Open Studios: Plan A Happy Post-Election Weekend

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Windsor Terrace artist Susan Greenstein’s watercolor view from New York’s High Line (not for sale).

THIS WEEKEND (NOVEMBER 12-13) THIRTY-FIVE ARTISTS in Windsor Terrace and Park Slope will open their homes and studios and invite us in on Saturday and Sunday to have a look, talk about art or not, and maybe buy something, maybe not. The hours are 12 to 5 pm both days. Brooklyn Artisan is quick to attest on the basis of previous years that it’s a lot of fun to do and certainly should give you a good rest from politics.

To make a plan over brunch, check the map at parkslopewindsorterraceartists.com. (The map is downloadable. Most of the studios offer map printouts that you can pick up and carry with you.)

The site also has a Directory of Artists that’s set up to be fun to browse. Use it as a planning tool to choose studios most likely to interest you. In past years, Brooklyn Artisan has started our meanderings at the southeastern edge, 41 Fuller Place, with the dazzling watercolors of Joy Makon. Many of her subjects are local scenes, beautifully composed (and hard to resist. Ask Joy about giclée prints, too). One year we worked north and west to Park Slope, ending up with interesting conversation on technique in Simon Dinnerstein‘s impressive top-floor home studio (his Fulbright Triptych is world famous), and another year, we circled around Windsor Terrace, buying a charming Christmas book with illustrations by Dara Oshin and a watercolor by Susan Greenstein for Christmas gifts.

Warning: It may be hard to part with your gift purchases! (Susan’s watercolor view from the High Line hangs handsomely in this writer’s home even as she types. See homey photo above.)

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Kickstarting Brooklyn: Political Horror

As if this election season weren’t scary enough, arts group Creative Time and artist Pedro Reyes are proposing to turn the Brooklyn Army Terminal into a political haunted house. Reyes wants to fill that amazing space with the “horrors of our political landscape.”

Creative Time is the .org that two years ago commandeered the defunct Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg for Kara Walker’s A Subtletythe spectacularly successful art installation that drew “yuge” crowds. At press time, the haunted house project was tantalizingly close to its funding goal. Donating now will ensure an October surprise. (Or like us,  you can just stay curled up in a fetal position under the blankets until election day.)

Kickstarting Brooklyn: Hyperachievers

A Scott Terpin donut. His website has many, many more. Yum.

IN THE SINGULAR ECOSYSTEM that is Kickstarter, one will encounter many evolutionary dead ends—projects, visions and dreams that wither away unfunded. Then there are the mysterious campaigns that don’t just meet their targets, they blow by them and reach double, triple or stratospherically higher funding results. Why and how do these hyperachievers succeed, and can we learn any lessons by studying their success?

Here’s one that caught our eye at Brooklyn Artisan. Scott Teplin was creating his massive, quirky and highly detailed drawing called Big Canal and asked Kickstarter support for a hefty $4,500 to complete it. On the face of it, Scott is like many an artist—with a pen, a brush and a dream. But by the end of the campaign, his project was overfunded 11 times, garnering more than $49,000, which is a goodly chunk of the annual salary for a Brooklyn artist.

Big Canal, by Scott Terpin, a very successful Kickstarter project

Big Canal is one of those drawings with lots of quirky details that demand hours to explore—Where’s Waldo? without the people, Richard Scarry without the cute animals. What is the secret of its funding phenomenon? The campaign video stars Scott and, though mildly amusing, won’t win a Palme d’or. Maybe it’s the many photos on his Kickstarter page that engage the viewer in the overall process. Or it could be his suggestive marketing that positions the reward as a great poster for a kid’s room. Or maybe it just appealed to the random whim or previously undetected want of the Kickstarter audience.

One thing is certain: The man can sure draw donuts.

Today! Open Studios Makes a Great Afternoon

WINDSOR TERRACE WAS OUR STARTING POINT yesterday, the first weekend day of the Open Studios event. (From Manhattan, take the F train to 15th Street and follow the map from the OS website.) Walk down Fuller Place, one of the most nearly perfect blocks in the area, with its contiguous front porches, to #41 where you’ll meet watercolor artist Joy Makon, who speaks interestingly and unpretentiously about her work and technique. After a long and successful career as a magazine, online and book cover designer, and columnist for Brooklyn Artisan, last year Makon began to bloom as a painter as well. Some of her pieces are for sale (several were snapped up yesterday),  and for a few, excellent giclée print reproductions can be bought at very reasonable prices.

From there, using our map, Brooklyn Artisan made our way down Windsor Place to 229A, to see the city-themed watercolors of Susan Greenstein,  an artist with 440 Gallery, and the rural landscapes of Phil DeSantis. Once again, the friendly and accessible artists were on hand to talk with you. (Many pieces were available with prices in the hundreds and some very good print reproductions were priced as modestly as $20.)

Simon Dinnerstein‘s house at 415 First Street (follow your map and stretch your legs a bit) serves as home, gallery and studio. You can hang your coat on the garden floor and wind your way through that floor, up to the parlor and then on to the top-floor studio, seeing his paintings and black and white graphite brush pieces all along the way. Dinnerstein is internationally known, especially for his The Fulbright Triptych, and locally beloved as a teacher as well as fine artist. Once again, the conversation was a wonderful supplement to the art. (His daughter, Simone Dinnerstein, is also known as a concert pianist.)

ALTOGETHER A SPECIAL AFTERNOON of visual adventures, good art talk, and a house tour as well! You can retrace our steps today or make your own itinerary from among the many more studios open today.

 

Confessions of a Man with a Guitar — and a Dream

Park Slope resident Winslow Browning was able to teach this writer a thing or two about classical Spanish guitar.

How Brooklyn resident Winslow Browning, above, managed to teach this writer a thing or two about classical Spanish guitar. (Photo by Goodman/Van Riper Photography)

GROWING UP IN A SMALL KANSAS TOWN, I wanted to learn to play an instrument because all the smart kids knew how to play an instrument. My parents ignored me, but they let me get a car instead. I really didn’t do anything about the whole music thing until one Saturday morning here in the big city when I walked into a music store in midtown Manhattan and bought the cheapest guitar possible (“You can pay more,” a college friend said, “but you can’t pay less”) and toted it back to my apartment. Then I sat on my couch and stared at it for a while and realized I might’ve made a mistake since I didn’t have a clue how to play it, but I refused to accept that idea.

That’s when I found Park-Slope-based Winslow Browning on the internet. We talked and he asked me what style I wanted to learn—Rock? Classical? Country? Um, Easy Listening?

Gee, I hadn’t thought about that. “I like the Beatles?” I said, except it did sound more like a question.

“Okay,” he said.

“Yeah. I have a T-shirt with their drum logo on it and everything.”

“Okay,” he said.

TWO DAYS LATER HE SHOWED UP AT MY APARTMENT at the appointed hour with his guitar, which looked to me like the most beautiful instrument this side of Spain. He examined my guitar critically, then he showed me how to sit properly, how to hold it, and how to play the notes of a scale — you know, Every Good Boy Does Fine. He showed me flats and sharps. Then he told me to pick up a music stand and First Lessons for Guitar (Las Primeras Lecciones de Guitarra) by Julio Sagreras.

We never spoke of Rock, Country, Easy Listening or The Beatles again, but he did do his best to teach me how to play Spanish classical guitar.

AND 15 YEARS LATER BROWNING IS STILL AT IT, as he has been all his life. “When I was growing up, my parents had a string guitar lying around my house,” he says, “and I learned chords and stuff playing with my friends, then I had a chance to take classical guitar lessons and it made my heart flutter.”

Browning went on to study music with renowned classical guitarists Fred Nance and Juan Mercadal, the latter a Cuban master. “I was so totally steeped in the classic music field and so hungry to reel that all in and take all these classical classes, all this pop music stuff got tossed out on the other side,” he told me.

SO THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEARNING TO PLAY “DAY TRIPPER” AND “I FEEL FINE.”  I wouldn’t say I was an abject, miserable failure at classical guitar (although the pieces Winslow did manage to teach me sounded nothing like they did when he played them) because he taught me how to play scales and tune it and change strings when I had to. And I can still do all that stuff when forced to at knifepoint. He also taught me that it was a good thing my parents didn’t waste money on music lessons for me and let me waste it on a car instead. But in his hands even my cheapo axe sounded beautiful.

IT’S A GREAT THING THAT WINSLOW’S STILL AT IT, sometimes giving lessons in his five-floor walkup, or anywhere around the city really — he comes to you. Also, he and his wife, accomplished flautist Suzanne Gilchrest, present a limited concert series with their group Guitar Among Others. Like Paul McCartney’s later career, or Steely Dan’s, GAO’s lineup always changes. And each summer they travel to Summerkeys, a summer camp for classical musicians in Lubec, Maine, where he’s the only guitarist who teaches solo playing.

“In the Brooklyn Eagle a few years ago there was an article that talked about how Brooklyn was made up of a bunch of small towns and villages,” he says. “I love telling the story in Lubec because it really is a small town;  it’s very comfortable, and you’ll walk up the street and someone will say ‘Hey, that was a great concert last night.’” No wonder they say that to him: Like I said, the guy really knows how to play a mean Spanish classical guitar.

Today, Executive Editor Phil Scott plays a mean keyboard  — of the qwerty sort — and  as you can read for yourself here he also knows how to twirl a dial.

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