Creative Spaces: Artist James Prosek's Studio

Trout Illustrator Finds Sanctuary in a Renovated Schoolhouse

James Prosek, with trout in hand.

James Prosek, with trout in hand. Courtesy James Prosek hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy James Prosek
Prosek's renovated Wilson Street schoolhouse.

Prosek's renovated Wilson Street schoolhouse. Jeff Rogers, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Rogers, NPR

What John James Audubon did for birds, James Prosek is doing for trout in bestselling books such as The Complete Angler and Trout: An Illustrated History. His detailed and vivid watercolors capture the vibrancy of the fish.

Prosek has traveled the world in search of rare trout, but the 29-year-old settled two doors down from his boyhood home on a quiet country lane in Easton, Conn. He still fishes in the same pond he trolled as a child, and he paints in a building that he has been drawn to all his life. For Creative Spaces, an All Things Considered series that explores the studios, offices, hideaways and hamlets of artists, NPR's Michele Norris talks with Prosek about the one-room schoolhouse he renovated to inspire his work.

The schoolhouse, built in 1850, has been part of Prosek's life since a teacher interrupted class to let students watch it roll by on a truck as it was relocated across town to Prosek's street. When he came home that day and saw it, "I almost felt like a celebrity," he tells Norris.

In 1991, a house was built around the schoolhouse, and a few years later Prosek bought the property.

His Yankee farmhouse is a model of order, with a prized collection of antique farm and fishing tools placed as if in a museum. But his studio in the schoolhouse is a separate world — somewhere between a bachelor pad and a boyhood fort.

"It's my little room," he says. "All of my stuff is here and no one can get at me."

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The cozy, slightly rustic space is about the size of a two-car garage. It has a potbellied stove and sleeping loft beneath a pitched roof made from wide planks of chestnut wood. Six low-hung windows usher in an abundance of natural light.

"I want it to be a humble space," Prosek says. "Humility is a big part of it, it's part of being open and receptive to everything you see."

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