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.
The moving and reorganization is complete! We welcome Mary Arthur to Studio 701 and hope you will stop by soon to see her wonderful oil paintings and drawings. http://www.arthurstudios.com
Karen Tichy has many new encaustic works beautifully displayed in her new corner of the studio as well. http://www.karentichy.com
Today will be the first day back in the studio following a two week "study" of waves....concentrating on the sights, sounds and smell of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Mexico-(also known as winter vacation.) Going from a cold, gray monochromatic Chicago to the bright technicolors and warm temperatures of Mexico was a welcome shock to the system. Returning home, even more so. The hibiscus and bougainvillea now a lovely memory as coats and gloves are put back into service and the swim suits stored.
It seems I can still hear the waves at night but know it is only in my mind. Nothing can capture the amazing show of power and beauty nature provides-the constant rhythmic rush to shore that has been going on forever. Still, photos will help to jog that memory and notes taken will hopefully allow new ideas to unfold. As shells and sand move where the water goes, so does paint. The process is one of surprise and discovery and I am eager to get back to it.
Happy New Year!
We are celebrating one year in Studio 701 and how the time has flown! Looking back over the last 12 months, it’s gratifying to see how we have adjusted to a shared space and also to acknowledge how change has contributed to our individual growth and success. Like time, we are always going forward and in January, one of our studio mates is moving on to a large and very beautiful studio in the FAB-one that will enable her to teach while working on her own art on a larger scale. We wish her well and encourage anyone interested in taking drawing and painting classes with an energetic and excellent instructor to see details on her website:
The move has necessitated changes for the remaining two as well. We have explored various ideas for the extra space we now have-gallery? classes? workshops? For now, we have decided the best situation is to welcome another artist into the space. It’s been an interesting experience-interviewing the people who have responded to our ad. There are so many talented artists out there looking for their own special space in which to create. I’m excited to announce our new studio mate will join us March 1-more details to come!
The year 2012 ended with the 4th annual “Night at the Fine Arts Building” which was hugely successful-attended by thousands of people. Music, dance, art and so much more was enjoyed by all with something for everyone. Again, it’s so exciting to meet people from every walk of life. The conversations may be brief or more involved and sometimes long term relationships are formed. For me, the return of some visitors to make purchases just before Christmas was a sweet surprise. It’s always lovely to send a painting along with someone who who makes a connection with it.
Ideas are flowing and soon the work will be too. So do stop in to say hello in this new year- 2013!
October was a whirlwind of activity in the studio! Studio mates, Karen Tichy, Kathleen Newman and I joined together to curate an exhibit on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building-aka The Second Floor Gallery, for Chicago Artists Month.
The exhibit highlights our varied approaches, materials and processes- Kathleen with pastels and oils, Karen's encaustics and my ongoing series of all things water. Personally speaking, this was one more fun, collaborative effort and another benefit of our shared studio.
Every October, Chicago celebrates the arts with Chicago Artists Month. Coordinators work with artists all over the city to provide a calendar full of activities and events. This year's theme, "Art Block by Block" showcased our FAB community as we had more than 25 studios and galleries open for the monthly Open Studios event. Throughout the month, visitors stopped by-most notably visitors from out of town. I so enjoyed the many conversations about art-mine and others-as some were artists in their own right. It seems there are few situations where this kind of exchange is possible and I am grateful to be in this beautiful, historic building, -where people can wander in from Michigan Avenue and explore!
Our exhibit has been extended until November 6th-please do stop by if you're in the area!
Even though I wrote in last month's blog post that sales are not the main reason for holding Open Studios, it sure can be nice when they happen.
Open Studios last Friday was especially busy. While talking to some guests, I noticed one of our frequent visitors out of the corner of my eye. He hadn't been in for about 8 months but for about a year and a half prior, he had gravitated to the same painting each time he did come by. This time, he searched through the racks and bins (I had moved to this new studio since he was last in) and found "his" painting. With a check in hand, he was ready to buy! We laughed quite a bit as it was wrapped up-such a joy for me to present a painting to its rightful owner! The second sale of the evening was apparently also love at first sight-another emotional connection. These two transactions absolutely made my night.
The studio was alive with conversation all evening and I was quite exhausted by night's end-though also rather wound up. Opening one's personal space is a little scary sometimes but what a rush when it all comes together....
It’s been 2 weeks since the last Open Studios event at the Fine Arts Building-and a busy night it was!
Each month, one thing becomes obvious as the evening progresses and it is that for most of our visitors, this is a new experience. Yes, we have a few “regulars” who stop by to see what’s new (which we love!), but by and large, people are either finding us online or spontaneously dropping in. The colorful signs on easels in front of the building do a good job of attracting more and more out of town guests. In the lobby, guests pick up a program and take the elevator to the floor of their choice. The elevator ride alone is worth the trip-one of the last manually operated elevators in the city! It is suggested that visitors start on the 10th floor, where a plaque is posted outside of the studio once occupied by Frank Lloyd Wright, and work their way down the stairs. The list of participants changes month to month and no two months are ever the same.
Like most people, I, too, am somewhat intimidated entering a gallery or art fair booth. Am I expected to buy something or can I just browse and look at the art at my leisure? Unlike some galleries I have been in, I think my studio mates and I do a pretty good job of warmly welcoming people into our shared space. It is, after all, our personal space-where we plan and work. It’s where we spend many of our waking hours. The relaxed atmosphere surprises many but before long, conversations are flowing.
Because we clean up pretty well once a month, our space may look a little more like a gallery. Work is displayed around the room and we prepare ourselves for “company”. We occasionally get some visitors who stride in, pour themselves a glass of wine and stroll out-without a word of response to being greeted-barely glancing at the art. Thankfully, that is rare. I enjoy talking to visitors, explaining the process and doing spontaneous demonstrations. Participating studios (artists, musicians, dance, voice, theater, yoga, a book store and a paperweight gallery) seem to have a similar approach- I often see guests laughing and lingering til closing as I make my way around the building.
While all artists seek to make a living with their work, my reason for participating in Open Studios is to engage people in conversation while exposing them to new ideas. Also, as I work alone most days, the feedback is quite valuable.
So, do stop by sometime...quietly look at the art or we can chat a bit. I would love to see you.
“Only connect”.... E.M. Forster
In 2004, a move to a condo in downtown Chicago created a problem I hadn't had before-SPACE, or rather, lack of it. Prior to the move, I had a studio in a renovated tack room in an unused horse stable on our property out in the country. It was cozy, comfortable, convenient and FREE! And, I could work in my pajamas-anytime I wanted to. Post move, I was hard pressed to find a corner I could spread out in and get some work done. In a daydreaming kind of way, I started looking around online for rental spaces. Surprisingly, an ad for a 180 square foot studio in the historic Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue popped up in the search. Making an appointment to see the place was the next step, terrified as I was. The ad stated the 7th floor studio faced north (great!) but it didn't have the skyline view I had imagined as the one large window faced a brick building across an alleyway. Still, north light is desirable for a painter and it felt right. For 5 1/2 years I happily painted away, pinching myself-an art studio on Michigan Avenue! Entering the building on any given day, I am welcomed by singing voices, pianos playing, the smell of oil paint- a banquet for the senses. The elevators are operated by hand and so one is also greeted by friendly employees who are the eyes and ears of this special place.
Though I quickly bonded with my studio, after 5 years a restless feeling was settling in. Working alone all of the time can be, well, lonely. Several years ago, a network was formed within the building: Fine Arts Building Studios. The collective is made up of roughly 40 studios. Visual artists, musicians and others provide a social network and Open Studios are held once a month. Still, people need large blocks of time to work and so socializing or having meetings are low priorities.
Last November, a large studio space became available on my floor. A couple of friends (who also had their own studios in the building) and I had discussed sharing space if the right one came along and this seemed to meet our criteria. With high decorative ceilings, the bright studio is located across from the elevators and overlooks a Venetian styled courtyard. There is a bonus glassed in entry to hang samples of our work. We three are all visual artists but have different interests, routines and schedules. We moved in together over the Christmas holidays and worked quickly to settle into our separate corners . Though we were a little worried we wouldn't fit everything in, all fell into place.
We've worked though a cozy winter, a vibrant, pleasant spring and now a hotter than normal summer. Small adjustments have been made along the way but I am happy to report that things are working out wonderfully. I am learning about encaustics from watching my studio mate, Karen, work her magic. Oils and pastels are Kathleen's expertise, though she does beautiful drawings and watercolors as well. I think they enjoy seeing how I use watercolor on nontraditional surfaces. We seem to compliment each other. On the occasion we are all in the studio at the same time, we enjoy quiet companionship-and sometimes a glass of wine at the end of the workday....