The first weeks of summer have brought remarkably blue skies, deliciously warm weather and a parade of exquisite flowers that color the landscape. School is out, vacations are realized and the pace of life slows way, way down, right?
That must be the case. Getting phone calls returned, emails answered, deals made and tasks completed becomes excruciatingly sluggish. We adopt a collective mindset that any holiday during the week is the perfect excuse for a vacation stretched into both the week before and after.
As someone who takes full advantage of finding excuses for “time off,” I was curious if the summer months alter the work schedules and/or productivity of local professional artists. I took a small (and unscientific) sampling and found a wellspring of creative pursuits peppered with summer’s distractions.
Gail Chase-Bien, contemporary landscape painter: “So far, summer is just a continuum of my daily occupation. One of the issues is an ongoing teaching schedule. The other one is the noise from a new painting that won’t quit talking to me. It is constant, fickle and an itch you just can’t scratch. My hair and skin is a live hive of cobalt blue at the end of every day, and if I squint I can almost see a swimming pool come into focus from some distant memory. Alas, I have chosen the pigment.”
Beclee N. Wilson, Napa County poet laureate: “I have just finished a three-hour coffee break with poet Jim McDonald of Yountville — a time when we both shared a personal poem, talked about ways to publish, shared experiences of travel that feed and inspire us. Looking forward to the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference where lectures from the writers and teachers who are staff poets and fiction writers will refresh us. Both of us are painters as well as writers, so summer is a stage to enjoy natural and imagined environment in paint. Creativity never stops.”
Israel Valencia, photographer: In the last couple years, I’ve been fortunate to experience an increase in my photography business that has kept me busy all year long. I specialize in weddings and events and in general, summer is peak season. Though when time allows and a fun, creative project comes along, I love to have new opportunities to keep learning my craft. The kind of personal project I like to look for is one where I get to collaborate with other creative people and keeps me creating art! I am grateful to do what I love as a career and even sometimes just for myself.”
Karen Winograde, potter: “My busy showing and selling months are the summer and fall months ending in December. In the summer, I am in the studio or firing kilns or planning and packing for and going to shows. Since I do that ‘work’ at my studio — at my home and property — I can also spend all the long summer hours tending vegetable gardens, vineyard and flowers. So I do get to be outdoors a lot. It is easier to work in the studio at night in the summer (not cold). Busy but lovely.”
Vincent Connors, Devaux Ranch Studio: “The summer art season is the busiest time for me, starting off with Arts in April events and then moving right into summer shows and art fairs. Bookending the season is the AANV Open Studios the last two weekends of September. Of course, it is important to make time for some summer getaways to recharge a bit (like a seasonal power nap).”
“The summer is the extroverted side of the work, the time when ideas and pieces are being put out for all to see. I’m more prolific in the summer, due to the great weather and increase in the number of Napa events. The winter is when the introverted studio work takes place. During that time, it’s all about making decisions and incubating ideas that will provide fuel for the next year’s creation.”
Barbara Stafford, rug weaver: “For me the summer is pretty exciting when the year’s work all comes together at the loom. Weaving is the last stage of the process after preparing, spinning and sometimes dyeing fibers during the fall and winter months. This time-consuming process teaches me a lot about the fibers and an opportunity to think about the animal I am working with. When summer comes around I have a ‘feel’ of the animal, its fiber, and its story ready to be told at the loom. The actual weaving is quick by comparison. Very exciting, although it can be frustrating too.”
Brian Lilla, documentary filmmaker: “Summer months are visually the least cinematic and motivational time of year for me to work as natural lighting and weather is not as dynamic as the rest of the year. I’m much more motivated to work on shooting movies when temperatures cool down and the lighting gets good. It’s also not helpful that the urge to be on summer vacation has never left me since I was a kid.”
Marta Collings, watercolorist: “I work all year round whenever the creative impulse strikes. Sometimes I don’t feel like painting at all, and other times that’s all I want to do. Summer is my busy time, traveling around participating in art festivals. In between, I paint as much as I can to keep up with inventory. But I also take time to spend with my family and 6 year old grandson. My life is a balance of working and playing because I enjoy doing both. Life is too short to not do what makes you happy.”
We can – and should – have it both ways. Enjoy your summer!