If only I had more time for original research. If only. Hanging around in the studio while an artist works is something I absolutely love. It's so intimate and intrusive. No matter who I visit, I know, I'm most likely getting in their way. Naturally curious, I ask lots of questions. If you've ever had a casual conversation with me, you might notice the word I repeat most is "Why?" Because I like explanations, I like to hear it in your words. I want quotes and when you're around me, do know, anything you say or do is subject to my note taking and this unstoppable passion.
A couple of Sundays ago, I stumbled upon this book, Inside the Painter's Studio by Joe Fig. The book is a compilation of 24 artist interviews and detailed photographs of their studios. Originally intended to serve as research material for Fig's personal artwork, the author realized the information for the gem it is and transformed it into a book.
It's just the sort of thing I've been looking for. With interviews of such artists as Chuck Close, Eric Fischl and Joan Snyder, among others, Inside the Painter's Studio portrays artists that are already in art history texts or on the brink of the renown.
Preceding the interviews, Fig published his template of questions that he asked each artist. Some of the questions include:
- When did you consider yourself a professional artist, and when were you able to dedicate yourself full-time to that pursuit?
-Did you have a plan for the layout of your studio or did it develop organically?
-Please describe a typical day, being as specific as possible. For example: What time do you get up? When do you come to the studio? Do you have specific clothing you change into?
-What advice would you give a young artist that is just starting out?
I will absolutely be stealing some of these questions--they're so very good. A lot of this is the sort of stuff I bother artists with already. But... I mean... I don't know what it is these people do with their paints and their little jars of fumes and liquids.
I find myself imaging answers for Cameron. I think I'll take the template of questions and answer them all in her voice as an exercise in character development. Although, at this point in the game, I know her fairly well--how long she's been in that studio, the situation of her painting table, that she works off of a slab of glass for her palate and will paint in whatever she happens to be wearing, be it pajamas or the rare cocktail dress.
My one complaint is that Fig offers no insight or specific example of the artwork. While it's great to have a book solely focused on the painter's studio, I'd like some general context on the actual paintings. However, I am surprised to read about how many artists do not use, or have just started using, an easel. Who prefers to mix their paints in kitchen mixing bowls and who likes a disposable cup or paper plate as a palate. The central focus is really the painting table which, I'll admit, I am usually most taken with when visiting a studio. The best part about this book is that it gives me the chance to snoop around in the studios of famous painters during dull moments in the Garibaldi dining room.