Joan Applebaum – Artist, Educator

By: Audrey Levinson

JoanThere is plenty of room for artist, Joan Applebaum to teach her students the art of painting watercolor at Eye Studio in East Syracuse. Joan loves to teach, but she did not take the typical route. She attended college at SUNY Potsdam at first to become an art teacher. However, she decided along the way that this was not for her. So, she managed her life in a different direction, work and art became her focus. Fresh out of college, She was hired by Dey Bros, as a visual merchandiser (display, mannequins, windows.) Eventually, Joan married and moved to Camillus. That was twenty-seven years ago. Here, she created a studio that had open walls, so she could work and watch her three small children. It wasn’t easy she told me. During this time, she could accomplish many things and to create art in Syracuse. She told me that her favorite job was as the assistant director of art with the YMCA. She stayed in that position for ten years.

I asked Joan when she knew that her life’s path had to be creating art? She replied that when she was little, she was encouraged to be creative by her parents. Both her father and grandfather were artists, and therefore, it was natural for Joan too. Her parents set up a spot in the basement along with the spiders, so she could create her magic. She said that it seemed like her first studio. Little Joan was forever given art supplies for birthdays and other holidays.

Joan worked very hard as many women do to juggle her job, her kids schedules, her household duties and creating art. As one can imagine not as much artwork could be produced. She decided to work for the after-school programs for Syracuse City School District teaching art.

One day, while working at Van Duyn Elementary School, she recognized an old friend whom she knew from Roaster Cafe in Fayetteville, Ilene Layow. Ilene is the owner and one of the teachers at Eye Studio. Joan decided to take a class from Ilene in glass slumping. She showed me some of the beautiful glass pieces she created. The series of plates using blue and green glass were outstanding and gorgeous. Ilene asked Joan to teach painting at Eye Studio. Joan was thrilled and took the job where she is currently teaching. I asked Joan about her teaching style. How does she manage a room of people that could range from age 15 to 85 for example and with many different degrees of talent and experience? She indicated by showing me her grid system. Some artists use this easy method to keep the proper proportion when looking at a photo or picture of what they want to paint. She gives her students autonomy so that her students can go at their own pace in learning.

After the Rain

I asked her who her inspirations were. She began to answer the question in the regular way. I really like the Impressionists she said because I paint using strokes of my brush. Then she stopped and instead of telling me which Impressionist painters she loved the most she said, “I think there are a lot of very talented women around here and they all really inspire me.” I loved that answer and believe it to be quite true for me as well. Most of Joan’s work are landscapes in either watercolor or acrylic paint. She strives to create scenes from places that are beautiful, and there are many in Central NY. The scenes that she paints have an iconic feel for the people that buy them, and that’s her audience.

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Joan Applebaum Sittin

Just as a rock star has to play what his fans want to hear, an artist needs to know what her patrons want to see in her work to be successful. In 2007, Joan and her husband bought a camp in the Indian River Lakes area. She paints incredible iconic scenes from these places, as well as the Thousand Islands, Alexandria Bay, and even Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She has an innate and highly skilled eye for her subject matter and her materials. She said to me “you can’t paint a place until it gets under your skin.”

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You can see the work of Joan Applebaum at Eye Studio, East Syracuse, Cazenovia Counterpoint (7/9-23rd), Arts on Genesee (6/17-18), Sackets Harbor Arts Center, and Bay House Artisans, Alexandria Bay this summer.