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Friday, 26 August 2016 10:28

Whitewater company's cow paintings are one of a kind

Written by  Dennis Hines
Studio 84 artist Jamie Scharf contemplates his next brushstrokes in the Whitewater studio. Studio 84, which serves artists with disabilities, was commissioned recently to have its artists create 13 paintings for The Coburn Co., a Whitewater manufacturer of milking equipment and other agricultural supplies. Studio 84 artist Jamie Scharf contemplates his next brushstrokes in the Whitewater studio. Studio 84, which serves artists with disabilities, was commissioned recently to have its artists create 13 paintings for The Coburn Co., a Whitewater manufacturer of milking equipment and other agricultural supplies. Terry Mayer

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The Coburn Company’s new location has some mooving and udderly quality artwork hanging on its walls, thanks to some talented local artists.

The company, which manufactures milking equipment and agricultural supplies, recently commissioned Studio 84 students to produce cow artwork to be featured in a hallway gallery. Thayer Coburn, co-owner, said they commissioned the students to submit artwork because of their support for Studio 84, which offers art programs for people with disabilities.

“We’ve been supportive of their mission for a while,” Coburn said. “We wanted some artwork for our new building, and they said they could provide us with some paintings of cows.”

The company, which has been in Whitewater for more than 90 years, moved to a new location on Universal Boulevard this spring.

Deborah Blackwell, Studio 84’s executive director, said the project gives her students an opportunity to have their work displayed in public.

“It was an absolute honor to be asked. To have the community come to us and say, ‘We know you’ve got some great artists here. We want some artwork,’ is an honor,” Blackwell said. “It’s been a really supportive way for the community to get involved in having real artwork in their offices.

“It’s very self-esteem building for the artists to have their artwork recognized that way, and they’re feeling very honored to be selected.”

The studio provided 13 paintings to the company.

“I went down to their office, and they showed me the walls, so we determined their vision and collaborated on it,” Blackwell said. “At first, we decided to do 12 paintings. Each painting is 2 feet by 2 feet. When we started hanging them, we realized we needed one more, so we did 13, lucky number 13.”

Students developed their own designs for their paintings and some used photographs of cows as inspiration.

“We encouraged the students to come up with crazy, wild colors to really push their boundaries and to just not copy what they saw in the photo,” Blackwell said. “The photograph was just an inspiration to look at forms. Getting the form right is the hardest part once they figure out how to get that basic shape on the canvass. The painting just comes naturally to them.”

Jamie Scharf, a Studio 84 student, said he enjoyed working on the cow paintings because it gave him an opportunity to be creative and showcase his work.

“I just sit down and paint the cows. I look at the pictures and paint the cows,” Scharf said. “They want me to sit down and work independently.”

Coburn said he is impressed with the paintings that were submitted to the company.

“The artwork is phenomenal. Each one is different,” Coburn said. “Some are full-body shots. Some are headshots. Some are done in different colors. They’re all oil paintings. They’re all done really well. It’s a neat variety of work.”

Blackwell said the studio recently was commissioned to do some artwork for the Whitewater City Market, producing drawings for recipe cards.

“We’re kind of being commissioned again to do some more artwork,” Blackwell said. “I’m excited to see (the students’ work) in print.”

The students also will work on artwork for notecards, calendars and holiday cards and greeting cards that could be sold to businesses, Blackwell said.

“We’re working on more images and putting that whole packet together,” Blackwell said. “We’ve got an intern coming in in September and we’re going to put her in charge of that, so she will be able to go out with the artists to the companies, help them make the presentation and sell it as a package.”

The students’ artwork is available for purchase at the studio’s gallery and during the city market twice a month.

“The hardest part of being an artist is selling your work. It’s something that even professional artists struggle with,” Blackwell said. “You have to start selling it and figuring out how it’s going to work, so we help them out with that aspect.”

Blackwell said she hopes the studio gets commissioned to do more work in the future.

“I think we need more artwork in our offices,” Blackwell said. “So many times people will buy stuff online or it’s a print. To have real artwork that’s not printed or mass produced is an awesome thing to have in your office. We definitely need more art on the walls. You could never get enough.”

About 30 students currently are enrolled in Studio 84’s programs. Blackwell said students may attend the program from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

“We had a big influx of students this summer that had signed up and started taking classes,” Blackwell said. “We have them scheduled so we know when to expect them. It’s not a drop-in service.

“We get some personalities that don’t work well together. Some people are sensitive to sounds, so we don’t want them to be around noise makers. We usually get a feel for the students once they get here, so we put them in a setting that they’re comfortable in.”

Painting is a favorite among many students, she said.

“They take to the paintings a lot,” Blackwell said. “We have artists who have done sculptures and other things, but painting is their favorite thing to do.”

Scharf said he usually visits the studio about three times a week. Working on art projects helps him relax.

“Sometimes I get a little frustrated with painting then, I have to take a break from it,” Scharf said. “Painting helps me work through my frustrations.”

For more information about Studio 84, go to



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