Thursday, January 28, 2016

Studio Tour

-with Donato

The Studio   2016      captions are repeated in text below

My wife and I were house hunting nearly 20 years ago when I walked up the spiral iron stairway to this studio for the first time. The wide (by Brooklyn standards) room, an existing slop sink, and bank of north facing windows were all planned out by a previous owner who was a graphic designer in the 70's. I knew this was a place I could call home, and have happily lived in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn ever since.

The studio occupies the entire top floor of our brownstone, broken into three rooms, with the painting studio on display here. I have adorned the rooms with bounties from Brooklyn, from beautiful 100 year old oak flat-files and storage units which used to house library card catalogs and documents from long ago closed legal offices, to antique pulleys and wood working tools. The history emanating from these objects is a reminder to me that time is pressing on all of us and to do today what you dream of for tomorrow.

As a traditional painter, I prefer to work under natural daylight given the subtleties I seek while mixing colors, but more importantly daytime is the largest block of uninterrupted moments I have to work while my children are at school! A stream of National Public Radio talk tends to share airtime with my love of classic music, rock, and modern minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

When painting and drawing, I love to immerse myself in the world I am attempting to realize, to become absorbed in those moments of creation. My environment has evolved to insulate me from the never ending ‘noise’ that can plague our modern lifestyle. The computers, scanner, and printers all remain in another room-the digital studio- apart from the painting studio, not by any conscious choice, but has evolved this way through the daily needs as I worked year after year.

Did an email come in? What Facebook news is happening in the world right now? Was that my iphone vibrating for message gratification? Not to say I do not scurry periodically from room to room during the day, but when I wish, I can easily change pace and move from one environment to another. I believe this is one of the keys to a prolific output, finding great pleasure in the task before me and avoiding distractions which fracture my train of thought.

A closer look at the studio...

This Stormtrooper helmet has perched on the easel-pike in my studio for the past 20 plus years. A reminder to any visiting Imperial Troops they are not welcome!

I custom built this studio cart with discarded lumber (AKA trash) from the streets of Brooklyn traded from some local Jawas. A nice oak table top with tiered shelves and attached containers keeps my painting supplies organized and all within arms reach. Still looking for the right studio droids though…

A bank of north facing windows keeps the third floor studio evenly lit throughout the day. I love to be distracted by passing clouds, peek into the backyard on a snowy winter’s afternoon, and keep an eye out for Imperial AT-AT walkers on the horizon.

A pair of color-corrected fluorescent light fixtures supply balanced illumination on those long dark winter days and into the night for rushed commissions. These are custom modified by Wookies with Corellian hyperspectra oscillators and attached using heavyduty photography mounting hardware. They also function as great tape holders!

Swords are kept nearby in case the call-to-arms is sounded to defend against invading Viking or Imperial hoards (I also have a lightsaber!) I find the weight of real steel in the hands makes for more convincing references from my models and keeps difficult clients at bay.

My library is still a go to place for concepts, visual referencing, and reflection. A rare book loaded with difficult to find images is worth its weight in gold to me!

A fire extinguisher is at the entrance to my studio. It is the cheapest form of insurance you will ever buy. Get one now!

One of my great finds on the streets of Brooklyn, a baby bird skeleton, desiccated and whole. The poor guy likely fell out of its nest in the Spring one year. Strange how a sad death can hold such wonder, but that’s what we do as artists, make stories out of moments most people would just pass by.

A board of concepts hangs nearby waiting to be executed or merged into existing commissions. These are thumbnails copied out of my sketchbooks and posted here as seeds of future works. We all know how great ideas can get buried deep within sketchbooks that we fill year after year. I take my favorites from the dark and nurture them with a little sunlight.

To the left of my chair, within arms reach, is the drafting cart. Loaded with scores of pencils and drawing implements, I am never for want of the right tool quickly acquired. The shelves below hold various other rulers, templates, guides, and materials.

Another wonderful find from the streets of New York was this Pay phone, wired to ring in and call out without paying a dime! This is a constant reminder to keep my eyes open while going about our everyday life. The world is full of amazements, we only need to stop a moment and ponder to find the beauty in nearly everything.
Now, if only I could get this to call long distance…


  1. Thanks for the studio tour! I love to get a peek at how others adapt their spaces to their needs.

  2. Cheerful old Thomas More, ever vigilant for Phone Phreaks... :D

    Thanks for the tour, Donato!

    1. That Thomas More print is one of the oldest in my studio. I will never forget the first time i saw that portrait at the Frick Collection. The stubble in his beard, OMG!!!
      Thomas now works as my phone answering secretary :)

  3. Ah the light! This is the one thing I miss most. My flat is pretty ok otherwise, but all I have are three windows facing another house and a roof window. I've been toying with the idea of installing mirrors to get the sunlight inside :)

  4. Kinda off topic but I just realized that Brooklyn is basically on the opposite side of New York as Syracuse... Isn't that where you teach? That must be the worst commute ever. What am I am missing here? You don't actually drive six hours to teach a class do you?

    1. I went to school at Syracuse, but teach a class at SVA. Taught a Spring semester of classes at Syracuse two years ago, but that was it...the commute killed me :)

    2. When I taught at Syracuse a few years ago I had to drive 4 hrs to get there every week and raked up a few tickets along the way. When I was asked to do it again after moving to NYC I had to decline. It was rough indeed. Felt like teaching two 3hr classes took a chunk out of my week.

  5. Kinda off topic but I just realized that Brooklyn is basically on the opposite side of New York as Syracuse... Isn't that where you teach? That must be the worst commute ever. What am I am missing here? You don't actually drive six hours to teach a class do you?

  6. I love how Thomas is staring intently at the phone, as if willing it to ring (or stop ringing, depending.)

    The light in that room is amazing! Thank you for the tour, I'm always inspired by work

  7. Somehow I'm more worried about the sickness coming off that payphone than the bird carcass!

  8. I'm simply mesmerized... I wish to have someday a studio like this. Thank you master! :)

  9. These are some great tips. For those who could use some more specific advice, tips and information about great article thanks for posting.
    Cook at easy smoothie recipes foods.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search