Honoring Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Gene Southard

This week’s cover by Gene Southard gives us hope. In the image, called “Beach Road,” the snow is gone. So is the ice. Only a few puddles remain in the road. The ocean beckons, although we can’t see it. Lest we think the painting is a result of wishful thinking on the artist’s part, we can assure you that this is a real place nearby. And yes, spring is really coming.

The image also fuels our imagination in other ways and not only about the coming of good weather. We also wonder about what lies beyond the end of the road. For that matter, we want to know what lies around the bend, before we get to the road. The image tells a story, a narrative that invigorates us.

Where does this setting exist?
It’s on the north side of the South Fork, near the National Golf Course.

You must live not far from there.
Yes, I live in Center Moriches and grew up in West Islip.

So, you are a homegrown Long Islander. What are your early memories of the water?
My father taking me flounder fishing from Babylon to Brightwaters. Back then it was all wetlands. You could see to the bottom of the water, down eight feet.

How important is fishing to you?
It’s the love of my life. I gotta be where I can smell salt air.

How do your children feel about fishing?
They love it, too; I think my two girls love it more than my son. Of course, they’re all grown up now.

What were you able to teach your children through their experiences?
We would fish during the summer, and they would say they wanted to be fishermen. But I told them it was a very hard life, especially when they had to fish in January and February. I also told them about lobstermen in Maine. They will fight to the death if other fishermen put their lobster pots in their territory. 

Another hard life is being an artist. How did that fact impact on your own life?
When I was in high school, my art teacher said she’d help me get a scholarship to art school—but a friend said I would end up being a starving artist. So I pursued another profession.

What was that?
I was with the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) for six years and the Suffolk County DOT for 31 years. I did a lot of drafting.

How did your drafting skills help your art—when you started painting after retirement?
When I’m painting a house, for example, I always draw a detailed image first, using drafting techniques.

What attracted you to painting in the first place?
Creating something out of nothing, starting with a blank canvas.

You paint in a realistic style. Do you ever have a desire to paint in an abstract style?
I have no interest in that. I don’t know if I have the imagination. 

Is painting your profession now that you’ve retired?
I never intended art to be a profession. It was to be my pleasure.

What kind of image attracts you? Is it the color, composition, lighting?
I don’t know, an image just hits me.

Contact Gene Southard at genesouth@optonline.net.

Gene Southard

Gene Southard

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