A Chat with Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Doug Zider

Dan's Papers Cover (detail) by Doug Zider
Dan's Papers Cover (detail) by Doug Zider

Though Doug Zider was selected in the “Best of the Best” Dan’s Papers Readers Choice Cover Art Series in 2008, he was only halfway through his run. Since then, six more of his paintings have appeared on Dan’s Papers covers, and now, with his moody-serene, blue-suffused 16” x 20” “Long Wharf in Moonlight, 1840” he hits lucky 13.

This painting recalls earlier maritime pieces featuring ships stage-lit by muted yellow moonlight that reflects off the water and onto a nearby stone bulkhead and pier. A schooner eases into the harbor, sails unfurled, a comforting presence at evening. Faint masts fence off along a low horizon line. Harmony prevails, small yellow lights peek out of distant buildings, man and nature are unified.

These ships are packets, which were used to transport goods and cargo. They do not depict Herman Melville’s Pequod, though 1840 was near the height of the dangerous and brutal whaling industry, and Sag Harbor a major port.

In Zider’s realistic and historical paintings, scenes are peaceful and picturesque. A stormy sky may threaten but not affect the two small, dark figures in the foreground who are shaking hands. The sea is calm, the harbor at rest, the whole exuding a sense of protective enclosure, not unlike the artist’s popular landscapes of sheltering beach shrubs and forest trees that delicately arch toward a center lane or path. All’s well in Zider world.

Since 1979 you have been an Emmy Award–winning scenic and graphic designer for NBC. What did your career there do for you as a fine arts painter?
Nothing. Well, at the beginning, there were so many different kinds of graphic artists all working manually, and I learned from them. You’re always a student. But my commercial work and my painting were always separate, except when I did prints.

For a time you did not do much painting. Then, about 15 years ago, you went back to it, with a particular interest in maritime subjects, what happened?
It was called “life.” No time. Then I went to the School of Visual Arts to get back into the swim of things and the studied with [the acclaimed American landscape artist and sailor] Joseph McGurl. As for water, I live near the Great South Bay, and I summer in Maine. But I’m not all about the sea. Check out “Down at the Hi Ho Pub” on dougzider.com. I had a lot of fun doing this take off on “The Last Supper,” featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

There seem to be only six dwarves?
Look under the table.

You work only in oil, on linen or board?
I like to draw but I don’t do acrylic, or watercolors, which are pretty unforgiving. Painting on panel lets me work tighter, get into more detail.

Much of your work is historical. Do you do maritime research?
I’m around that stuff so much and I go to exhibitions and boat shows. I love looking at vessels and know the history of sailing. I do move things around for the sake of composition, though some purists may take offense. In “Long Wharf,” I flipped the real-life scene and gave the moon an inaccurate position.

Where do you see yourself a few years from now?
I’ll be retiring soon and want to do bigger pieces. I like things on a grand scale, and I absolutely love what I do, always learning, always grateful.

Zider’s latest works can be seen at The Sunflower Gallery in Garden City, Long Island and he’s also represented at the 57th Long Island Artists Exhibition at the Jeanne Tengelsen Gallery in Dix Hills, also on Long Island.

You can view the complete collection of Zider’s “Dan’s Papers” covers on dougzider.com.

Dan's Papers Cover by Doug Zider
Dan’s Papers Cover by Doug Zider

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