When asked to define the type of work she does, Spring Hofeldt usually responds by saying “realism.” But she’s quick to add that the term fits the look of her paintings, but not the messages that they convey. Still, there’s a wealth of common ground to be found in her quirky portraits of ostriches, fostered fish, and romantic vegetable duos. She observes that her paintings “immerse the viewer in a metaphor of day-to-day life. Whether you’re a cynic of a sunshine, we can all relate to making light of such trials and tribulations.”
Our recent conversation with Spring sheds some more light on her spunky slices of life, the inspiration that can be found in excavators, and her love of words that include “oo.”
What artists have influenced your work?
I went to school for illustration, so naturally I’ve been captivated by the work of C.F. Payne and Norman Rockwell. They made me realize how important it is to me that I capture a humorous or quirky moment. These artists illustrate the true character and essence of a person/object in such a light and wonderful way.
What are other personal influences on your work?
There are so many human experiences that can be annoying, awkward, or awful. Retelling the story to others and seeing the humor in it is a great way to cope.
Your work is characterized by a certain naturalism or realism. How do you define realism?
I don’t think of myself as someone who is chasing photorealism, but rather the character of the feeling I’m after. To those few who ask me, “why put all the effort into painting a photograph you took? Why not just print the photo and call it a day?” Paint has a way of making the image extra yummy. I like being able to alter the colors or patterns with paint rather than a computer saturation. And simply, I like the challenge of painting something so real.
What’s your favorite thing about your studio—how does the space or its contents inspire you?
My corner studio overlooks Brooklyn’s BQE and the F/G subway lines, which provide a constant sense of movement and an overall positive hum. The best aspect of the movement outside is the large, mustard yellow, claw excavators tossing metal from one pile to another at the scrap yard. It’s like a dance of mechanical dinosaurs all day long.
I also share the studio with two other artists, and although their art is very different than mine, just seeing how productive they are encourages me to get to work.
When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
I had a good hunch when asked at age 6 or 7, but never really took it too seriously until I took an art class my last year of high school, only because I had an extra spot to fill. With spit wads flying over my head, my nose deep in graphite and colored pencils, I realized by the end of school that it was a true passion I wanted to pursue.
How do you balance creativity—painting for it’s own sake—with the business side of being a professional artist?
At this point, I’d say that I only create paintings I’m truly inspired to produce and am confident about the subject matter. Even if I take on commissions, I make sure they’re filled with character that I would normally add. This is initially why they are coming to me.
What inspired you to create your ostrich paintings?
I’m drawn to bizarre and quirky animals. Ostriches have a very powerful presence… From their towering size and quick step, to their large, bold, deep black eyes that have a lock on your every move.
What was your favorite part of that process?
Adding the fine details that really capture the animal’s character and seeing them come to life.
How do you hope people react when they receive your creation?
I hope it makes them chuckle, giggle, snort, laugh out loud, or smile on the inside.
Do you have any memorable customer feedback you’d like to share?
I have this one repeat customer that visits during every annual open studio. I love hearing her boisterous laugh filling the hallway, announcing her presence in the building. The first time I heard it was when I had hung up the set of four ostriches outside my door and she just couldn’t stop laughing. I, along with the visitors in the room at that time, couldn’t help but start laughing with her because the sound coming from the hall was so contagious. We had absolutely no idea what she was laughing at, but it didn’t matter. Moments like those are too great.
Tell us three uncommon facts about yourself.
I love to meticulously peel pomegranates by hand in my lap, sometimes taking over an hour.
I’m tickled by double o words: oof (as previously mentioned), bazooka, cooties, doozie, floozie, goober, vamoose, etc.
I chose to be married in a rowboat.
In the copy for the Contact section of her website and in a few of her paintings, Spring employs the DIY telephone metaphor of two tin cans and a length of string. That feels like an apt metaphor for painting: communicating through imperfect means and media, but celebrating their alluring, endearing quirks in the process.