When this week’s cover artist, Zoe Pennebaker Breen, says she’s so happy when she’s painting, we believe her. When she says she can’t think of anything else she’d like to do more than paint, we believe her, too. In fact, there’s something so joyful and passionate about Breen’s professional endeavors, we can’t help but catch her spirit. And keep it with us.
Breen’s abstract art is similarly spirited, with titles like “Happily Ever After,” “Joy” and “Roses”: spontaneous sweeps of the brush across the canvas; pastel colors that are both subtle and whimsical; sensual.
Q: Your cover image, “Maritime,” shows not only that you love to paint but that you love the water and things connected with it.
A: When I was living in the Springs, I used to drive Three Mile Harbor Road and take in the boats. I started painting boats. I just let it come out of me to see what happened.
What is it specifically about the water and boats that you like?
I love the feeling you get when you walk on Maidstone Beach. I love the stillness, to breathe in the stillness, the calmness. When I was young, we had a Sandpiper; my dad used to take us to Shelter Island. I loved that boat with its little hammock. My father has boat paintings all over his house. He was in the Navy.
So your father and living in the Springs influenced your boat paintings. Did you have art training that also motivated you?
I’m self-taught. Art school wouldn’t have worked for me; I can only do what comes out of me. You have to follow your own path. You can’t allow yourself to be maneuvered.
How does your family fit in here? I assume they are really supportive, allowing you to “follow your dream,” so to speak.
I have two children (five and six years old), and they are so respectful of my work. They could play from eight in the morning to six at night by themselves so I can paint. I didn’t start painting until after I had my kids.
What else inspired you or continues to do so?
New York. Talking with other artists. Music, particularly Bob Dylan and Mozart. And when I was young, old movies my mother used to show me, with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Life inspires me.
What did you do before you found art?
I was a photographer and very involved with video, but I didn’t want to deal with the technical part.
What’s your goal so you can keep inspiration going?
To keep doing art, not to get stagnant. I’m not doing “art for art’s sake.” I want to have someone understand my art, to understand the abstraction, a language without words.
There’s no stopping you?
There’s no stopping me. I go my own way. When I’m painting, I listen to my heart.
Works by Zoe Pennebaker Breen can be seen at Sag Harbor’s Monika Olko Gallery, 95 Main Street. Call 631-899-4740.
Her website is: zoepennebaker.com