Artist Spotlight: Ethan Cornell by RC’s Jane Herro

I had the pleasure of visiting artist Ethan Cornell at his studio in Red Hook a couple weeks back. We discussed how working at Hot Wood Arts, a 7,000 square foot space inside a gorgeous waterfront warehouse building in Red Hook that houses fifteen artist residents, inspires his work. He also shared more about his process, how having a dedicated studio space helps him to focus and where you can find him in the neighborhood after a long day at the studio.
Ethan will be showing his work at RC’s Red Hook office, 351 Van Brunt Street, this April. Join us for the opening on Friday, April 26 at 6:30pm where he’ll be showing alongside another Hot Wood Arts resident, Lisa Ingram.
Where were you working from before Hot Wood Arts in Red Hook? 
I was working from home or outside. I designated a part of my apartment as studio and tried to keep it contained there. I managed to get a fair amount of work done including some fairly large paintings, but having a dedicated studio has been a big upgrade.
Has being a part of Hot Wood Arts changed your practice? 
Yes, most important has been the other residents. They are a great group and I get all the things you would hope for: inspiration, technical help, art world info and community. 
Almost as important is having a place just for art, a spot for making mess and noise whenever I want that is also removed (to some extent) from the rest of my routines; the dishes and laundry can’t get done when I am at the studio so I don’t worry about them when Im there.
How does the environment (building and neighborhood) you’re in affect the work you make/how you work? 
It is hard to overstate how important the place is to me and I could go on for way too long about it. Probably the most directly noticeable effect has been the spike in my paintings of clouds, sunlight and traffic on the water. I have always painted outdoors but the Upper Bay and Erie Basin have been big sources of inspiration. I was not planning on working so much from life when I first came to Hot Wood but it has become a big part of my work.
What are the themes you are dealing with in your current body of work? 
Favorite themes include: things that consume the eye, such as fields of grass, wide horizons of clouds or masses of building; a bestiary of mythical or invented creatures; how we know each other; how we know anything and memory. All of that kind of underlaid with the pleasure of looking. Pleasure for pleasures sake.
Tell me a bit about your process – are you a planner? A sketcher? What mediums do you use? Are you limited in any way by the space you’re creating from? 
I have a roughly two-sided process, painting and drawing from life and then making up stories and scenes. The observational work grounds the narrative work, the invented work helps to drive the areas I am interested in studying. Both can be meditative, when things are really working I stop having to think about it and the making of it takes over.
What is your favorite place to grab a coffee on the way to the studio? And your preferred spot to relax with a drink after a day of painting? 
I like exploring a lot of different places in the neighborhood. There are so many places, and I like to break them up, but I do find myself at Baked and Hot Bagels during the day. I have been going to Sunny’s for a looong time and I really miss Bait and Tackle.
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