Artist exhibits at home studio

For Caymanian artist Charles Long, home is where the art is. He recently held an art exhibit and sale in his home studio, the fourth he has hosted there.

Mr. Long, whose works are also on display at the Kennedy Gallery and in the Marriott Beach Resort, sees the primary advantage of hosting a show in his own home is the number of works he gets to exhibit.

‘You get to see more art because all my paintings are in the studio,’ he explained. ‘If I have an exhibition elsewhere I can usually only take about 10 to 15 works. I have more than 30 works here.’

Another benefit, however, is having people know where he is located, so they can visit him and his artwork in the future. Mr. Long lives in a blue house on West Lane, off Pedro Castle Road in Savannah, next door to his father, the first governor of the Cayman Islands, Athel Long.

His first home in Cayman was, of course, Government House, as he came to Cayman in 1969 when he was 20 to join his parents. His father was working as what was then called the administrator of the government (in 1971 his title changed to governor).

Since then, Mr. Long lived in West Bay and George Town before making the move out east. His studio sits next door to his house and cannot be missed. Painted a cheerful blue, reminiscent of the myriad blues that Mr. Long uses in many of his paintings, the studio, which he built himself, has an interesting shape.

‘It’s an octagon,’ said Mr. Long. ‘I wouldn’t have chosen an octagon now but I started off as an octagon because I liked the shape. It’s a little tricky, though.’

This is in fact his second studio. He built this one around his first, in order to enlarge the space he had to work in and exhibit. His experience in construction reveals itself in a few of his works which depict building sites.

‘I’ve done quite a bit of building and so I am familiar with the cement mixer and the water barrels and the blocks and sand and so forth,’ Mr. Long explained.

It was when he moved to Cayman in 1969 that Mr. Long began painting professionally. In his 40-year painting career, Mr. Long estimates his output as more than 1,000 paintings.

‘I produce around 35 to 40 paintings a year, though it has slowed down lately,’ he said, adding that he also does commissioned works from time to time.

When asked if he paints using long, thin figures, trees and other features because of his name, Mr. Long chuckled. ‘No, that must be a characteristic of me – the figures are a little bit like me; in the old days I was considered tall and long, not so much now,’ he said. ‘I find it difficult to do fat people; I suppose it’s because of my English politeness.’

The quality of his work is evident in a number of aspects, in particular his use of colour. In painting people, he portrays a wide variety of skin tones, reflecting the multicultural nature of Cayman, and does not include too much detail in their faces, adding an everyman appeal to his figures that allows any admirer to put themselves into the painting.

‘I work from photographs sometimes, I have a lot of photographs I have taken,’ Mr. Long said, referring to some of his more detailed works. ‘I have a digital camera and I print out shots and then get them laminated so that when I paint from them they don’t get damaged. I give the paintings the details from the photos. Other paintings are more from my mind.’

Focusing primarily on sea scenes, boat scenes and other local subjects, Mr. Long’s paintings can be seen as a historical record of Cayman and its changing faces. He keeps scrapbooks with photos of his paintings, including works of Miss Lassie’s house before she painted it, and the downtown waterfront before it was as busy as it is today.

One of the founding members of the Visual Arts Society, Mr. Long is still a member today. He invited members of that arts group and the National Gallery out to visit his studio last Thursday evening. He sold six paintings, and many now know where to go if they want more.

Granted an artistic achievement award from the Cayman National Cultural Foundation in 2000, and featured in a retrospective at the National Gallery in 2002, Mr. Long now works full time out of his home studio, heading to his house’s veranda to enjoy the cool Caribbean breeze when he needs a break.

His artwork is featured online at picasaweb.google.com/clong48, and he can be reached at 917-5741.

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