This week’s cover depicts a solitary man looking out to the sea. He is standing on rocky shore, his hands are tucked into the pockets of his Navy pea coat, his pants are tucked into his rubber boots and a small blue hat covers most of his white hair. His slightly reddish complexion begins to tell a tale of a seafaring man.
Artist Michael Kotasek captures a scene we know well on the East End, although the shoreline more resembles that of Maine. From his home and studio in Binghamton, New York, third-time Dan’s Papers cover artist Kotasek discusses his work and provides insight into the cover.
How is it up there in Binghamton?
Today was kind of warm, above freezing. We’ve had plenty of snow. I’m getting kind of sick of shoveling.
You show at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor—do you spend time out here, too?
I do when I have the chance. If I have a show, I spend a day or two.
This landscape on this cover looks a bit like Maine.
Yeah, it’s called “Down East”—a couple years ago I was up there a few different times. It was inspired by the shoreline. I used my father as the model.
What’s the medium?
Egg tempera on gessoed masonite. For the egg tempera you have to make your own gesso, sand it down, boiling it down. It’s a process.
Masonite can be heavy. Is this usually your preferred medium?
My more recent work is in oils. But, yes, egg tempera had been what I was using. You have to do it on a very firm ground, like masonite.
So you’ve done a couple Dan’s Papers covers before.
The last time I had one was last April—it was a painting in which I used myself as a model. This time I used my dad. So that’s kind of funny, keeping it family.
Where did you study?
I went to Syracuse and then studied privately with Burt Silverman. He does mostly portraits and figurative work.
What was it like to study with Burt Silverman?
It helped out a lot. I learned more working for him than the four years at college. Then I learned more from just experimenting and studying other artists on my own.
It’s interesting that you put the figure far over to the right, as if he’s about to step off the picture plane—or as if all that came before him in his life occupies the space in the center. Is that too far out?
I kind of had the idea of it being sort of about my father, too—him getting up there in age, wondering about the future and unknown…kind of represented by the shoreline. I don’t like talking about my own paintings as much as I like to hear other people’s opinions. It tells me about how they interpret it.
How did your personal style evolve?
Well, with the egg tempera I did my own studies of the work of Andrew Wyeth and how he handled the medium, and combined that with what I learned from Silverman and other artists. I guess now my style is still continuously evolving. I’m exploring different aspects of realism—there’s no set way of doing it.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got one from when I was out at the Planting Fields Arboretum in the Oyster Bay area. They had great old beech trees. The trunks look like they’re melting…the roots spread out. So I used that and also added leaves to represent a whirl of wind. I’ve also been doing still lifes.