In 1985 painter Andrew Moore spent his first full year on Martha’s Vineyard. He lived in a one-room cottage that housed the essentials: a bed, a wood stove, an easel, his dog and a surfboard. Mr. Moore had recently graduated with his bachelor’s degree in architecture and this was his leap into a life of full-time painting.
“I loved it straight from the start,” he said.
In his artist statement Mr. Moore writes, “A man lives two days with each one. The first is of the body. Here, man explores his world through his senses. The second day is of the mind, where man turns physical experience to spiritual understanding and growth.”
This idea was introduced to Mr. Moore by a book that he read in his twenties, Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill. He saw an immediate connection between this philosophy of life and the painting process. Mr. Moore’s subjects are drawn from his experience, from living as a fisherman, sailor, naturalist and father. He said that the process of taking an idea from its origin to a painting includes having a real experience and blending it into a whole mindscape, with a million decisions along the way.
The entire process, from experience to finished painting, can take up to five or six months. Painting itself is a very private and personal experience for Mr. Moore and the relationship he forms with his work is deep.
“I get very connected,” he said. “I am a slow painter and I am building an idea. There is so much energy and basic raw time that goes into each one.”
It is the work itself that propels Mr. Moore. “People talk about inspiration, but like most artists I know that have lasted, I just get up and paint.”
When Mr. Moore says that he gets up and paints, he means it. Most days he gets his kids out the door, picks up a cup of coffee at Mocha Mott’s, and is in the studio by 8 a.m. He works until about 5 p.m. and then goes back to the studio from 8 to 11 p.m. He described his work ethic as very Yankee. If he takes a few days off to go fishing he will make up that time with longer hours.
His subjects are meditations on the Island. “I think of myself as a regional painter who understands where he lives,” he said.
When Mr. Moore describes the Island, he talks about the meeting of the ocean and the coast, the inland rolling hills and the savannah-like landscapes. All of this, combined with the Island’s indigenous industries and the weather, makes this a dynamic location for an artist,he said, adding that he can always find a new spot around a corner, something he has never seen before on Martha’s Vineyard.
On the bottom floor of his home-based gallery, Mr. Moore stands in front of a painting of a hawk in the woods. He uses this painting as an example, saying that a lot of his paintings explore patterns. In this piece there are the patterns of the brambles, the patterns of the leaves on the ground, the patterns of the bird’s feathers.
“All of the patterns fit together into the whole fabric of the painting,” he said.
Mr. Moore described his connection to the Island with almost identical language. He said that each year he feels more knitted in to the Island community. Since his work as a painter is so solitary he said that it is important that he gets out and lives, too.
“I get outside, I see friends,” he said. “And I build things.”
The pathway to Mr. Moore’s gallery is a river of small white stones. Behind his home, which is steps away from the gallery, a woodshed has built-in bird boxes — homes for wrens, nuthatches and chickadees. A wooden arbor spills over with leaves from a kiwi vine. And inside the gallery fishing awards hang on the wall. These are Mr. Moore’s other projects, what he calls the counterparts to the concentrated and refined work of painting.
In his studio a large drawing board supports a pencil study for a portrait of his daughter. She looks directly at the viewer, holding daffodils. A table holds dozens of jars filled with brushes. Below the table a pile of old scraped paint stands eight inches tall. Mr. Moore said it would be interesting to have a time-lapse photo done of this table while he was at work on a painting. The color palette would be like the change of seasons as it shifted from bright colors to muted grays and browns.
“Painting to me is more than the physical act of applying paint,” Mr. Moore said. “Painting is woven into every aspect of my life.”
Mr. Moore’s work is shown by appointment in his gallery located at 11 Martha’s Park Road in Harthaven, Oak Bluffs. He can be reached at 508-693-8548. His website is agmoore.com.