This Week’s Cover Artist: Ellen Postrel

While this week’s cover, “Beach Hut” by Ellen Postrel, is a summer scene, the ambiance is timeless. So are most works by the artist where setting is most important.

Consider Postrel’s images of small-town life, showing farm stands, main streets and indigenous shops. These are iconic pictures of Americana, evoking charm and peace long missing from our normal, fast-paced routine. Such scenes also articulate the residents who are biking, walking or buying vegetables—Postrel herself saying she pays great attention to people’s body language. This emphasis on detail also derives from photographs and books that Postrel studies. Watercolor contributes to the settings’ mood and tone as well, a medium that Postrel started employing after oils and acrylics. It seems like the perfect match for establishing the timelessness that the artist captures.

Where is the cover image located?
Amagansett, although I live in Westhampton Beach during the summer.

Did you take a photograph of the scene first?
Yes. I always take a photograph even though everything I see, I see as a painting.

What else do you always see?
The people, particularly families who are interacting. I also tell a story with my images.

What’s a favorite technique that you use?
I use wax, taking a candle and melting it on paper. Wherever the wax melts, I paint.

Regarding subject matter, what inspires you besides observing real life?
I trained as a docent this summer at the Parrish Art Museum. I get inspired by the work I see there.

In college, however, you majored in something very different from art.
At Hofstra University I studied Math and English. I wanted to be an architect.

Where did you receive training as an artist?
I take workshops in Florida where I live in the winter; Sue Archer critiques my work in North Palm Beach. But I go other places. This Saturday, I’m heading to New Hampshire to take a workshop. I just signed up for a watercolor workshop on Shelter Island with Janet Jennings. When I’m not painting, I’m thinking of painting.

Do you keep busy with other things as well?
I play golf, usually 18 holes at one time. I walk three miles a day, too. And I love to cook. It’s as creative as painting. I work in the kitchen when I paint; watercolor is easy to clean up.

How about traveling? You go back and forth between here and Florida. How about other places?
I love to travel, especially to Paris, even though it rained every day. But I really enjoy local scenes where I live, what’s around me. I paint plein air, too. I love the experience of sitting outdoors. I don’t even mind people coming up to me while I’m painting, to talk to me.

What’s changed for you regarding art in the last several years?
I’m getting more confident. I’m always learning.

Ellen Postrel’s work is on view at Fitzgerald Gallery in Westhampton Beach, 48 Main Street. Call 631-288-6419 for information.

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