Studio Prompts – Get out of the studio!
As much as I can offer any advice in the studio to my students – I do. Some of the ideas and advice come from formal critiques of materials and paint application, while some come from conceptual ideas and how they can be better executed. Although all of these formal and conceptual prompts matter, so much more often comes from seeing great work in-person.
Painting to me, is my number one priority and teaching and lecturing offers me a lens in which to understand and discuss universal and personal studio problems. I was in a string of studio critiques with my artists recently and found myself going back to saying the same sentence, “look, how you apply your paint, how fast, how thick how thin – these things all matter a great deal. If you were a poet, these are your words – they can’t be happenstance.’
This got me thinking about how to break studio patterns and how to create specificity in painting. There is only so much I can say, it seemed I needed to offer more real examples.
I suggested everyone go see the Keltie Ferris Show at Mitchell Innes & Nash, which recently closed. It was on my list of shows to see and it felt timely for my studio practice as well. The show encompassed over a dozen giant paintings with just what I was referring to as center stage: surface and paint. Although I suggested it to my students, I really felt I needed to address it back in my studio as well. Studio problems and road blocks aren’t always easy to fix, they ebb and flow, they build up and they get broken down. This solo show by Ferris broke down walls I had in my studio and gave me endless permission to re-contextualize paint, surface, speed and texture in my work.
Seeing this show helped me out of my ruts in the studio and reminded me how important it is to walk through the goldmine of art galleries there are in New York to see the best art in the world. It is a luxury and a privilege to be able to walk in for free to a gallery like Mitchell Innes & Nash and stay as long as you want in front of these paintings by Ferris and other great artists. One can study all they want, they can paint all they want as well, both are encouraged, of course. However, my biggest take-away from this studio prompt was to go out and see more work. I was enlightened, excited and invigorated by this show and it has helped me in strides as I paint alone.
What is my future suggestion to artists in a rut? When in doubt, go out and see artists you admire, or even those that confuse you. Use your brain in a different way to solve problems back in the studio. The show doesn’t even have to be visual art centered, it can be music, and it can be theatre or comedy. Activating different parts of your brain is what makes great work – so put in the work, but remember to step outside as well.