“I’ve watched that tree grow and weather the storms for nearly 40 years,” Patricia Feiler says of the subject in her painting “Winter, Sunset and Snow,” featured on this week’s cover. The tree is more than 30 feet tall now, and “until recently,” she continues, “my husband climbed up and put a lighted star at the top!”
What was your inspiration for this piece?
The painting is a view from my home in Mattituck. After one of those early snows that we sometimes get in December, the sight of the brilliant sun setting against the snow shadows stopped me in my tracks. I painted it the way I saw it.
Can you describe some early experiences in your journey as an artist?
When I was a child, my father published historical fiction books for young people and his brother drew the illustrations. The fact that he used a pencil seemed so accessible to me. The characters and scenes came alive through his drawings. I tried to copy the drawings and make every line and shape that he did. It was magical, because it actually worked. It was a powerful learning experience. My first paintings were done in kindergarten and when I got hold of paint, it was a passion that has never left me.
You have been an arts educator for 33 years. Can you discuss how important arts programming is in schools today?
It’s indisputable. The research proves that children who participate in the arts are inspired and have improved learning in other subjects. Yet, sadly, in some school districts and at the government level, arts education cuts can be the first thing considered if there are budgetary issues. It’s such a shame. Arts programs are a lifeline for so many students.
As an arts educator, what advice do you give to aspiring artists?
I would say to find a way to keep the passion for art and/or the performing arts in your life. Surround yourself with people who feel the same way. No one can ever take away your passion for these. I was a high school music teacher for many years and have seen the power of the arts on students’ lives. It’s so gratifying to have former students greet me with smiles, hugs and “I sang in choir at college.” Keep that fire burning. And pass it on.
Do you have a favorite color you find yourself using most often?
On the East End, the water, sky, even leaves and grasses actually have blue undertones. So I go through lots of blue! During the winter I paint on location in the Southwest. The desert colors can be subtle mixes of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and yet the skies can be a vibrant…blue!
What’s your favorite thing to do on the North Fork during the winter?
There’s so much to see when North Fork winter gradually sets in. Bare fields and vines, old sheds, barns, rusted trucks and shuttered farm stands waiting for spring. A winter beach walk, no matter how short, will make the spirit long for summer days. That being said, I pack up my paints and leave the North Fork after the holidays! I travel in a camper to warm places: the deserts of the Southwest or the rural Southeast. I will experience and paint wonderful places and return to see the daffodils in our yard. As soon as I’m unpacked, I buy more paint, fresh canvases, and start new paintings of the North Fork!
See more of Feiler’s work at patriciafeiler.artspan.com, at Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck and at Feiler’s studio in the Donald Feiler Architect Building on the Main Road in Mattituck.