Artist Kenneth Vincent’s deep Island roots are reflected in the luminous landscapes he creates, capturing the fields and shorelines that his ancestors fished and farmed for many generations. Vincent was born and raised on a farm on Martha’s Vineyard, and his family traces its Island lineage back for hundreds of years. His unique perspective on the Vineyard in its purest form allows him to inject a sense of history and majesty into the work he creates.
Vincent graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1999, where he majored in illustration. From there he returned to his birthplace, and quickly established himself as an artist with his work for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, illustrating favorite local places off the beaten track for “The Walks” column. Vincent went on to illustrate a number of children’s books, but it was the Island’s treasured beauty spots, which he rediscovered while working for The Times, that he eventually returned to when he began painting full-time.
Having returned to the Island post-college in order to help care for his ailing grandfather, Vincent took a job temporarily as a janitor at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. While also working as an illustrator, the young artist continued to paint, and eventually he recognized that he had to try to make a go of it in the fine art world.
One winter day, about three years after his return, Vincent was driving around West Tisbury contemplating where his life was going when he followed an impulse that would transform his career.
“I was at the four-way intersection at Scotchman’s Lane,” he recalls. “I was feeling unhappy about being stuck in a job that I hadn’t exactly planned on, when on a whim I just turned around and headed to the Granary Gallery. I went in and Chris [owner Chris Morse] and Dave [manager David Wallace] were both there. They just happened to be reviewing artwork for the next year. Chris asked if I had anything to show them. I ran home and grabbed a bunch of stuff.”
That initial meeting led to Vincent’s still life work first appearing on the Island, at the Field Gallery, one of three Island galleries owned by Morse and his wife Sheila. The next year Wallace convinced the burgeoning artist to try painting what he knew best — the fields and seascapes of Martha’s Vineyard. When Morse took a look at the first few landscapes that Vincent brought by, he handed him a $500 advance for five more paintings for the Granary Gallery. The young artist provided six or seven, which all sold right away.
“I made all of the cash I would have made working at the hospital for the summer,” Vincent recalls. Therefore, the next year, when Morse featured him in a solo show, Vincent was able to quit his job and focus full-time on painting. Now, almost two decades later, he has become one of the most popular of the Granary Gallery’s artists, his stylized contemporary landscapes appealing to locals and visitors alike.
Vincent’s work demonstrates a designer’s eye for composition and color, as well as an emotional depth that only one with this deep a connection — and a reverence for Martha’s Vineyard — could convey. He continues to explore the Island, taking frequent, meandering drives through the Vineyard’s backroads in the same manner that he did as a child with his grandfather, as he seeks those special places and the subtle changes wrought by season and time.
“Working so closely with the land and the sea, I have gained a different perspective of life on Martha’s Vineyard,” says the artist. “With the Island as the backdrop to my youth, it is easy to be inspired by the landscape of which you are a part. There is more than just the aesthetic of Martha’s Vineyard to appreciate — there is an ancestry to appreciate as well.”
Vincent has no plans to ever leave his ancestral home. He is raising two sons — 12th generation Islanders — here. “For me, the stars just kind of aligned,” says the artist. “The nice thing about living here is that it provides you with the opportunity to investigate the landscape and invest in painting the scenes in a way that other artists who don’t live here full-time can’t. Other than the obvious, it’s really hard to delve in there when you don’t experience the Island during all of the seasons and changes in the light.”
The Granary Gallery, 636 Old County Road, West Tisbury, 508-693-0455, granarygallery.com.