The weather might be hot but it hasn’t discouraged our two newest students from Boys and Girls High School from coming to Window Studio afternoons as well as Saturdays. Both 10th graders are eager to spend their time doing more than just “hanging out in the park or playing games on their phones,” so we’re planning field trips to museums and neighborhoods in addition to art-making in the studio. Stay tuned!
(Artist in Residence Omari Waves, at work in the background.)
How many places are there where you can spend an hour or so making art in the company of other artists of all ages? Recently as I was getting stared on my latest portrait, I was joined by Aviva with her baby, Kimora who had brought a friend, Diesel who is a graffiti artist and Cesar who is working on his illustrated novel, and Mimi who is always up for drawing puffins!
I spent Mother’s Day setting up the new sign for Window Studio purchased with Puffin Foundation grant money, which is really going to increase the visibility of the project, as are the new postcards I just got last week. I left a bunch at the corner store, another batch at the barber shop, which I’ve been told have all been given out already! Not a problem, since I have 3,000 of them!
Window Studio just got its first grant from the Puffin Foundation! This is going to really help take the project to the next level – more artists, more models, more art to foster a “dialogue between art and ordinary people.” (Puffin’s mission and mine.) Stay tuned for more on the kick-off event that will be coming up in April, as well as weekly meet-and-greet Saturdays.
Want to be a part of it?
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The first paintings I did at Window Studio where actually not portraits; they were reflections in a window of a flower shop that I saw in St. Petersburg, Russia last summer. Creating them allowed me to speak with the people who came in to Window Studio about the way that I’ve used windows and their reflections as a way to include more in a picture than what appears immediately on the surface. In these paintings, images of workers during the Russian Revolution are incorporated. Several people I spoke to were interested in the way that oil paint can be used transparently in layers.
First, I don’t seem to mind working in a fishbowl at all! I like how people look in – after all, it is natural, we all look in the shop windows as we go by. I especially like it when I can see that a painting catches someone’s eye, even for a moment, and it registers. Sometimes I can overhear comments, like “Oh, that’s an artist working in there.” I especially like seeing the little kids’ faces when they go by with their nursery school teacher, all in a line holding hands.
Second, people are not shy about coming in and asking me about the paintings. A lot of people are interested in having their portraits done, or else commissioning a picture of a new baby, or of a whole family group, some of whom might live far away. The main challenge seems to be actually getting someone to commit. I’m not sure if the issue is time or money, or both. I also think there is an underlying issue – it takes a certain degree of assertiveness and confidence to take hold of art for oneself in this way. Luckily I have had two models so far, my son and Will.
When I set up my painting studio in the storefront window at 356 Marcus Garvey back in September 2012, I wasn’t sure how things would go. I didn’t know whether I would feel comfortable painting essentially in a fishbowl, with the people passing in the street able to look in and see what I was working on. Would I be distracted? Would people be interested or not? Would they come into the store? What would their reaction be?
I first came up with the idea because I wanted to be able to paint portraits of the people that I see around me every day in my neighborhood. I wanted to work from life, not from photographs, and I wanted to get to know something about the person I was painting, since I think a great portrait communicates a lot more than just what a person looks like. I also wanted to be able to talk to people about the work, to bring art into people’s daily lives.