Koplin Del Rio
May 21, 2020 8:40PM


Where are you spending this time? What do your days look like?

When I arrived home after a long teaching day of teaching life drawing at Madison College I found that my son Ian had arrived home from his film studies at Columbia College in Chicago as well as his twin sister Loran, home from the University of Wisconsin, where she is a psych major. Little did I realize that eight weeks later we would all still all be here at home. Luckily we live in a beautiful wooded area about 10 miles outside of Madison, Wisconsin in our home we designed and where I have my art studio as well as a large, well-equipped home gym. What a necessity right now! Our area is fairly secluded and so great areas to walk. A large deck surrounded by woods and wildlife to sit and enjoy the foliage popping out.

With the kids off at college for the last 2 1/2 years, we never thought we would have this kind of time together again. So even though the pandemic has turned our world upside down we have embraced having us all together.

I’ve always been very disciplined in my studio time so I still spend my days, around 8 to 3:30, in the studio. Ian is a bit frustrated because he was going to be filming a movie he wrote this summer for his independent study but that is now on hold. He is working hard on writing and getting all the logistics worked out from home. Loran is working on her classes online also. She is a prolific artist and is creating paintings and poetry in her free time (

So there is a lot of energy and creativity going on and we hardly see each other until the end of the day. My wife Denise owns a floral business in Madison which has closed its showroom and now is only taking online and call-in orders. They have kept almost the whole staff working and are really being careful with social distancing and wearing masks and gloves while at work. So far it’s going very well.

At the end of the afternoon we all hit the gym, go for a long walk or a drive in the country. Then make dinner and chill for the evening, sleep, repeat. A couple of the days my kids had to convince me that it wasn’t the day I thought it was. We haven’t been to a restaurant because we usually go out at least three times a week and it’s amazing how much money we are saving :-). A lot of what I’m talking about it’s just trying to turn lemons into lemonade.

I would say the biggest change for me right now has been that the college where I teach has gone online. I teach two sections of combined beginning and advanced life drawing. So I am spending a lot of time drawing all my demonstrations on video and have created a YouTube station that my students, really anybody, can watch. The response has been great and I’m really enjoying doing this! Another good thing about having the kids home is that they have been modeling for these. Clothed of course!

Putting my drawing demonstrations online is something I have wanted to do for many years and this is giving me the opportunity to push ahead with it. It took a bit of getting used to but I think I have the system down and each demo I feel a little more comfortable. Here is thelinkif you want to check it out.

Here are two finished drawings I did in the videos that my kids modeled for. Frontal portrait, profile portrait and a hair demo came out of these plus Denise will get drawings of her children that she has wanted me to do for a while. A win-win!

What work of art in your home means the most to you?

We have a large collection of painting drawings and prints. It’s a very personal collection because every piece is from an artist that is also a friend.

Our collection contains a few drawings of the kids I have drawn at different ages over the years and are very meaningful and capture at a time and place. They are a favorite of my wife which I gave to her as gifts. The two egg tempera paintings next to the large portrait by Brooklyn based artist Doug Safranek of our children are also very meaningful and important to us.

But there is one piece that is a particular favorite of mine. It is a large portrait done of me by a very close artist friend painted during my last year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin while working towards my MFA. It was painted by studio mate Marilyn Agnew. A wonderful artist and a beautiful human who passed way too young from early-onset Alzheimer’s. This painting was part of her MFA exhibition and we were also studio mates after graduate school. One year on my birthday it showed up in front of my studio door with a big red bow on it! What a great gift!

It’s not because it’s a portrait of me that carries such deep meaning, it is because it captures that special time in my life that changed me in so many ways and put me on the course to what I am now. Personally and artistically. The professors that had patience with me, taught me how to see and think about art as well as and the lifelong friends I made during graduate school.

But, the kicker for me is the T-shirt I am wearing! My dad was the executive director of the Madison YMCA and I spent, no exaggeration, at least five days a week at the Y from the time I can’t remember through undergraduate school. I also worked there as a counselor from ninth grade to college. That T-shirt represents and takes me back to memories of my dad, my brothers, some of my best friends, and many of my best experiences growing up. Heading up to the Y on the bus after school and driving home with my dad at dinner time seeing my mom and having great family dinners and sharing stories of what happened that day in all our lives. A happy longing when I look at that picture.

One more interesting fact about that painting. Marilyn’s MFA show was five years before I ever met my wife Denise. She happened to also attend the show because she was friends of Marilyn‘s daughter. (Marilyn has started graduate school in her early 40s after being married and having seven children.) That painting was the one that she clearly remembered and put the painting in me together on our first date. it has had a prominent space in our house since we have been married. Small world!

Now, the mustache, not so much!

Focus during this time of pandemic…

I’ve been able to keep a good focus in my studio time since we have been in isolation here at home. One thing I have had to do is really limit my news consumption. That can get me going and a little goes a long way.

Since graduate school I have always been able to make my studio space an oasis away from any negative influences from the outside. I’ve been able to compartmentalize when I am working at my drawing table. I wish that was the same when I was out of the studio :-)! With the ability to separate while I’m working I have always found it very therapeutic especially during times like this.

When I am working in the studio I’m either listening to classical music or we’re going to the library and checking out four or five books on CD at a time to listen to while I’m drawing. With the public library closed right now I have put the audiobook app on my phone that has all the classic books from the 19th and early 20th century. So I’ve been going back and listening to Jane Austen’s, just finishedJane Eyreas well as the wholeSherlock Holmesseries. I am now listening toLittle Dorritby Charles Dickens. It always surprises me how contemporary his writing is.

Below are two drawings I have just finished during my isolation here at home.

I am putting the final touches on this one: "Looking Out - Looking In", 10.5" x 8"

"Hadeel", 2020

Any books or recommended reading?

At the moment I have been reading novels by American/Irish suspense writer Tana French. I have also enjoyed a couple of Liane Moriarty’s books in the last few months.

With things so heavy in the news right now a great escape for me is reading any of Sophie Kinsella’s books. They are light and funny and put me in a good place!

Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with us? What is your favorite comfort food to make during this time? What is your guilty pleasure in the kitchen?

As far as cooking any favorite foods, well I guess we do that anyway. We have 10 - 15 go-to recipes and Denise’s grandparents are all from Greece so we have many great Greek recipes that she cooks often. She was raised in a household where they ate exclusively Greek food. Spanakopita the other night - Yum! Denise handles the Greek stuff and I cook most of the other dinners. A good thing about living in a four-season climate is the food changes with the weather.

The difference during this time is we are eating at home seven nights a week instead of four days a week. So we are searching out new online recipes. It’s amazing how many things you can do with a sweet potato. Our daughter Loran is constantly discovering the best chocolate chip cookie. Thank goodness for a gym!

Koplin Del Rio