Things are coming along (slowly) with the studio set up but finding the time to get back to painting while working on our home has become a real challenge. The incredible sunrises, the changing light as the clouds pass over the mountains and the bay inspire. Soon, soon.......Until then, some mini paintings will have to do.
Since my last entry in April, we have successfully made our move to Washington State-a long planned for and anticipated life change! My new studio will be in our home on Camano Island-a loft space perfectly suited to the gorgeous view out the studio windows.
The setting, perched high on a hill overlooking the Cascade Mountains and Port Susan will be an ongoing inspiration-maybe even a distraction- with the continuous changing light. Since little or no work has been done for the last 5 months, I am so eager to get back to painting.
A piece of my heart will always be with The Fine Arts Building. I know that unique experience helped me grow as a painter and friendships made will be for a lifetime. I’m grateful for the support received and hope to share the beautiful Northwest with visitors for many years to come.
There are many opportunities here and I am excited to join with other creatives once we are more settled. More news to come and, finally, new work, too!
My Dear Friends,
With a twinge of sadness, I am writing this entry to notify you that I have closed my studio in The Fine Arts Building. Since 2006, I have enjoyed this beautiful, historic monument to the arts-the oldest art colony in the nation. From the unique experience of being transported in one of the few remaining manually operated elevators to the sounds of music wafting throughout the building, there is so much to miss, and miss it I will.
The many friends made here, be they fellow creatives or the wonderful countless visitors who have visited my studio have contributed to what has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There is nothing that compares to the privilege of doing what you love and the freedom to share it, as we have done, during our Open Studio and other events.
For now, all has been moved to my south loop home-a bit too small to absorb it all. In the coming year, we intend to explore a move to Washington state where our granddaughter (and her parents :) reside.
Thank you for the visits, the conversations, for allowing me to explain my process and buoying my sometimes flagging confidence over the years. I will never forget the repeat and loyal visitors and also the one time “out-of-towners” who never failed to surprise-making every single opening a unique experience.
My website will remain up, though it needs a significant overhaul! I will continue painting-hopefully forever-but there will be a brief interruption for now. I feel so fortunate and want you to know how much I have appreciated your support. There are many areas yet to be explored and I am very much looking forward.
Yes, May 1st marked 11 years for me here in the historic Fine Arts Building- I can hardly believe it myself. Half of that time alone in 180 square feet and an equal amount of time in a larger space with 2 studio mates; one constant and the third changing every 1-2 years. Sharing our most intimate and creative hours week after week establishes a lasting bond, even when one moves on.
Moving on is a subject that comes up more and more. Lately, conversations with fellow creatives in this building center on what comes next; what do we do when the lease renewal comes around? Are we going to stay or go? Are we able to keep this gig going even when obligations to family pop up; when work isn’t getting done; when sales decline…
Travel has kept me out of the studio for weeks that turned into months over the last couple of years. Each long trip seemed to be preparing me for the inevitable-and I could begin to feel that maybe I was ready to let it go. But, each time I returned from one of those trips, the sounds, sights and even smells (varnish, paint, old wood..) pulled my soul back into my little corner of this beautiful old building.
During our Open Studios last Friday evening, I met a couple of new tenants. Their excitement about moving into the building was contagious and I found myself telling them about my favorite things here in the FAB, as follows:
-Winter is the best time to work in the building. There is no cozier spot on earth than the FAB in winter-to come in from the cold, embrace the warmth and sink into the sounds of piano, violin, cello or voice emanating from various studios. Often, choral groups will gather on the top floor and sing acapella-the beauty of the voices drifting down through all of the floors.
-And then again, Spring is the best time to work in the building. The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra makes its home here. Rehearsals for spring concerts give you a front row seat-or at least a listening treat. The city feels vibrant and it spills over into our building as we pass the outdoor seating of the Artist’s Cafe on the ground floor.
-Also, Summer is the best time to work in the building. Windows open, and all of the above comes drifting up to our 7th floor studio through the Venetian Courtyard. The courtyard is a lovely space to have lunch al fresco (though renovation will limit that this summer). A short walk to the lake or Buckingham Fountain refreshes and renews.
-For sure, Fall is the best time to work in the building. The art world in Chicago unofficially begins in the fall. All over town and among our FAB Studios members, hope and opportunity abound. Exhibits are planned for the annual Chicago Artists' Month and our Members' show for December. The possibilities seem endless heading into the holiday season, culminating in the special Holiday Open House mid December…..which brings us to winter…..
When that hard decision is made to leave, I know all will go on. New faces with unique offerings will fill the studios. My love for the Fine Arts Building is not unique. Others feel it, too, and the building will continue to nurture its tenants as long as it stands.
A heads up-there will be a BIG art sale when that time arrives-so check back often….
Of late, my creative activity has taken the form of finger painting, play doh, make believe and the like-all involving my almost 2 year old granddaughter. I’ve spent quite a few weeks away from the studio over the last year in her company, whether on vacation or caring for her in her home in Washington. In a way, it has been reminiscent of the days when my own children were young and I had put “my” art on hold while engaging them in similar activities. We always had paper, paints etc set up on a huge art table in our home but I rarely did my own work. Still, it was satisfying in its own way, to see the many projects our kids and their friends created.
For the first time in months, I was in town and able to participate in our Second Fridays Open Studios in The Fine Arts Building. After spending so much time with the above mentioned 2 year old, I felt a bit rusty when it came to discussing my work while doing demonstrations. I was feeling a bit “off” you might say.
We always have a real mix of visitors to our open studios-all ages and all walks of life. Most come because they’re curious about our historic building and then, happily it seems, wander into one studio or another that sparks their interest. I like to think our studio is one that surprises-my studio mate demonstrating encaustic techniques and I with watercolor on that slick Yupo surface. To many, it’s new and, therefore, interesting.
One set of visitors, a mom and her daughter, came by near the end of the evening. The young daughter, mom said, was very much into art and wanted to come to the Open Studios. We were experiencing a lull in the evening and so launched into our demos, afterwards asking our young friend to try her hand at encaustic, then watercolor. Very quickly, I was reminded that this is what I most enjoy about art. Showing a young person something new and encouraging them to try it. It also reminded me of the fun, both when my children were young, and over the last year with my granddaughter, seeing the spark of creative energy and watching it grow.
In a follow up email, the mom of the budding artist said she spent the weekend creating art and shared a photo of a painting she made. It was a beautiful, flowing painting with lovely energy-so wonderful to see and a reminder that, through art, making connections with others is most gratifying.
March 2015 BoldBrush Painting Contest Winners!
Our esteemed judge, Anna Bain has completed the judging of the March 2015 BoldBrush painting competition. [...]
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Watercolor on YUPO
Collaborative works by Claris Cahan and Debra LePage for FAB Studios Members Show during Chicago Artists Month in October: Terrain #2 in series and Fragments of Terrain, respectively.
With the swift passage of time, we come to realize what is most important in life. Reviewing this website, long overdue to be sure, I can see many ways to improve the message as well as the need to update work and information. My personal life has been full and demanding the past year, requiring all else to take a back seat.
We’ve also had some changes in the studio-with the exit of beloved studio mates and the welcoming of new friends. Going forward, I see renewed energy emanating from our space in the Fine Arts Building. Our organized group of artists, musicians and other residents is also taking a look at how we want to move ahead. We have many new members , adding greater diversity as well as new ideas. Regrouping, we are looking at designs for new postcards, signs and the assignment of responsibilities.
Change can be hard but is ultimately a good thing.
Speaking for myself, painting is something I am driven to do. Sales are secondary though certainly help when the rent comes due. Marketing is a necessary part of making sales happen-via my website and other sites displaying my work such as Saatchi Online, Fine Art America, FASO or Amazon. Finding the time and energy to do all of this well is a challenge. Figuring out what works and what is not worth my time will be a part of the change coming soon.
So, bear with me as I also whittle away at this website and attempt to update the others. I invite you to stop by my studio to see in person just what the day to day looks like. A quick call or email will guarantee I am there to welcome you. Also, our monthly Open Studios event is a great opportunity to meet our community. It’s a unique and fun experience to meet art and music makers, among others and every month is different as participation varies.
Current Studio 701 residents:
Debra LePage Watercolor
Karen Tichy Encaustic, Mixed Media paintings
Claris Cahan Textiles
Barbara Mutch Fiber Artist
There were thousands of people in the street but pretty low attendance for our OS in July. We were competing with Taste of Chicago. Summerdance a Millennium Park concert, sidewalk cafes and many other activities being held outdoors on a beautiful summer evening. This is when we put our heads together the following week to think about whether our OS should be a monthly event or one we hold 2-3 times a year. Yet, meeting just a few very interesting (and interested) visitors seems to make it worthwhile, at least for me. As stated before, we never know who is going to come through the door. It could be a true art lover or your next big collector. In fact, a young couple who came in near the end of the evening made my night. They stayed quite a while, looking at everything and asking good questions. It isn’t all about sales, not by a long shot.....
Our monthly Open Studios last evening was well attended-lots of out-of-town visitors in town for business or pleasure as well as local residents. Since moving into The Fine Arts Building in 2006, I’ve tried to participate every month as each month brings new faces and opportunities.
In the early years, OS found me cleaning and prepping my space to welcome visitors-adding food, wine and flowers, just like having company at home. I would also dress up a little bit and then sit and wait for people to come. Book in my lap, I tried to look casual and relaxed though I felt a bit nervous. Conversation was usually fairly easy-discussing various paintings but it sometimes felt a little bit awkward. How much can one talk about their work without feeling it’s a one way conversation? In between visitors, it was downright boring to just sit there. With everything so neatly put away, I couldn’t even get any work done.
After awhile I realized that the time would go by more quickly, and would take the pressure off anyone stopping in, if I was working on something. My materials are now front and center on the work table and I spend the evening doing demos. Perhaps it took years of painting to feel confident enough to work in front of people. Questions are more spontaneous and (mostly) easily answered because I feel comfortable with my process. People enjoy seeing how a painting is begun, even if it isn’t carried through to the end. The finished paintings on the walls are evidence that work does, indeed, get finished. The interaction is more balanced and certainly more relaxed.
The studio still gets cleaned once a month but not so very carefully. Visitors like seeing the real deal. In our studio, one can watch my demos using watercolor on yupo as well as experience my studio mates’ encaustic techniques or drawing and oil painting processes. People wander from one corner to another of our 3-person studio and seem to linger a bit longer than they used to. Time flies and a good kind of exhaustion sets in by night’s end.
Now, when I visit an artist in their studio or at a fair, I think about how much richer the experience would be for them and for their visitors if they actively shared how they make their art. Too often, the artist is sitting on a stool in the back of the booth, with the afore mentioned book-which I find a bit unwelcoming, though I know from experience that is not likely the impression they are aiming for. Art should be enjoyed and celebrated! So do come visit. We look forward to showing you our process, right in our (sometimes) messy studio and having some down to earth conversations about art.