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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Part II of Elva Paulson's Interview

This is the second part of the truly inspiring interview with Elva Paulson of Elva's Field Notes fame and our most recent challenger to finish the challenge! You can read the first part here.
Laure Ferlita (LF): When we left off, we were discussing your need to coax out the inner artist and reconnect. From where I sit, it would seem you've definitely reconnected with the artist within as evidenced by all of your beautiful artwork. Where do you see your greatest growth? 
Bison by Elva Paulson
Pen, ink and watercolor
Elva Paulson (EP): Progress has come on two fronts. The first is the obvious one and relates to my original goal. You suggested each new challenger pick something to work on. I bit off a lot. I wanted to explore new papers, pens and techniques; to figure out where I wanted to go with my art now that I was painting again; and I knew I wanted to somehow connect it to nature. I still have work to do, but I feel I made real progress in all those areas. When I was painting professionally I painted on surfaces over which I had a lot of control: smooth gessoed masonite for acrylics, cold press Illustration board for tight watercolors, and very smooth Bristol for pen and ink. Not much opportunity to let the paint have a hand in what was happening during the artistic process. I’m learning to love the character of a juicy wash, what happens when ink bleeds, and the huge variety of opportunities offered by different papers. 
My most important progress comes from inside. I’m enjoying my art. Years ago it had become a job, but now it is back to why I started painting in the first place so many years ago…a desire to express my interest in, and love of, nature through art. The surprise in this journey is the progress I have made combining art and writing. I’ve filled journals for years, but they were notes and sketches for myself rather than with someone else [seeing the journals]. When I signed up for the challenge I had to sign up for a blog. I didn’t have to put anything on the blog, I just had to register. Looking back, I realize blogging has been an important part of finding my new artistic path. The blog has helped me find the voice I was looking for.
You’d think that ‘quantity’ would lead one to stray from thoughtfulness, but I felt encouraged to put thought in and try something new. It didn’t matter if it fell flat. I still might learn something in the process…and learn I did.
I also learned that sometimes it is good not to think. I found reserves within myself that don’t lend themselves to conscious thought. One might call it zen. I know I’ll mess up if my mind is worrying about dinner or the next world crisis; but sometimes, when I’m painting, I seem to just want to paint without thinking too much. Something within says ‘Stay loose and add a dab of paint here, here, and here.” It is a wonderful zone to be in.
LF:  Now that you've completed the challenge, where do you see yourself going from here? What's your next "challenge" going to be?
EP: This is the hardest question of all and one I’ve been pondering on. The easy answer is I want to continue to become a better field sketcher/painter. I want to capture on paper more of the magic that I see in nature. I want to paint from the heart…and capture the words too.
But what am I going to do with it? That is the question. I don’t see myself going the gallery route again, but it does seem there ought to be a purpose, some sort of a goal in mind. Am I going to be content to fill another 36 journals and to post pieces on my blog, or am I going to reach further and work on some of my many experiences that are potentially a whole chapter in a book and not just a blog post?  Those journals are packed with longer events:  knowing ‘Pegleg,’ a sandhill crane for over ten years; the year the Druid wolf pack alpha female was killed and other pack females adopted her litter;  "264," a female grizzly we first knew as an almost mature bear and long enough to see her third set of cubs come up with milk mustaches after nursing. 
Okay, I’ll say it. Part of me wants to write a book that is 50% words and 50% sketches and based directly on what I have watched. I’m just not sure yet if I want to set it as a goal. That is a huge amount of time to commit. Over the years, I’ve made several starts. This past year has pretty much convinced me I need to start all over again, this time with my reader in mind.   My original vision was sort of a peek into my working journal, but blogging has helped me realize they were written for me.  Too often they include either too little or too much information for a reader. Good writing needs good editing.
Through the challenge, I honed art techniques that lend themselves to such a project, and through blogging I think my ability to write has grown. I do think the combination of my sketching ability and my treasure chest of raw material (the journals) means I have something to offer.
Oregon Coast by Elva Paulson
Watercolor and ink
LF: Thank you for sharing that, Elva. I'm sure I speak for most folks reading the interview when I say I sincerely hope you continue with the goal of a book and I'll be one of the first to purchase it! Getting back to our interview, if someone was thinking of starting the challenge today but had doubts or questions, what would you, as a tenured artist, say to them?

EP: Do it! Make time for it. Shake off any feeling that each piece has to have quality. You’ll learn more if you dare to experiment. Here is a great place to nudge you to do it. I know a lot of experienced artists, myself included, who get good at what they are doing and forget to explore. These little paintings don’t need to take a lot of time. Jump in and try some new techniques, new materials, and new subject matter. 

You’ll also benefit from seeing what other artists are doing. I learned a lot just watching their growth…and their bravery…and I made some new friends.

LF: Any last thoughts or words you'd like to add on anything we did not cover?

EP: Yes. Thank you, Laure, for hosting the 100 Paintings Challenge. I’m not sure where I would be right now if I hadn’t joined the challenge. I do know I’m enjoying my art more and have grown as a result of joining the challenge. 

Once again, Elva, thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us as well as what you've learned. I wish you all the best in your future challenges, wherever they may take you, and I look forward to reading more on your blog!


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Thank you Elva & Laure for a great interview!

Wow, Elva! It sure has been a winding path and now bathed in sunshine! Go girl! Yes to a book! I love both your art and written word. Did I say yes to your book idea :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I want to be the first to sign up for your book Elva. I couldn't think of a better book than one with your stories and sketches. Your stories and sketches are a lively pair. One I would read again and again.

Claire M said...

Thank you Laure and Elva for sharing 'the rest of Elva's story'. This is fascinating and I think it just might push me to get on the bus again.... ;-)

P.S. I can't wait to buy Elva's books! It sounds like there are so many interesting stories she can tell and share in pictures as well.

Norma said...

Books, are a great idea, Elva! You have so many gifts to share. Love them all.

Teri C said...

I want a signed copy of that book also!!! Elva, you are not only a fabulous artist but a wonderful writer!! Go for it!!!

freebird said...

So few people see nature anymore. A book filled with paintings and thoughts on the nature we don't see enough of sounds very good to me. I think it'd make a great "coffee table" book, one to keep out so visitors could look through it. A little about the nature and a little on how you did the painting would interest a wide variety of people I would think.

Elva Paulson said...

I love your encouragement! Thank you!

Kelly said...

...sounds like you have to do it, Elva! It would be wonderful... Congrats again!!

Katie said...

This is such an encouraging article, thank both of you! Elva, I would never have known you were a little new to writing, when I started reading your blog last year, you are a very gifted writer and I hope that you do a book or something along that line to develop your beautiful 'voice' along with sharing your wonderful art. Nature lovers will be drawn to the work, for sure.