This past week John Traynor visited Martha’s Vineyard. I was able to steal him away from painting for a short while in order to talk to him about his artwork. Traynor has had a successful career as an artist, commemorated by over 200 awards. Read on to hear about John’s affinity for the Vineyard and his inherent ability to capture the splendor of nature.
By Erica Udow, Gallery Associate
You have been visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the summertime for many years. What is it that attracts you to the island?
I like the peacefulness of Martha’s Vineyard. Of course, the past couple of days have been nice with the sunny weather and the light breeze. Like many visitors to the island, I come near the water and immediately relax.
Do you have any favorite spots to go and paint?
I used to like painting Menemsha, but a little bit of the old world feeling is going away. I like the variety of the different towns. We usually go for breakfast out by Gay Head near the Indian Reservation. It’s nice having come here for a while, to have our favorite places that we go back to time and time again.
On the East Coast everyday is different. If you own a house here you can sit in the same spot at the same time each day and see a completely different landscape with a different sky reflecting into the water. That phenomenon is unique to this area. I spent some time traveling on the West Coast this year and was able to experience and paint some striking landscapes in Hawaii and Carmel, California. There are varied landscapes in those areas, but the sky doesn’t change in the same way as it does along the East Coast.
Last summer the theme of your exhibition at The Christina Gallery was “Favorite Places,” based on your travels around Europe. What themes are you developing for next summer’s exhibition?
This trip I’m getting things together. I’ll have some local Vineyard scenes for the exhibition next year. I’ve never been here in August before. We usually visit in July so I’m absorbing different scenery and changes in the landscape. I will be back here next summer when the roses are out; hopefully I’ll include those paintings in the show. I tend to let themes emerge naturally, so I’ll have a better idea of what the exhibition will look like by the spring . Until then, I will paint whatever inspires me. I have recently become more interested in figurative painting. This trip to the Vineyard I have spent time paying attention to the way people interact and taking photographs when people catch my eye. I’m always thinking about how to improve my paintings.
Is most of your current work done on location or in the studio?
I spend a lot of time painting outside on location. If you’re out for a couple of hours things happen. You meet people. Being outside you have the smells and the sounds…other senses to go by.
When I look at your artwork I’m immediately drawn to the way you are able to depict natural light. Your paintings seem to glow from within and the way sun breaks through the clouds in a natural, graceful way.
When I paint outside, that’s the first thing I think about – the light. The light changes in about an hour to an hour and a half so I try to work quickly within that time frame before the light changes drastically. When painting I learned to use light to help the viewers’ eye move around the painting. Painters that I like from the past do that really well. For me capturing the light is about capturing the feeling of the moment and the scene. I want to share that feeling with the viewer and help them experience my painting with all of their senses.
What artists inspire your approach to depicting light?
Old masters like Rembrandt and more modern artists like George Ennis, who was part of the nineteenth century Hudson River School. As I developed my own painting I became interested in the moment when Impressionism came to America. Frederick Mulhaupt of the Gloucester School was an interesting artist. He was able to capture the complete ambiance of a scene in each painting. I try to do the same in each of my works.
Do you ever paint alongside other artists or do you prefer to work alone?
A lot of the trips I go on, I really just want to paint. Once in awhile I go out with someone else and paint together, but for the most part I work alone.
What is the intention behind your paintings? Clearly, there is a focus on the portrayal of light, but are you also trying to impart a message upon your viewers?
I interpret what I look at; that’s what I want to pass on to the viewer – the beauty of nature and the implications of light. People have told me that they look at my artwork and are immediately able to relax. Today everything is mechanical. When someone has something that is made without technology it is really special. I want to leave my viewers with something honest. I want to share what I see; the spontaneity, the structure and the beauty of what is all around us.
You can find more information about Traynor’s Summer 2011 exhibition, “Favorite Places,” at The Christina Gallery here.