Catching the sunrise in artist Scott Terry’s landscapes

"Going Over" 24" x 40" oil on panel —Scott Terry

Having worked as a commercial fisherman for four decades, artist Scott Terry has enjoyed a unique perspective on the Vineyard landscape. “What I got from fishing was the colors,” says Mr. Terry. “I would leave for the day in the dark. A lot of my paintings are of that short time of day when the light is really vivid. I like that two minutes of when the light changes. It’s so beautiful and so fleeting.

“A lot of people say to me that they never thought my skies were real until they caught the sunrise themselves.”

The light and the contrast between light and dark are essential elements in Mr. Terry’s realistic work. Edgartown Harbor glimmers with reflections of the early morning sun on the water, while lights in the nearby buildings punctuate the gloom. The visible rays of the sun behind clouds cast a dramatic setting on a quiet cove scene. The brilliant colors of a sunrise mirrored in the still water provide a spectacular backdrop for a village just coming to life in the early morning hours.

Although he’s painted and exhibited his work for decades, up until two years ago Mr. Terry earned his living fishing on the Vineyard from his own boat. On the Vineyard, Mr. Terry showed his work at the Field Gallery and the Old Sculpin Gallery in the 1980s, and has been represented by the Granary Gallery, where he is currently featured in a three-person show, since 1989. The artist’s work has also been exhibited in galleries in New York City, Boston, Rhode Island, on Cape Cod, and in LeMans, France, among other places, and he has been the subject of articles in American Artist and American Art Collector magazines.

In 2015, Mr. Terry sold his boat, and has since focused full-time on painting. He splits his time between the Island and a home in Vermont. Almost all of his paintings feature scenes of the Vineyard, his home since 1978.

Still, the artist keeps fisherman’s hours — waking before dawn and painting at one of his two studios, or working at his business preparing fossils.

“My decades as a commercial fisherman have strongly influenced the color schemes of my paintings,” says Mr. Terry. “The Vineyard is so rich in subject matter for a landscape painter that I have concentrated nearly all of my efforts here. Dawn and dusk on deserted beaches or vague impressions of life behind lighted windows are particular favorites of mine. Every picture tells a story, but I like to have the viewer be part of the narrative.”

In his early 20s Mr. Terry took off to explore Asia. While there he studied the techniques of various countries, including Javanese batik painting and Nepalese woodblock printing. “It was doing all that made me want to go to art school when I came back,” says the artist. In the past he studied medical illustration, and did a series of zoological illustrations which are in the collections of the Museum of Natural History and the Zoological Society of London.

“Nothing Like It” 25″ x 48″ oil on panel —Scott Terry

However, landscape painting is what has always attracted Mr. Terry. He cites as influences the painters of the Hudson River School (especially Alfred Bricher), the American Impressionists, Edward Hopper, and, in a different vein, portrait painter John Singer Sargent. Clearly, Mr. Terry admires artists who have captured the luminous qualities of light and its effects on the landscape.

When asked if he misses his former profession, Mr. Terry replies, “I miss fishing a lot. I don’t miss what fishing has become.” He still enjoys recreational fishing, and exploring the Island early in the morning. Some of his favorite subjects are Lambert’s Cove Beach and houses in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. “I like doing deserted beaches and houses with just a faint image of a figure,” says Mr. Terry. “I don’t like to be really specific when I paint; I would rather that people have their own ideas when they look at my paintings.”