Tag Archives: Acrylic Painting

From The Dirt to The Skies: Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

"From The Dirt to The Skies" is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature. 

Executive director and curator Bradley Butler sat down with each of the artists and asked them some questions about their work and what inspires them to make it. An interesting overlap began to develop between these artists — from the motivation for making art
in the first place, to the imagery, and color palette. First up in this interview series, Finger Lakes artist Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer.

From The Dirt to The Skies:
Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer


Q: Can you talk about your paintings and what inspired them?

A: Different trips or experiences or places I have been to over the past year or so. Places I have been that I have experienced and I just found to be really beautiful that just struck me in a way, whether it be the light or a number of different things. It’s usually the light
that is the number one thing that really gets me. They were just places that I loved and took photographs of and then based on my photos and my memories and sketches that I did there in the moment, I took all those things and started paintings based on
them. In the end, the painting takes on almost a memory sort of feel. They all start from I place I have been, a place that I saw and they all are located around the Finger Lakes area.

"Spring's Finale" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Spring’s Finale” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: Is this inspiration and process different from what has happened for you in the past or has this always been your process?

A: It’s been a consistent process. It’s a series I started about 10 years ago now that has just continued to work for me. It’s been consistent, they have all started the same way. Now that I know my process a bit better, I know when I see something and know where it’s going to go.
I can do the research and do all the things that I need in order to get a good strong painting from it.

"Winter's Respite" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Winter’s Respite” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: What is on your mind when you’re working? Is there a conscious “trying to remember” things about the place?

A:Yeah! The most important thing for me is that I need peace and quiet. I need to be working by myself with no interruptions. It’s rare that I have just one photograph, I usually take a few so that I can see the way the light changes and I can put it all together to create what I think is the most compelling, strongest look. I have all those photos in front of me, whether it’s on the computer or printed out, and I usually have a vision board. And that’s really it. If I have music going it’s nothing distracting, it’s just something quiet in the background.

"Sonnenberg Tribute" by Merdith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Sonnenberg Tribute” by Merdith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: The painting “Sonnenberg Tribute” depicts nature in a different way than most of your other work. Can you talk about what caused that shift and if that’s something you’ll be doing more of?

A: I want to do more of that going forward. I used to live down the road from Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua and I would take walks through there. I love all the trees on the property, they are absolutely beautiful. One day I heard a story from someone who worked there that Mary Clark Thompson—she and her husband built the mansion at Sonnenberg—used to plant a tree in honor of every guest that she had back when she lived there. I thought that was a really cool thing, what a great way to honor a  guest. I thought that deserved a painting, so I found a tree that stood out really proud and I wanted to treat it almost like a portrait but still really get the washy luminescent layers in there. I definitely hope to take this further.

"Bud's View" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Bud’s View” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q:  Can you talk about your color palette? Are these colors you have seen in the skies or are they more amplified?

A: They are colors that I have seen in the sky but they are definitely amped up. I love the soft color palette from nature but I really enjoy being able to change it and put my own take on it. It’s important to me to not be painting exactly what I see. I want it to be a little bit more of a personal experience, I think this interpretation is really important. 

Q: How does your environment impact your work?

A: Oh gosh, I think my environment impacts me more than I even realize. I think going back through my paintings and remembering where the inspiration came from reminds me how much my environment influences me. I love landscapes so the Finger Lakes region always seems to be my subject matter. And it just happens to be that way. I don’t necessarily plan it to be that way it just kind of happens. So I think that because I live in such a beautiful area and the light is really beautiful and the weather and the clouds, there’s always a dramatic change in the light you can get from one moment to the next. It has a huge, huge impact on my work.

Work included in "From The Dirt to The Skies" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Work included in “From The Dirt to The Skies” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: I know that you were working in a different studio space this summer, what was it like being out of your usual set up?

A:I had a completely empty large room, no finished flooring or walls so it freed me up a little bit, which is important. I was able to just get things started and let the paint fly and I didn’t have any reservations. It became a really freeing experience. So having that space and having that freedom, not just the physical space but also not having to worry about getting anything dirty, I think it was a great exercise for me. It loosened up my flow of how I work a little bit more. 

I was able to work on several pieces at once because I had the space which is typically how I like to work it’s just not always the most practical thing for me. I had all of the paintings in this show out while I was working on another one so I could pull from all of those. It’s important for me when I am having a show to make sure there is cohesion and a common thread through one piece to another and that they all work nicely together but still have their own identities. 

This space granted me all those things which was really wonderful. It has beautiful light as well, it was a big open space with sliding glass doors and a big open backyard in the back. It was the perfect scenario.

From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.

Inside the Artist’s studio with Adriano Valeri

Me in the studio

Me in the studio

My name is Adriano Valeri, and I’m participating in Main Street Arts show de/composition!

I was born in Milan, Italy, and when I was eight years old my family relocated to Quincy, MA, a working class city south of Boston. As a birthday present one year, my parents enrolled me in an after school art class held in the basement of a frame shop. It was a great way to bond with other young artists and helped me adjust to my new environment. The teacher was an academically trained portrait painter. She was very affectionate with the kids, but also held us to a high standard. She taught us to use acrylic and oil paints, which I still favor to this day. Overall, I feel the experience was fundamental to my development as an artist.


My studio space

After graduating from a county vocational high school where I had specialized in arborculture, I choose to return to Italy and to further my education in the arts. I was accepted to the State Academy of Arts in Venice and spent the next 10 years studying and working both there and in the surrounding region. I learned to be more inquisitive and intellectually engaged as an artist. Although I have stuck with traditional techniques such as oil on canvas, it’s important for me that the paintings acknowledge critical issues of our time and to ensure the medium remains fresh and surprising.

After having completed my undergraduate and masters degree, in addition to several artists residencies, I opted to move to New York City and to further my career in the United States. I’ve lived in NYC for fours years now, working on my paintings in Brooklyn. My studio is a spacious drywall cubicle with a large table and some small desks. There’s a window that overlooks a busy highway and some empty lots and the whole floor is occupied by artists and craftspeople. Inside I like to find a balance between creative messiness and impractical clutter. On the tables, paper plates crusted in oil paints vie for space with sketches and photographs, while the walls are thronged with completed paintings.


View from the studio

As a child, painting and drawing was a way for me to express my fascination with animals and wild places. As an adult, I chose to paint subjects drawn from everyday experiences with the urban environment. Plants, construction material, feral animals, litter. We live in a globalized and rapidly homogenizing world, and I want to make paintings which can resonate with people across the globe.

I think we as a species have never before been as psychologically disconnected from the land we inhabit. The production of food and consumer goods is internationalized and largely automated. Internal and international migration, displacement for economic reasons or from social and natural calamities,  and the evolution of our mentality and social patterns of behavior contribute to a massive distancing from the organic process which occur around us. 

What I’m really interested in is bringing the viewer’s focus to  the land we inhabit. I’m not interested in making work that is purely documentary — I’m interested in how these marginal spaces teem with unintended interactions that result from our massive presence as a species, so I’ve developed a personal narrative style to convey that. I love how trees can absorb and deform a chain-link fence. It reminds me of the incessant action of biology, this weak force that is constantly at work everywhere, and is assimilating everything we shed.


The painting “Belgian Planters” which is currently on view in de/composition at Main Street Arts

I’m excited to have been selected for the show de/composition at Main Street Arts! Since this is a recurring theme that I acknowledge  in my painting, it was exciting to see how the other participating artists approach this topic in different media and from different perspectives and practices.

You can find more information about me and images of my work at adrianovaleri.com

Adriano Valeri  is one of 31 artists featured in the national juried exhibition de/composition at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shopde/composition runs through June 28, 2019.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Emily Tyman

Emily Tyman, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the months of October and November2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Emily some questions about her work and studio practice:

Emily Tyman

Emily Tyman

Q: Tell us about your background. 

I grew up in Geneva, NY and went to college at the University of Rochester.  Originally I was a Biology major but quickly switched to Studio Art. I had always liked to make art, but in college, I experimented with different mediums and had amazing professors as mentors. I’ve tried many different types of art such as photography, sculpture, and performance art, but I always came back to painting as my favorite medium.

"Reflect", acrylic on linen, 18"x18", 2018

“Reflect”, acrylic on linen, 18″x18″, 2018

Q: How would you describe your work?

My recent work has been focusing on color and shapes and breaking down environments. I want to highlight the materials that I use, such as the linen or wood that I paint on and make that material as equally important as the paint that I’m using.

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?

I used to always sketch out a plan and my paintings would usually end up being very close to the original sketch. Recently, I’ve tried to not be so strict with my paintings and just start something and not know how it’ll end up. While this was scary for me, it was a very liberating way to paint that I’ll continue to do with my pieces.

"Continue", acrylic on linen, 18"x18", 2018

“Continue”, acrylic on linen, 18″x18″, 2018

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?

Brush conditioner. Cleaning up is my least favorite thing to do and I’m not always the best at taking care of my brushes. The conditioner helps so much when I don’t thoroughly clean the paint off my brushes.

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?

I usually listen to a lot of pop music but when I’m in the studio I will listen to art rock and indie rock. Anything with a good beat that will keep me focused on the piece I’m working on. A lot of times I work without any music, just listening to ambient noises. Sometimes that makes it easier for me to become distracted so then I’ll put music on.

"Setting Sun", acrylic on wood, 2'x2', 2018

“Setting Sun”, acrylic on wood, 2′x2′, 2018

Q: Do you collect anything?

I hoard a lot of random items and basically keep everything. It’ll be anything from wood bark to flower stem tubes. I have over fifty topography maps. I want to hang onto things that I think I could use in the future for different art pieces. Most of the time I end up not using anything that I’ve kept but I like to have it just in case. One day I might need it.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?

My goal is to become more comfortable with abstract work. I started to try and incorporate abstract elements into my recent pieces, but I want to see how I can develop those ideas further.

"Seneca", acrylic on linen, 11"x12", 2018

“Seneca”, acrylic on linen, 11″x12″, 2018

Q: What’s next for you?

Eventually, I want to go back to school for an MFA in painting. Applying to school again is very intimidating and so I want to get to a place where I am a lot more comfortable with my portfolio.

Q: Where else can we find you?

My website and my Instagram.


Inside The Artist’s Studio with Meredith Mallwitz

The series of landscape paintings featured in the CULTIVATE exhibition is about the simple, unassuming beauty of the relationship between a horizon line, the light of an expansive sky and the changing mood of the day.

Inspiration for a painting

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Light”

Inspiration for "Canandaigua Light"

Inspiration image  for “Canandaigua Light”

When I see a landscape that inspires me it can be because of the glow of the light coming through the clouds that happened very quickly and dramatically, the smell of the air as it moves across the land, the contrast of color in a field, or the rising mist coming over the horizon. I don’t paint to recreate what I saw, rather I paint to convey my sensory experience and bring that initial inspiring experience or moment to life.

"Canandaigua Light" in progress

“Canandaigua Light” in progress

"Canandaigua Light"

“Canandaigua Light” by Meredith Mallwitz

The landscape of the Finger Lakes region in particular has given me so much in terms of inspiration. I live in Canandaigua and even in our dark, gloomy days, I can have my breath taken away by the stunning beauty of the area. And when that happens, I don’t forget that image or that feeling.

My work starts from a photo or a sketch of the subject. I’ll start a painting from that, but the work takes on a much different identity once it comes into my art studio. That photo usually only serves the purpose in the initial stages of a painting. I work with acrylic paints, usually very diluted, soft layers that I build up very slowly to allow the paint to have some translucency to it, and allow the layers to glow and illuminate from beneath.

Inspiration image for "Canandaigua Lake"

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Lake”

Inspiration image for "Canandaigua Lake"

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Lake”

"Canandaigua Lake" by Meredith Mallwitz

“Canandaigua Lake” by Meredith Mallwitz

Two of my biggest art influences are William Turner, for his light and atmospheric technique, and Mark Rothko for the emotion behind those color relationships.

I am originally from Shortsville, NY where I grew up working in my family’s bar and restaurant, Buffalo Bills Family Restaurant & Tap Room. If there’s one thing that has been the most influential on my life, it would be that restaurant. It’s been in my family since I was 4 and has taught me a thing or two about the intrinsic value of good hard work. The great bonus of the business was meeting some remarkably inspiring, creative, and interesting people over the years starting from a very young age.

"Windswept" in progress

“Windswept” in progress

"Windswept" by Meredith Mallwitz

“Windswept” by Meredith Mallwitz

After I graduated high school I attended the Art Institute of Boston, California College of the Arts, and The Art Institute of Florence, Italy. I traveled to Egypt, Greece, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ireland. Right after college graduation I traveled the coast of Mexico for 6 months. Life was good and I was soaking up and loving every moment. But truth be told, I actually missed the Finger Lakes. I needed to see the world to realize how beautiful the Finger Lakes region truly is. I longed for the rolling hills, the farmland, the lakes. So, I moved back and rented an art studio above my parents restaurant. During the day I painted, and at night I was a bartender.

Viewer looking at "Windswept" in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

Viewer looking at “Windswept” in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

One day I hung a painting that was still wet on the wall at the restaurant because I wanted to get feedback. Two hours later a man saw it, loved it and bought it. That lit my fire and I started painting like a machine. My goal was a new piece or two every week. That was 2001 and my work has certainly evolved, but my fire, drive and passion to create has only grown bigger.

Meredith Mallwitz is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Meredith and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Meredith Mallwitz on the gallery’s Artsy page.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Matt Duquette

Matt Duquette

Matt Duquette

Being a 40-year-old commercial artist and graphic designer, gallery work has always been an idea in the back of my mind. I haven’t dedicated much effort to painting and showing because most of my creative energies are spent in the day-to-day of a design and illustration studio in Buffalo, NY. The gallery seems to be an allusive place where I’m required to be extroverted and share my thoughts and experiences. It does, however, offer an opportunity to create something purely for my own, with materials that allow for exploration.

While in school at RIT, I began to develop a loose, painterly style because I liked to convey action or even emotion of the moment. I was leaning more towards candid portraiture since most of my interests laid in music and sports. In 2000 I attended The School of Visual Art (SVA) in New York City to further develop my visual storytelling. Here, I began to include collaged elements—paper, photos, notes—to help explain the storyline and add visual texture.

Mixed media work from early 2000's

Mixed media work from early 2000′s

Many of my older paintings focused on personal life experiences or at least followed a surreal storytelling approach and almost always involved a figure. I was exploring concepts of home and family, along with the stresses of caring for an ill parent.

Matt Duquette

Figurative work “A New Day” & “Homesick”

A few years ago, after taking some time off from painting, I began drawing the chickens we raising on our small farm. It started merely as an exercise in making art, but I rather enjoyed it because there wasn’t much thought involved. I just drew pictures that I wanted to draw. That experiment has since sparked a number of paintings and drawings, and a new excitement which has allowed me to focus on style. I also get to talk about my chickens.

Matt Duquette

Chicken portraits

The series I worked on for the Dream State show a came at a time when my wife had just experienced a guided meditation dream involving an owl. Even before the show I knew that I wanted to do some type of bird interaction so it was perfect timing. Owl dreams have so many interpretations, but I did the best I could to remain close to her experience. The focus, of course, was the majestic owl guide in a outer space-like atmosphere.

Matt Duquette

Process detail

I’m most comfortable with acrylic paint because it’s fast drying, easy to control, and easy to clean up. It works well with collaged elements and layering of drawings. I typically work with washes of color to build the forms but quickly move to a dry brush technique to layer on the paint. I like to mix the color on the surface, so many times I’ll just use paint straight from the tube. For sometime I’ve used basically the same 6 colors: black, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, pthalo blue, and gesso as my white. I only have 3–4 brushes that I’m comfortable using so I try to make it work with what little I have. Again, I would not classify myself as a fine artist.

Matt Duquette

Materials used for painting

You can view more of my personal artwork at mattduquette.com or follow my art and farming adventures on the Instagrams @matt12grain. Thanks for looking!

Five paintings by Matt Duquette can be seen in Dream State, on display through February 16, 2018. The exhibition also features photographs by Bill Finger (Seattle, WA), sculpture by Carrianne Hendrickson (Rochester, NY), and paintings by Lin Price (Ithaca, NY). Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased online. 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Cherry Rahn: Stalking the Wild Still Life

I have lived in Geneva, NY since 1981, but I’ve spent time in many other places, including the UK, and many years in Canada.  My first solo show was at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1989, after taking some studio courses there.  I made sculpture for the next 20 years.

My medium, subject matter and style varied a lot.  I made bronze figures and portraits, a multi-media installation, a series in Hydrocal about technology, and social-satirical “men in suits” figures.  I’ve also done set design and theater pieces for schools and community theater, and for my daughter’s circus production company.  I’ve been concentrating on painting since 2008, using gouache and then acrylic on canvas.

In my studio.  Photo: E. Kenas

In my studio. Photo: E. Kenas

Wild still life:  since it is now socially acceptable to use a cell phone to take photos  in all public situations, a vast opportunity has opened up.  In a cafe, restaurant or tea room, I can hunt around the room or the table top with my phone camera.  I use the low or peculiar lighting conditions and the chance encounters with objects and colors to collect raw visual material (I have never set up a still life.)  I then edit and re-compose an image and work from that photo.

The cafe paintings began in 2012 with views of the room, people, windows, inside and outside.  Now I have zoomed in to the more micro scene.

raw material

raw material

painting: Pair of Glasses

painting: Pair of Glasses

I love to play around on the cusp of abstraction and representation.  It’s tempting to go with the sheer colors and shapes, yet I can’t quite bear to “let go of that adorable salt shaker”, or whatever it may be.

Once again, I have shifted my subject matter.  I’m going more micro and working at the place where the water meets the land.  Here I am stalking the pebbles and lake grass.

at work.  photo: S. Lee

at work. photo: S. Lee

In my paintings, I want to present things that are there, but which we don’t usually see without a deliberate act of looking.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Cherry Rahn’s paintings in our current exhibition “Setting the Table” (runs through November 25th). You can see more of Cherry’s work online at www.cherryrahn.com.

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

Meet the Artist in Residence: Cathryn Leyland

Cathryn Leyland is an artist in residence at Main Street Arts! She’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the months of September–October 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see her studio and work in progress). We asked Cathryn a few questions about her artwork, life, and more:

Artist in Residence Cathryn Leyland in her Main Street Arts studio

Artist in Residence Cathryn Leyland in her Main Street Arts studio

Q: Tell us about your background.

A: I grew up in the house of an artist and a paper engineer, so materials were always accessible and projects abundant.



After starting another career path, I headed back into art through an interest in scientific textbook authoring and illustration. Upon finishing an MFA, I found myself teaching computer graphics amid courses in professional and technical communications.

Photos (c)CRLeylandI owe my teaching pathway to  printmaker Eric Bellmann, who was art chair for the evening division at RIT. He entrusted me with teaching so early in my working years. And Tom Moran, my chair during the evolving years of computer graphics.

Teaching led me into writing and illustrating online course materials, and developing new courses. It took me  a while to realize that curriculum design was essentially book publishing, with a smaller audience and immediate feedback. I suppose one could conclude, “You can always do science for a hobby.”

This fall my courses are online, which frees me to settle into Clifton Springs for this great opportunity at Main Street Arts. It will be refreshing to produce art there, meet people,  and see what emerges from workshops.


CRLeyland Abstract

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: Everyone sets their balance between order and chaos, dealing with what arrives. Life brings disarray, and we scramble to pack it into order. Often the interruption is order; we just haven’t recognized patterns yet. My artwork respects chaos, and the order that can be formed from it.


I pursue ideas that I’d like to teach others, or find adventures in trying new tools.

I can’t resist sandboxing fabric ideas at Spoonflower.com, and have hidden vices where print-on-demand services wrap my images on new products.

(c) CRLeyland on Spoonflower

For  short time, I designed surface pattern for fashion and fabric through an agent. Seamless pattern design could be an interesting topic for a gallery workshop.

I’ve sold ceramic sculpture to people carrying it through a crowded festival; painted public art while onlookers shouted from their cars; designed promotional materials, to find that different opinions make us such snowflakes.

In artistic expression we tell our individual stories, and should expect others’ to be different. Then we are delighted when  ideas connect, when visual communicators seem to understand how we were thinking.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?

A: Scissors beat paper and rock. Vital tools are bitmap software, MS Notepad, small graphics tablet, phone camera– to jot down ideas or carry out a full vision.


Acrylic paint on board conveys what’s on my mind most effectively.


Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?

A: Projects often start with curiosity about materials, combining things in unexpected ways. I see what I already have to work with, and build on that. My pewter phase began with videos of survivalists melting cans and pouring molten metal on garage floors. Who can resist.

In approaching a project, I pick up peripheral information. Learn everything, then narrow to how I’d like to carry it out. Art-making is about choices, and is not necessarily an additive process. Try removing as fast as you add.


Q: What are your goals for this residency?

A: Work will emerge in both pewter jewelry, and acrylic abstracts.

In preparation, I cast pewter into organic and geologic forms, and will combine these with semi-precious stones, amber, freshwater pearls, a little sterling and other metals. Shapes were melted ahead of time, to keep the gallery off speed dial to Clifton Springs FD.


(c)2016 CRLeylandI have small paintings to finish, which will gradually appear outside my second floor studio.


During the residency, you will see the progression of a painted series, on Finger Lakes waterways. The depth of Seneca Lake, winding of Flint Creek, elevations, watersheds, and glacial structures… I would like to highlight fluidity, sprawl, and vulnerability in upstate waters.

And oh! I look forward to offering workshops, seeing what each person brings in experience and insight.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Two upcoming juried exhibits here, I’d like to submit work to– Small Works 2016 and The Cup, The Mug.

I expect to carry the pewter idea further, into art jewelry exhibits. Pewter is malleable and melts at low temperatures, so it’s wonderful to work with, and opens up many possibilities. I had the opportunity to wax-cast silver when I was young, and am building that experience into the way I cast pewter.


I continue to teach, freelance, write, take on other work… and am always eager to explore new opportunities.

Q: Where else can we find you?

A: Saatchi ArtFine Art AmericaLinkedIn, and Spoonflower — A great place for trying new ideas for seamless repeats–and connecting with thoughtful, creative people.

(c) 2014-16 CRLeyland fabric

Q: Do you collect artwork?

A: I have stoneware and abstracts that harmonize with life. Art might arrive through connection with an artist, friend or relative, or a discovery I can’t pass up.

(c) CRLeyland

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 Denton Crawford

Most of my family is from the Southeastern U.S. My father was in the military so we moved around a lot when I was a kid. By the time I was 18 I’d spent half my life over seas. I received my BFA from the University of South Florida in 2007, and my MFA from the University of Georgia in 2011. I currently teach drawing and new media classes at RIT, in Rochester, NY.

mixed media collage on mounted paper

End of the Road mixed media collage on mounted paper

I got into drawing in my early teens, which was more of a hobby up until I started school. I was an english major before I switched to the visual arts, and I still have a real affinity for narrative art and story telling. I think of my own work as snapshots from a larger personal narrative. I got my BFA at the University of South Florida, where I stuck mostly to painting that incorporated my surroundings in terms of color palette and subject matter. I wanted to create portraits that evoked empathy, humility and humor. Painting has always been about materiality, surface and color for me. When I went to graduate school I wanted to make big changes to the way I worked. I started painting larger, more abstractly and on various surfaces, incorporating the space around and in front of the paintings, using sculpture and the wall itself. This led to a series of works that engaged a larger space and allowed me to explore my ideas in other ways, and with different materials, where drawing also started to play a big roll. 

Our Church acrylic, gouache and spray paint on pvc

Our Church
acrylic, gouache and spray paint on pvc

Most of the work is driven by conflicting ideologies about various subjects – religion, utopian ideals, the loss of innocence, and metaphysical experience.  A good majority of the source imagery comes from personal adventures, travels, places I’ve lived or visited. It’s a kind of personal narrative played out through my interaction with the landscape and a sense of place. I also like to incorporate what might be considered trite or cliche imagery, like skulls. Attempting to elevate or reinvest something with new or different meaning is always interesting. I like to think of these as moments from a utopian downfall, a perfection not quite attainable, enticing the viewer with color and tactile surface.

Daydreams acrylic, gouache and spray paint on panel

acrylic, gouache and spray paint on panel

I like to keep things playful and responsive in the studio. I’ll usually start with a general idea or plan of attack, often referencing previous works and incorporating things from them that I really like or find successful. I get a lot of ideas while I’m working, so I keep a sketchbook of notes and drawings handy to reference and jot things down. Paintings often start with drawings from the sketchbook or personal photos. I get all of my best ideas from reading, whether fiction or philosophy, novels or poems. Daydreams is based on some of the themes and iconography from Lord of the Flies, which I had only recently read for the first time. It’s so fantastic as an analysis of human nature, a lot of those themes were already present in my work. As form materials and process, I use a lot of tape, stencils, and mediums, there’s a lot of masking and layering.

studio shot 1

For a recent solo show at Joy Gallery in Rochester, NY titled You’re Not Here, I chose to focus more on sculpture and installation. I am always thinking about objects and space in relation to the drawings, paintings and collages that I make, as well as the ideas that inform them. It’s an attempt to create a memorable experience for the viewer, I want to give them a moment that they will not forget. For this exhibition I took the opportunity to make a small installation titled My Disembodied Sermon in room at the back of the gallery.

install shot disembodied 2

This allowed me to incorporate a lot of the things I had been thinking about doing for some time – using a playful approach to material, aesthetic and conceptual concerns, and thinking about religious iconography and experience in relation to objects, space, and what one might consider religious experience. It’s a sort of reliquary.

skull detail

I spent a lot of time in the studio working with a variety of materials including insulation foam, cast foam and plastic, fabricated and found objects, and thinking of ways to combine painting, installation and these 3D forms. I really enjoy working this way and bringing these materials together.

cross home

cross 6

cross 7

neon 2

For more information on Denton Crawford you can visit his website at www.dentoncrawford.com. Feel free to contact the artist via the email on his site. Or stop by the gallery to see his work in our current exhibition, The Assembled Image.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by fabric collage artist Lynne Feldman.

Inside the Artist’s Studio With Trina May Smith: Chasing the Work


I grew up in Missoula Montana, a liberal arts college town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. As a kid I wanted to be a writer and was always writing stories and poems. In seventh grade I wrote and typed a 15 page single spaced story for fun. I read constantly, and just knew that writing was my thing.

I had a free elective my freshman year of high school and decided to take an art course. Taking that art class had a profound effect on me. I gave up writing and have been an artist ever since. I completed my undergraduate work at the University of Washington in Seattle and then ran an art program in a middle school for five years. After five years of asking students to reach for their potential I felt that I needed to walk the talk and go to graduate school. I was accepted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and had an amazing three years of developing my work and gaining an understanding for more seriously pursuing a professional practice. Upon graduating in 2012 I became a lecturer of art at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, teaching painting and Drawing. I plan on continuing to teach at the college level and to persist with my desire to chase the ever-elusive carrot as I pursue my artistic intensions.

The Studio:


The studio is a very complex space. It functions as a physical place as well as an emotional and intellectual space. I have had a variety of studios over the years but have currently converted half of my large living room in my house into my painting studio. I have always been interested in minimizing the separation between everyday life and the work. I am guessing that it is not coincidence that once I established my studio in my living space, the work began to get more personal. In the past when I went to my rented studio space I was essentially “going to work” and when I left the studio there would be a distance between my art making and the rest of my life. Now when I come home I am also in the studio and am always aware of the work regardless of if I am actively painting or not.



In my undergraduate studies I had a professor that suggested that you should be in your studio at least 6 hours a day. That you should live with the work, look at it, exist with it in order to develop it. At the time I thought this was a bit idealistic and reflective of his own process but not particularly relevant to my work. Now I understand what he was trying to say. Making paintings is more then putting paint onto a surface, it is understanding WHY you are putting paint on a surface. It is wanting something from the work that has little to do with the pictorial subject and more to do with the process of making itself. The more paintings I make, the more I want from them, and the more of my own history goes into them.

The Work:

Fire 2  Oil on Panel 6x9" 2014

Fire 2 Oil on Panel 6×9″ 2014

The series of Fire paintings played an interesting role in my practice this past year. They acted as a sort of bridge between the work that I have been producing for the past 3 years and my current work that is based on my personal ideas and experiences.

In Graduate school I began a series examining industrial decline and urban decay. This series stemmed from having grown up in Montana where every industry is declining. I took multiple trips to Montana as well as through the rust belt cities such as Detroit, Gary, Pittsburgh, and St Louis.

Stripped. Oil on Panel. 7x10" 2012

Stripped. Oil on Panel. 7×10″ 2012

I documented the urban settings that had the mark of degrading industry and invested in the duality that these spaces represented. They simultaneously signified progress and failure, growth and loss, change and nostalgia, and spoke not only of large companies but also of people’s lives. The abandoned houses became particularly important to me. Growing up working class in Montana with a logger Grandfather I know well of the stress of seasonal work and the complexities of how industries surge and cycle. I was compelled to capture these abandoned houses as a mark of time, a portrait of circumstance, and a narrative of lost hope and change. The paintings’ small size and careful application fell in line with the importance of remembering. They took on a precious, jewel-like, quality and had a specificity that felt intimate yet spoke of a broad idea.

Forced. Acrylic and Oil on Panel. 6x30". 2012

Forced. Acrylic and Oil on Panel. 6×30″. 2012

When in St Louis I noticed a particularly large number of houses that had been burned. I was lucky to have a friend whose mother lived and grew up in St Louis. She agreed to come with me one day as I took pictures and gave me a great deal of insight. She said that neighbors would purposefully burn the houses to deter people from squatting in them. It was used as a strategy to keep neighborhoods in decline as safe as possible. I then watched a documentary called Burn about the fires of Detroit. The statistics of how many fires were set to abandoned structures was startling. In the documentary they talk about how setting abandoned houses on fire became a sort of past time within certain subsets of the population. There were so many fires that the fire fighters had to pick and choose which fires to fight at all. Whether the house had been abandoned, or caught fire while inhabited, the sight of a burning house evokes an emotional response. It asks you to question your own security and circumstance in a much more immediate way then the abandoned houses did. Fire is simultaneously beautiful and alluring, yet scary and dangerous.

Burned House in St Louis

Burned House in St Louis


As I painted the series of houses on fire, I began to look at them more and more as abstractions. The repetition of the fire from piece to piece began to interest me and I began to look for other visual elements that intrigued me. I started looking at the plywood on boarded windows as both a signifier of abandonment and beauty of nature. I saw traffic cones as urban guides to navigate and wanted to place them in forest scenes as imposters. I am interested in the tension of not wanting the cones to be in the natural setting and enjoying the visual experience of them. They are both misplaced and desperately trying to “belong” or “fit in”.

Imposters. Oil on Panel 6x10". 2014

Imposters. Oil on Panel 6×10″. 2014

Imposters 2. Oil on Panel. 16x20" 2014

Imposters 2. Oil on Panel. 16×20″ 2014

Boarded 4. Oil on Panel. 27x58". 2014

Boarded 4. Oil on Panel. 27×58″. 2014

Boarded 4. Oil on Panel. 36x36". 2014

Boarded 4. Oil on Panel. 36×36″. 2014

I feel like these plywood paintings and traffic cone paintings speak of the industrial decline tensions and urban circumstance but also have my own translation or spin. They open up the possibility for humor and for a more playful or painterly approach. The plywood paintings also allow me to revel in the things that I love about the process of painting, which is mixing paint, thinking about color, and the simple pleasure of putting paint on a surface. I am excited to open up the possibilities and continue to bring my own desires into the work in addition to thinking about the social and natural environment that we live within.

Boarded 5 (Detail)

Boarded 5 (Detail)

Trina has three Fire paintings in Main Street Arts’ Small Works exhibition, and won Best in Show for her unique and thought-provoking paintings. Stop by the gallery by December 29, 2014 to see Trina’s art in person.

Check out our last Inside the Artist’s Studio post, by watercolor jewelry artist Alicia McGloon.

Interview From The Studio with Karen Sardisco

Karen Sardisco

Tell us a little bit about yourself. You are a professor at MCC, an exhibiting artist, guest curator of various exhibitions, how do all of these things relate?

My teaching and my work as a practicing artist have always been intertwined. I am a full time faculty at Monroe Community College in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. I teach Painting, Drawing and Design. The work that I do in the studio/classroom is an extension of the explorations in my own studio. It is a symbiotic relationship… I pass on what I have learned as an artist to my students and my students inspire me with their interest and enthusiasm. Being in the studio/classroom everyday feels like home… the ongoing desire to communicate and create is infectious, and it is wonderful to see it in the students. As a teaching artist I get to be involved with art at all levels and my work as a curator feeds into that. Conceptualizing and organizing exhibitions is a way to continue the dialog as an artist. I am able to see other artist’s work and have the opportunity to put artists together in a way that allows for interesting interactions between the works. It is a different kind of creative effort that is equally as satisfying. The exhibitions that are a result shed new light on artist’s work, and I am able to be a part of that artistic process.

Karen Sardisco's paintings on paper

Karen Sardisco’s paintings on paper

Give us a little formal information on your paintings. What media do you use? Why have you preferred paper over canvas?

I began working on paper when finding time to work became a challenge. I was teaching, had a small child and was working very consistently in the studio. I began using acrylic paint when I was pregnant with my son because I didn’t want to deal with some of the toxic materials that were part of the oil painting process. I discovered then that my natural approach to technique was very spontaneous and the fast drying time of acrylics just seemed to work for me. The more rigid surface of the paper that was tacked up to a board had just the right give for me. I could develop layers and work very quickly. I began to manage the transparency of the paint and also worked with an interaction of forms within the layers that created the spatial effect that is typical in my work.

Karen Sardisco's studio

Karen Sardisco’s studio

You mentioned before that you were thinking of making a move back to working on canvas, what prompted that?

Well, I do miss the character of oil paint… the surfaces that have a more tactile quality. The feel of the paint on the brush and the way the paint engages with the canvas is an aspect of the process that is very seductive. It takes much more time, but it may be workable again. I am also finding that the scale and the difficulty of moving my works on paper around is getting to be an issue… not to mention the cost of framing such large-scale work.

One of Karen Sardisco's framed paintings

One of Karen Sardisco’s framed paintings

Tell me about the prints you have been making. How do you see them in regards to your paintings?

When my husband passed away suddenly, I stopped making work for a while. I knew that I needed to try to find a way to get back into the studio and had been thinking about the monoprinting process. I found a technique that was very direct using water-based inks, and that was that. I spent a whole winter making prints without the thought of showing them… I really just wanted to explore and work through some of the emotions that I was experiencing without thinking about how what I was doing related to my other work. I realize now that they had a very direct relationship, and the paintings that I am doing now come partly from the place that I got to making those prints. I can see myself devoting more time to that process, but when I began painting again the decision always is…what do I do first, and it comes back down to getting the paints out and jumping in.

Karen Sardisco, "Shadow", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Shadow”, detail

Can you talk a bit about the symbolism in your work? What themes seem to materialize? Do you notice a trend in your work over the years?

For me, the ambiguous space of the imagery eliminates a specific place or time. Forms like knots and branches, or anatomical references for example, are pulled from a visual lexicon of forms that speak to me. They suggest something… they allude to aspects of my experience and become a shorthand that encapsulates thoughts and feelings, and arranges them together in ways that I may not have envisioned. I feel as if I am tapping into a collective database that, when shaken up a bit, sheds new light on my personal experiences. It may also relate to the experiences of others, and I rely on that connection to draw viewers into my work.

Karen's reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Karen’s reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Nature is typically a source for me because I can use forms that seem familiar, something that one might see in the natural world. When those forms are paired with invented forms, or maybe more man-made forms, the relationships are questioned, and, as I mention in my artist statement, those new configurations challenge preconceived notions of function and meaning.

Karen Sardisco's reference materials

Karen Sardisco’s reference materials

If there is a thread that works its way through my work I would have to say that I do rely on forced relationships between forms, and tend to create an ambiguous spatial field for them to exist in. It is not a representational environment in any sense, because I feel that moving out of a comfort zone allows one to experience the way being open and aware can lead to new realizations about themselves, the world… the human potential for discovery. Since I never have a plan for what will happen when I approach a new work I have to trust my instincts and accept what comes. When I am totally immersed in my work, and, on a good day, I can experience a connection to the world that is totally satisfying. I hope that happens for my viewers.

Karen's reference materials

Karen’s reference materials

What will you be working on next?

That is a good question. I never make plans in regard to my work, at least not specifically. I may work on canvas again. I will probably make more monoprints. I will continue my process until I discover that there may be another approach that serves me just as well.

Karen Sardisco, "Game", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Game”, detail

You can see more of Karen’s work on her website: www.karensardisco.com

Four of Karen’s paintings are on display in Main Street Arts’ current group show, The Opposite of Concrete: An Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Photography. Stop by this Saturday (September 6th) from 4-7pm for the opening reception!

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio post, by painter Sarah Sutton.