A trio of Artists in Residence recount their experience in a place where time slows down, and we have the opportunity to connect off-screen.
All photos courtesy of Loma Smith Photography
In the digital age of 2023, it’s easy to get lost in a world on screen, but for the April cohort of Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts & Agriculture’s (Pine Meadow Ranch) Artists in Residence, they were about to rediscover the pleasure and power of logging off one’s devices and reconnecting with the world around them.
Laura Rubin, jeweler, and sculptor noted that sources of inspiration concept of enchantment aren’t limited to the obvious beauty of the landscape and include the curated experience of living and working at Pine Meadow Ranch. “All of these things are coming together all of your senses are being fed, your personal values are being fed…your world is being fed.”
This sense of being privileged to step into a world that was both totally natural and cultivated to create a unique experience all at same time would be echoed by Catie Michel, visual artist and researcher, and Derek Yost, muralist, painter, and tattoo artist. Another common theme all three Artists in Residence would share is how the support of the residency program offered them a sense of freedom they didn’t realize was lacking in their professional lives–the freedom to reevaluate their processes and try new things, even if the result wasn’t a ‘success’ in the traditional sense. That same freedom allowed each artist to make discoveries around Pine Meadow Ranch and play, which led to unexpected revelations in their work.
The Process of Discovery
For Michel, whose research background combines with her talent as a visual artist and allows her to create scientifically accurate illustrations, a new children’s book would prompt her to explore a looser approach.
“So, what I ended up doing was an order of operations I’ve never really done before, which ended up being really efficient and fulfilling, and it has totally changed my process,” Michel says, her enthusiasm so intense that the energy she gives off pierces the boundary of the video interview’s screen. “I was able to finish the whole book of illustrations, and now, all I have to do is color them.” Michel goes on to detail a process whereby she hand drew her illustrations, cut them out, and physically created storyboard spreads for the pages in her upcoming book, which is about wild mustangs, and also references the other flora and fauna that live in the same environment as her story’s horses. The Oregon landscape, its plants, and animals quickly dominated her studio–filling up her spacious windows on the outside, and cutouts overtaking her worktable and walls on the inside.
While many artists covet being able to create photorealistic work, Michel seems refreshed to have made the discovery that she can express herself in a more relaxed style. Her joy mixed with vulnerability makes it clear that her experience was deeply satisfying and deeply challenging; though the horses and other wildlife are still anatomically correct, the color is going to be “really loose,” which she finds uncomfortable and exciting at the same time–grateful that she was able to push herself and break down her own walls.
Seeds of Change
Yost would discover that he is able to give more of himself to his work when he takes a ‘less is more’ approach. A muralist, painter, and tattoo artist, Yost works with a variety of canvases, so it’s unsurprising when he says he, “…brought plenty of materials to just keep working.” But while he went in expecting to treat his residency as an opportunity to essentially flip the hourglass over and over until his stay at Pine Meadow Ranch came to a close, he left with a realization that burnout doesn’t just come from pushing yourself in your everyday life–you can experience exhaustion even when you’ve been set-up for success.
“I had all the time, the materials, the inspiration to keep going but my eyes were getting tired,” he says with a sigh that manages to convey the difficulty of this realization. “I learned something about myself in that respect, of developing a balance and realizing that it’s better to dial it back. I was way more productive when I worked in shorter shifts. That was a really good takeaway for me–finding that flow and realizing even if you [have] an unlimited amount of time to work on paintings, it’s better to have a schedule that’s a bit more moderate.”
While he met his goal of completing five paintings–three wildlife-based and two pattern-based, he also gave himself the gift of absorbing the experience he had been granted. Initially nervous about whether or not there would be chemistry between himself and his, then, unknown peers hailing from different cities and artistic disciplines, Yost now wistfully recounts how he, Michel, and Rubin were able to build authentic connections with each other–and the larger community.
Although each artist sums it up in their own way, the general consensus is that the sense of wonder Rubin referenced has a positive impact on everyone who visits Pine Meadow Ranch–whether resident or guest. Each artist notes the privilege of observing people engaging with their work, and then striking up a discussion with them–whether it was the local school children, past residents, or members of the local community, those moments in time are clearly precious, even if fleeting. The residents are aware that some of those connections will remain within the confines of their memories of Pine Meadow Ranch, while others will continue in ‘the real world.’
Yost elegantly captures this shared sentiment when he says, “The residency is all said and done, but there are these little seeds that were sown with different folks, and I’m excited to see how those things grow and which direction they grow in.”
Rekindling First Loves
Speaking of growth, it’s not every day that three professional artists get to press pause on the commercial endeavors that allow them to have a career they love and turn their reflection inward. Like with any career, the trappings of success can mean getting lost in the process instead of the project (Michel), the pressure to focus on production quantity (Yost), or in the case of Rubin, forgetting one’s roots.
Originally a sculptor, when Rubin’s jewelry line got hot, her sculpting projects cooled down. She recounts a story of how she began to get back in touch with her first love when she used the pot-bellied fire stove her studio was equipped with to patina pieces of copper pipe. Her eyes light up as she talks about listening to her instincts throughout the process–shirking any formula or timer and simply watching the copper change color, then removing each piece intuitively, saying, “Some would go purple, some would go red, some would go gold and all at different times; I filmed myself basically culling each piece whenever I felt that it was appropriate.”
Rubin, Yost, and Michel all acknowledge that the ability to indulge in their work was the byproduct of the collective Pine Meadow Ranch team working incredibly hard. They muse about how the staff has an uncanny way of effortlessly curating the experiences and introductions an artist most needs, and repeatedly express their appreciation of Arts Projects Coordinator, Ana Varas’ efforts, as she helps them forge connections and (according to them) always manages to check-in on an artist at the right time. The residents also thanked Executive Director and Trustee, Erin Borla for going above and beyond to create a program where artists are truly welcome to express and explore.
The residents say the beauty and privilege of the experience is positively overwhelming; Rubin voices this shared sentiment as one of being incredibly touched and incredibly humbled, going on to list the wealth of community, knowledge, creativity, and passion Pine Meadow Ranch offers its Artists in Residence access to, “Being the recipient of that…I’m still struggling with being able to find enough gratitude.”
To apply for Pine Meadow Ranch’s next Residency cohort, please visit our Residency Program page: www.roundhousefoundation.org/pine-meadow-ranch/residencies/.