A talented and passionate painter, Hampton Bays resident Harvey Herman talks about his career path, inspiration, artistic process, family and why the past two years have been the best of his life.
What was the inspiration for the painting featured on the cover?
The koi! We raise koi. When my wife and I moved out here nine years ago, there were a few koi in the two ponds by our house—now there are 82 and we know 90% of them by name. The two you see stay together all the time. They’re very poetic, very special and they pair off like people. I like to photograph them.
One of the things that inspires me is living out here. We used to come out to visit my brother, who lived out here for 60 years, but now we live out here full time. You hear a lot about the light out here but until you’ve experienced it year-round you have no idea. We live on the bay and I take a lot of pictures of the reeds and grasses around the water. You just hope you can capture it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My wife was equating it with Paris, that every time you turn a corner, there’s the architecture and the light. The light here is profound.
So photography plays a role in your artistic process?
I was in the advertising business for many years, and I was also a film director. I capture things with my camera, then I can edit them and put them together, and then paint them.
You get excited and capture that moment and put it in a painting. That’s the key to all my paintings. It gives me a deeper understanding of myself and of life when I paint. I think that’s true of any art—you look at something you see every day, you may not appreciate it but once you put it down in the way you know, whether it’s written or painted, then it’s immortalized. That’s what painting is to me.
How did you get your start as an artist?
I think I’ve always been an artist. My father said I could never make a living out of it, so I became an advertising guy instead. I had my own agency for 16 years—Herman and Rosner. We did a lot of things, the “MTA Train to the Plane,” a lot of projects for Coty…I changed the name of all Flying A gas stations to Getty. I was both a copyrighter and an art director. I was also a creative director for five other ad agencies. I was actually a chemist when I graduated school, but I hated it and knew that I wanted to do something creative. It brought me back to art. The first painting I ever sold was to the owner of the first agency I worked for. I used to paint on my lunch breaks. I was very lucky in advertising, I met a lot of creative people. I’ve always loved painting and wanted to get back to it. My two daughters told me to stop doing everything else and just paint. I’m very happy that I did. The past two years have been the best in my life.
What paints do you use?
All oils. I do a lot of sketching with pen and charcoal, but when I finally get to putting it down, I use oils. You can layer them, you can go over and over with them until you get depth. Watercolors are different—you can’t layer, so you just have to do one and then move on to the next.
I also like to teach children about painting, especially my five grandchildren. They all paint and they soak up everything. I was just talking to Shane, he’s 8, explaining primary, secondary and tertiary colors. It opened the door for him and he started teaching his older brother. The dialogue is terrific, so honest. It’s beautiful.
Are there any new projects you’re working on?
I’m working on a number of paintings of koi right now. I don’t have an agent and I don’t have a gallery, but it’s amazing, every time people see the paintings they offer me places to show them. I have a one-man show in Westhampton Beach at the Bath & Tennis Club coming up on June 22.
To see more by Harvey Herman, visit harveyhermantheartist.com. The artist’s exhibition at the Bath & Tennis Club, 231 Dune Road in Westhampton Beach, will be held June 22 from noon to 3 p.m.