Inside the Artist’s Studio with Barbara McPhail: Printmaker

I have a small printmaking studio in my home in Canandaigua, which has excellent light and looks out onto the street. My main medium is monotype, although I also use collagraph, linocut, woodblock and etching.

View of my etching press and the street

View of my etching press and the street

My monotypes are mostly created from shapes made from tagboard, and textures like wallpaper, fabric and netting. I start with drawing, but quickly go to designing with shapes as soon as the idea evolves. The shapes are inked up with brayers and placed onto inked plexiglass.

Shapes for "Fire and Ice" on the inking island

Shapes for “Fire and Ice” on the inking island

The print “Fire and Ice” was made of 6 inch square sections that were glued down to form a large print. Below are the sections before I glued them together and added the fire, which was painted paper collaged on at the end.

"Fire and Ice" sections before gluing together

“Fire and Ice” sections before gluing together

Sometimes I overlay images onto an existing print. First I draw out the idea and play with shapes on paper before deciding how I want it to look.

Working out the idea for adding a layer of shapes

Working out the idea for adding a layer of shapes

The beauty of monotype is the fascinating and endless possibilities, which keeps my creative energy flowing and my mind going…going…going.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Barbara McPhail’s prints in our current exhibition the Upstate New York Printmaking Invitational (runs through October 7). View her work online at

Sign up for our workshop: Linocut Printmaking with Barb McPhail.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by sculptor Jerry Alonzo.



Letters inspire me, whether hand drawn or computer generated. Graffiti, elegant Copperplate, brush, pencil… I am obsessed with letters.

In June, I attended the International Calligraphy Conference, held in North Carolina (the next one will be in Utah). Participants choose either a week-long class or two half-week classes in everything from sign painting to Renaissance illumination.

I had the unparalleled honor of studying flourishing with Pat Blair, who serves as Chief Calligrapher at the White House. The saying goes, “If you can’t flourish, don’t prove it.” With Pat’s expert instruction and a few years of practice, I hope to prove that I can flourish!

As a lettering junkie, I’ve also studied with a number of highly-respected calligraphic artists – Julian Waters, John Stevens, Carl Rohrs, Mike Gold (Art Director at American Greetings), Peter Thornton & his talented wife Sherri, Reggie Ezell, and many more over the past 18 years. Each instructor, whether in a one-day workshop or a year-long intensive study, has contributed at least a nugget of inspiration. I am always anticipating my next “fix!”

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jerry Alonzo: Learning New Stuff

Feeling energized, having just returned from two weeks in Colorado at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.  I drove out from Geneseo, NY and caught up with friends along the way.

James and Gail

James and Gail

I went there to spend time with a sculptor whose work I greatly admire, James Surls.

The course was “Critical Dialog in Sculpture”  which is exactly what the six of us did most of the time.  I’ll remember James’ intro on day one.  It was intended to quickly dispatch the let’s learn from the master mentality and did.  It went something like this “It makes no difference how we as artists got into this sculpture studio; front door, back door or bathroom window.  We are all here, all artists, so let’s get to work.”  We talked about our work, his work and each others’.  What we do, why and how we do it, and what’s next.

With Melissa and Richard

With Melissa and Richard

In the off hours my classmates (all of whom worked in metal) moved various projects forward.

Gail and Joyce


Being a wood guy in a metals studio, it took me a few days to figure out how to benefit from all the metal working expertise  around me.  The studio coordinator taught me the basics of cutting steel with a plasma torch and how to press it into a bowl form.

Plasma torch


While I’m used to coaxing and persuading wood to do certain things,  I found that torch cutting with lots of sparks flying and pressing (way too gentle a word) steel into submission was a lot of fun.  I completed a quick piece I called “Offering and Receiving”.

Offering and Receiving

Offering and Receiving

I brought home to my studio a larger 12″ bowl with only a vague plan for it.  A few days after returning to Geneseo I was thinking about a friend who is ill and how a jolly piece might serve as a spirit lifter.  I decided to make this bowl into a table into which words of greeting, good wishes and encouragement could be collected and shared.  I  plan to donate it to an auction supporting medical research in my friends honor.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Jerry Alonzo’s sculptures in our current exhibition House and Home (runs through August 19). View his work online at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Susan Stuart.

Meet the Artist in Residence: James Mikhel Emerson

James Mikhel Emerson is an artist in residence at Main Street Arts! He’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the month of August 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see his studio and work in progress). We asked James a few questions about his artwork, life, and more:

Artist in residence James Mikhel Emerson

Artist in residence James Mikhel Emerson in his studio at Main Street Arts

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m from a real small town called Candler, in the heartland. It’s actually an unincorporated borough, just like one that I passed real close to Clifton Springs.

"The Totem Can Project" by James Mikhel Emerson

“The Totem Can Project” by James Mikhel Emerson

Q: How long have you been making artwork?

A: I’ve been making art my whole life. Both of my parents were artist craftsmen, so I started very early in clay and paint. Later, I moved to New York City and studied traditional drawing, painting, and advanced mixed media at the Art Students League in Manhattan.


Q: How would you describe your work? What is your preferred medium and your typical subject matter?

A: Primitive Surrealism is a term I like. I work with concepts and styles that extend across generations; things that humans can relate to regardless of time and place.

Somebody else just asked me what my preferred medium is, and I’ve been thinking about it. It’s sculpture when coupled with drawing and painting. I usually draw to absorb and explore different styles, and then sort of port that over into sculptures through a lot of different means.




Q: Do you collect artwork?

A: I do, very occasionally. I have a couple of very cool prints, a coke bottle, some small stone objects, and a wooden piece of a new alphabet created by a great artist, Esteban Patiño. I also have a small collection of artwork that I found around NYC over the years, which was created by #FAF and #FreeArtsMovement artists. Some of it’s good stuff.

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?

A: Good question. My favorite places are anywhere art doesn’t normally occur, so outside of galleries, museums, etc. I have participated in the #FAF as I mentioned before, and have left a bunch of small sculptures in public places for people to find and to hold, so I get a kick when I find other artists doing that as well.

A recent public sculpture by James in Riverside Park South in Manhattan

A recent public sculpture by James in Riverside Park South in Manhattan

Q: What are your goals for this residency? Tell us about your current projects.

A: Right now I am working on a new series of paintings and sculptures which use old visual language to present contemporary life. I’m using a bunch of styles to create contemporary symbols and representational imagery with which to talk about the world we live in.



Q: What advice would you give to other artists?

A: Seek the deeper function of art. Ask “What does art do for us humans, why do we keep creating it?” It is a question that is as old as us and is absolutely relevant today. See how far you can go to find your answer.

Q: What’s next for you? 

A: I think I’m gonna drive over to New York to the Wassaic Project. There are some folks over there that I’m hoping to see.


Q: Where else can we find you?

A: You can see more of my artwork at I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @JamesMikhel.

Sign up for a Social Media for Artists Workshop with James Mikhel Emerson! In this workshop, James will discuss different social media platforms and strategies for creating platform-specific content. Increase your reach and get your work in front of collectors, galleries, and more! Saturday, August 20, 2016 from 12-3pm. $25 per person. Call, email, or stop in to sign up today.

Are you an artist looking for new opportunities? Apply for a residency at Main Street Arts! Artists in residence will have 24-hour access to a large studio on our second floor (with great natural light), the option to show work in the gallery, and the opportunity to teach paid workshops. Submissions are reviewed and awarded on an ongoing basis.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Susan Stuart: In the Details – Large-Scale Painting

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

Creating Large-Scale Paintings
By Artist Susan Stuart

My process of working with oil paints begins with stretching a medium textured, unprimed, linen canvas onto a stretcher frame. This canvas is then primed with three coats of a sizing glue. This special glue is applied while hot and brushed onto the surface of the canvas to protect the fibers from the oils in the paint, which (over time) would actually disintegrate the fabric. Once dried, there is a roughness to the surface, which holds the oil paints and soft pastels.

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

The dried sized canvas is as tight  as a drum and will withstand the pressure of applying the oil paint, the pressure of rubbing the soft pastel into the wet paint and the occasional rubbing of pumice into the wet paint, as well. Because the glue is clear and because I love the natural tone of the linen, I will sometimes leave some of the primed surface showing through.

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

Once the canvas has been prepped, I begin to sketch. I either draw freehand directly onto the surface, or I may use a projector to project an image onto the canvas. The image is drawn using a soft pastel. Once an image has been drawn, I block in large areas of color. Following this, using the oil paint and a #2 round easel brush, I do a final contour line drawing on top of the pastel image. This then becomes the “bones” or underlying “structure” of the painting.

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

As I’m painting, I place the canvas on a horizontal surface, intentionally positioning the work so that the image is actually upside down. With the canvas positioned this way, I’m less conscious of the actual image, and, therefore, I am free to concentrate solely on the shapes and colors before me. While layering in details with the oils, the soft pastels will be intermixed with the wet paint to create subtle variations in color. Often I paint holding as many as 3 round easel brushes in my hand at one time. These multiple soft bristle brushes create an active surfaces of color and brush work.

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

Photo by Rob ONeil

This initial stage of applying the paint is the most exciting for me as I don’t know the effects of the color and brush strokes until I set the painting right side-up in a vertical position on my studio wall. Then, stepping back to look at the work from a distance, I see the image for the first time. I will continue working on the painting in this manner until it requires to be positioned vertically. At that time, the canvas will remain in this traditional vertical position as I finish the work.

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

In The Details - Susan Stuart - House and Home

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Susan Stuart’s paintings in our current exhibition House and Home (runs through August 19). View her work online at Contact Susan at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Christopher Baker.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Christopher Baker

Art means making choices: color, composition, subject, etc.  Since I adhere to no formal “rules” my painting process actually begins with my camera.  Following my collecting of images, I work in my studio in Weedsport, NY with a carefully established rhythm of photo, sketch, painted color study and final painting.  Following graduate work at Rochester Institute of Technology (MFA), I began painting professionally, first in oils and moving on to gouache.  Forty-five years later, I still feel humbled by this simple process and regard it as a key to occasional successes.


If I have a consistent theme over many years of painting, it is “Light” and how it defines form and mood.  Working in gouache in a very traditional style has always been challenging to me.  Raised in Western New York, I still find limitless inspiration in our local landscapes and architecture, often making changes in light and shadow to emphasize details of importance.  I would hope that my audience is tempted to see things in a new way, and discover some surprises within my paintings.

When I’m painting well, I feel that I’m thinking with my hands.  I’m a firm believer that painting should look fresh and easy.

Painting appears to me as a map with roads going in all directions and with lots of choices as to where I should “go”.  After choosing a “my destination” or theme, I enjoy exploring a subject until it becomes too “predictable” to me.

Construction scenes have been a recurring theme for a number of years.  Not always seen as beautiful, I find the interplay of light over machines, land and figures both challenging and exciting. Additionally, the relationship of construction workers to heavy machinery is awesome. Drawing and perspective now play a key role in representing these subjects accurately.  The creative portion of my process comes during this drawing stage, as I have to make choices as to what to include or eliminate.  Next comes color and value studies allowing me to focus attention on what is most important.



Cityscapes hold great fascination for me.  The colors, contrast and constant movement in these construction sites are challenging and an afford me the opportunity to explore the detail and freshness of the moment.  Keeping the image fresh and not overworking a subject is an essential element in these paintings.  Maintaining the lively feel for the site, while giving it the appearance of strict organization is much like painting itself.



In contrast to the lively interplay of figures, machines and the busy city, I also enjoy the solitude of interiors and the peaceful feel contained therein. For example, a simple stairway to my former studio might seem fairly mundane, but with the drama of flooding light from above, for me, the subject comes to life.

Over the years of painting, I have become increasingly aware of the abstract qualities of my subject, as opposed to the detail.  I often begin a painting with a 4” brush to establish lights and darks, eliminating all detail until the values are “right”.  I’m striving for an incomplete gesture, including only the elements necessary to the subject.



Doorways, windows…any subject where light can flood an interior and give life and form to its contents.  Keeping interiors “fresh” has always been a challenge to me.  Like painting a still life, an interior study seldom moves, leaving me “too much time” to study and find the smallest detail.

Of particular interest to me recently, has been graffiti.  I find that the freshness of its application fairly amazing, and along with its vibrant colors present a lively commentary to the otherwise “quiet” environment.  The life left behind and the application of paint beats like the pulse of the artist to me.  To “reproduce” these images on paper, and with the conscious use of perspective and light, is a great challenge to me.  I feel that it’s really a matter of “play”, not necessarily having a predetermined outcome…maybe like the graffiti artists?



…and of course railroad cars!


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Christopher Baker’s paintings in our current exhibition House and Home (runs through August 19). View his work online at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Dale Klein.