d love if you’d share it it in the comments!
Photos each have a Photo Number (not ranked in any particular order) for reference within the text of this post
MY ART LIFE TOP NINE
Reviewing my studio’s Top 9 of 2021, there are a few art items that come to the forefront. I can’t look back on 2021 without acknowledging both firstly and secondly, that the deaths of my fathers (my dad and my father-in-law, photos 7 and 9) impacted my personal and art life throughout the year, as I grieved, adjusted, started over, grieved again, adjusted again, and attempted to start over again. You may notice a slight shift coming in my work as I get going again. The one and only painting that I managed to eek out in 2021 was a raw expression of where I was at that point (Photo 8), a canvas of black, dark purple and a tiny flash of white– feeling nothing but darkness and sadness closing in like a cocoon around a tiny flame of hope I held closely, trying to protect it from getting snuffed out.
There were some high notes at random intervals in 2021. My joint exhibition, “Collective Environments” at Hygienic Art (Photo1) was a great way to get back into the swing of exhibiting again after months off. I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled to receive the 2nd place AWARD at Portsmouth Arts Guild’s “Imagine Water” (photo 5). It was an exhibit I just decided to submit to at the last minute, spontaneously, and then found out a couple days later I won an award in the show! I still love how the Guild gave paper gold crowns to all award winners — it was a fun and playful touch at a time when sometimes art exhibitions can take themselves too seriously.
I was also the juror for Heartspot’s “Light at the End of the Tunnel” exhibition in the spring — which not only was a fabulous exhibit for which to review submissions, demonstrating a very creative range in artistic interpretations, but it held personal significance –as all this year I had been looking and striving for some sort of light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. I think many of us all had, and why this exhibit was particularly resonant for the times. It was an honor to jury it and see how it all came together on the gallery walls (Photo 2). Another highlight for 2021 was exhibiting my artwork in contrast to the walls of my favorite gourmet waffle restaurant, The Burgundian (Photo 3).
As I was about to wrap up the year and write it off as a mediocre art year at best, I flipped a two sided coin, one last good thing and one last not-so good thing for the year. I discovered a leak in my art studio! (Photo 6) This affected a large area of the floor that had become soaked. I had to scramble to move a bunch of furniture, canvases, and supplies that were near or in the waterlogged area — including a number of rolled up old works on paper that were unfortunately ruined. All this just as we were preparing our house to host family for the holidays! I didn’t even post about it on my Instagram because I was just so overwhelmed by trying to dry out and dehumidify everything and take stock of what had to be thrown out. It was really deflating and ill-timed ordeal.
On the other side of that coin was that I was able to finish off my art year with one last positive thing — one last hail-mary purchase of an original painting to ship in time as a Christmas gift. It was a pleasure and an honor to pack up this painting (Photo 4) and cross my fingers that it would arrive as a surprise to the buyer’s wife as a Christmas gift.
MY PERSONAL LIFE TOP NINE
Personally, 2021 while a year of mourning, pain, and transition, was also a year with marked celebration, joy, and personal growth. In 2021, I got to meet my sister’s beautiful new baby girl (Photo 16), my niece with whom I now share a birth month. I got to make giggling memories with my toddler nephew (Photo 18). My husband and I celebrated a full decade of marriage with a spring getaway for our anniversary (Photo 12). “Contractor fatigue” also marked our year, as I managed contractor issues for a few home projects (Photo 15) that our fathers had earlier pointed out needed to be done soon, in that familiar way that fathers do. So we wanted to honor that voice of our fathers by trying to get some of those home projects accomplished.
I celebrated the bountiful harvests of a good garden year (Photo 13), inspired by the garden boxes that my own father had crafted (Photo 10) just months before his cancer diagnosis. In 2021, I found solace in simpler things like gardening and filling up my birdfeeders (Photo 11) so I could watch birds as I sipped tea on the porch in the mornings.
2021 was a year where I became more aware and protective of my physical and mental health more than ever. I kept a consistent kickboxing habit (Photo 14), working out consistently 3-4 times weekly even in the midst of chaos, helping with improved muscle strength, confidence, and managing increasing stress. Walking in the woods daily helped clear my mind and keep my body moving.
Fun fact: I tried kayaking for the very first time ever in 2021 — and I loved it! (Photo 17) I want to go kayaking again and get better at it. My social media is now filled with ads for kayaks and kayaking supplies (I’d love to find a nice compact or portable kayak — send suggestions my way if you have any recommendations for one, or any general kayaking tips or favorite locations for kayaking!).
I couldn’t just finish out 2021 without mentioning the coronavirus (no photo needed). Regardless of your views or stances on all the various aspects of the pandemic, it has definitely impacted the year in a big way, once again. So, just as I was about to wrap up the year, and looking forward to starting the new year with a clean studio, a fresh slate, and renewed energy and hope, I tested positive for covid. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and I definitely despaired a bit on how it was going to impact my physical and mental perspectives entering 2022. So, after resting, recovering, and finishing up required quarantines, I’m finally just starting my version of a New Year’s start to 2022. It’s a delayed start, sure. But I’d rather take delayed starts over never starting.
So to start off 2022, I’ve gotten back in the studio, and in my first week back I’ve created not just one, but TWO oil paintings! I’m choosing hope that having a day planner will have meaning again, so I’m using one geared specifically for artists and makers — and I’ve enjoyed writing down goals and projects again. Actually being hopeful for a new year, new paintings, and opportunities feels new again. Like my soul was frozen for awhile, and now I’m just beginning to thaw out again. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and flexibility in following my journey up to 2021, and thank you for sticking with it as we see what 2022 holds!
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On exhibit April 16-May 22, 2021 at Hygienic Art Gallery is “Collective Environments,” a curated show of 4 artists (Rachel Brask, Rebekah Church, Ron Bence, and Suzy Sholley). Collective Environments exists to reveal the wonders of the world outside of our digitally infested homes and discovering the treasures of nature and its experiences. These artists have been inspired by the current state of our Earth’s environment and have assembled to bring awareness to reusability, consumerism, industrialism and natures beautiful moments through found and natural materials, painting, and collage.
Opening Night was April 16, 2021, and here are some photos from the opening reception and of the Collective Environments exhibit. If you’d like to see the artwork in person, contact Hygienic Art to schedule an appointment, or drop by during their open gallery hours: Thursday-Saturday, 12-7pm, Sundays 1-4pm; call (860) 443-8001 or email Sara, email@example.com
In April 2021, I decided I would resume my art practice. I hadn’t painted a thing since my father’s cancer diagnosis and experiencing the mourning of his eventual death. It had been a hard year. In April, I picked up my paintbrush again, almost reluctantly, but necessarily.
During his care, I didnt have any desire to paint, only to take care of him to the best of my ability and spend as much time with him as I could, as we could as a family. After his death, my grief snatched my paintbrush from me, and anytime I even so much as walked into my studio, I would be reminded of my father.
When I finally did start to paint again on my first painting, it was a little more difficult than I expected. Not just like learning to ride a bike again, where muscle memory takes over, but learning to ride a bike with square wheels – not going anywhere very fast, even if going through the motions. To loosen up, when I taught one of my adult art students, we did a collaborative painting exercise, in which we would each make paint marks on individual canvases, abstract, and then switch canvases after every 4 minutes and do it again. The quick mark making and timed sessions helped to break down some of my hesitancy to even work with paint again, and it filled my studio with the smells of active oil painting again. This helped.
Over several weeks in March 2021, I kept having a recurring image stuck in my mind, an idea for a painting for when I returned to painting. It was of a canvas transitioning from black at the top evenly to a cool purple at the bottom, in the rainy style, but with a burst of white at the bottom right quarter of the canvas. I couldn’t specify exactly at the time what the image was, but I feel like the darker colors may have been influenced some by the sadness and grief I had been experiencing vividly every day.
So, I chose four colors – ivory black, dioxazine purple, cobalt violet, and white. Keeping my palette simple and my concept simple, I dipped my brush to canvas, and placed thick daubs of paint throughout the canvas, and the image in my head vaguely emerged, final so I could confront it visually and face it. The colors surprised me by how collectively dark they were, as I’m usually a bright-and-saturated-happy colors kind of person. But I allowed my brush to move. I cannot say that there weren’t a few quiet tears that emerged as I painted, it’s just become normal now any time I take a step forwards again.
The emerging image eventually had the feel of a cloudy, almost haunting, cloudy full-moon night over some purple mountains. I didn’t hesitate to use big gobs of black paint, as I no longer will shy away from using straight out black paint, which I had intentionally avoided using in past painting years.
Once the canvas was covered, it was time for me to employ my signature “rain” paintbrush application and smearing of paint using stand oil, pressure and gravity. I dipped my brush in the stand oil, and proceeded to drag the brush from top to bottom, mixing and smearing downwards all the paint from top to bottom, removing much of the paint in the process, leaving a somewhat distorted vision of what was previously painted. It felt good to do this process again. And in a way symbolic. This whole year, and especially the last 6 months, had been looked forward to and planned with some level of great precision, and then the storms of Dad’s pancreatic cancer, just destroyed and distorted all that as my world fell.
I let the canvas continue to drip for a few hours, and I returned to it every couple of hours with a brush to blend in some of the drips, to help others drip further, and to edit out some drips, especially the ones that were encroaching on the white paint, in order to maintain the clarity and impact of that part of the painting. I really loved noticing some of the striations and nuances in the detail of the the mixing, dripping, paint when looked at at close range. After a couple days, the paint stopped dripping, and I was left with the finished painting.
I was a bit surprised by just how dominant the application of the black paint ended up being. I removed some paint towards the bottom of the canvas that helps to show some more of the purple a bit better, but visible only in controlled lighting. In my original vision, the gradation from black to purple was much more even and gradual. I’m thinking of possibly painting this composition again, but this time use less-thick daubs of black paint on the top, and bring the purple mountain “horizon” line up more to halfway. I’m satisfied with how the white “light” kind of feels like a flicker, or a glow, picking up some of the purple around it. Reminds me of a match lit in a dark hallway, a light of hope even in darkness sort of thing.
It may not have turned out the way that I had anticipated or planned (isn’t it rare if anything ever actually does?), but I’m so glad that I’ve picked up the paintbrush again and got it moving again. Stay tuned for more upcoming paintings, now that I’ve started the momentum again of painting.
I’m also in need of suggestions for titles for this painting. Let me know if you have any ideas that strike you!
In mid-April 2021, I worked with HeARTspot Art Center & Gallery to make selections for their juried show, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” This theme was not only perfectly timed and perfectly appropriate for a metaphorical light at the end of the covid-era tunnel, but for me it coincided with there finally being light at the end of a personal dark tunnel. I look forward to seeing all the art submissions come in, and was quite pleased with what I saw.
When I reviewed each artwork, I tried to soak in each piece, individually, allowing a means for finding the individual light in that specific painting, photograph, multimedia piece, or sculpture. Some were abstract, some were more representational, so we wanted to include a good mix of both expressions. Some were more literal expressions of lights and tunnels, others were more subtle, inviting interpretation. I examined the technical and the overall impressions each made on me, and juried in the accepted artworks. The pieces that I have selected for prizes will be announced at the opening reception.
The exhibit, Light at the End of the Tunnel, is now up on exhibition April 29-June 9, 2021, during gallery hours or by appointment. The in-person opening reception for the exhibit will be held May 27, 6-8pm. Contact HeARTspot if interested in making an appointment to see the exhibition: call 401-383-7577 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.heartspotart.com
Selected Artists include: Wendy Anctil, David Lee Black, Sara Breslin, Joanne DeLomba, Andrew Eckstrom, Janet Eckstrom, Bob Eggleton, Eran Fraenkel, Donna Gagnon, Ann-Marie Gillett, Chase Henebury, Melyssa Lentini, Krzysztof Mathews, Michael O’Donnell, Mary Penta, Pamela Rojas, Sheila Smith, Jill Whiffen. Artwork by the gallery operator, Jennifer Gilhooly Cahoon, and art by the juror, Rachel Brask, is also on display with the exhibit.
On October 8, 2020, my most successful gallery exhibit came to a close. “Weathering The Storm” was the show where I set a personal record for most paintings sold in one exhibition! I was very excited, and so proud of how many people connected with my paintings.
On October 11, 2020 I learned that my father had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He stayed with us temporarily while seeking treatment at one of the top hospitals in Boston. I gave up everything, including my art practice, to just try to help with his care and morale the best I could. We tried to make the most new memories that we could, hopeful for a positive prognosis, but aware it could go in either direction, at any time.
In December 2020, shortly before Christmas, my father passed away, after a long two weeks in the hospital. I was fortunate to have been at his side as he took his last breath, along with my mother. My father had always been my light, my rock, my guiding star. He had always supported my artmaking and my dreams to be an artist. In the final days before he was about to pass, we even thought he’d be coming home, so we had cleared out my art studio, to prepare a first-floor room for him to recover in, but everything went downhill so fast.
In the immediate weeks after his passing, mingled with Christmas and New Year’s holidays, everything is just one big blur of grief, exhaustion, dealing with funerary logistics in the middle of a pandemic. My family returned to their homes, my own house now empty of the sounds I had gotten used to in all the chaos. I lived in a state of deep sadness for a couple weeks, weeks turned to months. I had heard about “grief brain” before, but this is the first time that I lived it firsthand, and lost track of time.
I tried to go in the studio a few times, to paint, but it was emotionally just too hard. I couldn’t even pick up a paintbrush without bursting into tears. My dad had used my studio as his own “little office” during the two months he was here, and after it just became a dump spot for other things in the house, so there was no room to paint, even if I had wanted to.
When the warmer temperatures of late February and mid March started blowing into New England, I finally started to peek out from my cozy grief cocoon, and started thinking about and setting goals in motion to start getting back to “normal,” or whatever that will look like. Progressively, I’ve felt a bit better each day, with time and self-care, and the love and outreach of friends and family.
I set a personal goal of getting my art studio back up and running by April 1, 2021. Today is that day. It is my goal to use this next month to reconnect with artmaking, showing in galleries, reconnecting with art students and teaching art classes again, picking up graphic design gigs, just doing the business of art all over again. I invite you to join me in this springtime of art, through sharing art social media posts, recommending my art to friends, dropping messages here and there, buying a painting or print, or booking an art class, or just to connect with what’s been going on in your own life.
The best thing I love about spring is the sprouting of new life through the colors of flower blossoms after the long, cold darkness of the death of winter. April showers bring May showers…so for me and my studio, I’ll be painting these April showers again soon.
Thank you for being a part of this journey.