By Rose Glaser
Colorado painter Skip Whitcomb, who does much of his work en plein air, could call the great outdoors his studio. But when he pulls up camp and heads inside, he has a newly built oasis that’s everything he’s always wanted. “I spent over a year planning this place,” says Whitcomb. “I kept a file with pictures of studios that I really liked, whether it was just a window or the whole studio.” He also studied paintings of interiors by James McNeill Whistler and Joaquin Sorolla and referred to a book called The Great Studios of Paris, the Capital of Art in the Late 19th Century, which was given to him by fellow artist Ned Jacob. The result is what Whitcomb now fondly refers to as his treehouse.
After going up two and a half stories’ worth of steps, the first thing you see is a cozy sitting area filled with art books, overstuffed chairs, sketches, and fellow studio mates Jesse James (an English Labrador) and Boomer (a cat). Turning the corner, you encounter an open, airy space with a cathedral ceiling. Whitcomb painted the walls dark gray to lessen the distractions around him, allowing him to better concentrate on the painting at hand. A grand north-facing window provides constant light throughout the day. Whitcomb placed this window high enough from the ground to dodge the green light that reflects off the lawn below—light that could influence the overall color of his paintings.
Whitcomb’s easels stand in strategic places around the room—two large ones on casters in the center, plus French easels and pochade boxes by the door, ready to go. His main studio easel faces the north window and can be rolled closer or further from the light depending on the size of the painting he is working on. “That’s a crucial feature for studio design,” said Whitcomb. “You have to have enough room to be able to get away from the painting and look at it from a good viewing distance.”
And of course there are the tools of his trade, his paints and pastels. Nearly 2,000 pastels are set out on long tables on either side of the easel a feast for the eyes. Grouped by color and tone, these boxes of chalky jewels are displayed like jelly beans at candy-store counters. And though the studio may look slightly haphazard, there is a simplicity of design that makes this place Whitcomb’s great escape, a place he can relax and think, his center of creativity. “Oh, yes, it’s all mine,” he says. “It’s my sanctuary.”
Featured in “In the Studio” Janurary 2001