Those of us in more prosaic vocations imagine that artists spend their days lounging on sofas, smoking cheroots, entertaining their friends and awaiting inspiration. But artists go to work like everyone else, even if the widgets they produce come from the most fanciful of places. Painter and printmaker Philip Guston once said, “I go to my studio every day, because one day I may go and the angel will be there. What if I don’t go and the angel came?”
Four Sandhills artists offer us
rare glimpses of their work spaces
By Jim Moriarty • Photographs by John Gessner
Studios are littered with the artist’s personal trappings of memory and imagination. “Artists don’t like people coming to their studios,” says oil painter Paul S. Brown. “How do I put it? It’s personal. This is my stuff, even though it’s kind of professional. It’s like if someone walks into your bedroom and you think, is the bed made?” That said, here’s a peek into some private places.
Paul S. Brown
It’s a room twice-removed, hidden in Carthage’s old Tyson mansion, which is itself hidden behind a storefront that looks like a repurposed dime store from the 1950s. The two big windows don’t quite run floor to ceiling but are large enough to soak the air with diffused light on hazy days. A black cloth is suspended along the ceiling like ribbon candy, trailing from the top of a window frame, subtracting unwanted reflected light the way a sponge soaks up a spill. Two English cocker
spaniels, Rosetta and Folly, find spots to curl up. Art is a nine-to-five job for Paul Brown.
Music from his iPod, David Bowie’s Blackstar or maybe Aladdin Sane, is the undertow in the background, but the foreground is art that comes in classical waves. The bits and pieces of his compositions are everywhere. A string of garlic bulbs hanging here. Dead birds there. Fishing poles in a corner. A belt of shotgun shells on the floor. Empty Petrus bottles once filled with wines that would dazzle a sophisticated palate. Jars of clay dirt that Brown will turn into earth-tone pigments of his own manufacture, a skill he mastered in Florence, Italy.
Brown began studying art when he ran away from the violin at 11. After an apprenticeship with Jeffrey Mims and classes in nearby colleges, he left the Sandhills in search of an old school, academic method. After Italy, the trail took him to London for seventeen years. “You can see the recurring theme,” says Brown of his still life subjects. “The wine paintings, that’s what I really hit the mark on in England. If you’re going to paint a wine bottle you may as well get some seriously
nice cheese, and the wine bottle may as well be a damn good one. Then I saw how people reacted to them.” They reacted well enough that his London representatives, Gladwell & Patterson, have featured Brown in five one-man shows.
The large canvas dominating the room is near completion. “I’m just finishing up the gun,” he says. “A friend of mine shot the turkey last year. I said, ‘Look, I’d really love to paint a wild turkey.’ I turkey hunted in college and know how tough it is. It’s such an American bird. He’d been in the freezer for a while. We got that cold snap just after Christmas. The heat wasn’t even working in here so I took advantage of it. It was below freezing. Thawed him out, set him up. Because it was so cold, I got two weeks. I had all the props kind of set in there. I had a face mask, hood, gloves, heating pads under my palette because it was that cold. You could see your breath. It was fun. That’s how you do these things.”
PineStraw : The Art & Soul of the Sandhills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . June 2016
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