Talking with Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Richard Sygar

June 24, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art by Richard Sygar (detail)
June 24, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art by Richard Sygar (detail)

He’s not an artist. Architect (and two time Dan’s Papers cover artist) Richard Sygar wants to make that very clear—not for fear of any stigma, actually for quite the opposite reason. “I make my living as an architect, not as an artist, and so I have too much respect for artists to call myself one.” Sygar may feel this way, but most wouldn’t agree after seeing his untitled watercolor on the cover of this week’s issue. The not-an-artist artist has dabbled in many different kinds of visual art for as long as he can remember. Sygar talks with us about the confluence of art and architecture.

Richard Sygar
Richard Sygar, Photo: Jane Sygar

What was the concept for the image on the cover?
My wife’s and my cottage in Sag Harbor. It’s 10 to 12 feet from the tide. The watercolor on the cover isn’t exactly the same as my view from the cottage, but that was definitely the influence—the table, the shadowing on the table, our view, the land, the sky—I just tried to play on depth, and paint what I saw.

The cottage has been the inspiration for a lot of paintings I’ve done. The striking thing about the building is that it’s part of the water. It’s similar to an old fisherman’s shack. I’m pretty old-fashioned, so I just paint what I see using a brush and watercolors. I decided on the red simply because it grabs the eye. What I love about this cottage is that there’s no bad day. It’s therapeutic and clears the mind after the clutter of the city. It’s about perspective. Perspective is the key in many types of art.

How has being an architect influenced your watercolors?
Directly. Architecture and other arts go hand in hand. Watercolor and architecture are both disciplines where you can envision things. Any art form or craft, not just watercolors, can facilitate the architect’s task in developing the design of a structure.

When has your knowledge of watercolor painting been an asset to an architectural project?
The Bridgehampton Golf Course Clubhouse renovation and addition on Ocean Road. Being able to sketch quickly, and at times do a quick watercolor to explain how something should look, was useful on dozens of occasions during this particular project—especially when the contractor discovered something had to be rebuilt because of the age and condition of the structure. The quick sketches on this project kept it going somewhat smoothly, and were easy to understand because I could draw what had to be done in a three-dimensional sketch and, if needed, in watercolor.

How long have you been painting?
I’ve been drawing since I was eight or nine, but I would say I’ve been painting and making art for as long as I can remember. I briefly studied watercolors in college, because it was part of the architectural department curriculum, but I would say that I’m primarily self-taught. I’ve sold many paintings, but it’s always been a side love and part of my training as an architect.

Richard Sygar, Architect, can be reached at his office at 212-633-0024 or by emailing [email protected].

June 24, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art by Richard Sygar

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