In the midst of a summer heatwave, Copley Master Mikel Wintermantel stood in the Copley Society of Art, painting a sunset landscape from a reference photo on his iPad. A small crowd of artists, patrons, and passersby assembled for his artist demonstration.
Mikel Wintermantel selects a photo from his iPad to paint
Wintermantel, whose works are on display in the Back Bay Room for his solo show Evanescent, frequently works on copper plates instead of canvas. He said it “gives the works more life,” particularly upon close viewing. While a canvas swallows brush strokes due to the texture of the fabric, the artist’s hand is easily seen on a copper plate. This, in addition to the small scale of his works, makes the paintings captivating from all ranges.
Mikel Wintermantel paints the initial layer
In addition to the texture, the copper plate emphasizes the vibrant hues in the alkyd paints – a key element in Wintermantel’s landscapes. However, copper requires a great deal of control, as the paint does not stick to the plate as it does to the woven canvas. To demonstrate this, Wintermantel asked the audience to participate. Co|So artist members in attendance, including Tim Rakarich and Kate Sullivan, CM, were surprised by how “slippery” the surface was. The alkyd paint seemed to glide over the plate and required a thin and careful application.
Copley Artist RJ Houghton applies a thin layer of alkyd paint to a copper plate Wintermantel has set up for the audience
Wintermantel begins to illustrate the foreground of his copper plate landscape
The thin application of paint allows Wintermantel to layer his colors, resulting in incredibly animated skies. Wintermantel prefers to layer vivid complementary colors to create dimension and tension. This method is visible in Wintermantel’s landscape So Warm, So Cool. The soft pink of the clouds reveal the luminescent red copper underneath, and the soft purples and blues of the tree make the warmer sky pop. However, even within the trees are sections where the paints is scraped off, revealing the plate beneath. The contrast between cold and warm hues in this painting is dramatized by the copper plate beneath.
Mikel Wintermantel, So Warm, So Cool, oil on copper, 14.25 x 14.25”
Mikel Wintermantel works in alkyd paint because the layers are easily removed with water, unlike other paints such as acrylics. By removing layers, the copper shows through the paint, displaying brushstrokes, prior layers and the plate underneath. Wintermantel demonstrated this process to the audience when he removed a layer of paint to create variety in the warm tones of the clouds. He repeated this movement in the horizon line, producing atmospheric perspective in the trees on the horizon.
As Wintermantel overwhelmingly used paint on copper plates in Evanescent, the artist demonstration allowed him to detail his choice of medium and painting process. This demonstration encouraged the audience to look closely at his works and to see how the paint and copper interact to create an image.
Mikel Wintermantel’s solo show Evanescent is on view in the Back Bay Room through August 19th.
Written by Intern Kate Davies