A fictional interview with real answers, borrowed from a New York Times Magazine Artist Questionnaire, July 2023, by Coco Romack.
What is your day like? How much do you sleep and what’s your work schedule?
I like to get up early and generally get to bed by 10. I try to get into the studio by 8 or 9, work ‘till noon, and then take a stretch break. Then back into the studio for the afternoon. I don’t usually work at night. At residencies, I paint all the time, day and night.
What time do you usually stop working?
Depends, I have three dogs that need a walk before it gets dark. In summer that is around 8 but in winter it is around 4.
Who does most of the cooking, you or Alison?
Basic cooking or experimentation is generally done by me. Special or nicer meals are done by Alison. She used to cook a lot more but now is too busy supporting the household.
How many hours of creative work do you think you do in a day?
On average around 2. That probably sounds like not that much but there is a lot of non-creative work that needs to get done. I stretch my own canvases. Accounting, inventory control, web updates, storage; if I can spend 50% of the time in my studio painting then I think I’m doing a good job.
Is that what you are typically listening to when you are making art?
Music supports my mood - my flow. I use Spotify, and sometimes YouTube. Stale music can create impediments. I listen to a lot of different music from all over. I generally don’t like listening to a rehashing of existing tunes - I wish I could tell Spotify this.
What is the first piece of art you remember making?
I don’t remember the specific piece but I seem to remember a time when I was young (8 or 9) that was dominated by the smell of oil paints.
What is the worst studio you ever had?
No studio is the worst! Any space to make a mess is good. My first studio was an old three-sided shed; it had no water, was very dusty and unusable in winter but it was a great space with a high ceiling. Next, I went into the garage under our house; it had water and was warm but had no height or natural light. I am now in a small studio attached to the garage and it is amazing.
What was the first work you ever sold and for how much?
I think I sold my first piece (figurative) to an art collector from Boston who came by my booth at a local art fair. I think it was $1000. The same piece was on the cover of the Seven Days Newspaper a few months before. I guess advertising can work!
When you start a new piece, where do you begin? What’s the first step?
I don’t have a set procedure. Sometimes, I have a plan that involves a few colors and whether to start with the canvas flat on the ground or vertical against the wall. In the beginning, for me, the idea is to get something down on the canvas. The painting then develops from there. (The exception is commissioned pieces.) Recently I have been exploring the order brought on by using a grid. I find I need/like to do a few grid pieces in between the large, non-grid pieces.
How do you know when you are done?
This is difficult; I often feel that I don’t know when to stop. Or when I stop it is too soon. I sometimes work on 4 or 5 paintings at a time. I switch among them when I get stuck or something needs to dry. A painting can be finished when I don’t want to go back to it - but this can also be a trap because I am subjecting maybe too much opinion onto the piece.
How many assistants do you have?
Have you ever assisted other artists before?
Not formally. I have shown other artists how I stretch large canvases and how I set up my studio and what implements I use. I organized a show for another artist and tried to organize a critique and opening. I tried to set up a Artist's Advocacy Organization for VT artists; it was called the Vt Contemporary Art Space. It still has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vtartspace/ and I think it's still an existing 501c3 - but it took up too much time and I did not have the resources to support it.
Is there a meal that you eat on repeat while you are working?
I love pasta and salad.
Are you binging on any tv shows right now?
My son got me into the Star Wars and Marvel shows. Some of those are pretty good. I really enjoyed the Night Manager. The main character looks just like my cousin Peter. Slow Horses and Ted Lasso are also great.
How often do you talk with other artists?
Not enough. I wish there was a local art group active in my community.
What do you do when you are procrastinating?
I clean my studio - or re-arrange something. Usually, this gets boring and forces me into what I need to do.
What’s the last thing that made you cry?
I recently lost my best friend to cancer.
When did you first feel comfortable saying you were a professional artist?
Professional and artist don’t really go together. Ha, maybe that is my problem. To me, professionals get good at something over time. I don’t feel I am getting better at making paintings. I am getting better at stretching canvases and I am getting more comfortable applying different kinds of paint and using different tools - but I am not more comfortable with the work I am producing.
Then when did you start seeing what you were making as art?
I wanted to make art when I left college in 1992 and I wanted to go to RISD. But that was not meant to be. I guess I found some justification at the end of my second residency at The Vermont Studio Center in 2014. Although the critique did not go well there was a suggestion that I could have an interesting show with what I had produced.
What do you usually wear when you work?
Old clothes. Sometimes a white one-piece painter’s overall.
What do your windows look out on?
I have a see-through garage door that acts as an expansion into a very green (in summer) or white (in winter) backyard.
What do you pay for rent?
Fortunately, the studio is attached to my home.
What is your worst habit?
One of them is that I am probably too comfortable being alone.
What are you reading right now?
A true story of a young lady leading 4 camels across Australia. It is called Tracks, by Robyn Davidson. I am also reading a book about the AbEx wives, painters in their own right. It's called Ninth Street Women, by Mary Gabriel.
Do you exercise?
I think I have to. My back stops cooperating if I don’t stretch. I try to stretch every day and run a couple of times a week.
What is your favorite artwork by someone else?
At the time of this interview? 1st is Yellow River by Willem de Kooning.
2nd is also Willem de Kooning, I think from 1928.