During the past year, Ken Carbone has spent much of his time in his studio, a 300-square-foot space located in The Bell-Ans Art Center in Orangeburg, New York. A 100-year-old factory now converted into artists’ studios, Carbone calls it his sanctuary and says that it is designed for maximum productivity, where almost everything needed is within reach. Carbone recently invited Design Arts Daily on a tour of his space and shared some of his recent work, his views on the creative life and what he has learned during the pandemic.


Throughout his career, Carbone has worked with clients across a range of industries, including Morgan Stanley, MoMA, High Museum, Hartford Stage and Woodruff Arts Center. Some of his accomplishments include designing the signage and wayfinding systems for the Louvre, a brand identity system for Sesame Workshop, an international display system for Tiffany & Co and a global prototype environment for HMV Record Stores. As Senior Advisor to 50,000feet, Carbone continues to teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and to write and speak on the importance of design. 


Read the full article below, and visit Design Arts Daily to view images from his tour.


Much like the rest of humanity, my sense of time being suspended during this pandemic has been both good and bad. Eighteen months ago, I was in Rome at the beginning of a three-month teaching assignment and art residency. On March 9, I fled Italy and arrived back in New York. My immediate quarantine for fourteen days was unsettling but revealing.


Compared to many who have suffered greatly since last winter, I feel relatively lucky. In 2019 I closed my design agency of 42 years. No one in my family was hospitalized from Covid 19. Although there were other unexpected troubles, none were compounded by the lockdown. The global pause has allowed for deep reflection, renewal and plenty of time for art. 


I have a home studio in Piermont, NY, and another at The Bell-Ans Art Center, a 100-year-old factory now converted into artists studios. Located in nearby Orangeburg, my modest 300-square-foot space is a sanctuary. Ive designed it for maximum productivity with almost everything I need within reach. When I arrive at Bell-Ans in the morning, Im often greeted by the resident farm animals grazing in the expansive field that serves as a sound buffer against the local traffic.


The bucolic setting is ideal for my current devotion to flora and fauna. In the past, Ive pursued various art themes; however, since 2017, Ive been drawing and painting trees, a subject that gives me great solace in these turbulent times. There is no forced narrative, irony, social or political statement in this work. Enough of that comes through in the twenty-four-hour news cycle.


Field trips in neighboring forests for sketching have had a therapeutic effect on me. This forest bathing engages all of my senses and is a welcome break from being indoors. My work is increasingly abstract but retains the vestiges of representation.


I never paint a specific tree but rather try to capture an essential treeness, the natural abstract elements, shapes, lines, and patterns of various arboreal species. Im also exploring new techniques that strengthen my painting and take me out of my comfort zone. Its all very inspiring.


Twenty-twenty will undoubtedly be remembered as a year of rediscovery. As a designer, Ive enjoyed the creative challenges offered through my long-time involvement in commercial art. But making fine art is something Ive done since childhood. My daily work sessions in the studio prove to be the best way to spend my time as we all wait for some return to “normal” in the future.