Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Mike Stanko on His Black Outlines

Mike Stanko's art on the cover of the January 22, 2021 Dan's Papers issue.
Mike Stanko's art on the cover of the January 22, 2021 Dan's Papers issue.

Dan’s Papers readers easily recognize Mike Stanko’s covers thanks to the distinctive black lines present in all his art and through the distinctly local perspective he brings to each piece. Stanko talks about those lines, the East End in winter and more.

What was the inspiration for this piece?
I’ve appreciated the beauty of the cardinal ever since I was a kid, watching my mother feed the various birds in our backyard; cardinals were her favorite. It’s always a tribute to her when I put one in a painting.

Mike Stanko.
Mike Stanko.

Talk about what’s special about winter on the East End.
With a lower abundance of people running around, the beauty of area, the brisk breeze by the ocean, the clarity of the sky, the sunrises and sunsets, all appear to be that much more brilliant. And, don’t let me forget, also a better chance to get a jelly croissant at Montauk Bakery!

Tell us about your art style and how it’s evolved or changed over the years.
My style hasn’t really changed much over the years, as I’ve always painted in bright bold colors. However, in my earlier work I would be obsessed with filling every inch of the canvas in detail, now I find I’m a little less compulsive!

Talk about your process.
Usually, a painting evolves around an idea. More often I’m influenced by what I see—could be a scene along my travels, or something as simple as the way my sneakers fell to the floor, and then I’ll proceed to draw it onto the canvas. I guess much of my work is autobiographical—scenes from what I come across in my every day!

Your art, no matter the subject, has such a distinctive style, with the striking black lines. How did you first come to use the black outlines?
Way back, many years ago, I made a cow painting, but when I finished it, it just didn’t do anything for me. I proceeded to take black paint to add some shadowing, and then unintentionally began to outline the cows. Finally, looking from a distance, the entire painting POPPED! I loved it, and never turned back.

Mike Stanko’s work can be seen at the Mills Pond House Gallery in St. James through February 16. See more of his work at stankoart.com.

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