by Craig Spence
Who knows where the wellsprings of creativity might be found? Growing up on a farm near the hamlet of Carlea, Saskatchewan, Patt Scrivener used to cycle to spot where a culvert flowed under the Canadian National Railway tracks, forming a pond that stayed throughout the summer. It was her ‘secret place,’ where she could go and ‘reflect’.
Into the Stillness, her feature exhibit at Rainforest Arts, which runs from Jan. 11 to Feb. 28, reminds her of that place, which is to say, even if it’s not the sole source of inspiration, it’s certainly a tributary she can trace, inviting people to join in her meditations.
“Water, for me anyways, takes me to a place of calmness and stillness, and a place of inner reflection, and I would hope with the paintings, that people will be able to look into them and be able to go to that place themselves,” Scrivener said. “Into the Stillness is about going on that journey to that quiet, reflective place.”
Getting there on canvas isn’t the same as jumping on your bike and pedalling down the road. In fact, Scrivener says her scenes are more a geography of mind than representations of actual places. Her techniques bear that out.
She rarely works from photographs, and her process isn’t representational. The first step she takes, confronted with whitespace, is to ‘activate the canvas’. “I work very freely and loosely to begin with,” she said. “It just means taking the canvas from pure, blank white to having some action-marks on it.”
Brushes, pencils, spatulas, scrapers – Scriveners’ ‘mark-making’ tool kit is just as likely to include implements you’d buy at Canadian Tire as Opus Art Supplies. That’s not to say she’s just spreading paint randomly. Before the paint goes down, she sets her intentions, bringing to mind what she wants to emerge. “Those things are going to start showing up, because you’re thinking about it and you’re putting down paint in such a way that it might lead to where you’re going.”
‘Might’ is the operative word. You have to have a lot of faith in the process, and a willingness to let go. Asked if the process is sort of like jumping out of an airplane, without a parachute, hoping one will materialize, she said: “That would be a pretty good analogy.” The trick is to ‘not worry about the results,’ trust in the process, and have some fun pushing paint around, believing what you’re looking for will emerge.
She calls it ‘getting into the flow.’
“Once I get the canvas covered in lots of information, I start homing into my intuition to see if I see something, or a feeling, and then I start developing the painting based on that.” The artist’s intentions materialize through a process that opens up to their possibilities. “I believe that the paintings come through me, if I allow it and that’s a lot about allowing, and trusting, and believing, and allowing you to get into that flow state.”
Scrivener is the featured artist at Rainforest Arts – 9871 Willow Street, Chemainus in the Coastal Community Credit Union building – from Jan. 11 through to the end of February. Rainforest Arts is open seven days a week, 11a.m. to 4p.m. She will be holding an artist’s talk Jan 17 at 11 a.m., and demos Jan. 17 and Feb. 14 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. (in the Coastal Community Credit Union). More at RainforestArts.ca or 250-246-4861.