Over the years, Peter Vincent of Rockport has developed his God-given, talents to the fullest, becoming a noted master maritime artist specializing in the colorful Gloucester schooner dory fishing era. His unique paintings not only keep the legacy of that dangerous time, alive, but also provide more answers, like Sebastian Junger’s “Perfect Storm” to the Curious public about the life of the fisherman at sea.
His paintings’ composition, detail, moods, messages and hidden power have repeatedly captivated this fisherman of 38 years, filling me with awe and sending tingles up my spine. I’ve asked myself, “Is Vincent a reincarnated dory fisherman who has come back to tell the story?” Born in Stanford, Conn., to the late Kenneth and Elizabeth Vincent, the entire family, including three brothers and a sister, moved to Rockport in 1967.
“My mother and father were art majors; they met at the Museum of Fine Arts,” said Vincent, who graduated from Rockport High School in 1967.
Vincent’s father was in advertising, while his grandfather, Thomas Mullen, who lived in Portsmouth, N.H., and Boston, captained a 60-foot-long sloop. “He was very well-liked; he used to sell coal to ships. I’ve been told that I’m very much like that he said.
Peter Vincent’s artistic talent surfaced early on. As a youngster, “I used to draw all the time; one time I did a pirate ship and another time a submarine. When I ran out of paper, I would draw on the walls,” recalled Vincent. He was fascinated by the sea and the submarine Nautilus in Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
‘God gave me this talent, and my parents supported it,” said Vincent.
“I didn’t do very well in school, especially with spelling and reading,” he recalled. Vincent had a hearing impairment which affected his communication; he rose above this handicap, earning a diploma from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
He also took courses from established artists Don Stone and John Terelak and masters George Demetrios and Paul Scott. Scott’s words, “Observing is a very important part of art,and a painting is a mirror of the artist’s mind,” and advice, ‘Learn as much as you can while you are young,” still ring loudly in Vincent’s mind. Demetros helped Vincent master drawing. “He was the best teacher I ever had. Without him, you wouldn’t see any Peter Vincent paintings today,” he said. After absorbing bits and pieces of these artists’ techniques and philosophies and while forming his own style, he ebbed and flowed working in various art mediums photography (often for his father), some sculpting, and painting (especially hockey He had not yet found his true artistic niche.
About 20 years ago, Vincent became interested in ester’s schooner dory fishing period. “I read Gordon W. Thomas’ ‘Fast and Able’ and Joseph E. Garland’s ‘Lone Voyager.’ I liked the ships and the men; I met Garland, and he told me all about Howard Blackburn. I admired Blackburn, especially how he survived alone in a dory with what little he had. Garland’s book started me painting in this area,”said Vincent.
In doing so, Peter Vincent found this common theme for his new paintings: the sea, the men, the ships and what they had. He not only educated himself on boat building and structure, especially for the Essex-built schooners with their trademark elliptical raked sterns, but also studied the fine details in old photos of fishermen and fishing activities.
Being a longtime member of the Sandy Bay Yacht Club and an avid sailor enabled Vincent to gain some first-hand maritime experience, too. Next, he put all of his talent and training to work making pen and ink sketches and painting pictures using acrylic on masonite ranging in size from all the way up to “Acrylic is the most comfort-able medium; this allows me to work with a very fine brush for details,”he said.
In 1986, Peter Vincent’s artistic career’s critical breakthrough occurred: he won the Mystic International Award for Excellence for his painting, “Dory Mates,” then exhibited at Mystic Maritime Gallery in Mystic, Conn. Now Vincent had a name, and he could put those years of struggling behind him. “I used to call Dory Mates ‘the dirty window’ painting,” he said. While on exhibit in Rockport, attentive viewers constantly pressed their noses to the gallery’s window and consequently fogged it up. “The public then not only told me that they liked ‘Dory Mates,’ but also what they wanted from me as an artist,”said Vincent.
Rockport’s Granite Shore Gallery owner Michael J. Pardee is the primary dealer of Vincent’s work. He said that remarkably, during this Vincent “continued to grow as an artist while having to deal with a lot of family health burdens. He was a devoted care-taker to his then-ailingelderly parents, who passed away within the last three years.”
Since then, Vincent has made numerous pen. and ink sketches and done at least 50 major and minor acrylic on masonite paintings bearing such titles as “Afternoon Catch,” “Dory Three,”and “Racing for the Market.”
Not only has he received numerous awards from the Art Association, the Society and the Mystic Maritime Gallery, but his paintings have found homes in private collections and museums, including the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Cape Ann Historical Association Museum.
Today his paintings still begin with Vincent sitting in the corner of his sofa making prelimiary pen and ink sketches on a drawing pad, often with light filtering through a large south facing window.
He gives each potential painting a theme, and then pieces together sketches using references, especially old photos, along with actual antique items. Much trial and error is often involved before he’s satisfied, saying, “This’ll make a good painting.” Next, Vincent “will take that idea and start a fresh painting, constructing a full narrative on the masonite” said Pardee.
But Vincent doesn’t worry about style. “I worry about the result,” he said.
Every aspect of his paintings, ranging from background to foreground and main subject, is full of detail, hence each part is a painting within a painting.
“His art makes you think,” added Pardee. Many people who have seen his numerous preliminary sketches have gasped,”wow,” and “have urged him to have a show on just these,” said Pardee, who plans one next summer.
Currently, Peter Vincent is working on a series of small paintings, mostly fishermen portraits “Treasures from the sketchbook” as he calls them.
“The best painting is the next one” said Vincent.
© 1998 Peter Prybot, reproduced with permission of the author