Island influence on Thaw Mailin

"Menemsha Bight," posted on Thaw Malin's website July 17. — Photo courtesy of Thaw Malin

“I always wanted to be here,” Thaw Malin says. “This has been home for me, and I feel safe here. It was my friends that brought me back.”

Thaw Malin, a New Jersey native, is a plein air impressionist painter who moved to the Island after graduating college in 1974. His cousins had a house on the Island and as a child he came with his family every summer, his father eventually purchasing a summer home. Mr. Malin has been on the Island every summer since childhood, except during the years between 2005 and 2009, when he moved to Texas to care for his aging parents.

The 2005 move to Texas found the soft-spoken Mr. Malin with no community, no gallery, only ranch-like surroundings and his family’s contacts. Things changed dramatically after he read an article about a painter who moved from London to Provence, and found he no longer had community, or placement, or clients. The artist began making daily paintings and selling them on the Internet. Mr. Malin decided to follow suit.

“I spent the whole spring getting a website up,” he says, “and setting up PayPal and eBay, and in July 2006 the site went live.”

He has painted daily ever since, making small oil paintings, generally six-inches by eight-inches in size, on canvas panel. His paintings, posted on his website (, are posted for auction, the bids opening at $100. They are usually gently impressionistic Island scenes of cottages nestled in foliage and flowers, paths and trails through woods, vistas of rolling hills, farmland, coastline surf, and boats. His postings are sent to his subscribers and include his notes on where they were done, weather details, and other incidentals.

On July 17, he posted “Menemsha Bight,” a small (six-inches by eight-inches), oil on panel painting of a calm shoreline with the note: “On a lark, I drove up to this public Land Bank property. The path down and the beach were safely out of the breeze and held no threat of bugs. The warm evening light mellowed the distant view of a sailboat with the lighthouse beyond. While my companion cooled off in the waters below, I worked from atop the stairs as unexpected friends hailed, then passed me by along the path. As the sun was setting the first mosquitos appeared around my head and hands. Time to go and enjoy an orange moonrise on the drive back home…”

Mr. Malin knows he could live and work elsewhere, but says there is something about being on the Vineyard and connecting with people here that keeps him settled on the Island. He finds it an excellent place to paint with its variety of landscapes and seascapes, and its natural diversity: “All perfect things for paintings,” he says, adding that the Island is also always changing.

“The Island influence is its variety — ocean and cliffs, water in any direction you want. There are all sorts of bucolic landscapes. Doing one or two paintings in one spot, there are so many things that happen while you’re there. It’s different from if you took a photograph and brought it back to the studio to paint.”

Mr. Malin used to paint in the morning, but found that the light changed so quickly that he switched to evenings, painting from 5 pm until it becomes too dark to see.

He describes one occasion in Vineyard Haven when the sky was blue and several boats were coming in. He thought he had the image worked out in his mind, but just then a fog rolled in and changed the light.

“It was something you just couldn’t make up,” he says. “You get drama, and I look for that drama.”

Mr. Malin says, “There is something about the Vineyard not being a year-round place that makes people love it. They want to take a piece of it with them…If it is a Vineyard painting, it sells.”

It also keeps him inspired. He keeps a running list of where to paint, but the list is flexible, depending on weather, light, bug count, etc. And anywhere outside will work for Mr. Malin, since according to him it is always much better to paint outside.

“Inspiration is always there,” he says, “if you allow it to come out.”

His daily painting gives him the drive to produce work at a constantly quick pace and he puts it out there using social media. As a “Daily Painter” he is also a member of various Daily Painter web sites.

On-Island, in addition to selling work daily on eBay, Mr. Malin has select paintings at How-Wass-Wee Trading Post in Aquinnah, at The Copper Works in Menemsha, and at Shephard Fine ArtSpace in Oak Bluffs.