Inside the Studio offers an inside peek into the work environments of WTP artists, as well as insight into their creative process within these resonate spaces.
By Jennifer Nelson, WTP Feature Writer
Fifteen years ago, Josie Bell converted the basement in her Utah home to a studio. At the time, she was raising her two-year-old son in Orem and attending art school. She felt fortunate to have a space to devote to her passion, which is creating art—even if the basement studio is cold in winter. She loves how she’s surrounded by nature, including walls of silent canyons, mountains, and stone formations. The sunset over a nearby frozen lake moves her. “It is magical to be able to stare at it, walk around it, smell and feel it,” says Bell, who’s originally from Brazil. “Leaving the tropics and embracing the winter’s heavy snow and hot summers of the desert works as a meditation for the inner.”
Soon after arriving in Utah from Brazil in 1997, she started painting. Some early artwork shows a connection to her homeland, including paintings with green hues that remind her of Brazilian forests. Until the age of twelve, she grew up among mango trees in Brazil. She ran under trees with her siblings, chased butterflies, spent nights lying under a full moon, and survived snake and scorpion bites. She loved playing in and out of the river, and fingering natural clay.
In her studio, she often works on several pieces, so she moves around a lot. She mixes paint and prepares a canvas or panel, which is a long process because of the drying time of the gesso and paint layers. She stretches her own canvasses—on nice days, she does this outside. She wonders when a painting will be able to stand on its own: “Sometime, a piece can become as impenetrable as stone, and other times, it will flow like water.”
Some pieces need more time than others to germinate, something that used to cause her some conflict. “But with time, they showed me how not to interfere with their journey,” says Bell. “Now, I only ask, listen, and wait to be guided by them…while moving on to work on another piece that seems to be more receptive.”
Her day at the studio begins at 8:00 a.m., starting with her moving canvases around, to spend time with each work individually—standing still, she asks questions, listens, then focuses on the piece that seems to speak to her. “We both need that moment together, to warm up to feel each other and to free ourselves from whatever comes in the way that does not belong to that moment,” she says.
She then lays the canvas on the floor to apply oil glazes. Other materials she uses include oil, sand, marble dust, stone, and sawdust. Key to the foundation of her work is how these materials interact with the texture of the canvas. When the oil glaze dries, she looks at the painting and waits until it is ready for a few brushstrokes. This process goes on and on until a form emerges. It can take weeks, months, or even years for a piece to be completed.
On days that don’t require her full attention, she fills her studio with music. She listens to anything from meditation and classical music to pop and samba. Her day usually ends between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m., though in warm weather, she sometimes works a few hours at night.
See Josie Bell’s work in The Woven Tale Press Vol. VI #2
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