22 Questions with Tom and Julie Merwin
1. Name: Tom and Julie Merwin
2. Age: 69 and 70
3. Hometown: Castleton, Vt.
4. How would you describe yourself in three words? Tom: Lost, searching and amazed. Julie: Writer, author, illustrator
5. What’s something not a lot of people know about you? Tom: I’m comfortable being lost while painting a landscape. Julie: We met on the night shift at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
6. How do you start your day? Tom: Meditation, contemplation and exercise. Julie: Coffee! Then I feed birds, a couple of feral cats, our pets, our family, then I write.
7. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life? Tom: Questioning existence. Julie: Navigated a small boat through a Canadian lake during a tornado.
8. What’s your favorite food? Tom: Potato pancakes. Julie: anything Italian.
9. Do you have a day job? Merwin gallery in Castleton features Tom’s work and I publish my own books and other authors as MacGregor House Publishing.
10. What medium do you work in? Tom: oils. Julie: fiction
11. Why this medium? Tom: Because of its speed and ability to layer, I can distress it, wear it down, evolve a piece as the strata shifts. Julie: My series The Tales of Earden led me into a complete world, with literally more than a hundred characters over the course of five novels, often with surprising, unexpected turns in the road. I like people and I’m okay with reality but I’m really happiest in the world of make-believe.
12. What inspired you / how did it start? Tom: My grandfather was a painter and art restorer also a collector so paintings and paints were a common part of my life. Julie: Both my parents were voracious readers. My Dad took me to every library in Rochester, N.Y. where I grew up. Walking into a new library and walking out with a pile of books for free! I never got over the excitement, must have spilled over into writing.
13. Do you have a process for creating? Tom: I often initiate a spacial approach which is abandoned after the first stroke but still rides internally throughout the experience of the pieceThere’s always surprises along the way. Julie: I’m a ‘pantser’ when I write the first draft, I let it fly, get it all down. I’m not a ‘plotter’ ( some writers use graphs and cards). C.S.Lewis said he felt like he was just a vessel through which what needed to be said was told. I feel that way to. Although my current project, a YA fantasy set in Ontario, Canada is based on a childhood experience.
14. When are you the most inspired / what’s your favorite time of day to work? Tom: (can work anytime, day or night and frequently does). Julie: morning … after coffee!
15. Which artists inspire you? Tom: Chinese — Tou Chi, Shu Ta, Japanese — Taiga, Buson, European — Miro, Van Gogh, Goya and Persian miniatures American — Innes, Sargeant, Burchfield. Julie: World-builders. Tolkien, Gaiman, Penny, Pritchet, Dickens, DuMaurier and an old favorite of my Dad’s, Thomas B. Costain.
16. What do you listen to when you work? Tom: Classical, Ravi Shankar, Dave Brubeck, Gypsy Kings. Julie: No music and I don’t hear anybody or anything, as my husband will attest.
17. What are your thoughts on being an artist in Rutland? Tom: This is an area surrounded, immersed in nature and it has a diverse and active artistic community. Julie: I’m amazed at the community of creatives in the hills and valleys of Rutland, their support for each other and Rutland.
18. What’s your earliest memory of making art in Rutland? Tom: Started painting as soon as we moved up here. Julie: Being part of Vermont Arts Council’s Open Studio Weekend, 22 years ago.
19. Why do you think artists are attracted to Rutland? Tom: The people, nature, affordability of work space. Julie: Especially in the last couple of years, the dedication, ingenuity of arts, city and business leaders has embellished Rutland street art and sculpture, mural projects, opportunities for shows blooming everywhere!
20. Which arts organizations in town are you involved with and how has it impacted you? Tom: 77 Arts, Chaffee, SVAC, Stone Valley Arts. Julie: The Castleton Writers Group, 77 Arts
21. What’s your favorite art exhibit/project you’ve seen in Rutland? Tom: The 77 Arts “Gero-Trancendence” exhibit that Bill Ramage organized showcasing mature artists and the recent Mural project at Roots restaurant. Julie: Yes, “Gero” was just the most incredible celebration! Also I look forward to meeting (after Covid) and making lunch for young artists from all over the world when 77 Art’s Artists Residency re-starts.
22. What would you like to see for the future of the arts in Rutland? Tom: I’ve been painting with a group of great painters who are considered mentally ill and find labels like these un-necessary and restrictive. For several years I have put together programs, exhibits and gallery shows all over Vermont with the help of Vt. Psychiatric Survivors and plan to expand this movement. Julie: I look forward to being able to read and listen to other writers, authors and poets once more at Phoenix Books and the other open readings around Rutland.
Click to view all the “22 Questions With” artists.