Dan’s Papers favorite Mike Stanko returns to the cover of this week’s issue in time with summer’s end and the school year’s beginning. We chatted with him about this week’s cover art, back-to-school memories, his favorite research topics and more.
What is the name of this delightful piece, and what inspired its creation?
I titled this piece “Summer’s End”—it recognizes that a new season with its new realities will soon be upon us!
Why did you choose “work, lighthouse, beach, Montauk, school and New York City” as the destinations the sign on the cover art is directing people to?
I chose these destinations to highlight the contrasts of each directional choice. A day visiting the Montauk Lighthouse has quite a different vibe than a day in New York City—similarly, an afternoon on the beach is different than sitting in a math class. Certainly not the same!
This cover is such a perfect, timely fit for the back-to-school issue! Was the timing of its creation and/or submission a happy coincidence or clever planning?
Perhaps both! I came up with the idea for this painting years ago, stored and scribbled on the “painting ideas” list tacked to my studio wall. During the past year and a half, while spending most of my time in the studio, I revisited this idea and made the painting with some “clever planning,” as I only submitted it to Dan’s recently (smile, wink wink)!
What’s a back-to-school memory that has stuck with you?
I can still remember the pit-in-my-stomach feeling the night before the first day of school! Though I’d be excited to go back and see my friends, I can still recall the nervous anxiety of not knowing who my teachers would be, or if I’d know anyone in my class, ugh—I can still feel it all these years later.
Did you generally enjoy the return to learning or dread it?
I honestly enjoyed school and learning—once the school year kicked in! Not that I was the best student, but I really enjoyed it—especially my art classes. And the best part, of course, was meeting my wife, Karen, in 10th grade!
What’s something you enjoy researching and learning more about (art or otherwise)?
I’m a fan of biographies, especially of artists and musicians; my most recent reads were bios on James Rosenquist and Brian Wilson. There is also so much to learn via travel. Karen and I have made pilgrimages throughout the U.S. as well as Europe to learn more about our favorite artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Pollock, Van Gogh, Warhol, Cézanne, Monet—to name a few. We’ve also visited homes, graves or libraries related to 18 different American presidents—and there’s still more to learn.
What are you most looking forward to about the beginning of fall on the East End?
I enjoy a nice, cool ocean breeze, the freshness of the cooler air and, of course, less traffic! I love both forks of Long Island—the beaches, the fresh corn, the wineries, the diverse population—we have it all.
Would you like to share any closing thoughts?
I hope everyone out there does what they can to keep themselves, their loved ones and neighbors healthy and happy to enjoy the upcoming autumn. Plus, a big THANKS to Dan’s for once again inviting me to grace their cover. And remember, Life Is For Fun!