Alfred Currier illustrated How Far to Heaven, written by Chara Curtis, a picture book about a grandmother and granddaughter who find Heaven in their everyday, natural surroundings. He studied art at the Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Plein air landscapes are one of his preferred styles of painting. Plein air means to paint "in the open air" and Alfred has traveled widely, painting on location. In his studio, Alfred enjoys working with impasto, which is a thickly textured style of painting.
His partner Anne Schreivogl works in acrylic and also paints plein air oil landscapes. Her work has been showcased in numerous galleries, including a cataloged solo show titled "Holding to Creativity" that featured 40 paintings illustrating the lines of a poem she wrote. I love this quote from "Holding to Creativity": How does one entice the little rascal of creativity into the studio? Sort of like a cat: ignore it. Pretend you don't care. Plod along predictably, and before you know it, it's curling around your legs, meowing for attention.
Alfred described in one of his recent blog posts: "Warm weather keeps me outside, so my painting days are kept short, my paintings kept small. Lately I've been having fun painting in my courtyard just enjoying the sun. The bees are buzzing, birds are chirping, and kitty is just basking in the warmth of it all with no reaction to birds dive-bombing her." Maybe it's the chilly winter weather creeping in here in Colorado, but that description sounds so blissful to me!
To learn more, visit Alfred's website or Anne's website.
Describe your workspace.
AS: We each have our own studio spaces within a building about 20 feet from our house, across the courtyard. Both have high ceilings, with full-spectrum lighting. I have a loft I can perch in, where I doodle and write. A drawing area provides the starting point for ideas. Often I find inspiration in the comfy loveseat, with my feet up, watching the starlings pecking on the skylight windows, wondering what’s going on in here.
|Anne's studio space|
AC: My studio space is 16’ high ceilings, with north light, 14’ x 24’, with some storage area, comfortable couch, lots of paint, and sketchbooks. I keep it mostly austere, devoid of color, so as not to influence my color sense when painting.
|Alfred's studio space|
Describe a typical day.
AS: lt would be interesting to watch a sped up video of my walking path throughout the day. Lots of pacing. I am constantly trying to step away from a painting in order to see it fresh and respond to it. I will often start the day with a cup of tea, nestled in my little library in the house.
I’ll read books and poems, stare out the window at the other birds in the tree. Then I’ll go to the studio and start doodling and drawing to relax and get back to that "five year old having fun" feeling.
Once I feel the shift, I’m ready to paint. Unlike Al, who works one painting at a time, I will have several going at once. The one leaning against the wall on the corner gets to be very interesting when I feel the pressure from the one actually on the easel. I will sometimes throw the canvas on the floor and paint from all 4 sides, working it as an abstract, to strengthen it.
I don’t have a "typical day". I tend to build momentum and work long hours for several weeks, then paint less at other times when I’m focusing on framing, documenting work, or delivering art to galleries for shows.
AC: I start my mornings slowly, trying to keep my mind unencumbered then drift into the studio around 9 or 10am. If I can get 5 hours in a day, I feel good. My biggest issues are outside interferences and the refrigerator.
I, too, start with sketches that I’ll work on, either from imagination or done directly in the nearby Skagit Valley fields, of the migrant workers. I don’t like to work from photos.
Then I will return to the studio, block in color, and over 2 - 4 weeks build up layers of color and texture to create an impasto painting.
What media do you use and which is your favorite?
AS: Although I use oils when I’m plein air painting, my mainstay in the studio are acrylics. The qualities and colors are excellent now and I can build layers without it graying down.
AC: I prefer oil but I like to draw too.
AC: I prefer oil but I like to draw too.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
AS: I have these huge daisy-like flowers that make me feel like a bug in one of my own paintings. They make me smile daily.
Second, birds and birdhouses are a common motif. My last name “Schreivogl” means “screeching bird”. I adore birds but ironically am extremely allergic to feathers. So they find their way into my art.
Lastly, I have a bulletin board with quotes and drawings constantly changing and inspiring.
AC: The stereo, my couch and favorite photos- of my sweetheart, Anne, and my old dog, Boo.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits?
AS: Every year we break away from the studios and go somewhere for a month to paint. This would be “plein air” (outdoor) oil impressionistic type painting. It hones our technical skills, we discover new places, and return to the studios refreshed.
What do you listen to while you work?
AS: I think we can answer this one together. We both like a variety of music anywhere from reggae, to classical to hard rock. It depends on what mood we’re in with the painting as to what we play. Music is a big part of our art. We even have extra-insulated walls between the studios so we can each play to our heart’s content without disturbing one another.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
AS: I love green tea. Eating with paint on my hands is not a good idea, but I will break from the studio several times a day and forage around the kitchen like an anteater. Usually I come up with a snoutful of raisins or walnuts. On rare days I’ll discover an open bag of potato chips on the counter.
AC: Homemade coffee. And whatever’s in the fridge at the time I’m pacing. These aren’t necessarily my snack and drink of choice, but what’s around.
AS: He also likes to crunch on ice. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH.
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
AS: This may sound strange, but as I think about it now, we may both start out, each in our studios quietly, but within five minutes one of us will come bursting into the other’s studio (we tend to leave our doors open), with some brilliant crazy idea we want to share. Or we make crazy faces or are goofy. I’ve never thought about this consciously, but after about 5 minutes of that and a good laugh, we both seem to be able to settle down into our own work in a relaxed state. I’ll leave it to psychologists to analyze this unusual behavior.
When I’m actually painting, what keeps me focused is connecting to the feeling I am trying to express (usually joy, wonder, or just loving the paint I’m playing with). The more I get into ‘feeling’ as I paint, the world just falls away from me and I move into timelessness. Hopefully the technical skills are working away quietly in the background, keeping the painting together. You learn all the skills over many years, then try to put them away, forget them, and paint with heart. Probably not unlike with writing or playing the piano.
AC: I try not to labor over my paintings. Pacing allows me to keep stepping back and returning clearly to the canvas. That way I can keep my paintings fairly loose from a close up standpoint.
In the book How Far to Heaven, it was a different mode of painting in that my focus was to be subordinate to the words of Chara Curtis, the author of the book. I tried to keep the paintings simple and austere at the beginning of the story, then escalate the emotions in the paintings as the words were also being escalated along the story.
This a different approach than how I approach my studio work which is more impressionistic, using an impasto (thick) application. My interest is with color and texture. Close up my paintings fall apart into abstracts, but step back and they are recognizable forms.
What aspects of creating art do you find most challenging and why?
AS: The hardest part is getting started. How does one entice the little rascal of creativity into the studio? I find it’s sort of like a cat: ignore it. Pretend you don’t care. Plod along predictably, and before you know it, it’s curling around your legs, meowing for attention.
AC: Staying fresh, generating new ideas, and adhering to the process of painting and creating, rather than painting with the end result in mind.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
AS: Al, if I could duct tape his mouth shut and nail his shoes to the floor. :)
AC: Boo, my deceased dog, was my best companion. I know she looked like a dog, but she was really a little person. Never said anything unkind about my artwork, either.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard or received?
AS: I can’t remember which well-known Impressionist artist said this, but I come back to it over and over: “Don’t paint the tree that you see, paint the tree that you feel.” You may have all the tools and techniques in the world, but what do you have to say?
AC: Best advice I’ve ever received is to develop the hide of a rhino and paint for the process of doing, not for the end product expected.