Friday, March 5, 2010

McRae Art Studios Open House

I always love to sketch artists at work in their studios. So when I found out McRae Artist Studios in Winter Park was having an open house, I headed right on over. The first artist I visited was Dina Mack who is an abstract painter who also teaches a course called Destination Journal. Dina had a set of colored pencils that were made from tree branches and we debated for some time how they got the leads inside the pencils. It made sense for them to have drilled out the center then shoved the leads in, but the branches sere gently curved to a straight drill bit would have been useless. I decided they might have grafted the leads onto the sides of trees and let the branches grow around the leads, but that would take too much time. Another studio visitor wandered in and conjectured that the colored pencil leads might have been molten or liquid and allowed to dry, but that still doesn't account for the hollow space needed to pour the liquid into. Quite simply, it is an unexplainable miracle.
After wandering around a bit I found that there was always a group of people standing outside the studio of Susan Bach. Susan is a potter who makes wonderfully ornate funeral urns and vases. She was demonstrating how she throws a pot on her potters wheel and she sometimes invited passers by to try the wheel for themselves. Hal Stringer, who I had met a few weeks before when he hosted an artists gathering at his home, decided he would give the potting wheel a try. He struggled with the clay at first, using a bit to much brute force to try and keep it centered on the wheel. Susan encouraged his to relax and close his eyes. Then with just his sense of touch he gently began to build the form. He did a fine job, and Susan placed his piece aside so she could fire it and glaze it later.
A crusty old fisherman who used to be a captain of a fishing boat on the Bearing Sea near Alaska stopped to watch Susan work for a while. He told her about how he was the only captain who had an all woman crew in the cold arctic waters. This is a fine example of artists and patrons sharing and learning from each other. This was a fabulous event where it was possible to see artists as they work. I hope the McRae Studios continues this tradition.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Nita Van Zandt said...

Just a guess on the tree branch pencils, but perhaps the lead inside isn't in one whole piece. Perhaps they placed shorter pieces along the curve of the branch.

ChrisJ said...

How I wish I could draw and paint like this. It looks like it only took you a few minutes to put it together. I get so bogged down with details.