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A Sense of Place: Annapolis

Jun 05, 2014 10:53AM ● By Kathi Ferguson
By Kathi Ferguson  //  Photography by Lisa Shires

As an art student in Chicago, I remember vividly how I felt upon walking into my figure drawing class. There was something about the “feel” of the space that made it more than just another room. Several rows of black wooden saddle benches were lined up in a semi-circle and each of us would try to claim a spot that provided a favorable view of the model for that day. Student drawings and demo sketches hung on the walls, art mannequins and anatomy charts surrounded the model stand. Our instructor, Mr. Parks, dressed in his legendary blue artist’s smock, meandered around the room as he readied us for the day’s assignments. At the time, this was my studio, and everything about it inspired me.

Artist studios, though similar in purpose, vary greatly in style, size, and if you will, personality. Some are works in progress; others are themselves a work of art. Some can even be considered rudimentary. What they all have in common is a retreat from the daily world to where work is produced and the creative spirit is fully embraced.

Image titleThe word “studio” is derived from the Latin, studere, meaning to study. Another familiar term comes from the French word for workshop, or atelier. In contemporary English language use, “atelier” can also refer to the Atelier Method, a training process for artists modeled after the historic private art studios of Europe. Instruction takes place in a professional artist’s studio (usually a painter or sculptor) and the workshops consist of a small number of students; some can be artists-in-residence.

My observation of painter John Ebersberger’s studio is reminiscent of the atelier. The modest, industrial looking, hilltop structure was built in the 1970s by renowned portrait painter Cedric Egeli. After adding adjacent space many years later and working there on commissions, Egeli rented the vacated area to Ebersberger. The building is now one of several studios on the family’s Edgewater property. “There’s a lot of history here,” John says. “It was great having Cedric next door. He would often come over at the end of the day to visit and share his wisdom, offer critiques, and comment on my work. It was like medicine—I didn’t always want to take it, but boy did it help me improve as an artist! It’s an honor to be here.” Cedric later constructed a larger studio space from which he began conducting intensive painting workshops and continues to do so today.

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Image titleA long, winding gravel road must be traveled before making the final turn to Ebersberger’s retreat. Surrounded by rolling hills and fields, it is hard to believe downtown Annapolis is just a few short miles away. One side of John’s studio lets in an abundance of north light through the use of Plexiglas windows that have been installed at a purposeful angle. A southern view opens to a deep ravine leading down to a small stream. “I feel a sense of peace coming to work here,” he says. “There is a feeling of isolation, even though I am close to all that Annapolis has to offer. Nature reveals its palette to me in this space and as an impressionist painter, light is paramount. This studio delivers.”

A neutral gray color covers the walls and several area rugs bring warmth to the cement floor. Ebersberger utilizes the ample wall space to display his work and takes advantage of filling the shelves of several pieces of furniture left by Cedric with figurines, china, and other personal items. “They give a homey feel to the space, and I can use a lot of these items in my paintings,” he says. In the colder months, John uses the studio for figure and still life work and an occasional open house. “In the warmer weather,” he tells me, “my studio is outside. I have the best of both worlds.”


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Artist-in-residence Ken Cosgrove makes his “home away from home” in Room 314B at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Upon entering the space, I cannot help but notice the beautiful transom above the doorway and wall of windows directly ahead. Several of Ken’s works-in-progress sit on easels or are propped up throughout the room, while a variety of completed pieces hang on the walls. It is plain to see that a lure to abstract painting earlier in his career influenced Ken’s more recent classical style of work. As we sit down on the sofa to chat, Ken explains that the space came “made to order” in a sense—fully equipped with high ceilings, storage, good light, and even a blackboard. “This used to be Annapolis High School, and all of the studios here were classrooms,” he says. “This one is actually the largest in Maryland Hall, which allows for working large or small and having ample space for a model stand.”

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Approaching the final year of his six-year program, Ken has reaped many benefits from his residency here aside from the built-in functionality of the space. Simply being amongst other artists encourages Cosgrove to reach out to fellow painters, photographers, printmakers, writers, and the like, developing an invaluable sense of community. “A couple of years ago I decided to start what is now known as ‘Last Tuesday.’ We gather in the studio, interact, share ideas, and almost always partake in a glass or two of red wine,” Ken says with a grin. “I will typically set the tone for a topic of conversation and we go from there, leading to some remarkable exchanges. The group brings creative energy to me and to the space. I definitely want to carry that cohesion with me to my next studio.” Where that will be is uncertain for this artist, but what Cosgrove knows is that he must have a place to develop, to hide, to risk, and to be one with his failures as well as his victories. He comments, “Wherever you can find that mix of priorities—privacy when you need it, that fellowship, a balance—a studio is a place to go. Space can be easily overlooked, but since this for me is not permanent, it raises the value.”


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Image titleCelia Pearson’s custom-built photo studio is literally steps away from her front door. Resembling a charming guest house, the structure mimics the style of Celia’s Eastport home both architecturally and aesthetically. After transitioning from darkroom photographer to working entirely in digital, the need for a separate space became abundantly clear to Pearson. “For a long time, my home was my studio,” she says, “but as I began working much larger (up to 4’ by 6’ works) and creating my own exhibits, things changed. Critical to my success now meant having a retreat in two ways—one from the rest of my life to my creative world, my studio; the other as a retreat from my creative bubble to my life at home.”

Known as a fine art and assignment photographer for more than three decades, Celia earned a national reputation for her images capturing interiors, architecture, and gardens. Aside from her well-known and up-close photos of sea glass and other forms in nature, Celia prints photographs on nontraditional materials, turning them into unique pieces of art. A sample of her ethereal-like “layered” works printed on silk can be seen upon entering the studio masterfully displayed on one of the all-white walls.

Pearson was intricately involved with the design of her studio, requiring that the environment be as simple and neutral as possible. “The ample amount of wall space allows me to see how things relate to each other while I am working on a piece, planning an exhibit, or interacting with clients,” she explains. A functional, yet cozy seating area is arranged in front of a set of sliding glass doors and Celia’s office space is tucked into the perfect corner of the room. Several organized work surfaces are on wheels to allow for easy mobility across the bare floor. “Since most of my sea glass work is done in studio, and I don’t use artificial light, being able to move to the right light on any given day is key,” she explains. “In fact, contemplating how the light would enter the space was one of the trickiest parts of the design process.”

Image titleCelia utilizes every square foot of her studio to “curate and create.” Unlike in a gallery, she alone can decide what pieces will be used for any given exhibit, and how and where to hang them. She takes exception however when it comes to the nearby Eastport Gallery. “The gallery has my history as well as my current work, helping people understand that I did not just become a digital photographer out of nowhere. Part of the reason I can devote my studio to the creative process is due to the relationship I have with Eastport. I don’t have to make it a public space; I can keep it private. This is a place that allows me to become more a part of this wonderful world of art that I’m in and for that I am truly grateful.”

Visiting these artists in their studios opens up a world beyond what we enjoy when viewing a painting, photograph, or any other form of art. Behind the end product there is a place that has been designated not just for inspiration, but for organization, management, and methodology. At the end of the day, it is a magical space artists can call their own.