How They Survive: Doing Double Duty

Traegar DiPietro, Scott Terry, John Holladay and Ben Cabot are among those Vineyard artists who maintain two careers. In addition to their artistic pursuits, each of these Islanders supports himself with another, separate career. But even when their second occupations seem conspicuously independent from the art world, the two become somewhat intertwined.

Traegar DePietro is a well-known painter on the Island who exhibits at two established Oak Bluffs galleries, Dragonfly and PIKNIK Fine Arts & Apparel. His impressionistic work is expressed in a medley of bright colors and includes a variety of subjects from boats and fishermen to city sidewalks and still-lifes.

The artist’s conspicuous talent and popularity stands apart from his day-job as a soft drink delivery truck driver, a job that consumes 40-50 hours of each week. He drives a truck from 6 am to around 4 pm, when he returns for a brief hiatus. He then devotes himself to painting from 5 pm to around 12 am. Perhaps surprisingly, the artist insists the two professions complement each other handsomely.

Mr. DiPietro claims driving around the Island brings inspiration, and helps him to find his subject. “Many of my images are gestures,” he says, adding that driving allows him to get a glimpse of people doing different things. “I’m often concerned with interactions with people, aspects of the human psyche as well as the subconscious.”

While Mr. DiPietro would ultimately aspires to a full-time career in painting, he says his vocations augment each other so much so that he would find inspiration driving around the Island whether or not it was his job.

“My impressionistic paintings are from life. It’s not just a sunset or a field of grass, but a broken tree, a worm, a dirty apple,” he says. “These are subjects you need to spend time finding and my day-job allows me to do that. I’m essentially getting paid to find my subjects.”

What’s more, cerrtain aspects of driving a truck, such as the vehicle’s height, gives the painter a unique artistic perspective of his subject matter, whether it be natural or anthropological. “People think the Island is beautiful,” he says with a smile, “and they don’t realize how little they see. They need to get higher.”

Representational painter Scott Terry’s three lines of employment affect one another in a more perceivable fashion. In addition to painting, Mr. Terry works as a commercial fisherman and does fossil preparation for collectors, dealers, and museums.

Of each occupation, he notes: “All are of equal importance and interest to me, and all are similar in that they involve working with my hands in a creative fashion.” Most importantly for the artist, all three careers speak to professional and economic independence.

While Mr. Terry considers himself “an artist above all else,” he is equally involved emotionally in fishing, something he began doing in his teens. Both careers speak to his personality and passions in an authentic manner and each helps to hone the other.While fishing, Mr. Terry is able to study characteristics of nature, such as the ephemeral aspects of light that he representes so masterfully in his paintings.In turn, the painter’s subject matter often depicts scenes from his boat. He says: “I have seen a lot of changes in commercial fishing in 45 years, not many of them good, and if I can’t relive the good old days, at least I can paint them.”

Despite juggling three careers, Mr. Terry, who shows his realistic renditions of Vineyard landscapes and houses at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, insists that managing his time is quite simple. During the fishing season (June, July, and August) he dedicates himself to the trade. For the rest of the year he paints during the daylight hours and does fossil work in the evenings and on the weekends.

Both of painter John Holladay’s careers have artistic elements. The artist, represented by Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven, teaches computer graphics and animation at Falmouth High School, commuting every weekday. When he returns to his house around 4 pm, he resumes his life as a painter.

Mr. Holladay’s foundation in both fields is drawing, a skill he believes is extremely important to his paintings, which even while retaining realistic qualities, reflect an feeling of animation.

Teaching computer graphics allows the painter to explore movement in his own work while remaining current to a burgeoning generation of art. “Today, art for young people is on the computer,” he says. “Children can express themselves there.”

Mr. Holladay’s focus on animation stems from his work as a widely collected cartoonist from 1980-2000, when he illustrated collegiate sporting events as posters and illustrated children’s books. Today, he sketches figures on the ferry while commuting to and from the Vineyard.

The painter is equally invested in teaching as he is in his own art and is adamant that he would never give up the former for the latter.

“I was brought up in an era where you give back to your community and don’t just take,” Mr. Holladay says and adds he won’t give up the profession until age demands it. “I learn so much from the kids I teach, the way they come up with ideas is completely different from my own.”

Island artist Ben Cabot’s professions blend into one another. The self-trained sculptor began pursuing the arts five years after embarking on a career in landscaping and stonework with David Merry 15 years ago. The artist shows his bird and animal sculptures at The Granary and Field Galleries.

Mr. Cabot thoroughly enjoys working with stone and granite in both jobs. His day-job with landscape stonework allows him to find inspiration for his artwork, exploring creative expressions for the stone at the day’s end. Further, it takes the economic pressure off of being a full-time artist.

Regardless of monetary incentives however, Mr. Cabot maintains that both careers embody him. “I get a lot of satisfaction from working with stone,” he says. “Both stone walls and artwork will be around long after I’m gone.”

While having a side-job might sometimes be mandatory for the fiscal insecurity that accompanies being an artist, these Vineyarders suggest that it can also be a creative necessary. As Mr. Holladay observes, “If I just painted full-time I’m afraid I would just get worse.”