Meet the Winners of Our 2010 Studio Makeover Contest


The results are in for our second annual Art Calendar Studio Makeover Contest, which ran from June 1 to July 31, 2010 and featured more than $17,000 in prizes. Once again, the editors and staff sifted through more than 1,200 entries, including “before photos” of current studio spaces and essays from the artists explaining why they should win. The key things we looked for this year were sincerity and promise; in other words, what could these artists really do with their prizes if they won? If you didn’t win this year, keep those points in mind when we announce our next Studio Makeover Contest!

Grand Prize Winner
Tony Hong (
Lomita, CA – $12,500 in art supplies

Self-taught artist Tony Hong did his homework before he entered our contest this year. A high school art teacher, with a degree in psychology, Tony looked up the video of our 2009 winner, Mel Keiser, an artist and graduate student engaged to Matt Martin, another artist and graduate student, whom Mel wanted to surprise by winning the contest. Tony thought, what a great story, how can I compete with that? He figured he needed a sales pitch, and decided that the best route for him was just to be sincere.

His studio was half of a screenprinting company’s lobby, a space which he was able to get through a friend of a friend. Previously the space was only used to accept packages and deliveries. When Tony decided to enter the contest, he jokingly said to the owner, “Hey, if I win this thing, you’ll give me the whole lobby, right?” “Sure,” the owner replied.

Tony wrote:

I work in half of the lobby of a screenprinting warehouse, and if I win, I was promised the entire lobby! With T-shirt boxes as storage and computer desks, I often use my stomach to angle my pieces when I work. I am a high school art teacher, but my summers have been keeping me busier than ever. My art career is beginning to outgrow my space, and I am hoping nothing like space and supplies will hold me back. Becoming the best artist I can be will only make me a better teacher. Thank You!

Sincerity was what we wanted to see. We knew if given the resources, Tony would continue to push in order to make a successful art career and make a positive impact on his students. Prior to winning the contest, Tony had already had several milestones in his career this year, including appearing in his first art magazine (Blue Canvas), landing his first solo exhibition for his unique ink works, and getting one of his works licensed for an iPod cover sold in Target stores nationwide. Amazingly, Tony developed his first Web site showing his work just two years ago, but his work ethic is one for the record books. He made a promise to himself that if he was truly going to be able to call himself an artist, he had to dedicate more time to his art than his teaching, which means long nights and weekends in the studio during the year and even longer summer hours.

“The past few summers, where I had my summers free, I worked 14- to 16-hour days. When I’d go home, I just wanted to get sleep over with and get started the next day on my art. Two summers ago, I finished one 18″ x 24″ work, and this summer I finished 25. I also finished a 4′ x 8′ piece, the largest I’d ever done. Working in education and having my summers off, what other job can you have two months off and come back and have my job? I’m humbled by those things coming into place, and I just want to make the most of it.”

When he received the initial call from our staff, he didn’t recognize the number and later checked his voice mail.

“It said, ‘Give us a call back,’ and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t remember there being a phone interview for the finalists.’ I thought, ‘Okay, what was third place?’ I was preparing myself for the worst. I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. At the shop, I told one of the guys what had happened, and he said, ‘You’ve got to call!’ He walked out to the parking lot with me while I called, and apparently all I kept saying was ‘Wow’ over and over again.”

Throughout the past few months, Tony has been receiving his supplies in the mail from our sponsors, and renovating the full lobby into a crisp, white and organized space. With part of his Blick certificate, he was able to purchase a Mayline Five-drawer Flat File Cabinet, an Alvin Workmaster Drafting Table and a Luxo LC Lamp. He also worked with the technical consultants of Golden Artist Colors to learn more about prepping, sealing his boards and making his work more archival, and is working with Ampersand on creating large, custom panels.

“I’m learning about things that I never thought I would be. This is opening me up to let my creativity and do whatever I want now. I didn’t want anything to hold me back. I found that this just satisfied that itch. Now I just want to run with it. That’s why I can keep working. For the longest time, I was working on the floor in my bedroom. The fact that I have the lobby now, this huge white studio space … I didn’t tell people that I worked in the lobby of a screen printing shop. Now I think it makes for a better story, and I think it’s a pretty nice lobby now.”

With two more shows already lined up for 2011 in Los Angeles and the beginnings of his national brand already in the works, Tony is armed with the tools he needs to feel confident and prepared for the next stage of his career. And we hope that winning the contest has a little something to do with that.

“The recurring theme is, there’s nothing I need to worry about now. There’s nothing that I’m compromising. Whatever comes to me creatively I can go for it. It’s humbling. It’s truly humbling to see what’s happened this summer. It’s humbling to know that there’s so much that’s been given to me. I just want to do the right thing to work hard and exhaust myself. The fact that I have studio space and the time. There’s no way I would have been able to do a show if I didn’t have those things. I’m pushing the limits of my ink in my work. Just as I try to push the limits of a pen, I want to exhaust myself and see how far I can go in my career.

“I never thought at age 33, two years since my first show, I’d be experiencing what I’ve experienced so far. I’d like to thank everyone at Art Calendar and all of the sponsors for the opportunity and for supporting artists in the way they have. Thank you’s also go out to my mom and friends who encouraged and supported me because art be a lonely thing. To have support from those who want you to continue when you think you shouldn’t is a blessing.”

For more work by Tony Hong, visit

Second Prize Winner
Jenny Reeves Johnson
Lander, WY – $3,000 in art supplies

Jenny Reeves Johnson said that when a friend finally convinced her to enter our Studio Makeover Contest, she sat down and thought, “The best way to write is just to spill out what you have and then tweak it ….” So she did.

Although she grew up near St. Louis, Jenny’s dream was to be an artist living and working in the Rocky Mountains. Years ago, after college, she found a teaching job in the arts on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, at the base of the Rockies. She met her husband there, and for a few decades, they moved around the western side of the country managing ranches together, with Jenny simultaneously making time to produce her art, especially her ceramics. While she loved this lifestyle, she longed to go back to the Rockies, the place she felt most at home. When her husband was offered a job back in Lander, Wyoming, near the Reservation, a few years ago, Jenny was thrilled. Ready to pursue her art more fully, as both a practitioner and teacher, she hoped to find a space where she could concentrate on her work.

This year, Jenny had the opportunity to rent a unique and affordable studio space above the Lander Bar and Gannett Grill downtown. The building was full of western character, and the owners, Geoff Rader and Jill Hunter, were finding creative solutions to restore the building, including offering the upstairs rooms as artist studios.

In her entry, Jenny wrote:

My 94-year-old mother just called — she is sending her energy to me for winning. With that deep endorsement, please consider me for the prize. I am high energy, and apparently I will be living a long time due to good genes. I’m a busy Art Teacher in a small Wyoming town — teaching classes in ceramics, drawing, life drawing, sculpture, puppetry, batik and “Plein Air” to name a few. Still, every breathing moment I dream of my own studio. Our “cafe” is offering their ancient upstairs (formally a brothel) to use as studios — sensibly priced. I have one … help!

We decided to answer Jenny’s cry for help with our second place prize. The prize helped Jenny find the motivation she needed to enlist friends and family and take on the studio renovation. They trashed or donated things that had been stored in the space for decades, refinished the brass fixtures, painted, and of course, filled it up with art supplies from our sponsors.

“I have moved in; I’m unpacking art supplies I haven’t seen in years, and some I’ve seen very often. I’ve been doing art throughout this relatively colorful lifestyle, but I’ve never had my private studio; I always worked in a co-op or my home. And I like to get away from my home to do my work because it lets me focus. So I now have a space.

“I have a new easel. The Rocky Mountains are an ideal place to do plein air, so most of my money from Dick Blick went into some really quality pastels; it’s like working with sticks of butter. I’m also going to get myself back into oil painting. And I’m keeping up with my ceramics; a lot of what I do involves drawing on the clay. I am deeply grateful for winning this prize. It couldn’t have been better timing, and I’m trying to take full advantage of my good fortune.”

To see a large piece of public art by Jenny Reeves Johnson, check out the Mt. Shasta Community Peace Mural project at

Third Prize Winner
Karen Tweedie (
Onancock, VA – $1,500 in art supplies

Virginia artist Karen Tweedie is, perhaps more than anything, a visionary. With a Master’s degree in Deaf Education, Karen taught at a school for the deaf for more than 20 years, creatively finding ways to allow the children to explore various types of fine arts techniques in their studies. She also pursued her own artwork during that time, primarily making jewelry, as well as producing a couple of children’s books, and often making her own clothes and furniture.

It is no surprise, then, that this innovator is someone who thinks outside the box when it comes to studio space. Although she had a small shed that she had repurposed into an efficient workspace for her jewelry-making, her techniques create a lot of shavings, dust and debris. The space was, by nature, too messy to use to display her work, teach classes, or even create sketches or any other kind of artwork. She needed something else. When she and her husband attended a local auction, Karen found a unique building that could serve as a potential dream studio.

In her entry, she wrote:

After 80 years, the Firemen’s Carnival closed. Buildings were to be demolished but I saw an opportunity to save a piece of local history and recycle it into an art studio. This rural area has developed into an artists’ community. As a juried member of the Artisans Guild, I needed a studio to teach in and participate in studio tours, which are a big tourism draw. So we put the Cotton Candy building on a truck and drove it home! With electricity, running water, hardwood floors (and the cotton candy “bubble”), this 10′ x 12′ space is a true recycle/repurpose project!

We wanted to see Karen make the most of this space as much as she did, so we awarded her third prize. Although she’d already begun making substantial progress, Karen was motivated to enlist Onancock Building Supply and a local contractor as local sponsors for her prize-winning project. Among their many contributions, they helped her install windows into the open areas of the cotton candy building, and widened the original interior service counter to create a wonderful 18″ deep counter space across the front 12′ wall, and around 3′ to either side. She and her husband also painted the space, refinished the 13′ vaulted ceiling, and power-washed, stained and sealed the lovely tongue-in-groove wooden floor.

Once completed, Karen, with the help of an artist friend and her prize certificates, filled the space with new floor cabinets, a taboret for managing and storing her photographs of her work, and new paints, some of which she’ll be giving to other working artist friends. She’ll also be updating her Web site with the design package from ArtSpan and will finally be able to teach classes and participate in the local artisan guild’s studio tour next spring. A friend of hers who does plein air painting will be teaching classes there as well.

“Life sometimes gets in the way of your good ideas,” says Karen. “Sometimes you need to just bump things up on your priority list, so winning this contest did that for me. Otherwise, I just imagine that the cotton candy building would just be sitting there.”

We applaud you, Karen, for wanting to share your winnings with other artists so that they too can enjoy the possibilities.

To see artwork by Karen Tweedie, visit AC

Special Thanks

Art Calendar would like to thank all of our generous affiliate sponsors who donated products and services for the 2010 Studio Makeover Contest. A special thank you goes out to our title sponsor, Blick Art Materials. All affiliate sponsors included:

  • Art Calendar
  • Blick Art Materials
  • Jack Richeson and Co.
  • Art Boards
  • Artful Color
  • Artograph
  • Master’s International
  • Gamblin Artists Colors
  • Faber-Castell
  • Ampersand Art Supply
  • Legion Paper
  • Pebeo
  • Bissell
  • Strathmore Artist Papers
  • Martin/F.Weber
  • Martin Universal Design
  • Digital Art Studio
  • Artspan
  • Daylight Company
  • Allworth Press
  • Golden Artist Colors
  • Dutch Boy
  • Chroma, Inc.
  • OOK Professional Picture Hangers
  • Canson
  • Grafix
  • Krylon
  • Festival Network Online
  • The Alliance of Professional Artists

An artist and writer, Kim Hall is the former Editor of Professional Artist. She holds a B.A. in Art from the University of Central Florida and an M.A. in Arts Administration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Kim can be reached at [email protected].