Our May 1, 2020 Dan’s Papers cover artist, Westhampton Beach painter Elizabeth M. Duerschmidt talks about the fun inspiration for this week’s cover, the evolution of her artistic style and a three-decade career in the Postal Service.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
“Spring Quarantine” was inspired by a bouquet of forsythia and the humor of my 1950s Buddy L “Husky Dumper” antique toy truck that holds the toilet paper in my bathroom! There is no doubt that there will be an influx of creative expressions from artists of various mediums during this time of solitude and isolation, which so happens to be the perfect formula for an artist to create. So I arranged this still life and told myself to have a good time with it. The arrival of spring is always bright and cheery and it has been overshadowed worldwide with COVID-19. Through the forsythia lurks a coronavirus shrub outside the window.
Talk about your art style.
Being a self-taught artist, my style has varied over the progression of a 38-year art career. I made my mark as a local artist in the early ’80s, sketching the historical landmarks of my hometown of Westhampton Beach in pen and ink. Then I progressed to watercolor architectural renderings and further on acrylics. Then, in summer of 2009, the Historical Society’s Tuthill Museum showcased the accumulation of my 30 years of work entitled Historic Sites from an Artist’s Perspective. My creative eye turned towards the old retired farm trucks that offered abstract expression in their decay. I approached these historic icons with acrylic medium on very large canvases. My style became bigger and bolder, unafraid of color. That introduced a more expressive painting process because it incorporated the whole upper body.
Tell us about your process.
That is a hard question to answer. Truthfully I have attention deficit issues. The mental prep is the hardest to come by and it takes the longest. But once I am focused on the physical act of painting, it takes on a life of its own and it’s so freeing for me, because I exist there and nowhere else!
What inspires you?
A desire for new inspiration—lately, the challenge of painting landscapes on location. The idea has been gnawing at me. Landscapes are not easy. The main object of my work has always been something structural. Naturally I’ve always been inspired by Van Gogh’s passion and vibrant palette, and Edward Hopper was my bible during my earlier career!
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
Being an artist is who you are in your soul, no matter what other direction your road may take you. I would probably be less crazy! I’d rather rephrase that question to ask, “What have you done parallel to your art career?” For 31 years I was a mail carrier in Westhampton Beach. I loved my job alongside painting the town and seeing the people I loved and was in contact with on a daily basis. I always boasted that I worked for the Postal Service during my free time.
For 36 years I prepared for annual art shows, art openings, and accepted commissions. I’ve been retired for nine years now. The first year I did whatever the hell I felt like doing. Then for four years I taught art enrichment for an after school program at the Quogue School. Recently I’ve worked part time for Chicos FAS Co. at Tanger and its affiliate store, White House Black Market. I love clothes and artsy, chunky jewelry. As an artist spending 31 years in a mail uniform—which I wore proudly—I was in desperate need of jazzing up my wardrobe! I’ve enjoyed the road I was destined to have. Let’s get beyond this virus that has derailed our lives. Do the right thing for yourself and the ones you love. Happy trails to us all!