Inside The Artist’s Studio with Andrea Scofield Olmstead

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”, earthenware, milk paint, wax

I grew up in the Florida Panhandle and remain influenced by the color and texture of the natural landscape. Rusty iron fences, brick sidewalks, tin roofs, and giant oak trees overwhelm the senses. Lush foliage is always on the verge of taking over, and everything quickly decays. I used imagery from the Florida Gulf Coast Box Turtle to carve the turtle pattern in the pants of my sculpture.

I sculpt with clay because it reminds me of the red earth from the South. It feels humble in my hands and it in turn makes me feel humble. It accepts textures either pressed, carved, or added to and allows me to sculpt the human figure. It connects me to civilizations past and present and unites me with people who are obsessed with this demanding and exacting material.

Thirteen of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s delicate terra cotta sketches can be seen at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA. These  quick sculptural models, complete with fingerprints, remind me how powerful clay is in its gestural form .

Bernini, 1598-1680, “Angel with the Superscription”, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

I look to Jean Antoine Houdon  for guidance in anatomy, especially the eyes, which are full of life.

Jean Antoine Houdon  Louise Brongniart 1779, marble

Jean Antoine Houdon, “Louise Brongniart”, 1779, marble

Kathe Kollwitz’s powerfully dark and emotionally tender drawings and sculptures guide me  empathetically, technically, and conceptually. The layered textures in her work are permanently etched in my mind.

Kathe Kollwitz,  Mother with Dead Son Neue Wache Museum, Berlin

Kathe Kollwitz, “Mother with Dead Son”, Neue Wache Museum, Berlin 

The contemporary sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s conceptually driven work causes me to  address my own childhood experiences.

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010

“Turtle” is a portrait of a boy as he sits down to play, equally strong and vulnerable. I work from photos and have the model sit for brief periods.

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leather hard stage

leather hard stage

I use charcoal because the medium is humble and simple but able to produce a wide variety of marks. It allows me to be aggressive or delicately whimsical. I often draw to work out the textures on paper before the labor of sculpting them. In the drawing below, the turtle pattern is worked out in the shirt.

Andrea Olmstead  Turtle charcoal 24" x 18" 2016

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, charcoal, 24″ x 18″, 2016

I work with large rectangular coils that allow me to press, carve, and pound into shape. I use a metal serrated rib tool for scoring and smoothing, a fettling knife for cutting and shaping, and calipers for measuring.

large rectangular coils

large rectangular coils

I start by building a structural base that can withstand the weight of the sculpture. I continue to add interior struts where I know the clay might cave in on itself, and I give the clay time to set up in order to hold the next couple of layers. Laguna EM 10 G is an earthenware that fires white and has strength. The grog particles are fine and don’t get in the way when I carve textures, but give the clay the strength it needs.

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structural base, legs and hips

I sculpted the head separately and used the knee to help support the weight. It was important for me to work out this structural detail  through sketches and photos before I began the sculpture.

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head using the knee as a support

I smooth areas with a rib tool and carve textures with a pin tool.

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A clear wax protects the finish, and milk paint highlights the texture  in the pants.

Andrea Olmstead Turtle 24” x 16” x 16” earthenware milk paint, wax

Andrea Olmstead, “Turtle”, 24” x 16” x 16”,  earthenware, milk paint, wax


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Andrea’s sculpture “Turtle” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View her work online at www.andreascofieldolmstead.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Kate Fisher.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Maria Victoria Savka

Maria Victoria Savka is one of our first artists in residence at Main Street Arts! She’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the month of June 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see Victoria’s studio and work in progress). We asked Victoria a few questions about her artwork, life, and more:

Maria Victoria Savka

Q: To start this off, would you tell us about your background?

A: I come from Rochester, NY and started doodling since I was much younger and shorter! I graduated with a Fine Arts and Illustration BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology this past May where I began to intensely focus on building a portfolio as well as pushing the limits of my own work. As a recent graduate I am exploring my options and currently browsing employment possibilities.

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: My personal work tends to be what I like calling organized chaos. Movement is key in my work as it provides me with rough, raw, and vivid imagery. I consider gestural images as some of the most genuine; they capture a moment. As an artist I deconstruct images into abstractions, hopping between subjective and objective. I’ve currently been interested the deconstruction of portraits and locations. I hope to it gives a character or narrative to my subjects.

Maria Victoria Savka, "Blueberry Jeepy", watercolor on paper, 8" x 5", 2015

Maria Victoria Savka, “Blueberry Jeepy”, watercolor on paper, 8″ x 5″, 2015

I also have an avid curiosity when it comes to printmaking. I have been in touch with this medium for the past two years and am still very much interested in exploring it further because of the ability to create and experiment with various layers.

Maria Victoria Savka, "Lydia IV", photo intaglio mono print with chine collie, 23" x 15", 2015

Maria Victoria Savka, “Lydia IV”, photo intaglio mono print with chine collie, 23″ x 15″, 2015

Currently I also have multiple small projects of all sorts that tend to be more illustrative nature I am also very excited to work on during this residency!

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?

A: My personal work starts with a 2-3 minute gestural drawing, a massive amount of loose scribbles. I find seeing the process of a piece intriguing, by seeing the process you are being told the story behind the piece. From that image I build up and create an atmosphere.

A selection of drawings and paintings by Victoria.

A selection of drawings and paintings by Victoria.

Q: What are your goals for this residency? Tell us about your current projects.

A: I would like to continue to explore printmaking. I’d like to continue playing with collage and drypoint, but would also like to dive into more linoleum cuts and perhaps woodcuts as well. Overall, I am very excited to be able to sit down and paint for hours. That is my plan.

Victoria inks a plate for a new print.

Victoria begins inking a plate for a new print.

Adding additional colors to the plate.

Adding additional colors to the plate.

Running the plate through the Main Street Arts printing press.

Running the plate through the Main Street Arts printing press.

The final print!

The final print!

Currently I also have multiple small projects of all sorts that tend to be more whimsical illustrative nature.

Drawings, collages, prints, and more pinned to Victoria's studio wall.

Drawings, collages, prints, and more pinned to Victoria’s studio wall.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I am planning on going to graduate school in a few years, as I’m interested in teaching as much as I’m interested in making my own artwork. I hope to continue showing my artwork in galleries, and see where the wind takes me!

Q: Where can we find you?

A: You can view my work at www.mariavictoriasavka.com and Instagram @marviccarsav. You can also find my work in the next issues of Rochester’s Lake Affect Magazine and Art House Press Magazine’s second issue coming out in August!


Are you an artist looking for new opportunities? Apply for a residency at Main Street Arts! Artists in residence will have 24-hour access to a large studio on our second floor (with great natural light), the option to show work in the gallery, and the opportunity to teach paid workshops. Submissions are reviewed and awarded on an ongoing basis.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kate Fisher

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I have been working on this body of work for over a year. Each piece involves several steps and these steps have evolved with time. I started by taking or finding photos. One of the fascinating things for me with this project has been meeting the people whom I have photographed. I usually introduce myself, show them what I am doing, and take some photos. Sometimes they share something of themselves, sometimes they say very little. Almost all of the people I have asked were very curious and willing to let me take their photograph.

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Using the photograph as reference, I then work on a contour/outline drawing. Since my very first drawing class, I have been fascinated by contour drawings. They seem related to haiku poetry. Good ones can say the most with limited lines or words. When I have gotten a drawing that I am pleased with, I use the Bernina sewing machine free motion stitch, and sew the drawing, sometimes adding texture, color or detail. Then I to go to the Genesee Book Arts Center and print the names of the figures using the Vandercook press. This involves looking through the antique wood type collection to find a font that works with my drawing. Then I go to the press where I set the type, proof the print and print the name on the stitched drawing.

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The final step is deciding which threads go and which stay. The threads are very important to these pieces. I feel that they not only add line and motion but they seem to really create a metaphor for the people I have met and stitched. They are changing, growing, and vital.

I am usually the only one to see the back of the stitched drawing. To me they are fascinating, messy and very lively, while still capturing the feel of the figures. I have included an example for you to see.

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People often ask me how long a figure has taken me to create. I never know how to answer this and mentioned it to an artist friend. She said that her response when asked that question is, “a lifetime.” Certainly that is true.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kate’s artwork in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View her work online at www.blackbirdknits.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Nate Hodge.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Nate Hodge

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My name is Nate Hodge. I’m an artist living and working out of Brockport, NY, a village situated on the periphery of the periphery of the art world. For a few reasons this works well for my practice: first is the connection to cities and the people working within them, second is the physical distance from the cities which acts to impose  isolation and the internal focus that goes along with it. I like having the ability to be socially present one moment and then travel ten minutes and find places where I can be alone and disconnected.   Being able to find physical evidence of the effort and industry of past generations alongside present inhabitants brings into question the nature of time and has informed how I work and what I’m trying to bring out of my pieces.

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I first started drawing to illustrate stories I would write as a kid, usually talking animals or elaborate battle scenes. The first paintings I remember doing were from postcards my Dad had of his hometown Thiells and portraits of Eastern Europeans I found in National Geographic. In some shape or form I have been making since then all the way up to the present, it just went in different directions. Sometimes the creative process was focused in the studio and other times it was trying to find similar processes in more practical tasks at day jobs. I graduated with my BFA from SUNY Brockport in 2013 and received my MFA from the University of Buffalo in 2015.

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Since 2012 I have been developing a non-objective painting style that combines physical, practical constraints and working elements I feel like exploring onto a surface or into an environment. For the most part I have been making work with a mixture of donated/found house-paints and a small selection of aerosols and acrylics. The mediums are dictated by outside influence, either environmental guidelines imposed by an institution or in the form of the types of paints left behind by a collaborator on a larger project. There is a challenge in making with what you have immediately available or with mediums selected by others and it has become a central tenet to my work. The combination of external/internal influences of scale, medium, time, and palette constraints all become parameters to work within and bounce off of, pushing me in different directions than if I had remained with one medium I had selected and was comfortable with.

Working in a non-objective fashion allows me to delve deeper into questions I have  about movement, time, peoples’ relationships with space and how these look explored on a single surface.  I like leaving anchors to universal shared experience and locations without dictating to a viewer what it is that they should be seeing. The concept behind my abstract work is to move beyond a single voice narrative, there is no specific communication I’m trying to get across but rather encourage viewers to develop their own interpretations. Recently my studio work has been about establishing more definitive links to direct experiences. My piece for the Human Figure exhibit is one in a series of portraits that attempts to create a portrait the way memory might, recalling details while obscuring or deleting others.

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The series  I’m currently working on takes this exercise further and is based on a number of photographs I took on a visit to Tahawus Tract in Essex County, a continuation of the exploration of memory as filter and subjective mediator between the present and past. Within the pieces, colors are amplified, certain details are left out and others are accentuated the same way that continued reflections on places and people become further abstracted from the original experience. The Tahawus Tract series is about playing with space and time, starting with the experience of traveling through and abandoned group of cottages and seeing how they have been slowly reclaimed by the surrounding forest. There is the impact the buildings originally had on the area, the way the area has responded, and then my reactions to the place. In physical locations like this the borders between the past and the present become hazy and time seems capable of moving in different directions.

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For me, this current body of work is about questioning that blurring of borders, going against the need for everything to fit into neat and tidy, easily defined categories because I don’t think that people operate that way. The 20th century saw a cultural/institutional push toward efficiency and speed, the importance of streamlined movement traveled from the workplace and into personal lives, but at what cost?  I’m working against the need for efficiency, factory-style production, and compartmentalization through my process and finished pieces. I think we are inefficient and messy but its those tendencies and the luxury of exploring them that can lead to beautiful and inimitable moments.

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Stop by Main Street Arts to see Nate’s painting “Water Babies Tertiary” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View his work online at www.masiori.com. Follow him on Instagram at @masiori.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by sculptor Leslie Schomp.