Traeger di Pietro talks about his art

He says it isn’t that he has changed as an artist since moving to the Island 11 years ago — not changed, but evolved. “My techniques, methods, and rendering are the same,” he says, “but the colors and compositions are stronger.”

At 34, Traeger di Pietro is an emerging and accomplished painter who exhibits at Dragonfly and PIKNIK Art & Apparel galleries in the Oak Bluffs Arts District, along with four other galleries in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, New Orleans, and Connecticut.

Saying he thinks of himself as more of a creator than a painter, he works in oils, acrylic, and mixed media, applying the paint thickly in bold, heavy strokes that lends texture to shapes and background. His images, often of ordinary working people and rather vague, faceless figures, are impressionistic, include atmospheric seascapes and landscapes, urban scenes, still lifes, and whimsical animals — a zebra in a coat, a gorilla wearing a tie — are stories that usually contain a subtext and message, often political, all told in form and color.

“Sometimes I set up and paint plein air, but I also paint from my sketches and photos. I’ll just make up images in my head sometimes, my subconscious. I just want to create.”

He says, “The images, the colors, are what I first started with, but they’ve gotten stronger. I’ve been doing this for 11 years. I’ve found the freedom that comes with not being afraid to go back into a piece to make it better and change it without being afraid of ruining it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work on the first go, but it’s a matter of confidence.”

He produces a lot of art — he works on as many as eight paintings at a time — but when asked how many he completes in a month, the Swampscott native says he doesn’t really keep track. “It’s like keeping track of your batting average. Instead, you just keep going out and playing the game.”

An athlete in high school, he first attended the University of New Hampshire and then the University of Maine on a baseball scholarship. Eventually, he switched his major to studio art.

And gradually, he developed a plan to realize his dream of being an artist. “Oddly enough, ever since I moved to the Island [in 2000], I had the plan to first get my work displayed in restaurants, find a job, paint during the winter and then get my work into galleries.”

It was Holly Alaimo, former owner of Dragonfly Gallery, who first noticed one of Mr. di Pietro’s paintings in a local restaurant. She became his mentor, offering support and a place to show his paintings.

“I used to hang out at the [Dragonfly] gallery,” he recalls. “I just loved our conversations.”

And he appreciates the Arts District, which he describes as being “all about the artists and the art. The beauty of the Arts District is that it lets you show your work in several Island galleries.”

Mr. di Pietro paints in his studio at home from around 5 pm to 12 am, after spending the bulk of the weekday driving a soft-drink delivery truck. It’s a job he enjoys because, he explains, it gives him an opportunity to find inspiration in different places around the Island. “I’m getting paid to find subjects for my paintings,” he says. “I drive around getting ideas. And it’s a diary of how I see things.”

Dragonfly Gallery owner Don McKillop says, “Traeger’s work has leaped to a remarkable new level over the past year. I’ve spent a lot of time in his studio where his creativity literally spills out over the walls. We look at his works in progress together, and despite his high level of talent, achievement and prowess, Traeger remains open-minded, eager to make only the best possible work, and willing to work hard for his much deserved success.”

His steady success leaves him more excited than surprised. “It’s part of the dream,” he says.

For more information, visit traegerdipietro.com.