For the last nine months, I’ve maintained a studio within my apartment, which occupies the top level of a great old house built in 1890. It has wraparound balconies and a turret. I enter my pad by climbing the stairs to the top, walk into the turret and through a small arched door, and I am in my studio. My six-year-old daughter thought we were moving into a castle!
The apartment is a nicely laid out, open space. I put down several sheets of Masonite so I needn’t worry about paint on the carpet. I’m three houses off of beautiful Montebello Park in downtown St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park, just two blocks north of the Art Students League. That abstract proximity gives me a sort of symbolic connection to the league.
I love living near the park and cafes and life in a small university-oriented downtown. It’s great for walking and breaks from the studio. I do often crave having a big, airy, communal workspace to share with other artists for some osmosis and chaos I’ve been missing. I was part of a fantastic space a couple of years ago. It was a massive room with a whole bank of windows that used to be part of a tech school and was later used as a karate dojo. But alas, things fell apart due to, well, chaos. As they say, the grass is always greener. But I do intend to have proper north-facing windows in a studio one day. Here is nice for now, but a part of the longer journey. It really is a wonderful apartment in a great ‘hood, and I’m grateful to have been led this way. I love its irregular angles and the windows that look out onto pretty vistas.
My work schedule is all over the place. With a six-year-old daughter and teaching part-time at a nearby college, things are always changing. Sometimes I have full days in the studio, but more often, I get partial days and pieces here and there. I usually have lots of canvases and panels on the go. When things are going well on one or two of them, I tend to focus on just them. I do have an urge to get out of my apartment first thing in the morning to go on a walk or get tea in a cafe or something. So I often do end up working quite late into the night.
I have artist friends and fellow instructors in the region between St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Welland. (New York State is just across the river from the Falls, which is a fifteen-minute drive from my place.) Also, right in my neighborhood, a performing arts center and visual arts department of Brock University are being constructed. A lot of reinvigoration is happening here within this large student base.
Another particularly inspiring place is the Gorge in Niagara Falls, a few kilometers downstream from the famous Falls. You go down a winding metal staircase (or wooden staircase a ways upstream) to wonderful hiking trails that lead you down to the raging river below. You get right down below all of the signals above you in Ontario and way up across the river to New York state. It’s a magical place. My good friend from Stockholm, a fellow student with me at the league, was just here and we spent a cold day in the rain and snow down there and ended up scratching a drawing into a large rock with jagged stones—right by the treacherous river. You always come out of that place rejuvenated. It’s quite dangerous down there in winter though, so you have to be careful. But it’s nice without all the tourists. Just a few people fishing in a deep remnant of a glacial trail. Another haven is Rodman Hall. It’s an impressive old mansion repurposed as an art show space and studio working space for honors students at Brock University. It is a wonderful place to visit for its forest and river walk out back.
Of course, Toronto is also just an hour and fifteen minutes from me, down the highway around Lake Ontario. There is a huge amount of gallery and artist activity in that area, too. The Art Gallery of Ontario has a good public collection and some great visiting exhibitions. I intend to get there more during 2014.
I reach my studio by entering through top of a turret in grand old house near Montebello Park. I’m currently working on a couple of figures in parkas while Canadian winter is blowing cold outside. I hear the ice sliding off the angled roof above me and feel it shaking while I paint.
Geoff Farnsworth, Self-portrait, Age 40, 2008. Oil on panel, 18 x 18 in.
This past August I spent five days on Marstein Island in Austevoll, off the coast of Bergen, Norway. This is one of seven paintings I made there. Geoff Farnsworth, Marstein Sheep, 2013. Oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, Marstein Lighthouse, 2013. Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, Austevoll, 2013. Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, No Name Cafe, 2010. Oil on panel, 40 x 46 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, Skye Graffiti, 2012. Oil on panel, 12 x 19 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, King’s Chair, 2013. Oil on panel, 14 x 11 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, July II, 2013. Oil on panel, 36 x 36 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, Angel, 2012. Oil on panel, 10 x 8 in.
Geoff Farnsworth, Dundarave Beach, 2011. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.