Gayle Kabaker’s “Summer Walk”

A few years ago, in the commercial afterglow of a wave of successful books on hygge, defined as the “quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality,” English-language publishers released several books touting the benefits of the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku—or forest bathing. That the term, like hygge, seemed merely to reintroduce the obvious made its appeal no less resonant. For many, especially those who live in the city, to go among the trees, surrounded by verdant rustlings and the scent of sap and soil, is a balm for the senses. In her cover for this week’s issue, the artist Gayle Kabaker captures the soothing serenity of a walk through the forest. I recently spoke to Kabaker about working from photos and live sketching on Zoom.

Do you like going for a stroll through the woods?

This cover was inspired by a photo I took, at the end of the day when the light is amazing, of my daughter’s friend Lisa and her son, Milo, walking down the road. I love walking. I love hiking with my dog, Charlie, though I am biking more these days. I let Charlie run alongside my bike down the hill and back up, so he gets a good cardio blast before I head out for a ride. That way he isn’t bummed out when I ride away!

In addition to your work as an artist, you also lead workshops. What is that like?

I hold painting classes on Zoom with my friend, the artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis. We teach people, in an accessible way that students of all levels of skill seem to enjoy, to paint with acrylic gouache and to document what they see in sketchbooks. We’ve also taken our class on the road to France and Spain, and plan to travel to Morocco, Mexico, Spain again soon.

Do you paint from photos or from real life?

I often use photos for inspiration. I don’t follow them exactly, but interpret them. This way of working is very freeing for me and seems to be for others as well, so I use it in my teaching. It’s crazy how tense and nervous people get because they are worried about making mistakes. I still succumb to this when I am on a stressful deadline, and teaching has been a great reminder to myself to loosen up and enjoy the process.

Do you have any tips for those who want to get out of a creative rut?

Something that inspires me is drawing from live models on Zoom. I began doing this at the start of the pandemic and have continued. Sometimes I join a larger group of artists from all over the world, or I’ll hire a model and invite a few of my artist friends to join. We all draw and chat for two hours, sharing our work during the breaks.

A wall in Kabaker’s studio is covered with her work from virtual figure-drawing sessions.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My granddaughter, Mona, continues to be a main source of fun and inspiration. She will be two in November, and I just started sketchbook No. 3! I find that painting regularly in my sketchbook helps me stay loose. And I am inspired by my students. Often, when I walk around during a class to help, I will see something and think, Oh, I’d like to try that!

For more covers about spending time in nature, see below:

“May 26, 1928,” by Helen E. Hokinson

“August 24, 1963,” by William Steig

“Nurture,” by Loveis Wise

Find Gayle Kabaker’s covers, cartoons, and more at the Condé Nast Store.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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