Growing up in the Sunshine State…
My name is Lynn Whipple and I’m from Winter Park, Florida. I was born in Winter Park Hospital. I grew up here. I went to Winter Park High School. My mom was a teacher at Winter Park High School. My whole life was spent here. I love it here. Isn’t it pretty here? Isn’t it good here? Yeah, it’s good… My dad…he was a manager for the rockets that went off that were checkered black and white, Gemini and all that sort of thing at the Kennedy Space Center. He was a cool dud, super smart….
Did you start taking art classes in school?
You know I didn’t. I was just always making stuff all the time and I didn’t realize… I’m completely self taught. But, my mom was an artist and so every summer when she wasn’t teaching school actually when I was really little she painted every day. So every summer when I’d come home from school my school was across the street, Brookshire, she’d be oil painting in the house. And then we would have our play, paint all the sets, make costumes for us. You know she was always making art. So I just figured everybody’s family just did that. So I always kind of did it, but I didn’t know what I was going to do forever, but it is…
Valencia Community College Film Program
Oh, I got into a film program at Valencia Community College and it was to train people in Florida to work in this new film industry that was coming along. This was a long time ago maybe twenty something years ago, maybe longer and I got in and right away I gravitated to the art department and the film because we made a feature length film. It took three different classes to do it over a long period of time, but we had every job that you actually have on a film. So my job was set decorator and my husband John, that’s how I met him, he was there and he was the art director. So we just had to find the props and paint the set and flesh out the story and just do everything visually, we created it. So that’s when it all sort of turned to this is what I like to do. This is what I’m good at. This is my deal, yeah. So then I knew, okay, yeah, that’s what I’m doing.
McRae Art Studios
Well, that was kind of cool too because when I first got into the film program and we were on a real small budget… So the first time I ever found McRae Art Studio it was a total accident. So I was looking around town to see if I couldn’t find a location or just cool stuff. So I was on a street I’d never been on before and I really didn’t know my husband yet. But I saw this old building with barn doors, old glass windows, lot of bushes around it, brick street, dead end, and I went up to it and I’m in the bushes digging around and I’m looking in the window you know I’m just curious and all I can see is a big full size white horse made out of plaster. It was like someone had built this carousel horse but it hadn’t been painted. It was just raw looking. And I’m like what is this, what’s going on, this place is so cool. So the next day I went back to school and there’s this cute guy, my husband now, and I said “Oh you won’t believe this I found this incredible building and… there’s this big plaster horse in there…” And, he goes, “That’s my, you’re describing my art studio. That’s my horse.” I said, “What?” He goes, “Yeah, that’s my studio.” I was like okay, I want to go in there. And I got introduced to McRae and that was the beginning of it right there…
History of the Studios and the Art Community
He [John Whipple] and his parents, his mom’s an artist, they had found this warehouse and based it on another place in Maryland called the Torpedo Factory. It was a group shared studio and so they started McRae here. So that’s how it happened. His mom and his dad, his mom’s name is Marty Whipple and she’s a jeweler and a sculptor and she does everything actually. She does photography. She does it all. She’s still super active. Did the shows forever, galleries, the whole thing. And his dad, George, who’s no longer with us, but was just the sweetest, kindest, most benevolent soul and made sure everything happened. Like he took the leases, he did a lot of the hard stuff, with a lot of other artists in town as well, it was a group effort. But, yep, so they started, the family started the warehouse. I think it’s like 24 years now…
Now it started I don’t know with maybe 20 artists and like the buildings would be, we’d have to rent another building because that one had water damage so we went down the street and then we had a bigger building. We had 40 artists and we had a gallery in the front which was super cool and when the lease was up on that I don’t know how many years then we moved to another building that was close by on Alden which was on a lake which was wonderful. We were there for a super long time and then now this one.
And so, we thought about this recently, over well over a hundred artists have been a part of this over the years and many of them just have had fantastic careers and just delightful artistic growth. It’s just a joy, it’s a joy! And I would encourage anyone who’s an artist, like say if I moved tomorrow, I would seek out a place like this. You know where you have a space outside of your home to share with other artists for support. It’s so enriching. I don’t know how to say it. It’s so inspiring to see how other people think and work and we support each other and we have fun together… it’s really been just a super rich part of life to have a studio like this…
Mary Ostrander and Marty Whipple
My mom, whose name is Mary Ostrander, also has a studio here. So both our mothers at the time that we met were both jewelers and my mom now also does sculpture and she works at Crealde which you know is an art school locally. She’s a fellow there. And then Marty did jewelry but she’s also done, my gosh, mixed media, sculpture, soft sculpture. She’s just an incredible, interesting, you know, very creative mind, very curious mind. So right now, she’s working on collages and now she’s turning them into fabric, quilts, collages, wall hangings. You know she’s on a whole another thing… She’s one to watch, you know. My mom, too, I mean they’re both super cool, smart, funny, talented ladies….
Traveling to Shows and Trading Art
I think there’s a broader audience and a bigger scope that you need to reach and show your work to. And one way that we do that is galleries, of course, and we do travel a bit. We do juried shows and for us there’s like ten shows in the country that are like the top shows and we found the ones that are best for us. A lot of them are in the Midwest and the West and about once a month we hop in our van and we take all our latest work and we travel and we set up a booth. It’s like a circus. You’ve seen the Winter Park Art Festival, like that. And so, we’ve made all these friends over the years of the other artists that do the same shows that we do… And so, in that process you make good friends and you become very aware of your friend’s work and you talk about art a lot and you talk about what’s exciting to you creatively and that’s one of, I think, the bonds that we have here at the studio. Because once you find the thing that you’re most excited about that’s the thing you do want to talk about and learn and explore and that’s how I think we help each other the most…. So anyway the trading thing you go into somebody’s booth especially a friend, and it’s nice when you don’t even know them, and it’s funny you don’t know what to say usually, but someone will say, “I love your work. If you ever want to trade….”
So then you get this great joy of picking out something special from them and they pick out something special from you and then that just builds. I have people that have dozens of my pieces now. Because I have a lot of small little Ninnies and stuff and they just get one every show and so it’s just like this great ongoing, our house is full of art. There’s more art than we have walls…but it’s all I would say 95%, art of people that we know and love and they’re our friends….
The Ninnies Series
So you asked about the Ninnies and that was a total accident. Here I’ll show you one sitting on the table over there. But basically they start with a, it started when we were painting our house one day and we had all these cans of paint and really, literally just trying colors on the house…I had this old photograph on the refrigerator because I just like old photography, it wasn’t a family member, and I took it down and put it on the counter and just changed the shape of the photograph with the paint, by just cutting into the image. I don’t know why I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Just totally, I don’t know, it was just funny! Because I gave them horns and I just, you know, I just kept doing it like I found all these old photographs… So I designed this little box, worked them in a series, and then I would just kind of collect old photographs that I thought were cool or interesting and then just edit them and completely flip them on their head…. It’s funny to me. It’s still funny to me….
I expanded my studio so this big table we’re sitting on I can fit about 10 people here and I can put up another table there and I love having workshops here because I have so much stuff to feed off of. I mean I have a whole storage, I’ve got my sewing machine here and there’s a lot of stuff on my walls that’s inspirational to me and hopefully to anybody who’s in here. You know people seem to get excited about all these pieces and parts and ideas poking around in here…
So that’s really fun and I also teach across the country. There’s a great place called the Ah Haa School for the Arts which is in Telluride, Colorado, which is one of the most amazing places in the world…So I taught there last year and I’ll teach there this year in July. This workshop’s called Exploring Collage… I’m teaching another workshop in St. Pete with a woman named Elaine who’s a phenomenal teacher which is like a women’s retreat basically. So we’ll be on the ocean with really good food and we’ll create for four days, middle of October – The Joy of Collage.
…that I created here and those are big sort of found paper collages on the bottom and the colored paper everything gets aged and I do a giant shape. This one is a bird. It’s called SING…
Art in Galleries
Tresor Gallery, yeah, that guy’s amazing! And he just, yeah, some of these pieces he might even have one of these bird pieces. And he is an interesting man, really cool space, they have a lot of wearable stuff, they have sculpture, you know they have everything. My husband John [Whipple] he has his work there also. And Tresor just opened a second gallery in New Orleans right on Royal Street so I have work in his gallery in New Orleans as well…He’s just so passionate about art and getting it out to the world and just a really interesting individual. So yeah, you saw it? Yeah, I have art in a lot of galleries around the country: Cincinnati Miller Gallery, wonderful gallery for us, Bennett Gallery, that’s in Nashville… There was an article about your work in the Chattanooga Times… Oh, that’s River Gallery. Yeah, that’s another great gallery that we’re in. We’re having a show there this December… and they’re so good to us…They completely understand our way of thinking that we’re always growing and expanding and we’re changing and they trust us to show up with the stuff that’s going to work and it has. So that’s what you want from a gallery…
Every morning I go out and paint with my friend Don [Sondag]. He’s a fantastic painter so it’s nice for me because I’m always learning stuff… this is Rollins College. There’s a lot of Park Avenue, there’s another Rollins College. There’s Maitland Art Center, we did recently. Kraft Azalea Gardens is in there. We’re just poking around town and we find a beautiful spot that we want to be standing in which a lot of times for me is near water. So why wouldn’t you? You know you want to be outside somewhere pretty, you know a rose garden or something, and then you just do your best to capture it, color and light and dark and warm and cool. It’s really hard. I have to tell you it really makes you focus and its so exciting to be in the moment! You know you’re just right on the skinny branches the whole time – you’re like – Gasp – you know, trying to pull it off. So it’s fun. I love it! I actually love it!
The Beauty of Central Florida
Oh, I think this place is insanely beautiful! Isn’t it? Don’t you love it here. Oh my God, it’s so pretty. I mean the trees are magnificent, and our light is, I love it here. I think it’s exquisitely beautiful and I say that every day and I appreciate it every day. It’s like I’m in love with it. I’m crazy about it…
Inspiration From Other Artists
So the friend Don[Sondag] you’re painting with has a studio here? Yeah, he has a studio here [McCrae Art Studios]… And he is fantastic! Just really focused. Paints every day all day, that’s what he does. I mean he’s got the best life. You know he’s very sort of simplified in his life.. He paints. He’ll probably come walking in here any minute cause he’s in here all the time so he’s a great inspiration for me. And Larry Moore is here too who for me is one of the best painters in the country. He’s one of the top painters. He’s in here. So we get to paint together and we talk about painting all the time. You know Stephen Bach everybody in here is freakishly talented if you ask me. And they all love what they do. Those are the best people because they’re happy. They’re doing what they like to do and they’re always pushing it. They’re always trying new stuff. It’s inspiring to see how other people go about it. Because it’s a big, you know, art making you pretty much just have to generate it on your own. It’s not like you walk in and they tell you what to do. You’re on your own. You decide every day what gets your attention and how you’re going to try to create….
A Look to the Future: Orlando as a Thriving Art Community
Oh, absolutely, oh without question. Absolutely. There’s so much talent here. It’s a beautiful place to live. There’s a ton of artists here. We have an incredible hotbed of super young people coming up. It’s just a marvelous place to live and make art. And now with the Internet and all this sort of thing you can get your work out all over the world which is important for any artist. The only thing I can say, is make it and then share it as far reaching as you can and that’s how its successful. You can’t just make it and keep it inside your closet, that’s not going to work. You make it and share it and you have every option to be as widely successful as you possibly want to be. Just do your thing. Be happy and do your thing. And, you know, give it some time. Be willing to make stuff. That’s all you’re doing. You know, make it, share it.
All artwork pictured is by Lynn Whipple.