Show us your space: Julie Taggart
From light-filled private painting studios to collaborative offices with cityscape views, the varied workspaces of CCAD students and alumni represent the multitude of career paths an art and design school can help forge. Here’s a peek into where several of our students and grads make the magic happen M–F (or, sometimes, 24/7).
Taggart, a painter and Provost at her alma mater, Columbus College of Art & Design, creates artwork out of her home studios in suburban Columbus and in Athens, Ohio. She shares studio space with her husband and fellow painter John Kortlander, a Fine Arts Professor at CCAD.
“I don’t need that much space. I don’t have much extra stuff around, so I try to keep it simple,” she says.
Taggart uses a representational style in her oil paintings, which can range in scale from several feet to just a few inches. She, her husband, and her late father-in-law William Kortlander are represented by gallerist Rebecca Ibel of Contemporary Art Matters.
We recently spoke with her about where and how her work comes together.
Can you describe your studio?
I have two studios, one at my house in Westerville and one at our place in Athens that I share with John. I’m pretty organized and tidy. That might be unusual. The spaces are pretty small, with almost everything within arm’s reach. I just want to keep it as simple as possible. As clean and tightly organized as possible.
Both studios are basement spaces, and there’s no natural lighting, although I have full-spectrum bulbs in both. John is an abstract painter, and right now, he’s fired up and producing more work, so it’s smaller on my side and larger on his side. It’s kind of a fun thing for us to share easels and shelves.
John’s dad was extremely prolific and he painted from the ’40s on, and our basement in Athens is filled with an archive of his paintings that I like to explore. His work has had an influence on me over the years. Without me noticing at first, I started making things a lot more graphic because of his influence. I married into a creative family and we were all influenced by each other.
How do you prefer to work?
I sometimes paint in the evenings during the week, but I work mostly on the weekends, throughout the day. I usually paint in three stretches in a day, in 90-minute spurts. I take a break between--I sit while I work, and it’s better for my body to take breaks.
This also works best with the nature of oil paint and how my palette feels. When I first set up, I describe my palette as “cold,” and then once I’m on a roll, the palette is warm. I typically work on one painting at a time, because trying to get back to warm on multiple paintings is difficult, so I just roll with one.
I still set up my palette exactly as I was taught to do in intro to painting with Anita Dawson. She had us put all colors on our palettes even if we didn’t think we needed them because, she said, if you didn’t have them on your palette, you wouldn’t use them. At 50, I’m still figuring out my processes. What works for me and what doesn’t.
A painting might take me six to seven hours, and I typically go over every area in a piece three times as I refine and polish it. Right now, I’m going to be in an alumni show (fingers crossed) at Ft. Hayes Career Center. Julie Abijanac (an Associate Professor at CCAD and fellow Ft. Hayes alum) is going to have work in the show, too.
John and I are often in the studio together. He paints for 20 minutes at a time, so he’ll come and go. … He helps me so much with researching the locations I paint and he sometimes helps me come up with titles.
Painting is work. With art, I love having made it, but I don’t always love doing it. I love going down to the studio in the morning and seeing what I did the day before. I can be objective about my work then.
How do you find balance in your work?
I’m in Athens Friday through Monday (I’m in Westerville the rest of the week), and in the summer, I have a gardening routine. This time of year, I’m in the greenhouse, getting seeds started for the garden. We have kale, swiss chard (which is easy to keep happy regardless of light or heat), potatoes, and herbs, and I’ve started to propagate aloe, so I have seven or eight aloe plants at the edge of the windowsills. I have a set of self-watering pots on the wall, and I have a strawberry plant that I want to bring to Westerville once renovations there are done.
I do like to try to watch what I eat, and gardening helps with that. I also like that there’s no waste. When you go out to eat at a restaurant and you take home leftovers, you end up with takeout containers that are garbage. With gardening, there’s no waste. When you trim back something like cilantro, which I don’t really like, it can go onto the compost heap, guilt-free, where it can serve another purpose.
I didn’t expect this, but I like it a lot. Gardening is rewarding, and you have to get over it if you’re a control freak. You have to get over your tendency to try to organize. You have to let things be.
As I take that drive down to Athens, I can feel my blood pressure going down. I love the drive. I think about what I’m going to listen to in the car. I usually listen to a novel on Audible. In the morning on Mondays--even though I have to get up so early Monday--the drive is pleasant.
See more of Julie Taggart’s work at julietaggartstudio.com.
Are you a Columbus College of Art & Design alum making work in an eye-catching, unusual, or otherwise compelling space? We’d love to see it! Fill out the form here for an opportunity to be featured.