Monday, May 17, 2010

In the Studio

Cup of the Day #23
By Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on white cup

My painting studio is on the 13th floor of 315 West 39th Street, a building of fine art, photo, and design studios in the Garment District. I arrive in the morning with either a breakfast tea from Empire Coffee and Tea Co. or, if I am running late, my lunch in a bag from the Village 38 food bar on 8th Avenue at 38th Street. Empire cups are white, Village 38 cups are moss green with printed patterns and cursive white letters. Each presents a different challenge.

I share my studio with Cecile Brunswick, a dedicated oil painter and wonderful colorist, who works at a different time of day from me. When I arrive I am always interested to see the progress she is making on her paintings. It is an invigorating sight and helps to keep me moving forward with my own work.

My day starts by opening the middle of our three windows as wide as possible and then sitting down to look out at the unobstructed view to the North. In the center of the view, four blocks away is a building I have been watching grow for the lat 12 months. Nearly finished at some 40 stories, they are now encasing the water towers. The view of Midtown is a forest of new blue glass buildings towering over the low rise of my Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to the West. I am mesmerized by this view. The light and color change all day long  and I am constantly surprised and delighted. It has a fortified feel and reminds me of Mont Saint Michel, the way the buildings seem to pile up.

 Midtown View 2010
Cellphone photo by Gwyneth Leech

I sit, I watch, I drink tea. Then I take a few photos with my cellphone and send them to myself. I have scores of these photos now, a year of light and weather, which I am assembling into a book.

Next I turn my attention to the current painting, hanging on the wall waiting from the last session. I am working on a new series called Marsh Lines, inspired by aerial views of salt marshes in New Jersey. I look at the painting for a time. Finally I put on painting clothes, lay out oil paints on the palette, choose brushes, step back, sit down, look at the painting - and pick up a cup.

Sometimes it is an hour or more later when, feeling a little bleary-eyed, I put down a cup drawing and get to my feet. It is amazing what you can get done while procrastinating! Then finally, I get to work on that painting, generally disappearing into the process so completely that I am not aware of the time passing, except by the changing light outside the window. Finally, it is time to clean brushes, straighten up the mess and wash the paint from my face. How do I always get paint on my face?

I take a look around the studio, making sure my cups are washed and stacked, a painting is on the wall ready for the next session, the window is closed. Then I head out the door.

 Meadowlands,  painting in progress
from Marsh Lines
Oil on canvas, 2010
by Gwyneth Leech

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