Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Keith Mantell Paints the North Fork

Dan's Papers' May 20, 2016 cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell
Dan's Papers' May 20, 2016 cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell

This week’s cover captures the full spectrum of color found in our East End landscape. No stranger to Dan’s Papers covers, Keith Mantell continues to evolve his artistic practice. “Shard of Light” (2016, oil on linen) exemplifies Mantell’s fluid ability to seamlessly transition between gently abstracted landscapes and figurative works. From his home on the North Fork, Mantell gives us insight into the vision behind his paintings.

Keith Mantell headshot
Keith Mantell

What’s your painting process like?
Usually I like to paint en plein air, so I’ll drive around and look for spots—sometimes I drive around and find something I think looks good and then the next day, come back and decide that it’s not so great. Sometimes when I have my camera I’ll shoot something and then decide to come back to it. This [photograph], in particular, is a field somewhere in Southold. That day I wasn’t painting on site, so I came home and three months later came across it. I look for sections of the photograph that work and then crop it to create what I want to work with.

I’m teaching a class at the East End Arts Council in June and it’s about process and inspiration. I’m going to be teaching my way of doing it. If you’re a painter, you can incorporate some of the ideas into your own work. Sometimes, when I go out and paint, the view isn’t really great, so it’s almost like Photoshopping in your head. I thread images in my head together and work on the painting that way. It’s about looking and then remembering what the sensation or value was, in your head, that day. In the end, the painting has to work, it’s not just a matter of replicating what you see in front of you.

The execution matters, too, so you have to know what you’re doing. I always tell people to keep looking at art, from both living and dead artists—all kinds—decorative, abstract. You have to see how they do things, then you begin to pickup little tidbits.

The clouds in the cover image are so lifelike and yet not traditional in the sense of how you usually see clouds in paintings—how did you do these?
Clouds are really hard to do. But you can paint anything as long as you understand where it is in space. A cloud is a form, but somehow it loses its form, so I take the edge of the cloud and play with that. The clouds in this painting I played around with a lot to get them to do something, to not be a dead element. You’re trying to get the painting to have a feeling—a certain day and a certain time. Slick, juicy, not heavy, not loaded…I want the paint to work, teeter on reality and abstract.

Is “Shard of Light” typical of your style?
I like the figure—I love doing that. My style is my language. I think everybody has their own. Everything I’ve ever looked at is filtered through me, and in painting it’s the same thing—style changes, it grows, it’s always evolving. You grow, learn, you change. I’m not the same as I was a week ago.

For more on Keith Mantell and to see other examples of his artwork, visit keithmantell.com. His paintings are currently on display at Fitzgerald Gallery, 48 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. Call 631-288-6419 for hours and information. Keith Mantell’s art course, Advanced Oil Painting: Processes & Inspirations, runs on Thursdays starting June 2. Visit eastendarts.org for more information.

Dan's Papers' May 20, 2016 cover art by Keith Mantell

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