By Kristin Hoerth
Fall is finally on its way, bringing with it all sorts of wonderful things, at least as far as I’m concerned: cooler weather, crisp air, aspen leaves turning golden—and, in the art world, an abundance of opportunities to tour artists’ studios. There are numerous weekend events across the West during which dozens of artists invite visitors to the places where they create. It’s the perfect chance to make a personal connection with an artist in your hometown, or to get to know a new city on a whole new level.
Ask an artist a few questions about a piece that you’re drawn to, and you’ll learn fascinating things. You may find out that a landscape painting with a tinge of familiarity was, in fact, painted on location in a spot you’ve visited yourself. You may be able to reminisce with the artist about the beautiful scenic drive you’ve both taken that led to the great spot in the first place. Or you may discover that an especially compelling portrait depicts the artist’s son, which leads to both an understanding of the challenges of painting a model and a little shared insight into family life. In conversations like these, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn about an artist’s background, and how much that will deepen your appreciation of their artwork.
You can also learn how art is created. In an artist’s studio, you’ll see the tools of the trade—paintbrushes, tubes of oil paint, blank canvases, chunks of clay, sculpting tools of all shapes and kinds. You may even get to watch a sculpture or ceramic piece begin to come to life. Gaining a glimpse into the creative processes, I’ve found, is inspiring and instructive all at once. You’ll acquire an immense appreciation for what it takes to be an artist when you see the myriad steps and skills involved in getting to the finished product.
An open door to a studio is an invitation to enter someone else’s life, to peek into their world. I’ve visited a number of artists’ studios over the years, and I count them among the most memorable aspects of my time in the art world. The size and shape of the individual spaces is unimportant; I’ve been to a cavernous converted warehouse, an unassuming suburban home, and a log cabin way out in the country. Regardless of the environment, it’s the chance to connect on a personal level that makes all the difference. —September 2009