Five Things to Enjoy on the East Austin Studio Tour

From trees to tour buses, the highlights of weekend two of the celebration of tactile creativity

Juliet Whitsett for TreeGarden (Courtesy of the artist)

The Austin Studio Tour, presented by Big Medium, is a combination of the pre-pandemic West Austin Studio Tour and East Austin Studio Tour, formerly separate and now joined into one citywide event in November.

It's a free, self-guided celebration of visual art that features more than 530 Austin-based artists and collaboratives, with the tour boundaries expanded to include all 10 City Council districts for in-person participants, plus a 15-mile radius from the Capitol for virtual enjoyment.

Last weekend highlighted the West side of Austin; this second weekend (Sat.-Sun., Nov. 13-14, noon-6pm) covers the West and the East; and the final weekend (Sat.-Sun., Nov. 20-21, non-6pm) will wrap up with just the East. (Pick up a free studio tour map at any Austin Public Library branch, while supplies last; Big Medium members earn a copy of the Austin Studio Tour Art Book.)

And now here are five recommendations to jumpstart your explorations.

Jennifer Balkan

This prodigious paint pusher named Balkan (one of the founders of the Atelier Dojo school of art, btw) displays her new figurative explorations of oils and brushes and pens, in which she's done things with line and color that, as if via quantum miracle, have interacted to render stunningly lifelike portraits, capturing the spirit and image of human models and friends and strangers. This woman knows how colors work – to such an extent you'll suspect that color itself, the entire goddamn spectrum of visible light, is her personal lackey. Some painters practice and study relentlessly, getting better and better and better; Balkan does that, to near perfection; and now she's also trying new gambits of expression, breaking fresh graphic ground, achieving a distinctly rewarding representational glory. (Unrelated, but srsly: Ask her about the unicycle.) AST #482, 3109 Lafayette,

Robert Melton

Sure, we were delighted by this creative polymath's recent series of colorful visual abstractions; yes, we enjoyed the songs he released that sound like something we'd groove to in a posh club; and we can't wait to encounter what his mind and cameras will visit upon the tropes of modern cinema. But right now we're kind of like hallelujah to see that this Melton has returned to his meticulous, painstaking, and oversized graphite renditions of ordinary objects – mark by dot by scrape by blend, nigh on obsessively – and that these newest works will be among the beauties highlighted in the man's studio for this tour. AST #494, 1514 Broadmoor,

We Speak For the Trees

Because the Lorax can't do it alone, right? In Austin, there's a whole community helping however they can: TreeGarden. Each piece of the We Speak for the Trees collection is hand-painted on a slab of the majestic sycamore that graced the Masonry/TreeGarden office for years. More than 40 local creatives have worked to repurpose that ligneous miracle as unique works of art, resulting in a multipartite collaboration that will be sold to benefit Forests for Monarchs, a forest restoration and monarch butterfly protection program. Bonus: There'll be a party at Treegarden on Saturday (Nov. 13), with live music, food, drinks, and – well, naturally – a plethora of art on display in that outdoor space. AST #271, 638 Tillery,

Dimension Gallery

Right across the street from the community-welcoming sculpture park they instigated, here's Dimension Gallery spotlighting the main man behind their program of wrought-object celebration: Colin McIntyre. You want to see what someone well-versed in studies of the natural, nonhuman world and the rough intricacies of forging metal will do when those two realms are combined, with fierce intent, to the benefit of both? Yes, you do – which is why this exhibition of smaller "Select Works" from the busy studio of the artist who brought us The Resonant Lung and Shrine of Inevitable Forces will ground you solidly in a realm of material yet graceful wonders. AST #360, 979 Springdale #160,

Almost Real Things: Artbus

Sometimes, when prowling the wide-ranging art scene, you'd just rather ride around town in a decked-out bus, sipping drinks (unlimited alcohol, sparkling water, and juices) and listening to good tunes with a bunch of fellow citizens, right? While the affable celebrants of creativity at Almost Real Things handle both the studio choices and the driving, say? Well, cool – because we know you'll be in good hands with this fun-forward crew, who again offer their big-wheeled-and-gregarious service (at $35) for the AST's second weekend.

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Five Things ..., Jennifer Balkan, Robert Melton, We Speak for the Trees, Dimension Gallery, Artbus

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