Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The Art and History Museums of Maitland (A&H) offers an Artist-in-Action (AIA) program that reflects the spirit of founder J. André Smith’s Research Studio and the current mission of the institution. This program provides non-residential studio space to an established or emerging artist for the professional practice and research of fine art. This program is an exciting opportunity to interact with A&H’s community of artists and art enthusiasts while working in this uniquely rich and historic environment.
A fixture at the institution for many years, the A&H’s acclaimed Artist-in-Action program takes place at the A&H’s historic Maitland Art Center (originally André Smith’s Research Studio). In Smith’s day, famous artists were invited to live and work at the Research Studio in the winter months, including luminaries Milton Avery and Ralston Crawford. In the recent past, a number of very well-known artists occupied the studios in a non-resident capacity, including the late Anita Wooten, Barbara Tiffany, and Ellie Diez-Massaro.
On September 12th I went to visit Robert Ross one of the 2013 Artists in Action. I got to the studio a bit early, so I considered doing a quick study of the Maitland Art Center's central courtyard. Unfortunately that sketch was interrupted by a lawn jockey who entered the courtyard with a lawn mower. He isn't permitted to mow a lawn with anyone within 50 feet of him because flying debris could cause injury. He asked me to leave and I erased what I had started. Robert arrived as I exited the courtyard.
His studio doesn't have any windows, but the bathroom window lets light in when the door is left open. A large tree branch was hung on one wall and Robert was working on a life sized sketch which was pinned to the wall directly below the branch. He decided to work on a still life with a cup, jar and seed pod. He quickly assembled his field paint easel. A warm spot light was set up to illuminate his scene. Robert's paintings have been exhibited in a growing number of venues in Central Florida. He also maintains a studio at McRae Art Studios in Winter Park. He worked quickly on his painting and I tried to maintain the same energy with my sketch by avoiding line in favor of value and color. Robert is a retired graphic designer and he loves the ability to pursue painting full time. He plans to take part in the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival where he can see which pieces sell. He doesn't want to get caught up in chasing the market. I admire Robert's work which is a blend between Edward Hopper and Fairfield Porter. Many of his pieces show lonely, empty spaces between structures.
Recently he has been doing large painting based on sketches from sketchbooks. He likes having control over color and form which he can experiment with not feeling the need to slavishly recreate every detail. Watching him work made me itch to start attacking large canvases myself.