Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Keith Mantell Explains His Expressionistic Style

December 27, 2019 Dan's Papers cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell
December 27, 2019 Dan's Papers cover art (detail) by Keith Mantell

Born and raised on Long Island, Keith Mantell has had a lifelong love affair with art. His work has been seen throughout the East End and he is a member of Plein Air Peconic.

Keith Mantell headshot
Keith Mantell

What was the inspiration for this piece?
I always keep my eye out for something that could make an interesting painting. Usually it’s some kind of great composition. I do a lot of plein air painting, which involves driving around exploring and hoping to find good subject matter. Sometimes it’s easy to find something. Some days it’s not.

When I’m just out and about and if I see something, if I can, I’ll take a few pictures. If I can’t, I try to remember the scene at that certain time or try to get back there. Which never works because it always looks different every single day of the year! In this painting, these two were horsing around in a snowstorm near where I live on the North Fork. They met face-to-face and paused to see who will break first. Two chess pieces waiting for the game to ensue. I liked the relationship between them and that composition with those big snowflakes allowed me to keep the whole thing loose and expressionistic.

Describe your artistic style.
Loose and expressionistic. Actually, I make it a point to look at so much art. That way I can absorb all different styles. I try to be unique. I don’t want my style to be similar to anyone else, but I suppose I’ve had a few major influences over the years. It’s more an amalgam of all the artists I have ever looked at and interpreting and incorporating them in my way of putting the paint down. Hopefully, it’s my own language and vocabulary. Painterly abstracted naturalistic realism. Something like that.

How has teaching art to others inspired you?
I get to pass along all the tidbits about technique and art history I’ve developed and learned over the years and see how students apply them to their work. I see how they interpret them and come up with their own unique take on something. It’s a good feeling to know I’ve added to somebody’s artistic knowledge and that they may pass it along. It’s being part of the creative collective that I find inspiring.

What is your proudest achievement?
Proud achievements? Sure, many. I’ll bet I felt that way the day when by myself, I first tied my shoes. Proudest achievement? Never considered it. Maybe I’m still waiting for that one.

What are some of your favorite places on the East End to draw inspiration from?
That’s a tough one. Any day, anywhere can be THE spot. It may be a farm field in Riverhead or at the beach seeing a person in just the right setting. Maybe a little goat at a farm stand has it one day or a boatyard in Greenport the next. Here on the North Fork there are so many places to get inspired. I try to be open to all of it so my subject matter stays fresh.

What does the holiday season mean to you?
Time to reconnect with old friends and traditions, make new ones. Spend time with family. Overeat. And I hope to drink some really fine wine.

Where else can your work be seen?
My work is represented by the William Ris Gallery in Jamesport. My website, keithmantell.com, or follow me on Instagram, where I post some photography and figure drawings, too.

December 27, 2019 Dan's Papers cover art by Keith Mantell
December 27, 2019 Dan’s Papers cover art by Keith Mantell

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