Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Andrea Alvin on Beloved Traditions

Andrea Alvin's "Samuel's Candy Canes" on the cover of the December 11, 2020 Dan's Papers issue.
Andrea Alvin's "Samuel's Candy Canes" on the cover of the December 11, 2020 Dan's Papers issue.

Our December 11, 2020 cover artist Andrea Alvin talks about beloved traditions, how she approaches her art and more.

What was the inspiration for this piece?
Each year, the town of Rhinebeck, where I live, has a celebration called Sinterklass. It is like Norman Rockwell meets Mardi Gras. The town is filled with festivities, decorations and street performances. It culminates in a magical parade with giant puppets and many of the townspeople taking part. One year, I brought my camera and was taking in as much as I could of the event. I wandered into Samuel’s Sweet Shop, and saw the basket of candy canes festooned with lights. It seemed to evoke the warmth of the holiday season and had a timeless quality about it that made me want to capture it in paint. To me, those feelings last the year round and not just at Christmas time.

Talk about your art style. 
The objects portrayed in my paintings—old or new—eventually become a part of our culture. By painting them, I preserve that “moment in time” and re-create them as an icon. The viewer must regard them in a new way. The surface details, the light reflections, the imperfections all become part of the visual landscape of the subject. I want to bring the viewer into the picture.

The brushstrokes are loose, and yet the images resolve photographically as one steps back. The lighting and vibrant color give the subjects a confectionary quality.

Instead of painting a portrait of a child’s toy or a sweet treat, I have zoomed in to the subject to create a fantasy world of light and color that the viewer can imagine crawling into. They can settle into that private kid-space of a blanket tent for just a little while. The evocative sense of emotion overrides the nostalgia of having played with the toy or having eaten the treat.

Andrea Alvin.
Andrea Alvin.

Tell us about your artistic process.
Finding a subject that inspires me is the challenge. Most of my subjects have a nostalgic aspect to them. Most times, I set up a photo shoot, but other times as in my “Candy Cane” painting, I might see something and photograph it on the spot. After some editing, I then project the image onto the canvas and do an extremely detailed drawing. I begin painting, concentrating on the values and basic color scheme. I am not that precise on the first pass. When the canvas is covered, I go back in and refine the painting and the details. I try to let it stay on the easel for a while, so that I can continue to study it and refine it. It speaks to me.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
That’s hard to say. All I’ve ever wanted was to be an artist. I was one of those single-minded kids that had one goal in mind. I graduated from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, now in Pasadena, and worked in animation and then designing movie posters. So, I guess my alternative to fine artist, was in the more commercial art fields.

What inspires you the most?
Most of my work has a nostalgic quality to it. For me, memory has a mood, with lighting effects, color and reflections. Certain subjects trigger that feeling and I get inspired.

See more of Andrea Alvin’s work at andreaalvin.com.

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