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open studio time

Me having tunnel vision (or squirrel vision) as I sketch a squirrel figurine at Emma Skurnick’s studio.

For the month of January I’ve spent every Thursday afternoon at artist Emma Skurnick’s studio in Bynum, North Carolina. Located just a few doors down from the Bynum Front Porch where I’ve held a few workshops and last year’s writer/artist retreat, Emma holds open studio time throughout the year for artists of multiple disciplines. Since I started drawing last fall, I’ve decided to turn my poem “Tea Time at Loch Ness” into a short illustrated book. I also have a short story idea involving a squirrel that I’d like to illustrate. These are far-off projects I plan to tackle many years from now. Currently I’m enjoying sketching as time for a non-writing and non-reading mental break.

drawing squirrels

Cute, right? My sketch of “Frances.”

I was unfamiliar with open studio time before my experience in Emma’s studio. With no instructional time or supplies provided, everyone brings their own materials and projects and works. It’s basically like a write-in, except an experienced individual (Emma) looks over your shoulder a few times at each session, gives a few short words of encouragement, and answers questions about technique and direction. She’ll run and grab a book to illustrate an example, or tear off some scrap paper to show variations. I’ve learned so much without formal lessons!

The other nice thing about open studio time, other than having dedicated time set aside to focus on one task, is that you’re surrounded by other creatives. Some artists draw, others have water color palettes, some have oils – it’s refreshing exposure to skilled craftspeople, art-related vocabulary, and materials. I truly feel an amateur with my self-taught ways and limited art vernacular!

It’s tough for me and most folks to make a weekly daytime commitment for a creative endeavor. Since it’s winter, I’ve taken advantage of freelance life and my morning-person-mentality and have been working from 6AM-10AM or 6AM-12PM most days with afternoons slated for meetings and loose ends. It’s working for me well right now, but I expect my freelance routines will change again with the seasons.