Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Doug Reina Talks His Unique Approach & More

Doug Reina's "Ditch Plains," used for the cover of Dan's Papers July 17, 2020 issue
Doug Reina's "Ditch Plains," used for the cover of Dan's Papers July 17, 2020 issue

Cover artist Doug Reina talks about his art style, his distinctive approach to the artistic process and more.

What was the inspiration for this piece?
This painting was inspired by a “let’s see what happens if we try this” attitude. The story is this—I originally made a plein air painting of this view of Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk many years ago. At some point in my development as a painter, I began to shift away from the subject matter being all important and started to pay more and more attention to how the paint actually looks and behaves on the surface of a painting. I remember I was getting some exciting passages of broken color working with a palette knife in acrylics as well as oils. Using the original plein air painting of this scene as a guide, I made this painting with that palette knife technique.

Talk about your art style.
I’m primarily a figurative painter but not in the photorealistic sense of the word. I do make forays into abstract painting, but until recently, my efforts in that area usually made me feel like I was speaking someone else’s language. However, lately, abstraction and I are starting to talk to each other. By using gesture, getting energy into the strokes and saying what I’m seeing/feeling with my own “short-hand” style of painting, abstraction is starting to mix into my figurative painting in ways that make sense to me and that I like.

Two of Doug Reina's paintings: "Athos Zacharias" and "Setauket," Images; Courtesy Reina
Two of Doug Reina’s paintings: “Athos Zacharias” and “Setauket,” Images; Courtesy Reina

Tell us about your artistic process.
I work from life, from drawings and from photos. My concern is not how I get there but to the painting itself, how does it all ultimately hang together? Is there any life in the work or is it too stiff and dead on arrival? Is there any ambiguity in the work? I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, “A bad painting tells you everything all at once and the same thing forever.”

I usually pre-stain my canvases a dark color so I don’t have all that white to fight with and cover. It also allows me to get some interesting passages of broken color. In my recent work I often leave big parts of the pre-stained canvas unpainted, so they can become an important part of the design of the finished work. One thing I’ve learned over the years, that I’ve never seen mentioned in any art instruction book or video, is this: Painting is a physical act—it’s a performance, and as such I need to approach that canvas running on all eight cylinders. In my case, the mental, physical and spiritual components of my life need to be In a good place. In essence, in order to do something good, I must first be something good. Sounds a bit strange, I know…I get the paint to behave a certain way on canvas and the paint gets me to behave a certain way in life.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?
I would host an interview show. I very much like talking to interesting people and learning about their lives and viewpoints on things. Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some artists who I admire, such as Ty Stroudsburg and Stan Brodsky, in front of a live audience. Several of these interviews were recorded and can be found on YouTube should anyone like to check them out.

What inspires you the most?
I like the unusual view that is slashed with light and shadow, combined with interesting color combinations and that evokes some kind of emotional response.

See more of Doug Reina’s work at The Reboli Center, Gallery North and at dougreina.com.

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