Add ‘artist’ to Tain Leonard-Peck’s list of accomplishments


Tain Leonard-Peck, whose art exhibit is currently at the Chilmark Public Library, is something of a Renaissance man. In addition to painting, he composes music, is the poet laureate for West Tisbury, and is a competitive sailor, skier, and fencer. Among his awards, Leonard-Peck won #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, which premiered at Lincoln Center and multiple venues across the country; the first-place Poetry Fellowship at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing; and honorable mention for the Creators of Literary Justice Award by International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF), the largest human rights art festival in the world. He has published in numerous literary journals, and is completing his first novel.

Leonard-Peck’s new art show is filled with colorful and expressive acrylic 16- x 20-inch paintings. He is inspired by the natural world, or occasionally architecture, such as Vineyard beach houses or sometimes cityscapes. He says he has “a wild, dynamic style with heavy brushstrokes and sharp contrasts of color. In poetry, I’m definitely more contemplative. I think a lot of my creative work, especially my painting and my poetry, tends to have a strong naturalistic bent. I have always enjoyed looking at different ways to portray the natural world both visually and in language.”

Leonard-Peck came to art early. At about 3 years old, his mother taught him how to paint. He says, “I’ve always had a fondness for creative work. I like making things and plotting out how I can mix and compose my colors and my brushstrokes to make the best version of whatever I’m trying to create, whether that’s a forest scene, sunset, or beach cottage.”

The artist’s brushstrokes and color have a ferocity to them. In pieces such as “Sailing into the Storm, Martha’s Vineyard,” “Coastal Vigil,” “Forest on Fire,” and “Sunset in Cozumel,” you can feel the artist in the act of creation. His strokes vibrate, sweeping across, up, and about — filling the small canvases with bursts of energy. Leonard-Peck’s images are not realistic, but rather elemental impressions in visual form. Not surprisingly, they evoke a sense of the actual world without depicting it exactly — similar to the way words can work in poetry. We see this in “The Fate of All Forests,” which is set ablaze by his red-hot, impasto pigments, or the tiny dots on the simply depicted trees in “Rejuvenation of the Cherry Blossoms” that evoke the idea that hope springs eternal. “The Hunters” is one of Leonard-Peck’s more abstract works, depicting a swirling vortex of ocean colors within which two black, silhouetted, shark-like creatures ominously chase each other’s tails, echoing the composition’s circular motion.

“It’s nice to have your eyes directly on a subject, but working on the Island — with New England conditions like wind or light rain — can make working en plein air a bit of a pain. But it definitely can feel rewarding,” he says about painting outdoors. In his studio, he sometimes paints from photographs, but mostly from memory. “The way I see it, working with a reference in mind helps you get to that idealized form of whatever you’re painting,” Leonard-Peck says. “You end up focusing on the shape of the tulip or the color of a sunflower or the texture of a tree. It’s painting mood over reality — the thing itself.”

You can experience Leonard-Peck’s work yourself through Jan. 26, and see what you notice about the natural world when you step back outside afterward.

For more information, contact the Chilmark library at 508-645-3360 or Tain Leonard-Peck at