Studio tour illustrates artists and inspirations



Many of us are fascinated by artists - how they channel their creativity, how they are inspired, how they reconcile their everyday social lives with a need to withdraw from the world and to work alone.

This fascination is why the annual Creators & Collectors Tour is so popular, and why it's such a successful fundraiser for the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota. FOR A GALLERY OF THE TOUR CLICK HERE

ahTOURaThis volunteer organization, founded in 1969, uses the proceeds to support scholarships and for acquisitions for an art collection on display at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday, the public is invited to tour the studios of eight artists (seven spaces) for $25. Tickets are available at the door for this self-guided tour and you can start anywhere. Addresses are listed below. Most of the artists will be in their studios to answers questions and talk about art.

One of them is gregarious William Kelley, whose modern studio is a high-rise condominium loft on Main Street in Sarasota. From his airy 9th floor studio, Kelley is in the center of Sarasota city life and he paints near the terrace with the sliders open to the breezes and the traffic sounds below.

But he's not painting Sarasota scenes.

Kelley spends the winter months in Sarasota working on oil paintings - some of them mega-large - that he starts at his studio in Florence, Italy where he and his wife, Susan, have lived part time since 1997. Although, he does a fair amount of portraiture, most of Kelley's work consists of vividly colored landscapes of Tuscany, the south of France as well as landscapes of China, that were the result of a trip he made to the Far East.

One of his largest paintings is a seascape inspired by a six-week trip to Alaska.

It was in Italy that Kelley met the famous Sister Wendy Beckett, a British contemplative nun and art historian who gained a world-wide television following in 1991 after appearing in a BBC documentary about the National Gallery. She has since done more TV programs traveling to museums around the globe and has written more than 25 books.

"Sister Wendy doesn't go out much," said Kelley, "in fact, she lives a cloistered life in England, but she was on her way to Rome to film a show and she stopped at my little rooftop studio in Florence where I have a view of the Duomo.

"We talked about art and she accepted a painting from me. She has quite a sense of humor and her visit was a real experience for me."

Apparently, for the famous nun too. She praised Kelley's "Warm, rich pictures…it's the space - the distances in the these glowing images that give them their spiritual power," and at another time wrote, "Wonderful work: … as profound a vision as one could want. How Cézanne would love you... Magnificent."

In his Florence studio, it's Kelley's habit to paint six days a week. He paints in nature, usually doing sketches, photographs and often small paintings on site. Then he goes back to the city studio to organize the larger work, which he generally finishes back in his Sarasota studio. He just rolls up the canvases and transports them from Florence to Sarasota.

When working on a large painting in Sarasota, the artist will often also be working on two smaller ones. "When I'm doing a piece that's say 7-feet by 15-feet, I need breaks because a big work is complex, physically demanding and requires a lot of thought," he said. "So, I alleviate some of the intensity and stress by having something else to do at the same time."

Kelley bought his Sarasota loft studio in 2006 and chose the spot for its 20-foot high ceilings, natural light (mostly southern exposure) and two-level configuration.

The lower level of the 1,500-square-foot space is studio, library and gallery. The upper lever is gallery space and a reception/meeting area for clients who visit by appointment only. The open upper level is also the best spot to view some of Kelley's larger works from a distance.

"This loft city studio has been an unexpected but really successful space for me," said Kelley. "It's quiet and private, ideal for working and yet it's totally convenient. I walk to restaurants and it's not far from where Susan and I live, which is another condominium on the bay. The studio is also a pleasant place to receive clients, it's comfortable for everyone and I've plenty of wall space."

Many of Kelley's collector clients (some going back 30 years) start out with one or two paintings and find they can't stop. One local celebrity recently renovated part of his home to accommodate more Kelley art. That collector has nine Kelley paintings in his Sarasota home and 8 more in London. When you take the tour of William Kelley's studio, the artist will probably tell you who he is.


Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: March 9, 2013
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.