GENEVA — The world-renowned artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “The artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.”
Geneva artist Patty Scarborough is a true example of those words, as she has always been intrigued with texture, edges and shadows. Being a visual person, she has always thought along those terms, so being in an art room is where she felt the most comfortable, immersed in a “language” that makes sense to her.
Scarborough said painting is a personal journey; she described it as interesting and challenging.
“It’s a long road,” she said. “An artist, to keep at it, has to decide what they want from their work — money, approval of self/paintings by others — and balancing it with hours of solitary confinement while working alone. I’ve managed to strike a balance between creating something I like and something that is interesting to others.”
Scarborough, 64, said she still has the first painting she created, which happened to win her a ribbon award in fourth grade: a watercolor of a windmill done in purples and a poem that went with it.
Scarborough began her artistic journey using watercolor — Prang oval eights, the watercolor pans of eight colors that most everyone used in elementary and high school. She then progressed to real watercolors in tubes.
After a pastel workshop 30 years ago, she started using them — a dry medium much like sidewalk chalk, only finer, which is pure pigment with a binder to hold it together.
Twenty years ago, she began using oils, which are easier to frame than pastels.
Scarborough attended Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney), and after graduation she married her husband, Dan, and they had two boys, Andy and Tim.
She said she didn’t do much painting until they moved to Geneva and the boys were in school. Her workspace was a table by the washer and dryer, the dog dish and a pile of kids’ shoes. And she said she made it work.
It was 35 years ago when Scarborough realized she wanted to make painting a big part of her life’s work.
“The kids were growing up, and I had more time,” she said. “I had taken some classes, joined a gallery and was doing some teaching. Going to a paycheck job was taking time away from my art and making me miserable.
“Fifteen years ago I took a transit van driver job with the Geneva Blue Valley Community Action Program so I could free up time to paint seriously. It’s been a terrifying, exciting, maddening, happy experience.”
No matter what else she was doing, Scarborough said, she always found time to be in the art room because of the comfort it brought her. She had taken numerous art classes all through college and, eventually, had enough for a degree in fine arts. Her first entry into a college art show won her first place, and that gave her the confidence to keep going.
Art classes include ones through the former Geneva Art Club and the Association of Nebraska Art Clubs, which holds a weekend exhibit and conference each year.
Several online art coaches teach art business and professionalism. Scarborough is especially grateful to Alyson Stanfield, who helped her get her website up and push forward to learning how to do the business side.
Eventually, Scarborough realized she needed to spend time alone learning what she wanted to learn.
“You can learn a lot through classes, but eventually one must be alone to figure out how to make your own marks and own style,” she said.
Scarborough said her career took a more serious turn 25 years ago when she joined a gallery in Grand Island. She sold a few paintings there, which made her feel like she had something to offer that was worthwhile.
She did some Art in the Park events and then began to do exhibits across Nebraska — at the Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud, the Norfolk Arts Center and the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island — and sold at them.
Her most recent exhibit was the National Oil Painters Juried exhibit at Mark Arts in Wichita, Kansas.
She also sells through the Burkholder Project in Lincoln, online at www.pscarborougharts, on Facebook and Instagram. Through Facebook and the internet, her market is the world, as she has sold paintings all over the United States and even in Europe.
Scarborough said the biggest advancement in her career was receiving the Purchase Award from the Association of Nebraska Art Clubs in 1997, with her entry being one in over 700.
That painting was purchased by ANAC and donated to the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney. It was used in several promotional pieces and in traveling exhibits across the state.
Today, the landscape painter has a new series of meadow paintings and works in oils with linen or high-quality cotton canvases in sizes from 9 by 12 inches to 36 by 48 inches.
“Subjects are everywhere — mostly Fillmore County scenes, and lately, a few purely from my experience/imagination,” Scarborough said. “These are the meadows and shadows and are like painting non-subjects.
“The challenge is to paint fragrance, sunlight, shadow and sound without the usual context of trees or buildings to define the space. It’s a wonderful challenge.”
Scarborough enjoys sharing what she sees around her.
“I am enamored of creating or recreating something I’ve seen and instilling it with emotion or sound or fragrance,” she said. “It’s not just about copying a scene, but something ephemeral — keeping that moment alive beyond the present.
“I’m not a political painter. I don’t care about imbuing any deeper message in my work other than, “Wow! It’s a beautiful world!’ ”
Here’s a timeline of Scarborough exhibits since 2015:
2021: National Oil Painting Juried Exhibition at Mark Arts Center, Wichita, Kansas
2020: “Spirit: A Celebration of Art in the Heartland,” benefit event, Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney
2020: “Vision 20/20” Top Twenty Nebraska Agrarian Artists exhibit, Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, David City
2019: Nebraska Biennial at Gallery 1516, Omaha
2018: Featured artist, Robert Henri Museum, Cozad
2017:: “150 Artists, 150 Artworks, 150 Years of Nebraska in Miniature,” Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, David City
2016: Spirit: “A Celebration of Art in the Heartland” benefit event, Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney
2016: One-person exhibit, Minden Opera House, Minden
2016: American Plains Artist’s National Juried Exhibition, Fort Concho Historical Landmark, San Angelo, Texas
2015: American Plains Artists’ National Juried Exhibition, Great Plains Museum, Lincoln