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Doing Homework : Artists Find Studios in Familiar Surroundings Foster Creativity

January 12, 1991|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bill Docking is an artist who lives and works alone in his Fullerton home. However, unlike most traditional artists who create a studio on the inside , Docking's studio is outside, under a maple tree, or perhaps, if the mood hits him, under the oak. Or maybe it's a day to be beside the conifers in the front yard.

Then again, he could just as easily be found in his garage, working late into the night on his lathe or jigsaw. Docking, 47, has built a reputation as a craftsman of fine and sometimes unusual furniture. The Fullerton resident has had his work on display at the city's Eileen Kremen Gallery, as well as at the Brea Cultural Center.

His garage, which resembles a machine shop more than an artist's studio, is where the work begins. He cuts the pieces he needs from his stockpile of wood on the patio, then does the chiseling and finishing under one of the trees, spending up to 200 hours on a single piece.

"It's a great advantage over working indoors," Docking says. "I can spread out my work and I'm not in a closed space where I'd breathe sawdust and fumes."

To finish his work, he uses a set of unusual rasps on his work. The rasps, sharp curved files that look like nightmares off of a dentist's tray, create the shapes and curves that have attracted attention to his work.

The collection of wood that sits on the patio waiting to be turned into a table or desk would make a termite's smorgasbord. There's zebrawood from South America, walnut from Northern California, rosewood from Central America and mesquite from Mexico, among others. While Dockering holds some of the wood until he finds the right project, a majority of it goes through the drying stage.

"Before working with it, the wood has to be fully dried or else it may shrink after the piece is completed," he says. "That takes about a year for each inch of the wood's thickness."

His chairs and tables have sleek, curving lines that Docking designed after studying ancient Egyptian furniture. "I liked the way their work was so different from anything you normally see today," Docking says. A one-time horseshoe blacksmith, be began his woodworking career building cabinets and conventional tables and chairs.

After toying with various designs, he decided to try building some whimsical furniture. The result were tables with animal-shaped legs he called "Bull and More Bull." He also designed what he calls "L.A. Mirror," a wooden mirror frame with dark images of palm trees and waves showing his cynical view of Southern California. He enjoys the work he does now. "It's a lot easier than shoeing horses and safer, too."

Painter Scott Moore worked out of the bedroom of his Bluebird Canyon home in Laguna Beach until 1983, when he and his brother finished a 950-square-foot addition that included a studio, gallery and storeroom for his work. "I was painting on larger and larger canvases and needed a room where I could move them around," Moore says.

His work has earned a national reputation, and his watercolors can be seen at the Laguna Art Museum and the city's annual Festival of the Arts. One of his paintings was even turned into a living tableau at the festival's Pageant of the Masters.

His watercolors show realistic scenes of people doing everyday things: Newport's dory fishermen cleaning their catch after a long day or a shoeshine boy at work in Mexicali. However, for the past few years he has tried more whimsical pieces, such as a man in a boat floating in a teacup and painting a massive carton of Morton Salt that he calls "Two Ol' Salts."

"It's an attitude of having fun while I work," says Moore, 41. "And it's given new life to my work."

His downstairs studio is reached from the living room. The large windows give Moore a commanding view of Bluebird Canyon, but also present a problem with light. "When building the studio, because it was a lower story, I thought I was going to have a problem with it being too dark. I worked it out so that in the actual painting area, two of the walls were made up of French doors and windows to allow as much light in as possible."

Moore believed that even with the design change, he was going to have to suffer with a dark studio. However, after it was finished he discovered a different problem--too much light. "It turns out that the light isn't only real strong, it bounces off the outside deck to make it extremely bright inside the studio."

To help diffuse the light, Moore installed shades at each window and door. "Now I can adjust the incoming light as the day goes on, which allows me to work at any time."

Next to the studio is the gallery, a small space where he shows work to potential customers and beside that is a small storeroom/office. While the living area for Moore, his wife Carol Ann, and children Brady, 12, and Haley, 7, is upstairs, he keeps a table in his painting area for the children to experiment and paint.

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