Sunday, August 19, 2012

One Day at the Art Park

One of the best parts of my job as the Arts Studio Coordinator at the East Area Family YMCA is teaching the summer Art Camps at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park. The next best thing is documenting the camps by taking photos our art camps in each of our locations: the Arts Studio, Camp Iroquois and of course Stone Quarry. Although I am there to take photos of the campers, teachers and the art projects, sometimes I get lucky enough to find subject matter for my own work. For instance, one day back at the beginning of August, I arrived at Stone Quarry when all of the campers were out for a hike around the park, so I took a little walk myself. Walking along the Ridge Trail I came upon the scene of two painters set up in the shade of the trees looking over the valley. A couple of people had stopped to talk to them...and probably inspect their artwork as well. I loved the setting, and the lighting created by the dappled sunlight, so I took a few photos. I wandered off in the opposite direction, then came back a few minutes later, and decided to take a closer look at the artists and their paintings. I was delighted to discover that I knew both of the artists, Wendy Harris and Linda Cohen. And of course, their work was lovely. A few days later I began a painting based on that scene, using the photos for reference. I was scheduled to teach a landscape painting class that week to adults, so that painting became my demo piece. Most of the painting was done in the Arts Studio as part of the class. I painted along with the students and used the painting to help each of them work out issues of under-painting using complementary colors, color harmony, atmospheric perspective, glazing and handling foliage. I finished the painting at home in my studio, found a great frame which sets off the colors very well. I plan to return to the Art Park to do some plein air painting, probably in September as the colors start to change for Fall.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Windy Hill Studio Make-over Part 2

Ok now where was I when I left off with Windy Hill Studio Make-over Part 1??? Oh yeah, working in a tight, cramped space, surrounded by art supplies spilling off of woefully insufficient shelves. I knew that something needed to be done with the studio and from time to time I would clean up and straighten all the stuff sitting on the shelves, but what I really needed were cabinets WITH DOORS!!! to close and hide the clutter.

My storage space; the shelves, did a fabulous job of holding supplies, but nothing to eliminate the cluttered look of piles of paper, dozens of art supplies, books, framing supplies, paperwork and odds and ends. So I knew they had to go......but first I needed to deal with the drafting table. As I had said in the last blog, the table was very large, and heavy and jutted out into the room pretty much taking up most of the space. Everything else was subordinate to the table. It seems like every New Years I would make a few resolutions and remodeling the studio was on the list every year. But, just like the "lose 10 pounds" resolution, it never got done.

Sometimes I would wonder why I was dragging my feet on this project. Not being able to make a decision is sometimes considered a sign of depression, but I think I was only depressed that my studio was on the way to being labeled a disaster area and the scope of the project was too big for one person working alone.

As I have stated a few times, the table was heavy and it would take at least 2 people, one of them being my husband, to dismantle and move it. Since I am not a good candidate for really heavy lifting, it seemed like I would need to enlist support from the kids. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to make the grand studio transformation, the kids were no longer kids, and no longer living at home. My two able bodied sons, Mike and Ben, are both working in the military, several states away from here. And they never had leave at the same time, except for the weekend of Katie's graduation party. Hmm...would it be possible to combine a huge party, overnight guests, a visit to my mom in a nursing home and an Army vs Marines drafting table dismantling and moving competition? NO

So, the move was postponed. We had Ben home for a few days in November, but with all the holiday preparations coming up, the studio was the last thing on my mind. But, when Ben was home on leave this summer we finally began Phase 1 of the studio make-over. Ben and my husband Rich took the table apart and moved it to the garage where it sits waiting for either a new owner or a trip to the dump. That operation took one hour.

Two days later when Ben had returned back to Fort Bragg I began to empty the studio and pile everything on the bed and on the floor in his room. I also began throwing out a ton of stuff I didn't really need anymore. All of those little things I couldn't part with because maybe someday I would use them in a project with one of my classes....GONE! The studio was slowly becoming an empty space...or blank canvas so to speak.

Meanwhile Ben's room looked like something from an episode of Hoarders. How did I ever get so much stuff into one space? And how much would go back? I had thrown out quite a bit of stuff, but holy cow,there was a lot left. I threw myself into the next phase, painting the walls, washing the floor and choosing a new storage system. After a trip to Home Depot and Loews we put together a series of 3 hanging cabinets, a counter-top and 3 cabinets below. And for good measure one gigantic storage unit, and yes everything had DOORS to close to hide the clutter.

My husband did all of the assembling of the cabinets, I stained and polyurethaned the counter-top (which is actually a door)and we both hung the cabinets and installed task lighting with a minimum of swearing. As it turns out the gigantic storage unit is almost as heavy as the drafting table...go figure. But it does a much better job of containing the clutter.

My new studio has plenty of room for my easel, a comfy chair next to my bookshelves full of art books and plenty of room on the counter-top for framing, paperwork etc. All of the work was done in a two week span in whatever spare time we had, working around our work schedules and family obligations. I am so happy that my husband is handy with the tool box and has a good sense of humor...we needed it. I also need to thank my son Ben, for helping to dismantle and move the drafting table and Katie and her friend Nick for helping to carry lots of heavy boxes. Mike, the next time you are home I promise to burden you with a major renovation project too.

I am thrilled with the results. The studio is so much more efficient and a pleasure to paint in. And did I mention that it was a birthday present??? Happy Birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Windy Hill Studio Make-over, Part 1

It has been over a month since I last blogged. What took me so long? I asked myself that same question many times as I was in the process of clearing out the old art studio and creating my dream studio. Emptying 20 years worth of contents from the studio, taking down shelving, cleaning the floor and painting the walls, I wondered, "why did I put this off for so long?" I can't remember a time when I didn't have my "studio", my place to paint and draw. When I was a teenager I created a space for myself in the basement. I grew up in an old house, with a standard old house basement...huge sprawling furnace, lots of creepy spiders, bone chilling cold in the winter, but nice and cool in the summer. And of course the lighting was terrible; a few bulbs here and there hanging from spindly crooked old wires. This was truly a basement. There was no attempt to try and pass it off as a rec room. Unless you use this spelling of "wreck". But it was my space and I loved it, or at least the idea of it. A space of my own. I painted under the spindly lights, shivered all winter long and created the usual high school quality art. Nothing special.

 In college we had large cavernous studios on campus so I grew accustomed to spreading out my supplies over as much space as possible. And the lighting was great! After college I had a small area in my apartment which served as the studio. One day my cat walked over the wet paint palette and then proceeded to walk across the rug...the only item I had purchased retail. (Everything else came from garage sales) So....I switched to dry media.

 A few years down the road in our very first house, my husband helped me create a studio space in the smallest bedroom of the house. I lost that room the next year, when my oldest was born, so I moved the studio to the guest room. A few years later my next child was born, oldest moved to the guest room, new baby in little room, so I lost my studio, and any guests we had, slept in the living room. My husband began preparations for the new studio in ...you guessed it, the BASEMENT. It was a great space though, lots of room and some terrific storage space. And even the lighting was pretty good.

So I painted in the basement while the kids were napping which turned out to be not as often as I had hoped. Sometimes they joined my at my table and drew and painted along with me.

 Well, I can't believe it has taken me five paragraphs to get to the drafting table. The drafting table came from either Carrier Corporation or Niagara Mohawk, I truly can't remember. We bought it from a friend who had purchased it from either one of the above corporations. This table was used by the engineers, so there was plenty of space on it for laying out blueprints, any other sort of plans and maybe even buffet for 10 people. The drafting side was 60" wide by 48" high and had a beautiful wood top. On the other side was a table, also topped with wood, and a large drawer for storage. The base of the entire unit was metal, very heavy and able to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters I'm sure. It was perfect for my basement studio, where I had plenty of room to spread out. Unfortunately, upstairs we were running out of room to spread out and so we began to look for a new, larger house.

In 1989, we moved into our present home, which we had built for us. What would have been the bedroom at the top of the stairs was re-designed into an open loft-type of space. The open floor plan gave me the opportunity to keep tabs on the kids (we added one more, bringing our grand total to 3 children) playing downstairs or in their bedrooms while I worked in the studio. In theory a good plan. But the drafting table was so large that it took up a good part of the studio. It stuck out like a peninsula jutting into the available floor space and left little space for anything else. We added storage shelves which accumulated lots of art supplies and a ton of other stuff. Being an art teacher I tend to think that nothing should ever be thrown out because "I can use that in a project someday". I stuck with this arrangement for many years; the kids often shared the space with me. It was a great spot to work on any school project involving art. And I really did a ton of artwork in that cramped space! I knew that soon I would need to make a change, if only for my sanity. The room was just too cluttered and inefficient and I was so sick of looking at art supplies crammed onto every available horizontal surface.

But when to do it??? And how? And....most frightening of all... Where would I put everything during the process? Tune in tomorrow for the next, and last installment.....