Each of New York City’s seasons possess their charms. Spring: green and hopeful. Long summer days, baseball, the park. Sweater weather and autumn’s turning leaves.
Winter in the City – the holidays – go beyond charming. At its best, with a gentle snow falling, NYC can feel sprinkled with fairy dust. The Nutcracker. Rockefeller Center. Ice skating. Holiday markets. The Rockettes.
New York at the holidays captivates the imagination of millions, those who live there, those who’ve been, and those who dream of going. This is the New York Cindy Shaoul paints. Not just winter, the beach too, and cafés, bookstores – the best of New York. Romantic New York. The New York as lived by Carrie Bradshaw.
“I feel like inspiration is everywhere you turn,” Shaoul said of her hometown.
Following studies at the Art Students League – in the footsteps of other famous New York painters, born or adopted, like Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, Donald Judd – she began using the streetscape of Manhattan as her muse while enrolled in a plein air painting class.
“When we set off to paint on our own, my first stop was Soho,” Shaoul remembers. “There is just a magical feeling of these streets between the restaurants, shops and coffee houses. New York is an enchanting and mysterious place and being able to set up and paint it is truly a dream come true.”
A born performer who’s played violin since age five, competed in gymnastics, and later sung in bands in her 20’s, Shaoul has never been intimidated by putting herself out there in front of a crowd.
“It felt very natural to paint in front of people and converse with them,” she says of her plein air painting around New York. “I actually really enjoy it and look forward to it as part of the whole experience.”
Of her popular New York street scenes, roughly 80% are painted on-site.
“Painting a scene from life is just a completely different feeling; I feel like the magic from the air gets mixed in and somehow the painting just breathes differently,” Shaoul said. “There is something about being out in the open air and seeing your subject in real time that adds an extra layer and creates the magic that I am looking for.”
That magic attracts her numerous celebrity collectors: Emma Roberts, Lily Collins, Ashley Park, Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich to name a few.
What inspires her to pick up her brushes when she’s out and about in Manhattan?
“I am looking for a wow factor. Specific colors, an exciting composition, like if there is a bicycle chained to a tree, or if there is a pop of color on an awning that I am just in love with,” Shaoul explains. “These are all little details that when put together right, I gravitate toward it and will paint.”
Shaoul’s unique style blends French Impressionism – with obvious nods to Renoir, Degas and Cassatt – along with her Art Students League instruction from mentors Joseph Peller, Gregg Kreutz, and Tom Torak.
“Joseph Peller taught me the use of shadow and light, which is a tremendous tool that I use in my painting practice,” Shaoul has said. “Gregg Kreutz taught me to be courageous in New York City, to take my supplies and set up and paint a street scene from life. He is the reason I started Plein-air painting. Tom Torak taught me how to implement movement into the initial sketch of a painting, a great tool that adds impressions of a classical tradition: the linchpin of his class.”
To this, she has added a dash of New York’s iconic street art. Renowned graffiti artist LA II (Angel Oritz) – who previously worked with Keith Haring – became an influence on her work after the two met.
The stylish denizens of New York painted as the Impressionists might have 150 years later, haute couture with an echo of Hip Hop.
Shaoul’s blend of impressionistic and abstract style is further inspired by the whimsey and purity of the feminine form. Her most popular series includes “Brides,” “Dripping Dots,” and “Hearts,” along with her street scenes of quintessential New York locations.
Across her work, particularly in “Dripping Dots,” Shaoul lays her paint on thick, creating juicy, yummy surface textures.
“I feel like when you add those extra layers and chunks of paint, it adds a pop that makes me feel like the painting has become alive,” Shaoul says. “Those textures and thick impasto painting techniques allows for this and is something I am drawn to inherently.”
Back to the holidays in New York. What recommendations does the quintessential New Yorker have for those seeking to experience the wonders of the city during winter?
“Find a cozy spot like Alice’s Tea Cup, Serendipity, get lost in a used book shop, or simply anywhere your heart brings you to and just soak up the moments,” Shaoul advises. “Grab a hot chocolate and roam the streets. Find places that make you feel a spark inside and go toward it. Most importantly, put your phone away to really let the spirit of New York seep in.”