Sculptor Maggie Kildee works her audience like a chef on a cooking show, explaining the intricacies of each clay piece as she makes it. “I really like to talk to people when they come through,” she says. It’s the first Saturday of the month, and visitors are milling about Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Old Town Camarillo, getting a firsthand look at the creative process of clay sculptors, bronze sculptors, weavers, painters, and multimedia artists.
Carolyn Barone, a painter who has been at the studio for nearly two years, works on a portrait of her nephew and his son. Vibrant paintings of fruit, flowers, and people fill her studio space. In a nearby room, oil painter Darla Warner puts the finishing touches on a commissioned painting of a château in France. “A commission is a wonderful thing to get,” she says, dabbing paint on canvas. “This painting is going to a good home, to someone who really wants it.”
The variety of artwork done at Studio Channel Islands Art Center is dizzying; dozens of mediums and techniques are used to create original works. Bronze sculptor Susan R. Kaufman sits at a worktable in her studio perfecting a clay sculpture of a young boy. “I saw a little boy eating ice cream at the harbor and thought he was so charming,” she explains. When the clay dries and is fired in the onsite kiln, Kaufman will make a mold of it and send it to be bronzed.
In addition to their personal projects and commissions, many of the artists-in-residence teach art classes. “I believe strongly in arts education,” says printmaker Gretel Compton. “It’s sorely lacking in schools. If we don’t acknowledge, emphasize, and promote creativity we’ll have a generation of kids who can’t figure things out worth a darn.”
“We all have so many irons in the fire,” says artist Carol Henry of her colleagues. “That’s what we have to do to reach a broad audience and make a living.” Henry, who composes images using a complex darkroom process, hosts a class for adults with no artistic aspirations to speak of. She invites them into her studio during iPaint Nights to enjoy a glass of wine and experiment with paint uninhibited.
Open Studio days give the public a glimpse of the camaraderie and community shared by the artists, who often work in adjoining studios, sharing ideas and taking classes from each other. Recently appointed art center president and oil painter Rich Brimer teaches young adult life painting classes. He challenges his students and offers them artistic advice. “Any effort I put in makes it a better place for me to work and live,” he says of his volunteer efforts at the art center.
Art center director and mixed media artist Karin Geiger felt her art changed because of her experience as an artist-in-residence. “I’m more serious about my art,” she explains. “Working in a garage, you feel isolated.” Geiger used her studio time Saturday to complete a series of six small mixed media pieces for an upcoming show. “You can change how you assemble them, but they are all connected.”
Connectivity within the art center and with the surrounding community is essential, according to photographer Bryan McCall, who shares studio space with his wife, artist Christine Leong. A collection of framed nature scenes stand in McCall’s studio. “We just finished framing photos for a show at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura,” says McCall. “Commissions on sold photos will benefit the hospital.”
Artist Susan Vogel is a newcomer to the art center. She specializes in oil and acrylic landscape paintings. “I joined because I was getting too lonesome and reclusive in my studio,” she says. “This has got me participating, mixing with other artists.”