This week’s cover artist, North Fork–based Max Moran, captures the beauty and quiet stillness of a winter scene. A red log cabin and sun-speckled trees lend warmth to a snowy landscape—inviting the viewer into the forest of thin, tall trees flecked with color. Here’s what the artist has to say about creating the cover art, titled “Writer’s Cabin,” artists he admires, and life on the North Fork.
Why is this called the “Writer’s Cabin?”
I discovered it in the Catskills, near Millbrook Mountain. I used to go up there—it looked like a place writers might stay, and when I talked to the owner I learned that, yes, writers who wished to remain anonymous stay there. Who knows what great literary works may have happened there?
Did you stay there while you were working on the painting?
We stayed right across from it. The light that comes down the hill after that first snowfall is incredible. There’s a fascination with the lines of the trees and the thick. And the cabin, it’s man-made but it’s still inviting. Plus, it works.
It certainly works with the composition—along with the tracks in the snow and the stone wall.
Those tracks are from a sled. And that’s a fieldstone wall in back—they go back to the settlers. Climbing the mountains, you see a lot of them, defining what’s yours and what’s mine. Some of them are made with flag rock—it’s truly an art form how they stay together. A stolen painting I did called, “Olivia’s Wall,” which was a birthday present for my daughter, was just returned to me this Thanksgiving. Walls have an interesting connotation, really a metaphor. We were separated. A detective with the Southold Police Department recovered it and now my daughter is reunited with her painting.
What is “Writer’s Cabin” painted on?
It’s oil on linen. I like to work with the canvas, as they say. Paint is applied every which way. I like to let the natural fabric show through. Kind of like a punctuation.
Having begun your career as a painter in the Midwest and now living on the North Fork, how do the two areas compare?
Well, I grew up in Ohio and went back recently. Everything is changing. The distinctive mom-and-pop stores are now replaced by McDonald’s, just like Riverhead. I think of Chrissie Hynde’s lyrics, “I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.” The North Fork does maintain an agrarian culture, you have the seasons, and it’s two minutes to the Sound and two minutes to the bay. It’s got a lot of charm.
Some of your paintings are city scenes—so do you go back and forth?
No, I’m mostly here now. But you know, as they say, “you never shake the city loose.” I lived there during an interesting period—1991 to 1996. Back then, you could live in the city and scrape by. When still living in the city, I saw that around 12th & 13th Streets, near 3rd Avenue, 6 manhole covers had been turned into 14. They were re-wiring everything in preparation for the high-rises and buying up everything. But change is inevitable. Now out here, it’s nice to catch my breath.
Who are some of the artists you admire?
Being from Ohio, I’d have to go with George Bellows, ever since I was in the fifth grade. Every brushstroke carries weight. John Sloan, as well, as a more urban, Ashcan artist. He has atmosphere. I like honest paintings.
What are your outdoor painting workshops like?
I do them once a year, usually. They’re called “Pigment & Plein Air” and the chef at Jedediah Hawkins usually fixes a lunch for us, so people have something to work up an appetite for. It’s always good to pass something along. We’re only here for a short while. Put it out there while you can.
Max Moran’s artwork can be seen at A Mano Osteria & Wine Bar, Mattituck; Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jamesport; and at his studio in Baiting Hollow. For more info, visit maxmoran.com.