Before 1986, respected Omaha artist Allan Tubach did his painting in the basement of his Normandy-style stucco home in Dundee. The light was mostly artificial, maybe a bit dungeony. It wasn’t at all ideal studio space, especially for an artist known for the vibrancy of his work.
In fact, as Tubach realized later, the basement environment gave a bit of a brownish, earthy tinge to his earlier paintings. Basically, the work during his subterranean phase didn’t pop like it does now. Even the horizon line was different because of the high windows.
“The work created down there many times had much higher horizon lines and tended to be a bit darker,” Tubach says. “Sometimes an artist doesn’t realize how much his or her work environment impacts their work. It can be profound.”
In 1985, Tubach left his home space for an 8-month residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. There, in a gray-floored space overlooking a dark alley, his art took on a grayer tone. Bricks began to show up in his work.
The next year, Tubach asked his good friend, noted Omaha architect Jack Savage, to help him with his light problem. The solution: An airy, two-story, 700-square-foot addition to the back of the Tubach home with a balcony, a floor of handmade tiles, and, most important, a two-story bank of windows on the north side of the house that bathes Tubach’s workspace and easel in ample, gentle, natural light.
The room’s walls are lined with dozens of Tubach’s distinctive works. Most of his creations imagine a sort of nexus between the architecture, art, people, and landscape of towns and cities throughout the United States and Europe. He has created more than 950 paintings exploring the United States, 350 of them representing Nebraska. (Dozens can be seen in public spaces in Omaha. Tubach has painted works for the Omaha Symphony, Opera Omaha, and the Joslyn Art Museum, to name a few).
Most of those images were created in this studio in this light. Many seem to shimmer in the light in which they were created. The paintings are vital and bright. They are a reflection of his studio.
“My palette suddenly shifted to the surroundings,” Tubach says. “Sky blues, lots of trees. More subtle changes suggested by the rust-colored tile floor. Even the colors and shapes of the place insinuated their way into the work.
“This room is in every one of my paintings,” he says. “My work can’t help but be a direct reflection of this space.”