In real Life

Guess it’s official … the two rooms that were just last week a studio and a kitchen are now a Studio Kitchen. Figuring out the header part ….

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Back to Work

It’s way too early to be moving back into the studio, but I need to get back to work. Every Studio Kitchen needs a hefty Spanish table …. desk … dining … studio work … And yes, still lots of trim carpentry and painting to do … but I’ve worked happily in less finished spaces, so this feels pretty good.

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Surprises in the Studio Kitchen

As is usually the case with reclamation projects like my beloved mill house studio, there will be surprises. I knew the house was structurally sound, so fortunately wasn’t expecting unhappy surprises. But after removing layer upon layer of finishes — walls, floors and ceilings — we are getting down to the original structure. And the original paint. I remember from my Charlotte NODA projects, the mill used three colors of paint for their villages — blue, yellow, and green … and very distinctive versions of each color. It was always fun to discover under a moulding or trim board the original version of the color, always brighter and cheerier than the 100 year old oxidized versions seen on beadboard walls and ceilings.

Well my Lockhart girl has a studio wall and ceiling color that is now a blue-green, but looks like it was originally a deep sky blue (a summer sky). Generally each of the rooms in a house were painted different colors, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in the kitchen. Turns out the walls are yellow, faded now to a pale buttery hue. And the ceiling! It’s dark red … in fact, it’s probably the same red as the studio floor.

And then there are couple of other surprises. A window concealed behind paneling and drywall. And what a beauty! Also structural discoveries in the wall between the studio and kitchen which will require a much smaller opening than originally planned.

So now I’ve got some reimagining to do …

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Studio Kitchen

This is an exciting time for Studio C Shute Lockhart.

My dream studio is one combined with the kitchen. This probably stems from time working in Ben Long’s Asheville studio on dismal gray winter days. He had a huge industrial warehouse space in downtown, and on the north side was the painting studio — for the north light (such as it was during an Asheville winter) — and at the other end of the cavernous space was a kitchen. Big farmhouse work table. Dusty Persian carpets. Lots of books. Dumpster diver chairs (many of which I was responsible for procuring). Used restaurant equipment. All sorts of interesting sculptural objects around. And at the end of the work day we’d start cooking … usually French, but sometimes Italian. Most of the artist I know (at least the good ones) are terrific cooks. So the meals were always divine.

Typical of the Carolina mill houses I’ve restored, this Lockhart one has four square rooms (downstairs), and no central hall … just doors connecting all the rooms to each other. So I’m opening up the back two spaces for a studio kitchen.

We’ve had to remove all the “modern”… (read as “dreadful”) … finishes on walls, floors, and dropped ceiling … even the old coal fireplace was bricked over. The floor was a bear because they had nailed the subfloor, with huge nails, every six inches or so. Crazy. But the rest of the finishes came right off! Like she couldn’t wait to shed an old, unwelcome skin. At one point they painted a beautiful cranberry red on the floor, but only around the carpet. It’s funny, but I’ve seen this before — floors painted around the furniture and rugs. We’re going to use that red on the floor across the finished space (already found the RED retro refrigerator! for the kitchen side). Studio white on the beadboard walls and ceilings of course. And leaving the beautiful blue-green paint on the plaster around the fireplace.

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The superpowers of Venus' Roses

Yesterday morning I experienced the amazing power of beauty. I’ve been gardening for the past few days, and have a bit of a sore back. Getting out of the car at the shop in the morning, several days of bending, digging, lifting, and squatting were really haunting me. As I walked in to the building thinking about my dreadfully sore muscles, the most curious thing happened. Right outside the shop entrance is a magnificent Knock-out Rose bush in full bloom. And in this case, the name fits — as I saw the glowing red bush I was so overcome by the beauty of it, that the pain vanished. The feeling of beauty is so overtaking, that a trifle like backache doesn’t stand a chance. Isn’t that crazy! Then — and here is the punch line — as soon as I stopped looking at the roses, my muscles started complaining again. So these are the roses I’ll be using in the Venus painting — the ones with the power over pain.

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Birth of Venus, in progress

Spent a glorious Easter up in the studio, working mainly on this portrait of Josie, which was started way back last summer. I knew then I wanted to use gold leaf behind Venus … signifying divine light reaching down into the primordial blue and bringing forth life … beauty … love … as my version of the story goes. The gold paint is iridescent, and the effect is a marvelous glow around the subject. Also using iridescent blue in the water and to create the shadow boxes around the flowers. Don’t see any flowers? Not to worry … the pale yellow circles are placeholders. And then there’s the rose design on Josie’s jacket too. One of the things I’m pleased with is the linkage between heaven and earth … wanted to codify divine energy infusing matter with life … so I let liquid gold paint drip down, making its way deep into the water, like the fingers of God. It looks unstructured and kind of organic, but not wildly so.

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finally back to painting

Finally back to work on this Birth of Venus and I like where it is going. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much research and painting to do, not to mention all the attention the little house needs. But research and painting are the squeaky wheels right now, so the cottage can wait.

Years ago I figured out that I can indeed switch from one side of the brain to the other, from statistics to art and back, so long as two conditions are met: I can’t do both on the same day; and I can’t do either without a lot of protein. Sounds contrived, I know … like some spoiled artist’s affectation … but that’s really how it is.

The pattern of flowers has been laid in (just circles at this point), and the watery background, from which our Venus is emerging, is coming along. Haven’t determined exactly which flowers to use, but it felt like the essential composition needed to be locked in first, and then the flowers would just declare themselves. You should see my desktop and sketchbooks …. flowers everywhere …. like an uberSpring …

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Bookends

Yesterday, with the release of the Black Hole images, I felt absolutely compelled to render these mysterious creatures. Same thing happened about a year and a half ago in August 2017 … the Totality eclipse cast the same spell over me. I simply had to render these bigger than big heavenly objects … and attempt to express their magnificence … and somehow record their strange pull on me. In such a state it’s best to surrender to the whole business … just go with it … and paint or draw without purpose or judgement. Usually the work is pretty good when this happens, and almost always the result is unexpected.

So finally, late in the day yesterday, I gave in … madly scribbling energy and matter dutifully making their way into the gaping mouth of oblivion. Then, naturally, I fell into a trancelike sleep and dreamed of the cosmos. Like ya do.

In the dream the Totality and Black Hole images were bookends, holding only one book, with only one chapter. The story started with the Totality and concluded with the Black Hole yesterday. During that time all I did was travel across time space in a golden pod … from that place to this one. So here I am … arrived fully intact, and happy …. incredibly happy. What a magnificent life I have! … and I feel some wonderful work happening, bubbling around inside me. So … here we go!

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Studio

The new space is finally coming together … just a bit more wall painting to do … and then back to the business of art-wherever-it-takes-us. Love working in the attic. And love having my muse back home. All is well.

PS. A note about objects in the studio. At this point in my life, I’ve mostly stopped “dragging my traps,” Thoreau style. What’s left are the storied treasures — those objects dripping-rich with meaning. The chair is an English piece adopted from a picker in Winchester when I was in my early twenties…. that was on the same day I was completely entranced by the cathedral there … a milepost in my life, and a story for another time. The chair is close to 300 years old; it’s not the first antique I ever purchased, but probably the oldest. It fits me so perfectly, I’d swear it was made for my frame. Beside the chair is a little “telephone table”. My father made it. He also made the lamp … it is one of a pair made for my mother for their first wedding anniversary. They were both students at Auburn and, according to my mother, so poor the only way they could give each other gifts was to make them. As the story goes, Daddy had a buddy who worked for Southern Bell, and the company was getting rid of these old phones. He managed to recover two from the trash, and reinvented them as table lamps for Mother. She treasured them so …. I was surprised when she gave them to my sister and me last year.

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Here we go...

So excited to be getting back to this Birth of Venus painting … I can remember doing two others, but there have probably been more. Been painting for 20 years now… so every week or so there’s evidence of a painting I totally forgot doing. Anyway … this one has been gestating for months … and here’s the new thing I want to try. The background water and gold areas are going to be decorated with botanicals … inspired by the photo (artist unknown) and Gustav Klimt styles … and rather than do the composition on canvass (or the usual sketchpad), I’m going to push my photoshop limits and do the entire design digitally. Guess we’ll discover if I’ve got the horses for that … sure see lots-o-layers in my future!!! YIKES … ok… here we go!

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Rosie Progression

Here’s Rosie, from underpainting all the way through. About two days work.

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New Attic Studio

Although the remodel is still underway, I’m working in my attic studio today. It’s actually a great space … western light, the only drawback, can be managed, especially on a cloudy day like today. Two other times I’ve had attic studios, in Easton and Asheville … have done some of my most elevated painting there. Working on this little Collie commission today.

That’s Alia Atredes, tailless wonder, at the top of the narrow staircase … which I really love (architecture and quadruped) … until it’s time to schlep large furniture upstairs!

That’s Alia Atredes, tailless wonder, at the top of the narrow staircase … which I really love (architecture and quadruped) … until it’s time to schlep large furniture upstairs!

Another Birth of Venus painting. Yes that’s a gold leaf upper background … thinking Botticelli meets Klimpt.

Another Birth of Venus painting. Yes that’s a gold leaf upper background … thinking Botticelli meets Klimpt.

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Not Sure How the Forrest Feels

I love that I had three completely open days to work on the little painting of Sydney, hurricane threat notwithstanding. And here’s the weird thing that happened: painting a happy child in the woods … presumably a lovely, bucolic setting … but I think the energy of the weather …. and a bit of concern for loved ones in harms way … could have led me to paint a scene of underlying menace.

My morning ritual starts with three activities — letting the dog out, starting the coffee, and reviewing the previous day’s work. It’s usually surprising … good and bad … to see yesterday’s decisions after a good night’s sleep. And when I looked at this work in progress, even though there’s still quite a bit to do, I could feel something dark in the woods. Clearly it’s time to take a few days off this one and “turn it to the wall” as my teacher always said. There’s nothing more practical than a fresh perspective when you’re too close to the struggle … give it a few days ‘to the wall’ and bet I’ll see a different painting …. or at least I’ll see a simple way to get it back on track.

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Hurricane Painting Update 3

So far, not much weather here in Upstate SC …. just the right amount of wind and rain to create the perfect paint-all-weekend vibe. Here’s the latest on the painting …. need to get to the figure now … in the source photo she has a darling happy expression, which really makes the picture …. so have to get that right.

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Hurricane Painting Underway

Starting a new portrait/landscape … of Sydney on a path in the woods. Some time ago I painted my favorite time and place …. autumn in the mountains … in this case Wildcat Path in southern Appalachia. Could have sold this little painting several times over … so it’s time to do some others like it. I’m taking an outdoor image of the subject and placing it in a Wildcat Pathish setting …. never done this before … we will see …. and looks like I’ll get to paint through a hurricane. This will be the second time for that adventure … last time was St. Augustine … great energy for studio work until the power goes out. Wherever you are, be safe.

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Flowers in the Kitchen

I started work at fourteen … at the country club in our neighborhood. And even now I remember the feeling that work was magic … it was hanging out with friends, doing something (relatively) useful (flipping burgers at the snack bar), being able to buy things for myself …. what’s not to love. At this point in life I realize work has always defined me …. what I produce, how I touch other people and they touch me, actualizing and expanding my world. So excited to be working with a furniture store and design group now. They are showing my paintings, so working a few days a week in the shop makes me feel like fourteen again … hanging out with designer friends, doing useful things …. guess some things never change. And I also realize that work is the greatest gift … it is living in love: freedom, expression, movement, connectivity, belonging … flowers in the kitchen.

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Bubba the Pirate

Hmmm... it's late enough in the afternoon ... probably won't start anything new today. Maybe some work on Hail and Farewell tonight while watching a movie ... and my Finished-Painting-Ritual: steak with lemon and olive oil, red wine, fresh bread, avocado salad, and fresh flowers in the kitchen. Plus, this is a good excuse for a drive in the country with the top down! Cheers.

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