A lifelong resident of Long Island, this week’s cover artist, Samuel Emler, grew up in Massapequa and graduated from School of Visual Arts, later earning his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. He’s taught at Polimoda in Florence, Italy and completed murals for numerous nonprofits, including an orphanage in Ukraine. Closer to home, his murals uplift visitors by gracing the walls of institutions such as Mount Sinai Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital, Southside Hospital, The Foundling Center, Babylon Hospice and Angela’s House. This week’s cover shows Emler’s mastery of luminous color and ability to capture the essence and feeling of a certain moment.
The colors are harmonious and soft while still being vivid—do you have a special technique for achieving this? And is this a recent work?
The painting was painted over 10 years ago, using a technique that’s similar to how still paint today. I like to float colors over a sepia “imprimatur” to generate a luminous effect.
This cover artwork reminds me of the tractors you see at farms on the North Fork—is there a story behind it?
I am partial to capturing the moment. This painting was derived from such a moment, while visiting Barney Loughlin, the owner of Loughlin Vineyard in Sayville. Born and raised in Sayville, Barney is a Sayville institution. He’s been serving wine and making people smile for many years. While taking a break from his chores to enjoy the beautiful day, he struck a pose that I really felt I needed to capture. I wanted to preserve him in a painting to be passed on for generations.
With a MFA from The New York Academy of Art and a BFA from SVA, did you have any professors who had a strong influence on your artistic career?
I studied under many great professors, benefitting from all of them. One professor that influenced me the most was Sal Catalano. Sal was more than just a teacher of technique. He spoke to the soul of the artist. He was also able to address each student on a personal level. One thing he ingrained in me was to be true to my heart and paint as is natural for me.
As an art teacher, what do you encourage in your students?
As an instructor, I encourage students to master the fundamentals, but also emphasize the significance of trusting the intuitive creative process. The simplest painting, approached with passion, is as significant as a mural in a palace. To be an artist is striving with every nerve to obtain that which we never will.
How did you get into doing murals?
My very first mural was inspired by frescoes in churches in Florence, from Ghirlandaio to Pontormo. In addition to telling a story, these frescoes maintained a quality that withstood time. I would transcend before these great works. After returning home from Italy one year, I painted one of these frescoes on the wall of Long Island Picture Frame Gallery. This mural opened the door to more work, commissions for residential murals, and painting murals in hospitals. This spring I will return to the same wall, restoring the original mural, in celebration of their 25th anniversary.
Do you have any upcoming projects or new paintings you’re working on?
I am always working on fresh paintings, with my focus mainly on gallery work, but also for private commissions. Right now I’m working on a series of ballerinas for Chrysalis Gallery as well as a private commission. I am also preparing a series of equestrian paintings for The Hampton Classic.
Samuel Emler’s work can be seen locally at Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton. Visit chrysalisgallery.com.