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Theresa Drapkin: A Conversation with the Artist

Written by: Emily Gaynor



Time to read 3 min

Theresa Drapkin is an artist who utilizes vibrant patterns and ephemeral inspirations to create pieces that celebrate the beautiful yet fleeting moments of daily life. Her adventures have taken her from New York City, to the Hudson Valley, and now to Palm Beach, inspiring her effervescent pastel paintings along the way. Her latest collection for Clove & Creek, on view now at the Provincetown location and online, combines floral and nautical references to capture the spirit of summer in her trademark style. 

"It ignited me to start making a ton of artwork and not critique it" – Theresa Drapkin

It was during her graduate studies in graphic design that Theresa discovered the potential of hard pastels, her chosen medium. "I started working with them and fell in love, and because I am not trained in painting, I subverted their use a little bit. Instead of blending the pastels, which is what historically artists use them for, I don't blend at all, so it's more of a graphic effect."

"I started working with [pastels] and fell in love, and because I am not trained in painting, I subverted their use a little bit. "

Calling upon her lifelong love of collage and graphic design training, she carefully lays out her compositions before setting to work on each piece. Her source material is as varied as her influences, ranging from interior design magazines to nature books to her own visual journal, where she has been collecting imagery since 2013. "I basically cut things out of newspapers, magazines, art show catalogs that I go to, anything I love, I just stick in there."

In 2014, Theresa moved from New York City to Kingston, New York, where she first began showing her artwork. "There was a woman there. Her name is Renee Darmstadt, and she loved my pieces, but I'd never shown them. She just said, 'I have this warehouse space, and I want you to do a solo show of all your pieces.'" This offer kindled Theresa's creativity, pushing her to make without restraint. "It ignited me to start making a ton of artwork and not critique it, just making it, gathering all these vintage frames, framing it. And I think I had like 25 pieces or something in this first show that I had ever shown my artwork."

Nude and Stripes by Theresa Drapkin

All of Theresa's pieces are housed in antique frames which add dimension and character to the works. "I don't like being wasteful, so it's a good way for me not to buy a brand new frame that has to get manufactured when there are tons of beautiful vintage frames available." For her, the choice of vintage frames isn't just about aesthetics; it's a reflection of her minimalist ethos and her desire to add depth to her artwork. She isn't bothered when the frames show signs of wear and tear; in fact, she embraces it, seeing it as a parallel to the ever-evolving nature of pastels. "I don't mind when the frame is kind of crumbling. I love it. In a way, it mimics what pastel is like. Pastel will never be fully set and I don't use any fixative. So if you see a dusting of pastel that's just natural. I like that it mimics that organic nature of the media." 

Not Delphinium and Trompe-l’oiel by Theresa Drapkin

Theresa's surroundings play a crucial role in shaping her work as well. "The plants that were in my paintings when I lived in the Hudson Valley were a lot different than they are now," she notes. During her time in the Hudson Valley, her work showcased seasonal flora such as forsythia and Queen Anne's lace. "Now they lean toward palms and fig leaves and citrus," she says of her current home in Palm Beach, Florida. Her latest collection incorporates influences from her current home and the seaside shores of Provincetown. Highlighting a favorite piece from the show, "Mudroom," Theresa reflects, "It just reminds me of summer, like coming in off the beach or going to the market in the morning. A mud room is just so classic."

No matter where life takes her, Theresa's goal is to encapsulate beauty. "I've always been attracted to beautiful things," she admits. "Whether it's the way the light touches the floor, a certain gesture that somebody gives, movie stills...those are all of the things that I love and I want to capture. It's really just taking something I find beautiful and making it a still." Her artwork, then, becomes a way of preserving those fleeting moments, of transforming the transient into the timeless.

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