BOLTON - When Mark Perry's wife gave him an art class for his birthday in October, she provided a stepping-stone to a new career. He took the class from Janine Thomas in Hartford, and he's been painting prolifically ever since. Perry speaks fondly of his meetings with Thomas and with well-known New England artist Eric Tobin, who has been a major influence on him - they often paint together.
Now exhibiting his paintings in Chestertown's North Country Art Gallery, Perry started his professional life working for Vermont Electric Co-op, as well as working in the landscaping business. Several years later, Perry relocated to Bolton Landing to start Sweet Pea Farm Perennials and Art Gallery.
A decade's work in landscaping gave Perry a keen eye for the nuances of composition in his scenic paintings - developing essential skills that include ability to depict nature's shapes, sizes and colors. Reviewing his work, it is evident he loves painting landscapes with as much loyalty to reproducing nature's forms as he can muster.
A multi-talented artist, Perry is also a photographer, vocalist and guitar player. At the Hyde Park Opera House in Hyde Park, Vt. he has played the dramatic leads in Oklahoma and other musicals. Presently, however, Perry has concentrated on painting, and he said he wants to devote more time to his art.
"Painting is the easiest yet hardest thing I ever did," he said, laughing. "It's fun, relaxing and challenging."
Perry said he loves Lake George, especially Sarah's Island.
"There, I can make paintings out of every corner," he said.
Perry's first love is painting landscapes with oils. He loves depicting nature, he said, because as he contemplates the natural forms, they humble him.
"Nature is awe-inspiring - and makes you feel pretty small," he said.
When asked to characterize his work, Perry said he is an avid impressionist, depicting nature through the use of prismatic color instead of a realistic portrayal.
Perry does not sketch a landscape before he paints it as most artists do. He focuses at first on shapes and then, for him, the painting takes on a life of its own and creates itself, he said.
An avid hiker, Perry is a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Adirondack 46ers. One of his pictures in the gallery is a depiction of an Adirondack lean-to located on the trail to Mt. Marshall in Newcomb, providing shelter for Newcomb area hikers and climbers.
This painting depicts wintertime shadows, a theme also reflected in his painting Frozen Stream, which has an impressionistic approach, Perry said.
"I tried to use color to make a flat surface look real," he said, adding that all are welcome to visit his gallery and see works representing many other artists.
Sweet Pea Farm and Art Gallery on Federal Hill Road in Bolton Landing is open Thursday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October. The North Country Art Gallery on Main Street in Chestertown is open Thursday through Monday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year it will likely be open through December.