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Q&A

Cape Cod painter Sacha Richter on family, colors, and landscapes

Primarily using oil paints and a palette knife, Sacha Richter has been painting landscapes for over 20 years. Richter was born into a family of artists. His grandfather, Mischa Richter, was a longtime cartoonist for The New Yorker, his father, Dan, was a gifted actor and choreographer, and his brother Mischa is a photographer. Sacha Richter has exhibited work all across Massachusetts and currently lives in Provincetown.

How long have you been painting?

My grandfather painted, so I had been exposed early on. I actually went to college at the University of Massachusetts Boston [for] marine biology and I wanted to study photography so I could document the marine animals. I decided to do a semester at the Studio Arts Centers International in Florence for photography. I took a number of different art classes. I took a painting restoration course, which I thought was really interesting. Applying paint to that canvas, I just got interested. I’d already been interested in creating composition in photography; I got more interested in making my own composition with paint. I finished my time in Florence, and when I came back to the States, I transferred from the University of Massachusetts to Mass. Art. I’ve been painting ever since.

How do you go about starting a new painting?

Because I am a landscape painter, I have to start off painting “en plein air,” outside. I do start a lot of paintings outside. I paint in Provincetown, in the studio I built on my grandfather’s property. I start a lot of my landscapes outside, and then I’ll often bring them inside and finish them. Sometimes I start the painting outside and finish it outside. I travel into Truro and Wellfleet. It’s all untouched national seashore, a beautiful place for landscape.

What is it about landscapes that draws you in over painting people?

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I think a landscape [is] fitting shapes together, [and] for me, I’m really able to put together a landscape better than a [human] figure on the canvas. I think figures are too recognizable. My work tends to be a little abstracted. It’s still fairly realistic; I enjoy abstracting what I’m looking at, but still recognizing it, having people still recognize what it is. I’ve not felt that need or desire to abstractify a human figure, so I just [stay] away from humans altogether. It’s not an interest of mine. I’m really overwhemed by the landscape that’s around me here, on Cape Cod. Everywhere you look, it’s beautiful. You’re on this peninsula, the light is incredible, and the landscape is so various. It varies so much. It could really keep you interested forever.

Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created?

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It’s a tree, a single solitary tree in a landscape, with a fence going off the side of it. There’s a part of the painting where you can see the canvas itself. What I really like about that is it tells me that it is a painting; it’s not the true nature.

What do you do if you hit a roadblock while you’re working?

I tend to get away right away and go to a different painting. I have multiple paintings at once in my studio, so I don’t get scared of that. . . . I try to do something that’s productive and still around the work. Maybe stretching canvases, priming new canvases, something like that.

What is your relationship with color?

It’s funny. I studied color. At Mass. Art, I studied color theory, but I like to think that my color comes naturally. When I’m mixing [and] picking colors, a lot are realistic and representative of what’s in nature. I work at bringing in colors that I understand, to relate to one another in their way. There are times that I’ll use a color that you wouldn’t find in nature; very bright orange or bright green. I do abstractify my colors a bit.

How does being a part of the Cape Cod community impact your work?

There is so much art history here. There are so many painters that have worked here, so many painters that at one time made this place their home. Full-time, working artists that were painting the whole time. There are a lot of paintings to access here, by going to places like the [Cape Cod] Art Association or the Fine Arts Work Center. You’re getting inspiration all the time. It’s a very rich area for a landscape painter to live and work in.

This interview has been edited and condensed.