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2011 Open Studios Tour: Where creativity dwells

Morro Bay artist Larry Knapp, a first-time Open Studios Art Tour participant, stands among his paintings in his orange-floored garage studio.
Morro Bay artist Larry Knapp, a first-time Open Studios Art Tour participant, stands among his paintings in his orange-floored garage studio. The Tribune

Whenever artist David Settino Scott feels “spiritually deflated,” he has only to glance at the sentence penciled on the wall next to his workspace.

“Work as if you had all the time in the world and that you would die tomorrow,” the inscription reads.

Scott’s spacious San Miguel studio will be open to the public during this month’s Open Studios Art Tour, sponsored by Arts Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council.

Artists based in San Luis Obispo and the South County will show off their workspaces Oct. 15 and 16, while North County artists will open their doors Oct. 22 and 23. Some local artists are also participating in an encore weekend, Oct. 29 and 30 throughout the county.

Here are three participating artists whose studios exhibit a deeply personal touch.

DAVID SETTINO SCOTT

1245 Mission St., San Miguel

After moving out of the Morro Bay barn he’d been using as a studio in 1992, David Settino Scott started searching for a new work space.

He settled on San Miguel as “the cheapest place to build.”

It took him six months to design and construct a 2,500-square-foot studio, complete with a small loft for sleeping and showering.

Lit by a series of skylights, the long, narrow space boasts vaulted ceilings, wide white walls and a polished, painted concrete floor. Evidence of Scott’s decades-spanning career as apainter, sculptor and political provocateur is everywhere.

A series of self portraits lines one wall. On another, Scott has mounted the colorful cardboard heads of imaginary gods such as Baeb the blue ox and Zigmun the bearded antelope, part of a series exploring mythology.

Two motorcycles and a faded pink couch share space with a trio of busts depicting Buddhist monks who purposely set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War. Scott counts the sculptures, constructed of wood, wire, plaster and encaustic wax, among his strongest.

Other works on display in Scott’s studio include oil paintings inspired by 18th-century anatomical displays, and a model of a slave ship populated by about 250 carved figures.

“My work has to have context,” said Scott, a former special effects expert who worked on “Star Wars” and “Caddyshack.” “That’s the most important thing to me.”

BEN TROGDON

612 Sandydale Drive, Nipomo

As Nipomo artist Ben Trogdon can attest, wine and art go hand in hand.

His studio is housed in a 21,500-gallon redwood barrel once used to age red wine at a Hollister winery.

Trogdon and his wife, Robin, bought the giant barrel in pieces about a year after moving to Nipomo in 1979. It took them a couple tries to assemble the staves, which measure 3 inches thick, 6 inches wide and 21 feet long.

“It was like a giant pick-up sticks game,” recalled Trogdon, noting that a strong wine smell wafted from the boards for months. Crystals still cling to their rough surfaces.

Although the barrel originally served as a guest house, it now holds a potter’s wheel, an electric kiln, glazes, brushes and other tools.

It’s here that the artist crafts his colorful plates, bowls and pots, as well as fused glass masks that he jokingly describes as “hideous.”

His deck is lined with plant containers patterned after tree bark, spiny thorns and parched creek beds. The owner of Pacific Sun Growers, a wholesale tropical plant business based in Nipomo, Trogdon said he tries to design pots that complement the shape of each succulent.

“People really like seeing the studio,” said Trogdon, whose mother, Arroyo Grande painter Lorri Trogdon, is also part of this year’s Open Studios Art Tour. “It’s pretty neat to have someone come back here.”

LARRY KNAPP

2830 Cedar Ave., Morro Bay

When painter Larry Knapp established his Morro Bay studio three years ago, he had only one requirement: a colorful floor.

“There was no thinking about it,” he recalled. “I just knew it had to be orange.”

“Ginger orange” is the official name for the glossy paint-epoxy mixture that coats the floor of Knapp’s work space. After all, his favorite colors are orange and purple.

A Southern California native, Knapp studied painting and graphic design at Cal State Fullerton before moving to Houston in 1974. Still, he and his partner, Jerry, longed to live on the West Coast.

“Morro Bay happened to be the most affordable property with a beach view,” Knapp said, describing the region as “Santa Barbara without the attitude.”

Since moving to the Central Coast, Knapp has dedicated much of his time to renovation: house painting, landscaping and converting the home’s two-and-a-half-car garage to a working studio. There, he creates large, vivid images of flowers and animals — including ducks, pelicans, penguins and even a manatee — that blend photorealism with intense colors and abstract brushstrokes.

Knapp’s creativity spills outside the studio as well.

While a street-facing yard features low-moisture plants such as dwarf bottlebrushes, lavender and an olive tree, an enclosed courtyard boasts ferns, palms and lush green groundcover surrounding a splashing fountain. Knapp’s inspiration was Palm Springs.

“I didn’t want to feel like I was in a garage painting,” he said.

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