Chickadees flit through the chicory as wrens weave through rugosa, and monarchs quake the milkweed with each tremor of their small wings. But this isn’t where the wild things are — rather, it’s Periwinkle Studio in the Arts District of Oak Bluffs.
Judy Drew Schubert, the owner, opened her gallery to the public three weeks ago, giving these creatures the gift of flight and of widespread appreciation.
She makes each of the oil pastels herself, spending months working on studies of the birds and butterflies, as well as the flowers and branches in which they sit. Each is designed as a pattern in repeat, which allows each piece, if digitized, to morph into any shape or size, even to become wallpaper.
“I’ve always loved things in repeat, and it always feels like a collaboration between me and the collective unconscious. I tap into something larger than myself,” Ms. Schubert says. “If you pay attention, you get an idea. Then you follow that thread and sometimes it just works.”
To be sure, Ms. Schubert doesn’t design for the trend, although it’s difficult to imagine the complementary colors of her oil pastel pairings going out of style. “I never wanted to design for the market,” she says, “I do what inspires me. I just really love crows, and it was about color.”
In addition to color, it also becomes a way to pay tribute to the world around her: “I pay attention to the natural world. I always try to be more of a naturalist than I am. I have tons of books on my shelf of plant identification. I like to look at a plant or a tree, and maybe take a leaf, but mostly I leave it where it is.”
Ms. Schubert’s interest mostly confines itself to the wild world, rather than the scenes of domesticated gardens. “I like wild things more than garden things,” she says. “I have little gardens, but I would rather put wild things in art.”
But natural realism isn’t high on Ms. Schubert’s list of how to compose a successful work of art: “I love rugosas, and I wanted to put the wrens with them. Do wrens sit in rugosas? Probably not because the branches are thorny, but it looked pretty!”
Ms. Schubert used to sell hand-printed clothing that she had made out of the gallery, but she closed down that operation five years ago to begin this new project. However, she hasn’t abandoned fabric entirely. Earlier this year, Ms. Schubert designed some woodcut prints, which she sent to India with some friends to be made into textiles.
The results are beautiful, and many of the same creatures which appear in her oil pastels subtly resurface in the textiles: The wrens have flown back, and the monarchs seem to wait for a gust of wind to blow them away.
She hopes to travel to India with her friends this winter and connect with the people who have turned her dreams into a woven reality. “I feel really good about giving them some work, and I’m really hoping that they’ll be able to keep doing it,” Ms. Shubert says. “I really like the idea of working with someone who wants to work.”
Although she nurtures a lifelong love for Indian textiles and design, Ms. Schubert’s true love is the Vineyard, where she has lived for more than half of her life. In addition to being an artist, she also works at Chilmark Chocolates, though she has taken a break this summer to get her gallery up and running.
“Being an artist is solitary, and I love that, but I have the best of both worlds because I get to work with other people, and I like that mix. Chilmark Chocolates has some really wonderful people, and I never get sick of chocolate,” she says with a laugh.
And that wonderful community atmosphere she finds in Chilmark is replicated at her down-Island outpost: “People that come here every year are really supportive, and they really love to find the Vineyard artists, and get things and bring them home. People who live here are just as happy to be a part of the art that happens here.”
She has seen that in the three weeks since she had reopened her gallery. “I sold eight paintings in two weeks, and even more people are around now. But,” she adds, “it doesn’t take lots of people, it just takes the right people.”
Periwinkle Studio is located at 92 Dukes County avenue in Oak Bluffs. Opening hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.