Heart of Treasure Valley

Heart of the Treasure Valley: Boisean gets unexpected payoff from artistic challenge

Paige Weber’s morning starts around 4 a.m. Some days maybe as late as 5:30 a.m., but always, she’s up early. And she’s up early for one reason: to paint.

She says: “My kitchen table is piled with paints and junk for my painting process and I sit down and I just start drawing and laying out a painting. ... I pound it out until about 6:30 a.m.”

After work, she comes home and paints some more until 10 or 10:30 p.m. Then it’s bedtime and the cycle begins again.

“So I’m kind of torturing myself. But I’m loving it. ... ”

Paige is three months into a project she descriptively calls “365 Days of Art.” Every day, she has committed to creating an original painting and posting it to her special email list. The first one to email her gets to buy and there are advantages to being on top of it: Jan. 1’s painting cost $1. Jan. 2’s painting was $2. Today, day 95’s painting costs $95— and so on, until Day 365.

“I think I just wanted the challenge. I thought it was exciting — and if I could make some money doing it, that would be great, because I could maybe prove people wrong, that artists can make money; they don’t have to starve.

“(But) I thought, I’m just going to see if I can do it. What if I do do it? Then I have a whole bunch of paintings that I could show or have a body of work.”

Truthfully, she hasn’t gotten rich. But she has sold about 32 paintings, and even that amazes her.

“The big thing is that I can say, comfortably, that I am an artist. I think I had trouble with that and so by doing this project, I feel like I can say: ‘I’m an artist.’ I’m a working artist, because I’m working every day doing this.”

Paige has always been an artist, really, even if she hasn’t called herself that. Growing up, she loved to draw portraits.

“It was OK to be an artist in my family. I think I always wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t have real direction till I was in my mid-20s when I went back to college and I really wanted to make a career out of art.”

Paige worked in the office of a paving company before she went to Boise State, where she graduated with a degree in graphic design and minors in painting and English. She worked in marketing and communication for a year after she graduated, but after the economy crashed, she returned to the paving company as office manager — stable and predictable.

“(But) I decided I just couldn’t have art in my life, because that’s pretty much who I am.”

Since 2011, she’s been taking online graduate courses from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She is on pause for a couple of semesters.

“Now I have this project, which is just as intense as being in college. And I’m thinking what have I done to myself?”

• • • 

Paige got the 365 Days of Art idea from a podcast about an artist who made a daily painting for a mere 100 days.

“I just kept thinking about it. I thought, well, this is definitely going to be a challenge. But I want to see if I can do it.”

Although Paige wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning, now she’s more confident — and it has to do with all of life, not just painting.

“Just get out there and do it.

“Anything that’s worth doing is going to take work and sacrifice and you really have to — in this project, I’m really putting myself out there. I’m just going for it because you only get one chance. ... Even if it’s not perfect, it won’t be a failure.

“So if there’s something that someone has been waiting to do, just go do it. Find a way to do it. Or (find a way to) incorporate whatever it is into your life.”

Just for the record, Paige didn’t wait until her life was settled and calm. Far from it. On April 26, she is getting married to Kyle Kelly. In June, she’s moving from Boise to Great Falls, Mont., to be with her new husband.

“So there is where I say, ‘Man, I’d really love to have a day off. And sleep in.’”

She’s planning to work really hard before her wedding and the move to Montana, and she’s already reserved the right to use previous paintings to relieve some of the pressure. But she doesn’t really want to do that, because the project has taken on a bigger — and more significant — meaning than just meeting a daily deadline.

“(Painting) is very meditative. I like that aspect of it because my brain kind of shuts off, I’m just working away. I find a lot of comfort in that. It really is; art just gives me comfort.

“For me, I would notice the void if I didn’t (make art). I would feel like something was really missing from my life and I would feel really unhappy if I couldn’t create art. I mean — I know I would be (unhappy).”

She says that being an artist — being creative — that thing that gives her happiness — can take a lot of different forms.

“You can make anything beautiful. Because really, you could make art out of, say, cooking a meal. To make it taste good, look good — that process to make the meal. Art could be lots of things. Flower arranging, taking pride in your yard work, there’s an art to that as well.

“It’s about intention. ... Curiosity, too. I think artists are really curious and explore the world visually.

“And I can tell you this: I believe strongly that anyone who can pick up a pencil can become an artist.

“And they can become a good artist. But they have to have a belief in themselves, and they have to work and they have to practice.

“There are people who have natural talent and there are people who have to work for their talent, and probably the people who have to work for it are the better artists. They’ve learned the hard way. They didn’t just draw or paint occasionally. They worked to get there.

“It’s all about observation and the work you put into it. With this project, I think that’s the best gift that I’m getting: I have to observe every day.

“And hopefully my observations get more accurate and better — I really am seeing what I am painting. I think that’s where the meditation comes in: because you really do have to stop and look at something. Really look at it. ...

“I don’t always succeed. But I try.”

• • • 

Although Paige’s forte is portraiture, she’s not limiting herself to people.

“I’m also forcing myself to do other items. Like doughnuts. Paint doughnuts and observe them, just to stretch a little bit.”

Paige’s theme for January was “sweet indulgence,” which also included paintings of her mother-in-law’s pie along with Guru doughnuts and post-Christmas treats. February’s theme was “quench.” She painted a lot of glasses of beer and laughs because she had to, of course, know her work.

“(But) there’s a lot of learning going on beyond the painting. ...

“I’m meeting new people because I’m going out into the community looking for material to paint. So I’ve met, actually, quite a few people just by going out and doing ‘research,’ as I call it, with bartenders and doughnut slingers.

“Whereas typically I consider myself somewhat reserved.”

From the paintings she posted on Instagram (“Social media does work,” she laughs), Paige was invited to show her doughnut paintings at Guru Donuts’ grand opening in January.

“I’ve gained some confidence with this project. I have an audience who is interested in what I’m doing and I’m doing more of it, so I feel I’m getting better as a painter and putting myself out there.”

This is how Paige used to be: She puts her hand over her mouth and says how she, mumble, likes to draw and, mumble, is a sometime artist. Now it’s different:

“’I like to paint. I’m an artist.’ ...(The project is) just helping me ... not be shy or afraid to talk to people about what I’m doing.”

• • • 

A year and a half ago, Paige’s mother, Faye Weber, died from lung cancer. Faye had been a successful painter when Paige was young, but Faye stopped painting when she went to work full time. Throughout her life, her mother was always doing something creative — quilting, tolle painting, making jewelry and cards, drawing on silk scarves. But several months before she died, Faye began painting again.

“I think she regretted probably at that point not painting more in her life. She was waiting for the perfect light or ... she couldn’t remember her palette at one time, and she was so discouraged she didn’t want to start painting.

“And when she had cancer — she knew it was terminal — it was the thing that brought her solace in those weeks or months.”

The thought still brings tears. But the memories also motivate Paige.

“I think you can have all the excuses not to do something; have all the excuses not to explore something you truly have a passion for. But at the end of your life, you’ll regret it.

“So you may as well get over yourself and have that experience, because you might look back and wonder why you didn’t do it. Not doing something perfectly isn’t the end of the world.

“It probably is just the beginning.”