This week’s May 22, 2020 Dan’s Papers cover artist Patricia Feiler talks about her stirring and timely Memorial Day issue cover, “America the Beautiful,” how the quarantine has touched her art and more inspiration.
What was your inspiration for this piece?
I would like to think that my painting, “America the Beautiful,” might honor those who died while serving our country. Memorial Day is an emotional time for so many people. Millions of Americans have died in the service of our country and they are the ones we honor on that one day. Each Memorial Day, volunteers place flags on veterans’ graves, memorials, and all along Main Road on the North Fork. These are small flags, the kind kids wave at parades. You can see them, one after another, for miles, nestled among wildflowers, grassy patches, and newly plowed farm rows.
Maybe because of their tiny size, they always tug at my heart. And now I am hoping that my painting might also honor those who have lost their lives in the war that we are fighting right now, COVID-19. As I create art during this pandemic, I can understand how an artist might paint dark images expressing grief and sadness. I have found that I am actually inspired to create art with brilliant colors and subjects that could possibly bring joy and hope.
How have the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing changed your art-creation process?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have felt an urgency to create even more art. The creative process has always been meditative for me. I become completely immersed and literally unaware of my surroundings. And if I’m not painting, I’m thinking about it. It’s an escape from the overwhelming amount of information and emotional upheaval the pandemic has brought into our lives.
Talk about your style.
My style may be described as Contemporary Impressionist. I don’t include a lot of precise details and hopefully this invites the viewer to participate in the interpretation. My brushstrokes are visible and might suggest a feeling of movement. An unexpected highlight or shadow can also suggest a time of day and I think that’s important.
Tell us about your artistic process.
I like to work outdoors. This can be extremely challenging, but that rarely stops me. I haul all my equipment in the back of the car or camper and set up when I find a great scene. I take lots of photos so I can reference the changes in the light. Sometimes I do several versions of the same scene and look for an element of surprise that might give the painting energy. I try to find an unusual perspective or maybe one that is comforting in its familiarity. Color mixing happens on the palette with a palette knife; other times mixing right on the canvas. Or I might just put the paint on the canvas straight from the tube. I use all kinds of brushes, and sometimes bare hands. Messy stuff.
What inspires you the most?
Nature is the most powerful inspiration for me. It stops me in my tracks. I have painted the swamps of the Everglades, the deserts of the southwest, the dunes of Shinnecock and Montauk, and the skies over Peconic and Moriches Bays. Endless possibilities.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?
I think I would most likely find something else that I could work at obsessively. It’s in my nature. The creative process is something that just takes over all your senses. I think all artists, musicians and writers might feel the same way. In college I studied art as well as music in college and continued throughout my career as a music teacher. No matter what I might have done as a career, I think I would still have needed to create art. It’s part of who I am.
What words of insight, inspiration or encouragement would you like to offer to your fellow artists and to all those who enjoy your work?
I feel that creating art gives an artist the opportunity to bring joy to other people while at the same time giving ourselves the gift of serenity. As far as advice to fellow artists, I would say to paint as much as possible, and then paint some more. To those who enjoy and support my art, I am grateful. The sharing is half the fun!
See more of Patricia Feiler’s work at patriciafeiler.artspan.com.