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Port de Grave artist has a knack for realism

Gary Kennedy stands beside "Harbour Hills Port de Grave," a painting he finished earlier this year. It's on display at the Christopher Pratt Gallery in Bay Roberts.
Gary Kennedy stands beside "Harbour Hills Port de Grave," a painting he finished earlier this year. It's on display at the Christopher Pratt Gallery in Bay Roberts.

BAY ROBERTS, NL — The fortunate experience of getting to learn from an artist from New York who chose to settle down in Conception Bay North is still paying off for Gary Kennedy.

A Port de Grave native now living in Clarke's Beach, Kennedy is a realist painter with an interest in both landscapes and people. He's been a full-time artist since 1984, but his connection to painting goes back almost 50 years.

In 1968, Kennedy took part in George Noseworthy's newly-created art school for children. Noseworthy came to Hibb's Cove two years before and had a deep interest in sharing his love of art with youth. He became a prominent artist in the province after settling in Newfoundland, and died in 1985.

"Harbour Hills Port de Grave"

"George Noseworthy gave me some charcoal and paper. The school opened up in the summer and I guess you had a limited amount of paint," said Kennedy. "So the first three days, we were supposed to use charcoal and paper, so I said, 'OK' … So I went out and did some sketching and I lasted about half-an-hour and I went in and said, 'George, can I have some paint?' I like working with colour more so than charcoal."

Kennedy did not receive any formal training in subsequent years, but that didn't deter his talent. He worked with screen-prints for the first 15 years of his career to produce serigraphs, focusing on autobiographical images connected to his childhood.

In 1999, he started working on an exhibition for Bowring Park titled Seasons in the Park. It featured 21 oil-on-canvas paintings, and since then he's focused almost exclusively on painting.

"Something in the Sand"

Most recently, his art was featured in a full-page spread for International Artist Magazine, a bi-monthly art publication. It included his painting "Harbour Hills Port de Grave," a large 47-by-61-inch piece Kennedy spent two years working on. It's now on display at the Christopher Pratt Gallery in Bay Roberts.

"It's more of a realist style, but it still has a little bit of impressionist overtones and atmospheric effects," he said.

The process of creation for "Harbour Hills Port de Grave" involved picking away at it over time. There were stretches where Kennedy left the piece alone for a couple of weeks before getting back to it.

"I find with this painting in particular, trying to capture the landscape was very painstaking, because I'm trying to represent the way it actually looks. That takes a lot of patience."

Asked what he likes about painting, Kennedy responded that it's always satisfying to see a finished piece.

"A lot of people think of painting as fun, but it's actually very hard work," he added. "Especially if you're being representational."

"The Red Bikini"

Kennedy loves having a space near home like the Christopher Pratt Gallery where his work can hang alongside pieces created by Mary Pratt, Scott Goudie, David Blackwood and Clifford George, amongst others.

"It's also good too that Christopher Pratt lent his name to the gallery — it helps bring people in, I think," he said. "I've seen people from Vancouver who came here because it was the Christopher Pratt Gallery."

He's now working on a painting of the Trans-Canada Highway leaving from St. John's, though that piece is in the earliest stages.

Kennedy had a solo exhibition at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in 2008 and has two paintings in its permanent collection. His work can also be found in private collection in Australia, Norway, England, Ireland and the United States.

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