How to use your art studio as a theme. Schwartz’s drawings and paintings reveal a mind intensely engaged with questions of composition and representation. In-studio scenes and still life, the artist plays shapes with each other to create a kind of silent visual tension. She works exclusively from life, meticulously combining her staging with her vision of an image, even if it involves repainting portions of her studio. We spoke with the designer about her manner, thoughts, and the importance of creating unhurried and carefully considered work.

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Let’s start by talking about the connection between drawing ideas and painting in your creativity. Are most of your drawings compared to a unique painting? In the study series, which I started more than 15 years ago, a drawing would have started as a study for a painting. It was the most direct way to reduce the composition and find out what size I needed. Inevitably, I became more involved in drawing, loving shadows, and reflections, erasing and moving objects as the work progressed. The drawing is used on a history of its personal. It was not great, just a study for a painting. I have continued this practice and can spend weeks working on a drawing. Where is your studio? What inspires you to make it such a central part of your work?

My office is in an office building in downtown New Rochelle, New York, where many of the tenants are attorneys and accountants. It is a corner office on the 10th floor with beautiful light and airy views. When I first walked in, I was working on still life and self-design. After making a list of symbolic self-portraits, I was required to go back to something more realistic. It was then that I began to draw books and consider my study as a subject. What I like about the study is that there are some things that I can’t physically change, as the position of the window. Then there are all the things I can change: the color of the wall, the size of the table, the books.

I don’t think what I’m doing now falls into the category of studio paintings by artists like Giacometti or Matisse. My productions are more like very large or decorated still life that I work with. I’m making the studio look a certain way; I am painting the tables; I am adjusting the size of the table. The things on the covers are not just the things found in my workshop; these are things I have chosen because they work for creation.

Color, light, and composition

Color, light, and composition are the essential elements of my work. I want to create a natural space that works as a two-dimensional composition. In the studio paintings, the books in the foreground are large abstract forms that would have no spatial sense if they were not connected to other objects in the study. In the Bottles & Jars series, I want the bottles to have both weight and shine.

Tell me about the books. How did they become such important actors in your images?

After posing for many selfies, I felt like I was exhausted as a subject. In search of a new idea, I noticed art books stacked randomly on my work stools. I started to draw them and realized that this topic excited me. I loved the abstract shapes they created. While I did not identify the artists’ names in the books, the readers spoke significantly of artists I had studied.

You mix colored liquids in glasses to produce the desired color

Yes. Initially, I used several bottles of oil that were thrown around the studio. When I started adding more bottles, I changed my palette to more excellent colors made with liquid soaps and often mixed two liquids to get what I wanted.

Using gridlines

How to use your art studio as a theme

Marks of a grid are visible in many of your thoughts. What role do these networks play in creating your work? The grid has grown so essential to the work that I cannot think of working it outdoors. When I was in painting school at University, we were taught to hold a ruler vertically and horizontally to align things. It was also a way of measuring verticals with horizontals. I became captivated with this way of art; the grill marks extend my measurement. I don’t just draw a grid on the wall or in my drawing. I look, type, draw, look over, measure, suggest something, and then paint so that none of the lines is uniform. They develop as the design evolves.

So, do you paint the grid lines on the books and tables in your study?

Yes, even if the grid lines of the settings are not painted, I will use black or charcoal tape. And the grill only works from the position I’m sitting in. The lines of the books should connect with the table and the wall. Vertical lines are diagonals going behind into place. It often gets me several tries to get the details accurate.

Starting with soft markings

Guide me through the course of a typical drawing. How does the initial idea take shape? What are your greatest marks on the cover? It takes several days to organize the installation. Once I have things in order, I draw a pencil line in the center of the paper. I will proceed to find the midpoint in the setup and draw a charcoal line on the wall. The line on the wall will shift about an inch to the left or right many times as the design develops. But the pencil line in my drawing remains in the middle. Once I feel confident that I have found the middle ground, I will draw soft tones with willow charcoal. It is essential to start with faint marks that can easily remove with kneaded gum. I know from experience that once I have drawn a darker line, it is much more difficult to erase. 

I’ll keep making compositional decisions, moving the books or the bottles until I’m happy. It leaves a lot of tone to the design. Once I feel confident, I enter the Conté pastel and compressed charcoal drawing. The truth is that I end up wanting to erase even the darkest lines. Sometimes when even a plastic eraser doesn’t work, I use white crayons. In recent years I have relied on Mylar; I like that as a surface. It seems to erase better than paper, and some blacks can become very velvety.

Also Read: Attracted By The Action And Drawing It


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