Featured Artist Dorrie Rifkin

Artist Dorrie Rifkin’s expressive watercolors evoke the sights, sounds, and heartbeat of city life. To see more of her portfolio, visit her website.


Taxi in midtown Manhattan, painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“HEY TAXI!” Midtown” Watercolor, 10″ x 15″


I paint from my passion and intuition. I never learned the formal rules; my need to make a living trumped all thoughts of a fine arts education. A career as an advertising art director—designing logos, print materials and websites—gave me an alternative foundation for watercolor as well as the chops to plan it all out (the concept as well as the execution), strong sketching skills and a knack for lettering and type straight from the old school.


Watercolor painting of a flower market in NYC by Dorrie Rifkin

“82nd and Amsterdam Ave” Watercolor, 20″ x 16″


In fact, I knew some of the real Mad Men. One of my proudest, and most thrilling and unexpected second-career moments came when my fine art was exhibited alongside some of theirs.


City street scene, watercolor painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“Get Your Kicks on Route 66″ Watercolor, 11″ x 22”


So I do it my way, but only because I got here on a well-built byway.


Artist's sketch for a city scene painting. Artist Dorrie Rifkin

Sketch for “Going Home”


I paint what I love; the life of the city, roots music, beer bottles and the people who matter to me. I’ll shoot hundreds of photos to get a take I can work with. Then comes the painstaking work of preliminary sketching and drawing the detailed blueprint.


New York City Street Scene, watercolor painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“Going Home – View from Port Authority” Watercolor, 28″ x 21″


Then, and only then, I commence to build the actual structure, the painting itself, upon it.


Watercolor painting of a street scene in midtown Manhattan, by Dorrie Rifkin

“View from the Highline – Midtown” Watercolor, 29″ x 23″


I think of my painting more as storytelling than as technique.


CVS Pharmacy in the city, watercolor painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“CVS” Watercolor, 20″ x 16″


It is craft, yes, and aspects of it matter to me, in particular the surface upon which I paint (I prefer board, it’s better at absorbing the beating I inflict) and getting the pencil sketch right, no matter the agony, so that I’m relaxed and free when I take up the brush.


Women at a contemporary art gallery, watercolor painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“Taking Notes” Watercolor, 16″ x 13″


In the end, I want you, the viewer, to hear the traffic’s drone, see the pedestrian’s staccato gait, feel the guitar’s laminate, smell the bottle’s pleasantly fungal aroma. This is much more important to me than the technical aspects.


Street scene in New York with a crowd, watercolor painting by Dorrie Rifkin

“What’s the Rush – W 41st St” Watercolor, 18″ x 13″


If my painting makes you feel an emotion, brings back a memory or makes you smile, I’ve done my work.


Watercolor painting of Bryant Park in NYC by Dorrie Rifkin

“Alone – Morning in Bryant Park” Watercolor, 21″ x 28″


I teach as much as I paint. It’s for love and money! There, too, the job is to balance freeing up novice and developing artists’ intuitive talents yet at the same time help them learn the techniques that underlay solid painting. When students tap that synergy, I am proud and uplifted.


Artist Dorrie Rifkin invites you to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.


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