Stutz artist creates 'Stu On This' during pandemic

Artist Stuart Alter (Photo provided)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - His studio at the Stutz building has a wall of windows and plenty of room to make a mess.

The walls are lined with various sizes of bright, vibrant canvases created by Stuart Alter.

"The thing that brought me to painting is color. I just love color," Alter said.

Alter said he loves the excitement people express when they first see his work.

"I love it because no matter whether people buy it or not, people walk into my studio and it just draws you in," he said.

And, Alter said, emotion often leads to a sale.

"At Stutz or Harrison [Center] or anywhere, art is a spontaneous purchase. People come to the open houses and First Fridays and look at a painting, and they just want it. They want it, and they want to own it, and they grab it, they take it home, and so those types of sales are not happening," Alter said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an essential or non-essential designation for businesses and workers. Art is designated non-essential. For artists to survive during Indiana's statewide stay-at-home order, change and ingenuity are necessary.

When it became clear Atler would have to move out of the studio, he decided to create a video blog of his business transformation.

In the first entry, he's standing in his studio, talking about moving out.

"It's depressing to be moving out and to work from home, but it's what I have to do," he said.

The next video shows his supplies displayed in a light-deprived basement at his downtown home.

"Very makeshift," Alter said.

Alter said he adapted a mindset of making do.

"It's kind of tragic, but it's better than nothing. Once in a while, I can get out into the backyard and do my painting. There's got to be no moisture, there can't be any wind, and it can't be too hot because I use acrylic paint and acrylic will dry, really, really fast in heat and sunlight. So, the conditions have to be just perfect for me to get out there," Alter said.

The last video posted depicts progress on a painting in the backyard.

"It's kind of fun to improvise," he said to the camera.

Improvise is what Alter is encouraging all of us to do, as well. Before painting full time, Alter worked as a technical director and consultant. The skill set required, he said, is 180 degrees away from his work now.

"The optimistic part of me, filled with hope, thinks that a lot of times in periods like this, people get really, really creative because they can't just [stick to the] status quo, doesn't work from a creativity perspective, right? What I've been doing no longer feels as relevant as it did two, three, four months ago, so now it's like 'okay, how do I want to express that?'" Alter said.

Alter sees his expression in his work, which is evolving into a new look, with geometric angles and paint splatter. He's named the series he's created during the pandemic "Dangling."

"I think I did that subconsciously because we have that right now, we are out of balance. We're not confident in our normal routines. It just kind of came out that way, and I'm running with it," Alter said.

Alter always has a piece in progress. Instead of selling through open houses, he plans to expand online marketing, which may include evolution of his video blog "Stu on this".

"For me, quite frankly, I'm also thinking about getting back into some creative writing to perhaps go hand-in-hand with my painting, or I think I'm going to put a blog on my website. We've got to be keeping ourselves going and motivated and challenged and having fun every day," Alter said.

Follow along as Alter continues to evolve.