Petria Mitchell's Open Studio
Petey's Notes on Playing With Paint
Playing with paint can get you into big trouble.
My first paintings when I was nine years old were of large abstract sunsets reflecting in Long Island Sound from Orient Point, New York. Most of my thoughts were consumed by the desire to paint and sculpt while Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were blasting in the background, much to my parents' dismay and pleasure -- they encouraged my art making but wouldn't stand for Hendrix!
I left high school at 16 and began my studies at The National Academy School of Fine Arts in New York City. Following my classical studies at the Academy, I went on to Studio Art at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston. Two years later, I began independent work as an apprentice printmaker with Jonathan Talbot.
Working with Jonathan was a pivotal time in my life because I was exposed to the many possible options that a professional artist can choose from. While learning to be a printmaker of original etchings, I became aware of the Arts & Crafts Show circuit and saw my opening! But it was not with etchings. . . .
I decided to teach myself Scrimshaw: engraving on prehistoric ivories. This art form satisfied my interest in working with fine line and detail while offering me the freedom to market my own work nationwide. After 33 years of international sales and acclaim, I currently limit my engraving work to decorative components on custom-made guitars, mainly for Froggy Bottom Guitars in Williamsville, Vermont.
Painting has been a constant through all those years. Being a painter requires simply "showing up"! In other words, first creating a place for working with Focused Intention and then making a commitment to use that space.
My work day starts with entering the studio and greeting my very vocal Amazon parrot, Seigi, my studio buddy of 19 years. Usually I jump right into producing large, loose sketches to loosen up and get my thoughts out of the way. Then I draw a series of smaller "thumb nail" (5-by-5-inch) sketches within a grid I've made on large pieces of newsprint. These drawings are the "bones" or basic images from which I start my paintings.
At this point, the "push and pull" starts with choosing a color palette and blocking in shapes, then ideas start coming into focus. How do I know when a piece is finished, you may wonder. Well, I play lots of games with myself, such as the one where I walk away from the piece and get my mind temporarily on something else, and then quickly look again. If my immediate emotional reaction is "Yum!" then I'm done, and it's time to start something new.
I believe that painting is a process of becoming receptive to oneself, but it's also the most difficult, heart-breaking and fulfilling means of expression that I've ever chosen to learn to love. About 25 years ago I had a booth for selling some old furniture at the Newfane Flea Market and struck up a memorable conversation with an insightful older woman who happened to be an artist. She said, "You can lose your husband, your children, and your money, but you always have your most valuable resource -- your painting." That statement had a huge, long-lasting impact on me.
My painting life is a solitary one by choice, and I'm very fortunate and humbled by being able to carve a living out of a simple discipline to play with paint.
Mitchell's work can be seen at: The Harrison Gallery, 39 Spring St., Williamstown, Mass., (413) 458-1700; Lanoue Fine Arts, 160 Newbury St., Boston, (617) 262-4400; and her studio, 139 Main St., Ste. 607, Brattleboro, (802) 257-4021.
Steve Procter's Vessels "Speak Across the Room"
Steve Procter will be showing a series of recent large-scale, wheel-thrown pieces that are inspired by traditional forms and celebrate the beauty of the fired clay itself. His unglazed surfaces emphasize the elemental nature of the medium and the lines of the pots as compositions. The unusual scale (most of the pieces are 30 to 40 inches tall) gives the pots a sense of presence and animation that challenges the viewer to regard them as equals.
Procter says, "I have been imagining an exhibit along these lines for more than a year -- a space where a group of large pieces could have the elbow room they need and can talk to each other across the room. Petey's studio is perfect, and the juxtaposition of these pieces with her paintings adds an energy and dimension beyond what I could have envisioned."
Procter remarked on the tension of opposites in the pots he will show: the fullness -- sometimes even voluptuousness -- of the shapes in contrast to the stony austerity of the surfaces, the warmth of the hues on the hardness of the material, the contrary directions of rising and settling. "I hope people find them beautiful," he said, "but even more, I hope they find them provocative."
Copyright 2008, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont