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PAUL ALAN BENNETT: Sisters, Oregon

I grew up in Montana, Colorado and Baltimore. I have also lived in Pennsylvania, Greece, and Portland, Oregon. I have lived in Sisters, Oregon for the past 23 years.

In what ways does your environment influence your work? My environment is pretty much always a factor in my work. That environment can be the natural world but it can also be my community, my church, my house, my studio, my desk, my art supplies, my inner world. It’s all fodder for my work.

What is the best part about being an artist? I experience great joy at times while doing my work. It’s a feeling of great freedom and satisfaction. I love to MAKE things and work with ideas in new ways. What is the worst ? The worst part is worrying about economical survival. However, I sometimes wonder if this is also one of my biggest motivators?                                                                                                                                                                                   What inspires you? This is a big question as each one of my paintings has its’ own  story.  My love of art history is a big source of inspiration. Also: simple crafts, a child’s drawing, the patterns on the sides of a watermelon, the voice of my own childhood, inventors like Thomas Edison, Carl Jung, Leonardo da Vinci… architecture, the fabric arts, beautiful hands, playing cards, stories from my parents, the light falling on the face of one of my students, a dog’s curiosity, always the stars…

How would you describe the initial impulse to make a new piece? Discipline, guilt, curiosity, loneliness/solitude/gratitude/attitude.

Are there some rituals you follow in your creative process ? I often feel as though I am pulling things out of the air. I need at least a minute of total silence to start, then maybe another 45 minutes – 1 ½ hours of silence. Then I turn on the radio or listen to music. For years, I aimed for 2 hours of work before noon, then 3 hours after noon. Usually, I found I averaged about 3 ½ – 5 hours per day. I’ve gotten less disciplined about my time, but I make decisions faster now about my work.

How closely do you follow your original idea in the process of making a piece?
In general, I work on one piece at a time and let it evolve as I work on it.  Working creates the work. The original idea is often just a door that I pass through to get to the next door that needs to be opened. The title of the painting below is Time Traveler.

A person is seen rowing a canoe down a river under a full moon. There is something about being in a boat- especially if you are propelling that boat- that puts you in the eternal present. Each dip of the oar becomes a passing moment. You are a time traveler but the time you are traveling in is the ever-widening landscape of the present.

paul 2

How do you balance being an artist with relationships and family? This is where things like hope, faith, chance, dumb luck, etc. come into play. There’s nothing too rational about trying to live as an artist and have a family. Yet, I’ve always felt that being an artist is a valid profession so why not do what you love? It’s worked out for me and I know it’s worked out for my fellow artist friends. Finding balance is a daily thing.

The painting below is titled The Giant Within. I painted this after my father died. I felt such a numbness from that whole experience It just made me think about how do any of us survive the loss of loved ones? There must be something in us that keeps us going. So, I was thinking about giving form to that something- the form of Grief- much like the Greeks gave form to their gods that represented different aspects of their own human nature. Grief did not feel like a good or bad thing to me. Grief was just there – like a silent companion..  I was not so much alone in my grief but alone with Grief. All the world was Grief. I saw Grief as living in a cave in my heart. He emerged during times of sorrow and poured the waters of Grief over me. Grief casts a shadow. The waters of Grief go deep into the earth, bringing to the surface bubbles of light/life. It is the primordial LIFE FORCE that carries on, bathing the individual who submits to, then accepts the numbing force of such waters. Death is a great mystery but this LIFE FORCE is as much a mystery.

1C5V2078 copy the giant withinHow do you get through artist’s blocks? Most of the time, artist blocks come in the form of just finding it difficult to sit down. Once seated, and if I don’t get up within the next 3 minutes to fix something to drink, go to the store, clean something in the house, get distracted with a million other things that are calling for my attention, once I really start to occupy that chair I usually start to find some ideas to work with. I also like to work on writing lyrics for songs if I don’t feel like painting. As a general rule, the hardest thing for me is to sit down. Once I’m working, the act of working produces ideas that I know I just couldn’t have “thought” of before I sat down.

The Sleeping Gypsy

The Bathing Gypsy

How do you deal with the disappointment when your work isn’t selling well?  How do find the strength to continue? I won’t pretend that lack of sales don’t have an affect on me. But I’ve done this long enough to know that my work goes through it ups and downs with sales and with the work itself. When I get depressed I usually let it take me over and just go with it for a while until I’m bored with it. Then I want to get back to work.

What would you tell your younger self, just starting out as an artist? Part of that question implies re-visiting that younger self whereas I’ve never felt my younger self has left me. One of the the things I enjoy most about making art is how it keeps me connected with different times in my life. Of course, having a son who looks a lot like my younger self is also a constant reminder of who I was at that age. And now that he is about to graduate from college, I think there are two aspects of life that are important for a young man to learn as much as he can about: women/relationships and money/time.

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The Seventh Wave

What are your vices? Vices? Funny, I looked over all these questions a month ago and this is the one that has stayed with me the most. I can feel lazy and over-indulgent, jealous, greedy, obsessed with something, often distracted, need to clean the house more… it often takes me a long time to make a decision about things and I can be quite passive at times… if I had to name one thing it might be that, I’m too passive and need to be more active.

What is the last wild animal you saw? Most days I see deer in our neighborhood. Yesterday, there was a hawk in our driveway. Quail are frequent visitors.                                                                                                    

Forest Journey PB119

Forest Journey

The painting at the very top of this post is Gauguin on the Columbia

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photo of paul

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