A VISIT WITH CRAIG KOSAK AT HIS STUDIO ON WHIDBEY ISLAND, WA
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Peter Kuhnlein
This story was featured in the October 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2013 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Describe your studio. The first thing you notice about my studio is that it’s new. The first chapters of my painting career were spent in art schools and rental studios—all well-used and well-worn spaces. As my career matured, I needed more space and realized I could settle anywhere I’d like. It seemed the time was right to pursue my lifelong dream of designing and building a home and work space. After a lengthy search, I settled on Whidbey Island—about halfway between Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Land was purchased, an architect was hired, a design emerged, and construction began. Although we worked as quickly as possible, it took nearly two years.
What elements were important to you when you were designing it? The most important thing was that the studio be separate from the house. The two structures are separated by about 300 feet, and while I would have liked more distance, this layout seems to work. Next was the painting area—it’s the space around which the rest of the studio was built. I work on as many as five paintings at a time and needed a space that could accommodate that kind of effort. I ended up with 40 feet of 10-foot-high painting walls. That’s more than sufficient for today, and it allows for larger work in the future. An adjustable, wall-mounted easel system holds work of any size, and halogen track lighting ensures proper color match when the work is shown in museums and galleries.
Why did you name the studio Ravendell? After selecting an architect, I arranged an outing for us to look at the property. While hacking through the underbrush, I heard a raven’s call overhead and looked up through a clearing in the trees to see the big black bird. So I looked at my architect and said, “We don’t need to look at the other places. This is the one.” To make room for the structures, I cleared a small space in the woods, commonly known as a dell, so the name seemed obvious: Ravendell.
How do your surroundings influence you and your work? For now, my surroundings provide the calm, nurturing solitude I need to do my work. That said, the wildlife is making itself known, and two new creatures have made their way into my paintings—bald eagles and rabbits. Over time, I expect the flora and fauna of Ravendell will be the primary influence for my work.
What kind of vegetation and wildlife surround your studio? It is a joy living here. The property is forested with alder, hemlock, and fir. The underbrush is thick with ferns, grasses, and moss. The huckleberries are ripe, and the blackberries will be here soon. There are parcels of old-growth forest nearby, and I hunt for chanterelle mushrooms in the fall. The deer, rabbits, and coyote visit daily. A great horned owl comes by from time to time to wallow in the sand pit, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen—it’s like she gets drunk on it. An eagle flew down my driveway the other day. And, of course, there are the ravens. They almost always appear in a group of four and swoop through the trees like a noisy black cloud.
What draws you to paint wildlife? I had intended to paint landscapes, but as I went into the field, the wildlife enchanted me. These creatures are the most compelling thing I can imagine painting—more intimate than a landscape, more alive than a still life, and more honest than most figurative work.
Where is one place people will never find you? A shopping mall. I hadn’t been in years but visited one recently while off-island getting my car serviced. I felt like a monk in a nightclub. It is a world into which I no longer fit.
Where do you like to take people when they come to visit? I’m new here and have yet to find my most favorite spots. In the meantime, the seaside village of Langley is always worth a visit. It’s a classic resort town packed with tourists in the summer and crusty locals in the winter. There are, of course, no end of parks and scenic byways, but one of my favorites is the walk my dog, Tucker, and I take most days from Ravendell through the woods to a viewpoint looking out over the Saratoga Passage and north to Canada.
Featured in the October 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art October 2013 print issue or digital download
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