During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Mikel Wintermantel, CM

Pictured above: (detail of) Placid Autumnal Moonrise, oil on panel, 25”x93”

Written by: Francesca Sinnott

 

 

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Pictured: Mikel Wintermantel

A luminous landscape artist intrigued by the effects of light on a scene, Copley Master Mikel Wintermantel is both an extraordinary painter and a cancer survivor who has built a legacy both as an artist and a benefactor to the arts. His paintings capture quiet, reflective scenes with great attention to detail and each work makes a statement because of how it’s painted, what it’s painted on and what it’s framed with. “I like my paintings to convey a unique style; and the way I achieve that is by my technique and my surface. For the past 10 years I have been painting with alkyds on copper metal. The copper glow radiates through the translucent layers and creates a stunning effect. I can also scratch copper details that will bring out the highlights of the copper in to the scene that I am painting”. Mikel also sometimes hand carves his beautiful frames and lines them with copper.

 

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Pictured: Cantankerous, alkyd on copper, 14.5”x14.5”

Mikel has reached a point in his career where he is proud to hang alongside artists he admires in many important private collections and there is a high demand for his work. It is clear that his success comes from: his belief in himself, his hard work and the connections he has made. “The Copley Society helped me achieve what I believed was possible. I wanted to be a luminous painter and follow in the footsteps of Frederic Edwin Church, and contemporaries Joseph McGurl, William Davis and Donald Demers.  In 2003 after I joined Co|So I was in a group show. I was a bit of a ‘Podunk’ back then so when I asked the Gallery Director at the time why I had so many red dots next to my painting, she took me aside and said, ‘We have to talk. There is a firestorm of interest in your work. Go home, paint, and send me as much of your work as you can' ”. That year, Mikel sold over 200 paintings through Co|So and was launched in to 8 other galleries. In 2006 he had his first Co|So solo show and received the John Singleton Copley Award. He has two paintings in the Holiday Works Show.

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Pictured:The Russeting Landscape, alkyd on copper, 12” x 14”

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Pictured: Autumn Grays, alkyd on copper, 14”x 12”

In 2013 Mikel was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. While undergoing a battle for his life, he kept an easel by his side. Even when he didn’t feel well enough to paint, he would just think about his art and it helped in his healing.

During the pandemic Mikel has stayed in his home studio because of his greater vulnerability to Covid. In addition to painting as much as he can, Mikel works as Director of the Tri-County Art Council of NY providing arts funding to the local community, and as Art Director for the “Great American Paint In”, an on-line platform enabling artists to share their experiences and sell their art during the pandemic.

For the past 40 years he has co-owned a screen-printing business (t-shirts, prints) with his brother that they recently sold. Coincidentally, Mikel’s wife is a critical care ER nurse and front line worker, while his daughter has been studying world pandemics in her college masters program.

Mikel received degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Rochester Institute of Technology, among others. He later apprenticed under J. Cole Young. In the early 1980’s they painted en plein air, following the tradition of the luminous painters through the Hudson River Valley, up in to northern New England. Then, after a 12-year hiatus, Mikel began to paint again after his daughter’s birth in 2000. “I stayed at home while my wife went to nursing school. I taught myself a new indirect method of painting that involved faster drying paints. This process has allowed me to be more creative and produce more work. It gives me more control.  I can easily move from one painting to another, paint each layer and adjust the colors and values, as I need to. I can also undo something if I’m not pleased with it".

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Pictured: Simple Solitude, alkyd on panel, 16.5”x16.5”

Mikel describes going in to his studio, where he is surrounded by 30 paintings or more at varying levels of finish, like “entering his cockpit”. He paints from sketches he captures while traveling around Western New York. “The Great Lakes create stunning sky effects and sunsets”. The final painting is not always of one particular place but a memory of several places.

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Pictured: Great Lake Calm, alkyd on panel, 11”x11” (Wintermantel frame)

Mikel is a true master at his “medium”. He is spokesman for medium manufacturer Chroma and has created a “how to” video for their Atelier Interactive Acrylic Paint. He has won awards from Jack Richeson & Co and American Artist for painting in Casein. His paintings are in their corporate collections.

Mikel has taught many workshops over the years on technique and on marketing oneself as an artist. A mantra I repeat at my workshops is that “10 minutes of uninspired painting can ruin 10 months of hard work”.  He encourages new artists to get visibility through the Internet and associations like Co|So. Also “focus on doing what you do best and create your own unique work through that”. Mikel’s work can be found on his website and on his Instagram (mikel.wintermantel) and on Facebook.

Very soon Mikel wants to dedicate all his time to his painting. “I look forward to having the time to slow down. I feel my best is yet to come.”