Articles

A View from the Easel

This week, artist studios in California, Massachusetts, and New York.

The 116th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Barbara Rachko, Manhattan, NY

My studio is on West 29th Street in Manhattan, in the rapidly vanishing fur district and around the corner from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I am fortunate to have been in the same space for 21 years. The studio is a much-needed island of calm in a very crazy and chaotic city. 

I work in soft pastel on sandpaper. I have been devoted to this medium for more than 30 years, so by now I probably own every brand of soft pastel that exists. As subject matter, I use my large collection of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art — masks, carved wooden animals, papier-mâché figures, and toys.  I consider them to be analogous to “actors in a repertory company” because they assume different roles in different paintings. Some of my actors can be seen in the corner on the right.

My process is slow. I spend about three months on each pastel painting, typically making four or five in a year. On the wall are finished pieces. I frame every painting immediately in order to protect it behind plexiglas.

Kevin Kearney, Petaluma, CA

I just moved into a new studio in Petaluma, California after having been evicted from my waterfront studio of 42 years in San Francisco. My office and storage are through the door on the left. My main studio allows me to work on three or four paintings simultaneously. It’s a great new space for me in an old brick ice house built in 1898 that has been seismically retrofitted and has a few other artists and photographers, as well as many in the construction industry.

Patricia Chow, Los Angeles, CA

This is my studio at Claremont Graduate University, where I am a second-year MFA student. We have lovely skylights in our studios, but I was lucky enough to get one of the few with a door, which I have converted into an art wall. I generally work vertically, with my canvases (or paper) hung flat on the wall to take maximum advantage of gravity’s pull on ink and paint. The high ceilings allow for long, scroll-format works as well as landscapes. The little black Honeywell air purifier in the back corner is de riguer for oil paint and Chinese ink. It’s always the first thing I turn on when entering the studio. Turning up the A/C is usually second. It’s Southern California, after all.

Andrew Comeau, North Andover, MA

My studio is situated in a renovated warehouse space that was once part of the Davis and Furber Mill Complex (a textile mill that opened in the 1850s and closed in 1982) and was renovated and renamed as the East Mill complex. My studio space is 12 feet by 14 feet, with eight-foot high internal walls, although the ceilings are over 20 feet high. A large sky light monitor situated directly above my studio runs the length of the warehouse. As a painter, I enjoy lots of natural light, so whether it’s a really sunny day or a very rainy one, there is always a tremendous amount of natural light to work with.

My painting process usually involves multiple paintings going on at once, so I keep three walls clear of furniture in order to have as much space as possible to hang the panels, canvas, or papers that I am painting on. I have a red service cart that I store my oil and acrylic paints and mediums, brushes, and palettes, which allows me to move between paintings with ease. On the fourth wall is my studio door, a small bookcase, and a tall workbench with storage underneath. I usually use my workbench to work on smaller paintings, collages, and drawings, which allows for me to spread everything out. Above my work bench I have an assortment of tools that allows for easy access while I am working. I also have two tall stools and a director chair, which makes it easy to move them around while I am working or to sit back to look at what I am working on.

Ingrid Capozzoli Flinn, East Harlem, NY

Finding studio space in New York City is difficult, so when I find a place to work that feels right, I’m elated! The space itself is such an important part of my work since my focus is the figure in an interior space, with the space often being a subject itself.

I have been working in the corner of a large floor in an old factory building in East Harlem, sharing this communal area with several other artists. It is very spacious, with high ceilings, fresh paint, and light streaming in from numerous windows. From those windows, there are charming city views, and I work to the daily cacophony of neighborhood sounds.

The space has a spiritual quality about it that reminds me more of the interior of a cathedral than a once bustling factory. This was only supposed to be a temporary space, but I have been working here now for over two years, drawing inspiration from the strong value contract of light, silhouettes in the interior, and unique patterns and textures of the building. I wonder how long this temporary studio space will last. I hope for a long time.

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