With her impeccable eye and sense of entrepreneurialism, Theresa Drapkin is charting her own course through the contemporary art world. Her pastel paintings combine deeply saturated hues and graphic patterns to create a modern contrast with a color-block feel. We take a look inside her regimented, almost ritualistic, late-night process as she captures the present with one of the art world’s oldest mediums.
Read on for our interview with Theresa Drapkin, along with some behind-the-scenes shots from her studio in Kingston, New York.
Consort: Tell us how you got started in art.
Theresa Drapkin: I’ve always made things and appreciated fine art. I have a background in graphic design. In 2011 during grad school I started working with pastel and painting florals.
C: Why did you choose pastels as your medium?
D: There is that saying, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” When I began, I was living in a studio apartment in NYC with my husband who loves cooking, and a curious black lab. Pastels were convenient to bring out and then store away again.
C: What is the most challenging part about working with pastels?
D: Being pestered by my framer to use fixative! (I won’t, because it can be super toxic and can dull the color of the pastel.) Also, there are no do-overs. Once pastel is on the paper, it can’t be changed.
C: What is your creative process like?
D: Having bits of inspiration floating around and then getting into my studio at 10:00 pm, putting on music, picking a palette and getting to work. It’s pretty regimented and ritualistic.
C: How has your style changed over the years?
D: It’s become more color blocked and less detailed. Although, stripes - always stripes.
C: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
D: Contrast and a sick color palette.
C: Who are some of the people or what are some time periods that influence your work?
D: Milton Avery is just the man. Work by African American folk-artists William H. Johnson, from S. Carolina, Horace Pippin - self taught from Goshen, NY, Amos Ferguson, from the Bahamas. I've always been attracted to their use of color and their vibrant uneven style.
C: Are you attempting to recreate the past in your work, energize the future, or both?
D: I guess I’m trying to capture the present.
C: What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
C: Do you have a memory of the first thing you ever bought or owned that occurred to you as “art”?
D: I had a ceramic red and white cabbage patch lamp in my childhood bedroom that was pretty sculpture-like. I wish I still had it.
C: What projects are you working on right now?
D: I am working on several commissions, as well as a number of projects to translate my original pastels into prints. I'm also showing new art on a regular basis. I’m into pale pinks, olives and grays at the moment.
C: What is your dream project?
D: To create a Calder-like mobile. Or show large scale works in an expansive space like Dia Beacon.
C: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
D: 1. When my grandfather told me during grandparent’s day in 4th grade that my painting of a woman “had no neck.” 2. When I was asked to do my first solo show. 3. Whenever I sell a piece!
C: What food, drink, song inspires you?
D: Fruit. And crunchy peanut butter on wheat, for sustenance. Although I wish I could emulate Hemingway’s output after an afternoon of whiskey and Perrier, I cannot. Alas, iced coffee. Any album I can have on repeat in my studio - Devendra Banhart, Ely Vy, Lykke Li, Marty O’Reilly & the Old Souls Orchestra, The Last Names.
C: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
D: 1. Mamma Anderson, a contemporary artist whose work is always in the back of my mind. Ephemeral and lasting and rich and oh, the colors. 2. Leanne Shapton, an artist, author and entrepreneur. Her sense of humor is subtle and there is an easiness about her work that I admire. 3. Jemima Kirke, because she is just a badass.
C: What is your first memory?
C: What is the first piece you sold?
D: A pastel of daisies for $55 to a friend of a friend who worked at Christies.
C: What can you first remember really wanting?
D: The Barbie Ice Cream Shoppe.
C: When was your first kiss?
D: 7th grade. Stephen O’Kane’s basement, in a game of spin the bottle. It was soon followed by my second.
C: What was your first car?
D: White VW Passat. I loved that car.
C: What was your last phone call?
D: My last missed call was from my youngest sister. I am the oldest of five. And everyone swears I never answer my phone.
C: What was your last meal?
D: Toasted baguette with olive oil and salt.
C: When was the last time you were drunk?
D: October 8! Fueled by the fact that I arrived at a dinner party wearing the same Picasso-striped shirt as my husband (and we walked there together!?).
C: What was the last emoji you used?
C: When was your last vacation?
D: Real vacation - Paris, in February.
Shop Theresa Drapkin’s Consort collection below and tell us what you think in the comments below!