Saranac Lake artist Meg Bernstein paints Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Adirondack Carousel in Saranac Lake during the Artist at Work Studio Tour.
The annual Artist at Work Studio Tour, held Sept. 27-29 in the Tri-Lakes region, gives the public a chance to see artists create work in a studio setting, and it gives artists much-needed exposure.
Most of the artists were in their studios — a Main Street shop or their home — waiting for curious art seekers to show up, ask questions and hopefully buy something. Yet some key artistic locations hosted artists. Such was the case at the Adirondack Carousel on Depot Street, where three artists were at work on Saturday: Meg Bernstein of Saranac Lake, Cindy LaMay of Saranac Inn, and Valerie Patterson of Saranac Lake.
Bernstein has been taking part in the Studio Tour since it began in 2007. A member of the Adirondack Artists Guild in Saranac Lake, she regularly shows her work at the Guild’s Main Street gallery space. Yet she spent the weekend among local and visiting families, bathed in the sounds of giggling children and Carousel music.
“I usually work at home,” Bernstein said. “I have a studio at home, but it’s a little bit out of the way so it’s easier for people to come here.”
Bernstein was painting a dinosaur on a tabletop easel when she was interviewed on Saturday, Sept. 28. Her medium is acrylic.
“Acrylic is something like oil but water-based,” Bernstein said. “It’s easy to use with brush strokes. It’s nice and goopy and fun to play with.”
The small painting was of diabloceratops, a dinosaur from the late Cretaceous Period. In the front of her table were four other dinosaur paintings. This time in Bernstein’s painting life could be called the Dinosaur Period.
“I like to do dinosaurs,” Bernstein said, adding that she’s been painting dinosaurs for about a year. “It’s the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy, and I think it’s about time I got started.”
Bernstein has seen the Artist at Work Studio Tour grow over the years and become more popular. Always held during the fall foliage season, the tour highlights artists and craftspeople who live and work throughout the Tri-Lakes region: Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Jay, Wilmington, Au Sable Forks, Rainbow Lake, Onchiotoa, Gabriels, Paul Smiths, and Lake Clear. In all, more than 40 artists from a variety of disciplines took part in this year’s event.
“People come into our gallery and ask all the time about when it’s going to be, and we have a brochure now that people can look at year-round,” Bernstein said. “It’s good for us to all get together and do something. We kind of work off one another in a way, so it benefits us in a lot of ways, from getting more community members in and people from other areas, and seeing one another.”
Bernstein was sitting a few feet away from LaMay, who was in a metal folding chair painting a snowflake Christmas ornament she had carved from wood. Her medium was fitting at the Carousel, as all the Carousel’s wildlife characters were hand-carved and painted by artists. Carved and hand-painted Santas are LaMay’s main product, and some of her work was on display on a table next to her. Like many local artists, LaMay does not have a Main Street studio.
“I actually carve at my kitchen counter, so I work at home,” LaMay said. “I use just hand tools, knives and gouges and a mallet when I’m shaping my figure pieces.”
After carving the Santas, snowflakes and other sculptures — such as moose and bears — LaMay stains her work, paints it with acrylic (because it dries fast), and gives them five or six coats of varnish. She uses basswood for the larger pieces and pine for the smaller ones.
“I taught myself to carve about 15 or 16 years ago,” LaMay said. “I love Santas, so that’s how I got started, with a knife, a gouge and a book … I am so busy with Santa orders that I don’t have extras for people, so I started doing the other pieces — the shelf sitters and the ornaments — so I would have something that was a little bit faster and they would be available when I do shows.”
It takes LaMay a couple weeks to carve a Santa, working on weekends and at night after her getting home from her full-time job.
“And from there it takes about as much time to paint,” LaMay said.
This was LaMay’s fourth year participating in the Studio Tour and her second year at the Carousel.
“It’s wonderful that they let us be here, but for me it’s an obvious connection with the hand-carved animals on the Carousel,” LaMay said. “For me, it’s all about exposure, getting my card out to people. And I also have an Etsy shop on the Etsy marketplace (CALaMay Carvings) … It gets a lot of views after I do an event like this.”
Patterson was sitting behind four large paintings, closer to the indoor Carousel, using a magnifying glass to help create details on her latest watercolor.
“I usually do my work at home in my studio,” Patterson said. “I’m here today to show people my work and be out and about.”
This is Patterson’s second time taking part in the Studio Tour, and she’s found it’s been a way to get her name out in the public.
Patterson’s work usually has social and political subjects. The watercolor she was painting on Saturday is a good example. This one was a girl in a phone booth on a busy city street. She was working from two photographs, one of the girl and another she found online of a cityscape.
“This one actually had to do with more of a feeling than a specific idea,” Patterson said. “It’s the difference between the present and the past with the telephone booth being the past because you don’t see them very often anymore. And then the girl, she’s the younger generation, inside the phone booth. Other than that, it’s just a feeling.”
The Artist at Work Studio Tour was organized by the Saranac Lake Art Works group. For more information, visit online at www.saranaclakeartworks.com.