Carol Boucher

Photo Essay

Vermont Studio Center Residency

Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, was founded in 1984 by artists. They understood artists need time and space in order to grow. VSC offers residency programs in duration from 2 to 8 weeks. No instruction is offered; artists go there for the opportunity of supported, uninterrupted studio time. Meals and lodging are provided by VSC.

All five VSC studio buildings are open 24 hours. Mealtimes are wonderful opportunities to connect with fellow artists and writers. Some artists call the experience "art camp,"or are reminded of their university years.

I have been exhibiting landscape paintings since the late 1980s. I needed a fresh approach, and I went to Johnson to explore a new direction. I would paint every day and see what happened.

I like to paint on a large table rather than an easel.

In 1996 and 1998, I attended Vermont Studio Center’s "Vermont Artist Week" programs. This is "residency lite", in which artists are given private studios, room and board for about $200, and six days of production time. By the time I was acclimated, it was time to go home.

I decided to try 4 weeks; November 21 to December 17, 2004. By the end of the first day, I had begun 14 new acrylic paintings. Every day, I took photos to document my studio and paintings. I gave myself an assignment: do one sketch each day(each sketch had to be done with a different medium or material, but could be about anything). Also, I wanted color to be my guide, rather than imposing specific guidelines about what I would paint.

I hoped to paint some door-sized panels, intending some works to be simplified, abstracted landscapes. I wanted some pieces to be entirely abstract. I began by choosing a color and letting things develop from there.

An arrangement of rectangular color panels. The tan piece with red flourish measures 80"h x 24"w.

The days sped by. I came home with more than 100 paintings. My residency helped establish a springboard from which to continue working. I will participate in another monthlong residency program in November 2005.

In early December, we had "Open Studio" night. Participating artists open their doors to let everyone see what they’ve done. Panels on the floor measure 12" x 12". The yellow rectangle from photo # 2 has now become a landscape in blue and yellow.

I deliberately tried to avoid landscape imagery. But landscape has an insidious way of imprinting my unconsciousness. No sense fighting it.

A wall of landscape panels leads to my desk. I hung the yellow and blue landscape vertically to help me think about color rather than sky/land.

My walls were 12’ high, with floor space grand enough for me to step back and properly view the art. I brought my comfortable chair and set up my ideal studio. As I worked, moments of pure happiness mingled with fear, with dismay, with relief, with joy. Some days I liked what I painted. Some days I didn’t. But being able to paint every single day was a wonderful gift. Sometimes I would wake up at 3 a.m. Unable to get back to sleep, I would just go to the studio. Why not, since my room was a two minute walk away?

My goals were so very serious; exploring a new direction is as difficult as it is exciting. The level of intensity demanded can be too much sometimes. So, it was good to have some silly art projects to help remind me to lighten up.

A portrait of my desk reveals the sublime and the silly. My priorities are seen here: 1) bottle of water; 2)cd player for music/audio books; 3)art. My sketchbook is open to "Say it in a dog’s voice," which I made by cutting letters from packaging and taped into the sketchbook. At the back of my desk is a subtle, goofy installation: a clementine set up on a pedestal. Each day the tableau changed depending on the fruit.

Open Studio, December 15, 2004: A profusion of landscapes among a few abstract paintings.

Open Studio, 12/15. I ran out of wall space. Here is a preview of non-objective, abstract acrylic paintings. The square panels are 24" x 24".

Open Studio, 12/15. Landscapes and color studies.

The Red Mill as viewed from my studio window. It houses the VSC offices, cafeteria and lounge.

My impression of the Red Mill at Night. Acrylic on fabric, 54"h x 45.5"w .

"Red Sky" acrylic on panel 14" h x 11-1/2"w

A group of landscape paintings, acrylic on panel. Approximately 12" x 12" each.

When I got home, I set up my studio to incorporate some changes. I look forward to showing my new landscapes and abstract acrylic paintings this year. At some point, I will post images of them on the website. A computer crash has halted my progress regarding digital image processing. But as they say, "I’ll be back!"