With a new studio, muralist thinks big

Columbia: A larger work space is giving Amy Ketteran room to teach and create.

March 11, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Whether making pictures to hang on the walls or decorating the walls themselves, Amy Ketteran wants to help her students bring all types of art into their daily lives.

At her new studio in Columbia, Ketteran offers instruction in drawing, landscape painting, faux finishing, tromp l'oeil (painting items that look realistic or "fool the eye") color theory and mural painting.

"I'm trying to create a broad spectrum of the arts," Ketteran said. "I'm trying to give people lots of different ways to get in."

In January, the North Laurel resident moved her studio from its two-year home in Towson to a spacious ground-floor unit in the back of a commercial building on Red Branch Road.

Her large murals dominate the walls, and track lighting makes the space bright. Ketteran, 29, often works with her German shepherd mix, Sasha, keeping her company, and she occasionally enlists her husband, Mark, as a model for her drawing class.

In addition to classes, Ketteran offers mural-painting services and sells studio time to people who need a space to create.

Ketteran took art classes throughout her childhood in Williamsburg, Va., and in high school. She earned a bachelor's degree in studio art from Grinnell College in Iowa, where she became interested in stagecraft.

She earned a master's degree in scenic painting from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. For several years, she worked on shows for school and employment. Now, Ketteran draws on her backdrop painting skills to make murals for customers.

"I love working big," she said. "I wanted to do something where I could still work large but the crunch time wasn't so bad."

She paints murals on large sheets of muslin and hangs them in people's homes. She said her method allows her to work in her studio, rather than being at a customer's house -- often on scaffold -- for weeks.

She also sells floor cloths, which are heavy canvas painted with custom designs and sealed with a top coat. An artistic alternative to rugs, Ketteran said, floor cloths were popular in Colonial times and are starting to come back into style.

When Ketteran established her studio, she found that she also enjoyed teaching. Although some people may have more natural talent than others, everyone can learn to make art, Ketteran said.

"If you can write words, you can draw," she said, explaining that the motor skills are the same. "You have to look at things differently."

She said people are more successful when she breaks the process down into specific steps, focusing on pieces they can handle.

In a drawing class last month, Ketteran was explaining to two students specific ways to make portraits look more realistic.

Eyes are in the center of the face, she explained, pointing to a diagram. The irises line up with the corners of the mouth, and the bottoms of the ears fall between the nose and the mouth.

"I stress skill sets instead of projects where [students] do the same thing," said Ketteran, who allows people with varying levels of experience to take classes together. "They can take [a skill] and run with it," she said.

Andra Held of Ellicott City said the most recent drawing class helped improve her mural-painting skills. She has a faux finishing and decorative painting business, called Faux Creations by Andra.

"Now I kind of look at things differently," she said.

Held met Ketteran through the Chesapeake Bay Stencilers and started taking classes with her in Towson. She plans to teach a faux finishing class at Ketteran's new studio soon.

Ketteran said she is eager to make her studio accessible and comfortable for all types of artists.

"I just want people to do art and have art be part of their lives," she said.

Information on Ketteran Studio: 410-772-1221 or www.ketteranstudios.com.

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