BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- While many artists refer to themselves as ‘starving’, local artists John Morette and Tim Prendergast call themselves spoiled.
Although they both live in Scotia, they’ve made the commute to their spacious studio to Niskayuna almost every day for the past four years.
“We’re really lucky to have this space,” Morette said.
The main room is capacious enough to comfortably fit two artists’ work, but they also have a lounge and a storage space.
Within the lounge room there is a microwave, a coffee maker, a shelf of art books and a couch or two.
“If either of us get caught sleeping here and working, we’ll jab the other one,” Prendergast said with a wink.
Working in the same space for the past four years in Niskayuna has given them able opportunity to understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.
Although the two mentor and encourage one another, Morette has more experience when it comes to painting and teaching.
Right after he graduated with his degree in art education, he went into the service.
“But even in the service, I taught some art classes whenever I could,” Morette said. After he left the service, he became an art teacher in Albany for several decades.
“Every once in awhile, I’ll see Tim over there hemming and hawing over a piece and I’ll tell him, ‘It looks fine the way it is- leave it alone!’” Morette laughed, some of his tendencies from his days of teaching still remain.
Although Morette specialized in sculpture during college, he found himself taking on more painting focused projects. Now he mostly works with watercolors, but he also does some small-scale metalwork and print making.
“I’ll try anything at this point,” Morette said.
A similar attitude was what led Prendergast to begin his painting career.
After graduating high school, Prendergast went to college to be an X-ray technician. But he soon grew restless in the field and went back to school at the Rochester Institute of Technology for photography.
Then he moved to Pittsburgh and opened up a commercial photography studio. During his 15 year career as a commercial photographer, Prendergast was always looking for the perfect scene, the perfect shot.
And that’s how he treats painting now.
“After I closed down the studio, I moved back up here with my wife Paula and we both started working at Ellis Hospital,” Prendergast said.
But he retired a six years ago and ever since he’s been working on painting.
“When you’re an artist, the desire to make something just spills over into everything else and you start looking at what other people are working on and you say, ‘oh, I could do that!’” Prendergast said of the switch from photography to painting.
He works mostly in oils and sketches, with a concentration in landscapes.
However, he’d like to work on incorporating more figures into his pieces. As he is mainly self-taught, Prendergast relies on his own research and his experiences behind the camera to guide him through painting.
While Prendergast and Morette come from separate artistic backgrounds, they share similar opinions of modern and abstract art.
“I have this idea about modern art and people who do it. If I can see some of your work and you can show me that you can control the brush as opposed to just being a lucky person with a splash of color or something then I come appreciate your work. But if all I see is a white canvas with a splash of green paint on it. . . what makes me mad is that they make a million dollars doing it” Morettee said.
“It sells now,” Prendergast sighed, “but art takes time.”
Their duo-studio setup also allows them to help one another during the dreaded ‘artist block’.
“There are so many great places around here to go and see art. My wife and I like to go to the Clark Museum but there are places closer by that are good too,” Prendergast said.
“Or sometimes, we’ll just take our cameras and go for a drive,” Morette said.
In order to stop the block they also have taken on a challenge along with two other local artists: Maureen Sausa and Deborah Angilletta.
“We’ve exchanged four photographs and we each have to paint an interpretation of the photograph. Then we’ll come together and critique each other’s work so there will be 16 pieces in total,” Morette.
Both artists’ work are on exhibit at the Niskayuna Train Station for the month of July.
They also plan on showing at the Art in the Park events in Saratoga.