Co-op Bookstore

A couple weeks ago I was painting with my friend. It was on a Wednesday morning, of course. When we get together we talk about many things, but mostly about making art. I’ve probably learned more about painting from my friends then I ever did a college class (maybe because I skipped a couple of classes…OK, a lot). I asked my friend what she did about working over a dried painting. She recommended using retouch varnish spray. So I said, “Well, I’ll go down to the Co-op Bookstore and get a  can on the way home.”
“ Oh!” she said.  “Didn’t you know Co-op’s  going out of business?”

I was stunned!  Yet another of my “happy place” stores was shutting their doors.

Back when I first moved to Baton Rouge there were no national chain stores where one could buy art supplies. There were local stores such as Yarberry’s,  Baton Rouge Blueprint, and Co-op Bookstore. When I first started going to Co-op, it was on State Street by LSU, and it was like a candy store for artists. Nearly anything an artist could possibly need was on the shelves. As any artist can tell you, it’s important to feel the texture of paper and feel the snap of a brush, something you cannot do when ordering online. I often found treasures I didn’t know I needed.

The best thing about the store was the service. Billy, whose family started the Co-op in the 1930’s on the LSU campus, was extremely knowledgeable about everything in the art department.

Billy and me.
Billy and me.

He personally filled my school purchase orders and gave advice on my own art materials. When I purchased paper, a gentleman wrapped it in brown paper so it would not get damaged.

The State Street store was razed for an apartment complex some time ago, and while the new store was pristine, I have to say, the art department still had a bit of the character found in the old location.  Ordering of books and, yes, art supplies, online has taken a toll on Co-op. I went to shop a couple of times after learning the store was having “One ‘L’ of a Sale”  (that’s what was written on the entrance) with the guilty knowledge that my purchases at Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama were partly to blame for the closure.  IMG_1151The paper purchase I made was wrapped in brown paper. Billy and his core group of employees were there.

I purchased these brushes for my first workshop in the early 90's.
I purchased these brushes for my first workshop in the early 90’s.

And I will always have memories of touching my paper purchases and snapping my brushes.

Teaching Art. Again

For the past thirty-five years I have been an art educator. Twenty-five of those years were spent at the same school in the same classroom (a converted library—lots of storage!) teaching art to the masses. I had students early in my career and later I had their children. Some of them were far better artists than I was at their age. There were students whose sole purpose in life was to aggravate me (or so it seemed). I taught special needs children who sat next to the academically gifted. Many students were in my art class because there were few electives from which to choose. Hopefully they learned a little something about the arts and will remember the experience as a positive one. My guess is that I probably taught a thousand students during that time.

I occasionally run into former students who made careers in the arts. Sometimes I see students who tell me they still use the calligraphy skills learned in my class. Another student purchased a painting I made just because it was mine. When a former student who works in acrylic contacted me about learning to work in oil, I thought, “Finally! One of my students wants to do what I do!”

Working on a still life in my kitchen/studio.
Working on a still life in my kitchen/studio.

She was accomplished in acrylic but wanted to get out of her comfort zone. We began a simple still life and went from the initial drawing, getting values established, a period of “the uglies,” and on to completion. She was pleased with the results and very excited about shopping for new art supplies.

I was just thrilled that a former student felt she still could learn something from me!

Her first painting in oil. I was pleased with her work.
Her first painting in oil. I was pleased with her work.