Friday, July 7, 2017

East Oaks Studio

East Oaks Studio is a new collaborative workspace and business venture in North Carolina established by a group of academically trained artists: Louis Carr, Michael Klein and Joshua LaRock, together with videographer Joe Hawkins.

They have launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which features videos and prints of their seascape, floral, and portrait paintings.

I've watched the Michael Klein video, and it's a well-shot, well-paced, and thorough documentation of Klein's process for capturing an oil still life in the studio over a three day period.

They were kind enough to answer a few interview questions:

[Gurney] Congratulations on getting your Kickstarter funded already. What three tips could you offer about conducting a successful Kickstarter campaign?
[East Oaks Studio] Thank you! The response to our project has been so encouraging and we hope to keep it going! Here is what we think has helped:
  • Develop a strong following or “tribe” before launching a campaign - a good email list and active social media are key.
  • Have a diversified offering of rewards but also, a “bundle” deal - we have seen that the group of all three videos is by far our best seller and provides a good value to our backers.
  • Have a clear vision and idea, and communicate it well through an inspiring video.
Joshua LaRock paints a portrait from a live model
2. Why did you decide to set up a studio in North Carolina?
We found New York City to be a difficult place to sustain margins (time, money, socially, etc.) and wanted to relocate to a place where we could find a higher quality of life. We researched a number of vibrant cities and Raleigh, North Carolina simply seemed the best fit for us.

3. How is your teaching program different from other studios?

We are aiming for our content to cover the entire gamut of the artistic endeavor - the raw skills and techniques are paramount and foundational but we hope to add to these by discussing ideas many of us struggle with such as taste, poetry and developing a clear sense of why painting is needed and relevant in our contemporary world. We have also found that many students ask us about their struggle with the reality that, as artists, they are entrepreneurs, and so we want to provide our experience and insights as active professional artists.

Louis Carr painting a seascape
4. What's the best way to teach the technical side of art? How is teaching the philosophical side different?
Like any skill, learning to draw and paint requires time, practice and repetition - the role we play as teachers is to guide that process in a clear and logical manner, usually saying the same things in different ways until it “sticks”. Our videos will be aimed at this , but in truth, they should always be supplemented by in-person instruction and critique.

We’ve found the philosophical side of art to require many of the same teachable elements as above, but also to require a greater sense of storytelling rather than statements of reasoning. It necessitates inviting others into a personal dialogue and building upon commonly held values and shaping desires.

Portrait by Joshua LaRock
5. What principles guide your choice about using photography and the internet as practical aids in your work? 
We certainly value working from life as much as possible and enjoy it the most. However, we recognize that as long as an artist’s development and common practice is well founded in working from life, then photography could become a tool without being a crutch - but should always be used with caution. The internet is an incredible aide for researching information from techniques and finding inspiration, to trying to solve compositional problems and connecting with others across the world.

6. Please describe the kind of free videos you want to offer. For your premium content, what parameters have you set in terms of length, style, and cost?
All our content is aimed at inviting a wide audience into the daily life of our studio, much like a friend and apprentice would. So some of the free videos are a look into the spontaneous conversations and discussions that break out: this might include short technical questions and answers, discussions of philosophy during breaks, and timelapses. One series idea, (which we’ve already filmed the first three episodes) is titled “The Line” (Link to video on Vimeo)

Similar to Michael Klein’s former company, “APVM”, the idea behind this series is to develop a conversation around why a painting is done well and what makes it valuable, regardless of how the market sees it. The name of the show is a reference to the coveted eye-level hanging line at the Salon and implies we are trying to develop a standard through the contemporary artists we feature. Inspired by shows like "Fake or Fortune," "Chef's Table" and others, we are attempting to use good cinematography to weave together the popularity of Instagram and YouTube/Vimeo for the artist, connoisseur and collector.

Our premium content will be longer-form, tending toward a documentary style and covering the full creation of a piece of art. We are looking to cover a variety of genres and invite guest artists. We also hope to make these offerings in a range of price points.
Individual websites for Louis CarrMichael Klein and Joshua LaRock


Rich said...

I really do have the highest respect for these academic painters! And there's so much they can teach / to be learned/ from them in any East Oaks Studio worldwide.

But they tend to repeat themselves - they're so in awe of tradition, they are so awfully traditional, to my taste.

They perhaps should venture into a Dinotopia of their own: Just my two cents.

Keith Patton said...

Rich, have you seen the work of Adam Miller or Cesar Santos? Both of them are atelier trained but are doing more imaginative work.

I think a problem with ateliers is that 1) they're obsessed with high levels of technique that it becomes an end in and of itself and 2) they're so in awe of the old masters that photographs become taboo.

So for the first problem, from what I've seen, many of these artit's get stuck on a hamster wheel of improving technique before getting to more imaginative paintings. I've heard from other students there that they think they should just keep improving their technique from life until they feel they're good enough before they do more imaginative paintings. Maybe I had a sampling bias here, but I think this is the general attitude. The problem is that you'll never see your technique as good as the old masters (unless you're full of yourself!). So the search for perfect technique before doing more designed or imaginative work is a never ending search for perfection. At least that's what I've seen. (I've jumped around studying at a few ateliers)

And because they are obsessed with technique, they only work from life. It's hard to build imaginative paintings only from life or imagination, especially if you're aiming for naturalism.

James Gurney said...

Rich and Keith, thanks for your comments, which were respectful and constructive. You raise fair issues about the atelier movement in general, which can sometimes make a fetish of the study. However, about photos being taboo, keep in mind that these guys did say that "as long as an artist’s development and common practice is well founded in working from life, then photography could become a tool." There are other ateliers who regard photos as more of a no-no. As for me, I want to avail myself of any tool or any way of seeing that can make my artwork better.

One other thought— to be fair, I don't think these guys are necessarily pursing technique as an end in itself—they're chasing after beauty and mystery, which are beyond technique, and they're timeless goals to pursue, whether you happen to be interested in naturalism or imaginative realism.

Rich said...

@ Keith: I have checked Adam Miller and Cesar Santos; I'd prefer Cesar though.
"Trained in atelier but doing more imaginative work" as you say - Thomas Kinkade is another specimen. People who'd call him "cheesy" don't have an eye for his subtleties and passion, IMO.

And yes, James, those timeless goals will be pursued for ever, with the "Hounds of Heaven" at their heels;-)

Keith Patton said...

Definitely James, I'm speaking more broadly here than just these guys.

James Francois said...
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