Contact: PAPNM President
The current PAPNM President is publishing a monthly letter in this blog. PAPNM Members: please feel free to comment (see comment icon below each letter, similar to Facebook).
Dear Artists, Art Supporters and Friends of the Arts,
Maybe I’ll acquire some haters for this, but perhaps there are more like me out there than I think. I’m just going to say it…I do not subscribe to anything 100%. There you go. We are being assaulted with the all or nothing mindset. Electronics are run through binary code and unfortunately, humanity is being coerced into thinking in terms of 1’s and 0’s.
I will not comply!
Now, to clear up the ragged edges, yes I’m wearing a mask, curbing my “need” to socialize in person and keeping 6 feet between myself and others in the market. Also, I don’t touch hot stoves, dance naked in the road, eat delicious looking pastel sticks, or any other of the myriad things that require common sense. Politics, blue or red, neither if no one is espousing care, good morals and ethics or reason. There is a shortage of critical thinking and respect. I cannot fix the system but I CAN make sure it doesn’t swallow me and turn me into what I loath.
What the heck does this have to do with art you say? Everything!
As a professional artist, meaning I make my living off my art, I have come to many crossroads in my decision-making that guided my career. (Picture my eye roll) Everything from what people will or will not buy, what colors belong together or not, whether to place a subject smack dab in the middle of my painting or not, the right way to frame or not, pastel vs oil, portfolio vs carrying work in hand to approach a gallery, to sell on my website or not…DON”T do THAT, you MUST do THIS….HELP!!
I am here to liberate you.
The rules are merely suggestions. Photo reference is merely a suggestion. How a teacher guides you to their way of doing things in a workshop is merely a suggestion. This is where critical thinking makes or breaks an artist. At some point you have to ask, what works for ME? Maybe you are a crabby introvert or a nervous neurotic seeking gallery representation. Might I “suggest” a portfolio? “ I don’t know what that thing is in my reference, but I’m putting it in there because, well…its there.” Might I “suggest” a little common sense editing? “A gold frame tamps down the power of my light source in my painting but I’m going to frame it in gold anyway because it’s the trend.” Might I “suggest” honoring the painting with what it needs to make it look its best?
You know, I once heard a prestigious judge kick out a beautiful landscape painting that they otherwise would have given a ribbon to, because according to them, a specific type of yellow that the artist used “wasn’t found in nature.” Not that I’m not already sort of a natural born rule breaker, but when it came to art, that was a flat out paradigm shifter. First and foremost, I realized that even the most supposedly knowledgeable art expert can be blinded to genius by some rule they have subscribed to. My second big takeaway was that if I was going to break some kind of rule-of-proper-painting-etiquette, I wasn’t going to be shy about it. I was going to do it big, out loud and unashamed! It was after that I began to notice some of what people loved so much about my art were actually elements where I challenged the rules.
Back to critical thinking. What works for you, you know, the comprehensive list that has gotten you to where you are, is it working for you? Take a look at your assumptions, the methods you hold onto with white knuckles, are they working for you? Have you been chasing someone else’s rules so long you are horrified to pull the emergency brake and get off the bus?
Take a little time as you approach your next painting. Ask yourself why you are painting it. What excites you about the scene. Then when you begin to make a mark, whose voice do you hear? A teacher whose work you admire, or do you even remember? How is it valid to your work, or is it time to abandon it to see what the artist you are can do without that particular net? Rules are meant to be challenged to ensure that they are valid to YOUR goal and vision.
I remarked to my semi private class the other day. What if Monet and Van Gogh decided to go to the Bosque del Apache and do some plein air painting together. What if there was one rule by which to paint trees? What do you suppose those paintings would look like? Think about it…
As you gear up to venture out into the world as restrictions lift, think of your process as a new chapter. Not that you want to change a lot about your approach, but more than that, decide if you “own” the ideas you subscribe to. If you do, use them with power! If your not clear on why you are doing something in particular, explore the alternative. It could lead you to your Renaissance.
Happy and safe painting everyone,
Greetings fellow Artists and Appreciators,
Like most of you, I’m finding the time to tackle my computer projects a bit more accessible with so many things having been cancelled or postponed. As all this began to swallow our normalcy, so many of us were in the midst of events, trips, spring break and such. We all started to have to scramble to keep the train on the tracks until we could get to the other side of whatever we were in the middle of. For a number of plein air painters from all over the country and our own John Meister, the Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta was one such challenge.
After a beautifully planned kickoff that John had organized with a team of trusty volunteers, everyone was eager to hit the hills and town with their paints and the promise of beautiful paintings to come. As I sat talking to so many of the participants, their joy of being in Santa Fe was was as evident as the smiles on their faces. After that, the news, day by day, was becoming concerning. By the time the scheduled Celebration Dinner came around, there was even talk that we may not be able to honor our reservation at the restaurant. But indeed we were able to. Everyone was given a wipe for their spot at the table and their chair, and the restaurant spread us out a bit so we would not be quite so confined. As the hours (literally) passed, John was consulting with the Sorrel Sky Gallery and myself on how we were going to be able to handle awards and the reception. The choice was made by the gallery to have a closed reception, because by then, the number of people allowed under roof had been limited. Hour by hour, some of the participants had to make the hard decision to go home because of health reasons or out of fear they would be unable to fly back home. Some even cancelled flights and rented a car instead to return home. By the time the awards were to be given out, the restrictions had gone from 100 to 50 allowed in an establishment. All that happened in a matter of days, then hours, then minutes.
The story here is that everyone remained flexible. Everyone communicated and came together to discuss how best to handle the situation that was changing minute to minute by the end. The result was an extraordinarily beautiful show, with happy artists so grateful to be a part of the event even in the subsequent difficulties that dampened the prized opening night.
I can tell you that, as an artist who has the privilege of leading this amazing organization, as well as others in the past, I have never been so proud of a volunteer as I am of John Meister. This man’s leadership was second to none in this unprecedented situation. His cool headed responses to the rapidly changing social dictates by the governor had everyone feeling secure and comfortable with their own personal decisions to stay or to go. The show went on and the gallery was beyond happy with the event and working with John despite what was happening.
This organization owes a big debt of gratitude to John Meister. His leadership of this event shines bright on him, but is also an indicator of the integrity of Plein Air Painters of New Mexico. It should remind everyone reading this that we all play a part in the public perception of PAPNM. Whether it’s the honors we garner, the volunteerism we sign up for, down to simply our kindness to the people around us and respect to the land we visit to paint, it all factors in. John has been integral in the movement of PAPNM for a number of years and I hope everyone will take a moment to drop him an email, or to remember to thank him when our lives get us back out doing what we love. I, for one, am one grateful President….
As we move forward into what has been said will be “the worst of the situation” lets all be kind, flexible, and understanding as PAPNM’s calendar, like so many others, may have to also undergo some shifts and changes. Now is the time to come together. What that means to me is, to watch the site and your email. Participate in the regular PAPNM online contests. Donna Barnhill championed our latest Cure the Quarantine Blues popup contest, check it out! There are a few days left! Go out and paint where you can, even if its your back yard and post your paintings on the PAPNM facebook page or tag PAPNM on their new Instagram page. Connect with your painting buddies, check on one another. We can get closer and even grow in times of distance.
I’m wishing everyone a healthy, happy day…
Happy March Artists and Friends!
As I begin writing at 6 AM this morning, I’m aware of the glow from outside reminding me that the days are getting longer. More time it seems, to get the myriad things done that need my attention and more temptation to grab my painting “go-bag” and run off to chase the light somewhere. Spring is close…
I always have music playing in the studio. The last few weeks I’ve spent a good deal of time on the road so I’ve taken to listening to Podcasts while I’m driving. I listen both to Eric Rhoads and Savvy Painter with Antrese Wood. “Digging Deep” is a Robert Plant Podcast that I love also, creativity at its finest as well…I digress…. I really enjoy listening to the endless range of artists speaking about their experiences, their path to where they are now, their hard and fast rules, or not, and their opinions and observations based on their years of being professional artists.
If you are like me, you seldom really realize just how much experience you have. I remember listening to professional artists talk about these subjects 20 years ago thinking, man, they must all have art degrees, I’ll never live long enough to learn all this stuff! Ozmosis is the gradual assimilation of knowledge and ideas, so when it comes to mapping our progress, we can’t put a measuring tape on what we have learned, nor are we able to identify where we learned all the infinite bits and pieces that it takes to do what we do. Painting is like learning to speak. No one source taught you every word in your vocabulary. Your parents got you started, school taught you more, social interaction inserted new words into the system (some not favored by your first teacher). But you were reading on your own, writing things, finding your voice within the parameters of sentence structure. Ozmosis.
All this “listening” I’ve been doing has given me time to reflect on where my artistic life began, somewhere in kindergarten, through to when I decided to realize my dream of making living my life as the artist I was 23 years ago, to now. I listen to the words from these seasoned artists and I understand them now. Some things I agree with, others, I know clearly don’t work for me and still others are ideas I put in my mental toolbox to experiment with. What I’m learning by listening is how much knowledge I have now versus when I had that idealized notion of what living my life as an artist would be, and how much more there is to learn.
The point to all this? Absolutely there is no better teacher than grabbing your go-bag and getting your hands dirty in the field painting. But don’t discount how invaluable camaraderie with your artist friends is, how much you learn from listening to others, watching demonstrations and reading about your heroes. The things you disagree with are great for forcing you to understand within yourself why your way is better. You learn that the path we take is as unique and the marks we make, yet commonality abounds.
50 artists juried in from all over the US will be descending on Santa Fe Friday as John Meister launches the kickoff to the 2020 Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta. Although I didn’t enter this year, I made arrangements to be at the event for the entirety. I want to be in the company of my peers and absorb that creative energy that they will be bringing. Join me in painting the area this week for fun. Respectfully observe these wonderful artists as they capture the spirit of our home state. Learn stuff. Create stuff. Take advantage of the opportunity to fill your mental toolbox! Opening and awards at Sorrel Sky Gallery March 13th.
Natasha Isenhour; President, PAPNM
Dear Painters, Patrons and Art Appreciators,
First I want to thank all you Master and Signature members that made the arrangements, the trek or that shipped artwork to our Winter Invitational at the Taos Museum of Art and historic Fechin Studio. I drove up from Socorro to do intake and got to be first on hand to view the work. The very best part of committing to do intake was the pleasure of spending time talking to the artists bringing in their work. We shared Plein Air stories of critters and insane weather as well as how to turn your car into a studio when your easel is left 400 miles away, and you HAVE to paint! I hope everyone will try to make the opening, Saturday, February 8th from 2-4!
Another thing on my mind this week is technology as I lay to rest a 10 year old Mac for a sleek new MacBook Pro. Did I want to upgrade? Short answer, no. But the need to be able to resize images, name files and the like forced my hand. But it occurred to me as I was finally able to download Photoshop 2020, that simply having that tool, would have saved me many afternoons and countless hours of frustration trying to prepare a mere handful of images on my 2004 version. That program was a sinking ship that I refused to leave a couple of years ago as it began taking on water. But to do that, meant I had to buy a brand new computer because the old one simply would no longer support these bigger and more elaborate programs. Innovations and progress…
I got to thinking about how hard we try to stick to our guns, stay in that safe place, try to outsmart the system and build hacks to work around the inevitable. It reminds me of a place in the rural country here, where a tiny adobe got too small, so a worn out RV was attached by a breezeway connecting the two. Soon there was a room built of 2x4’s and pro panel added to the front of the little adobe. You get the picture. All the time and effort and money here and there, maybe a do over would have been the answer long ago so save the frustration and heartache.
Our world, where our artwork is concerned, is a reflection of technology, life and hardheadedness. We keep doing the same things and wonder why we are stuck. To often, we fail to elevate our art. We save money buying student grade materials and get our frames from the cheapest source or buy inconsistent frame styles just for the sake of getting them into a frame. I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, people read your opinion of your own work loud and clear when they see how you treat it. We think, well, why should I spend all this money on frames! People should just look at the art and if they like it, buy it and reframe it themselves! Not my problem!
I recently held a workshop and we talked about these very things. I emphasized that even when participating in a plein air event, how you dress up your work to go to the party DOES matter. It matters to many judges that the framing compliments the work whether we agree with that or not. And if there is an opening, your work is judged by the public with their eyes. An immediate gravitation toward the painting or away is a result of the overall effect of the package the painting is in. A lot of folks simply cannot or do not separate the two because the framed work is one overarching statement.
So, as you get more experience at events, you need to start thinking about stepping up your game if you expect to move forward. Maybe you say, my work is better than ever, why aren’t people buying, or noticing it? It’s easy to blame the event, the economy etc. But if your presentation still echoes of your first show, you may want to look at how your have honored your improvement. The same is true with trying to save a dollar here and there by buying the cheaper brushes or paint. Better bones really do build better paintings.
I hope everyone has a great February, and that you will be thinking of ways to step up your game no matter what station in your career you are. We work hard to bring beauty into the world and prepare it to share. Be sure it is presented in its best light. And remember, every painting that we deem good enough to put out into the arena, represents YOU. So before it goes out there, ask yourself, am I proud to have this painting speak for me? Because like it or not, it does. Let go of a couple of old ideas, and make room for the new. Now off the soapbox, and to the easel!
President's Message - Jan 1, 2020
Dear PAPNM Family and Friends,
Happy New Year everyone! I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking of what I wanted to say in this inaugural address of the membership. It’s a first impression for some of you, and others will hear the familiar sound of my voice as you read on. I hope you will take a minute to read it as I think it is important to be a part of new beginnings and shifts in paradigms. It’s that golden moment to get a sense of excitement of the new, find comfort in the tried and true, and to see where we all fit in among the pieces of the puzzle.
For all the obvious reasons, the idea of 2020 is most expressed in terms of vision. Perhaps that’s why I’ve felt so empowered in my own career to take a new look and freshen my vision of what this new year has in store. Just like standing outside, pochade box being the only thing between you and what you intend to paint. It’s at that moment that editing becomes your most important ally. What is most important, what is simply noise and isn’t helpful in terms of conveying your idea and sense of place? How do we do that in our lives? Exactly the same way.
I could look at 2020 as a summit that looks impossibly intimidating and feeling the obstacles are just too great, or, I can look at 2020 as a journey to be traveled. Instead of a view far too detailed to possibly get down before the light is gone, I get to edit. I get to say, “squint down and simplify Natasha.” I get to ask myself, what is most important and how can I do what is most important to the very best of my ability instead of putting in everything and maybe being lucky enough to be adequate?
I am a painter first. Volunteering, then having the honor of being elected President of PAPNM is now another big shape in my career that is deserving of my very best I have to give. It is part of my “big picture” and the experience of it will be an enhancement not only to my career, but my life. Thank you for this amazing privilege.
We have an incredible Board for 2020 who are excited to work for YOU. We are stepping in and cycling through, hopefully making PAPNM an organization we can all continue to be proud of. We are all painters, we are all dues paying members, and we all have the same things to gain or lose by our participation. This fantastic organization is only as healthy and strong as the volunteers that step up to help and participate.
Here is where YOU come in! First, you have a few days left to apply to SFPAF, the Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta! I persuaded John Meister mid year last year to give us one more big gift of leading the SFPAF in 2020. It’s going to be held a bit earlier this year in order to secure Sorrel Sky as our venue! We are incredibly fortunate to hold our show there once again. And if you want to give of a little time, please sign up to volunteer for a role in this event or any other. Part of my goal for 2020 is to have the volunteer slots be a manageable load and time frame. More volunteers with less work load so there are many things you can help with even if you are participating in the event! A win-win!
Let 2020 be YOUR year of vision. See how participation and volunteerism can make your art and your heart grow! Be a part of the greater good in this amazing, Nationally recognized organization that you love enough to pay your dues to each year.
I am always happy to hear from you. You can always email me at email@example.com Please know your email is always read, and it make take a bit to get back to you, but rest assured I will do my best to answer you, or to put you in touch with someone who can better field your question. And if any of you are interested in volunteering on the Board in some capacity now or in the future, I am happy to know that too! Hit the ground running and let 2020 be YOUR year of vision!
Natasha Isenhour, President PAPNM
Plein Air Painters of New Mexico (PAPNM)
Informational Address: PAPNM, P. O. Box 20503, Albuquerque, NM 87154-0503
Send Payments to: Donna Barnhill (Treasurer), P.O. Box 1948, Santa Fe, NM 87504