A Chat with Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Keith Mantell

December 16, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell
December 16, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell

This week’s cover artist, Keith Mantell, is no stranger to Dan’s Papers. The Long Island native has been living the dream of being a full-time artist since 2007 and has appeared on more than a handful of our covers since then. We caught up with Mantell recently to see what he was up to nowadays.

Keith Mantell headshot
Keith Mantell

This piece seems like a departure from what you normally do. Can you talk about your inspiration for this?
It’s only a departure in that it’s a holiday still life. I do a lot of landscapes. I love doing figurative pieces and setting up a still life every so often, but I usually do one piece this time of year that I can use as a holiday card. This piece has some family heirlooms so I put them together, threw in some ribbon and, hopefully, designed a decent composition.

A lot of your work is plein air. Is that your preferred method of painting?
I have no preferred method. It depends on what I’m painting. Sometimes a work demands to be a studio piece that needs a period of time to develop. Getting outdoors forces me to think quicker, paint more spontaneously and, hopefully, create a different type of painting that is looser and closer to the truth. Truth defined as what I see and how I convert it to a painting, so the viewer can sense what and how I see and maybe convey a feeling too. There’s a lot of thought that has to be juggled and problems resolved as the painting progresses. I like that challenge.

When it comes to your landscape work, do you go out blind, looking for inspiration? Or do you know exactly what you’re looking for and where?
I just wing it, drive around and see what hits me. If I can access a spot that looks promising, I go for it. Sometimes I spend hours driving around and nothing looks good. Other days I can find something in 10 minutes. Sometimes a spot looks terrible one day then the next day it’s like “Hey, wow, look at that!” Sometimes I swing by and check out a place I’ve been to previously before I continue exploring. Every day of every season has possibilities.

Where do you go on the East End for the best plein air painting?
There are too many [places] to list and some I don’t want you to know!

You’ve been involved in art in one way or another your entire life. Is there one piece of advice or wisdom you received from another artist that you’ve always carried with you?
A teacher once instilled in me something I now pass on to my students: “Everything you do is a piece of shit!” What he meant was that an artist should recognize the growth each painting represents and not be so enamored with what they do today. Tomorrow’s painting will be better because of today’s efforts.

What piece of art have you not seen yet, that you would most like to see?
Off the cuff: Manet’s “Olympia” or Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” There’s so much great art—and some questionable stuff—I want to see. I love all types of art and learn from every experience I have from those up-close and personal interactions.

We are obviously big fans of your work. Is there somewhere our readers can go to see it up close and personal?
You can see my work at the William Ris East at 1291 Main Road in Jamesport. You can also visit williamris.com and keithmantell.com.

December 16, 2016 Dan's Papers cover art by Keith Mantell
December 16, 2016 Dan’s Papers cover art by Keith Mantell

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