Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Feature: Dorrie Rifkin

'Across Grand Central' watercolor by Dorrie Rifkin
 Hi Everyone,
For my first Feature of 2012 I have a very special artist.  Her watercolors are absolutely gorgeous!  Her use of color is watercolor at it's best, she layers and mixes and makes the most creative and beautiful compositions.   

To see more of her work check out her website. 
How did you get your start?   
When I was a kid, my mom figured out that the best way to keep me entertained was a sketchpad.  My parents, both accountants, went through the Depression in their formative years, so Fine Art was not an option for me. I studied Graphic and Advertising Design at the University of Delaware.  I still make my living, in part, as an art director.  
'Bridges' watercolor by Dorrie Rifkin
 What’s your artist journey so far?

A few years ago, I just started entering art shows, not on a whim but as a self-challenge.  Not too long after, my artistic life-changing experience came, following a workshop I took with John Salminen.  He recommended me for an article in Watercolor Artist entitled, “Ones to Watch.”  After that, it became more than just a personal passion, as I started to gain more recognition. This year, the NBC TV show Prime Suspect bought a few of my prints. Now I’m being contacted more about painting projects than design projects.  

Where were you born?  

The Bronx, but I spent most of my wonder years in New Jersey, where I still live.
'Grand Central Station' watercolor by Dorrie Rifkin
 If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

New York City.  Home has always been where family and friends are.  
What’s your favorite thing to paint, and why?

Urban scenes.  I love type and iconic structures.  I look for design elements that I can play with, using positive and negative shapes.  
Could you talk about your painting techniques?  

Step 1: 
Go out and take photos.
Step 2: 
Photoshop.  Here’s where I work on getting a strong design.
Step 3: 
Get a piece of paper and start drawing.  I use Strathmore Wet Media Board because it takes a beating. 
Step 4:  
Paint.  I start with wet on wet for the background, and then slowly add details with layers. Wet Media Board doesn’t soak in the paint, which gives that soft wet on wet look.  I can also pretty much get back to the white of the paper without destroying the board.    

You have such a fabulous style. Tell us a little about how you evolved into this painting style.

My job as an Art Director was to sell a concept. It was important to make sure the client got the concept visually.  Before computers, I used magic markers to create conceptual layouts for clients.  If one wanted to go home, one learned quickly how to do this fast and loose.  All of this carried over into my style.

I love the blooms and gorgeous color combinations; you really seem to love to play with your paint, how did you arrive at your current style?

My secrets are, one, a messy palette, and, two, embracing happy accidents.

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

I love so many artists that I can’t just name one.
  Andy Warhol started my love affair with graphic design and type. Bernie Fuchs and Bart Forbes: When I was growing up. I used to anticipate TV Guide’s weekly arrival in the mail.  If the cover was an illustration, I was in heaven -- usually it was by one of these guys. John Salminen: The “Bruce Springsteen of the Watercolor World.” Facebook: Every day, when I open Facebook, I go into a candy store of talent and inspiration.

What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?

Having a good life.  My husband. New York City. American Idol. Macbook Pro. iPad. And Diet Coke.  

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Burnt sienna, quinacridone orange and manganese blue.  Anything quinacridone is all right with me.

How do you balance your teaching life with your art career?

Add to that, “…and with being an art director and a newlywed.”  Get up in the morning and breathe.  After that, supportive husband, good friends, and family who do not bill me. 
'Lincoln Center' watercolor by Dorrie Rifkin
 What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? 
Dream big here.

1.    Be represented by a gallery
2.    Travel and paint around the world
3.    A studio that isn’t my kitchen table, and a paid assistant.
4.    Teach workshops
5.    Have a painting on the cover of TV Guide.
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Embrace technology, take business classes, have a second income, never stop learning (i.e., take workshops, etc.), and nurture a good sense of humor.
What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
You're the boss.  Nobody sees the photograph or subject matter that you're painting; it’s your job to interpret it.
'World Trade Center' watercolor by Dorrie Rifkin
Have you always painted in watercolor, or have you tried other mediums?
I explored all mediums, but always preferred watercolor.  It’s portable, and easiest to clean up.  Also, it’s the only medium I know that has a mind of it’s own, whose physical properties require the artist to cede control to it. I consider the watercolor a partner when I paint. 

Dorrie, thank you so much for a  wonderful interview:))



  1. I enjoyed this interview very much, Carrie!! Dorrie Rifkin is an amazing artist. I love her subway series! Lots of wonderful details...I was born in the Bronx as well, so I really enjoyed a lot of her work!!

  2. Another fabulous feature, Carrie. Dorrie's work is wonderful!

  3. Happy 2012 Carrie. What a fun way to start the year- learning about such a wonderfully talented new artist. Love Dorrie's work and so fabulous to get to know her a bit. Love your Friday Feature's and look forward to them each...Friday!:)

  4. What a lovely selection of paintings here and such a lovely style too. :0)

  5. I enjoyed reaidn this so much -- two talented people make it smart, interesting and inspiring, thank you!

  6. Great post . . . Dorrie is an inspiration - I'm a new fan. And I LOVE that quote: "I consider the watercolor a partner when I paint." Brilliant and so true.