Dennis Sheehan  
   
Abstract ~ Landscape ~ Figurative ~ Floral ~ Glass ~ Textile ~ Sculpture
Art Resources Gallery
         
 

Growing up in Boston in the 1950s, Dennis Sheehan and his family had easy access to the Atlantic Coast and often went there. Rich in scenery, it fueled his budding interest in nature and acted as a catalyst for his desire to capture that beauty. Frequent family visits to Cape Anne, an area abundant in art and filled with art colonies, solidified what he knew from an early age. He wanted to be an artist.

The second of four boys in his family, he is the only one who had an interest in the arts. But his father's avocation, although he worked as an educator, was creative writing along with a love for music. Realizing his young son had a passion for art, Dennis and his dad would go to museums and art shows. Dennis' more practical mother hoped he might choose to go into business or law although, once she was convinced that Dennis was adamant about pursuing a career in art, both parents were very supportive.

Dennis attended a grade school that took art very seriously, and in the first grade won his first art prize. Something he still remembers, and it was a portent of things to come. High school was further validation that he was following the right path. There, he met his art teacher who was also a mentor, friend and inspiration. "Sidewalk Sam," as his teacher was called by the general public, began his offbeat artistry painting sidewalks in Boston, and was eventually hired by the city to paint certain sidewalks in specific themes. The walkways became tourist attractions, and Sam became a local celebrity. Dennis learned from Sam that to succeed, one needs high energy and, sometimes, to bash down barriers.

After high-school graduation, Dennis spent the next four years at Vesper George School of Art in the Boston area. He studied under Robert Hunter Douglas. Dennis was searching to find where he belonged in the art world. Hunter's traditional and realistic style hugely impressed him.

Feeling that he needed more education, Dennis went on after graduation to Montserrat School of Visual Art, also in Boston, for two more years. He studied under, George Gabin, who paints in a tight and traditional style. There, he learned the technique of American Tonalism, the contrast between light and dark, and adopted it as his own.

It was at this same time that Dennis discovered an artist previously unknown to him, George Inness, a 19th century landscape artist. Dennis was taken by Inness' work, and it was now clear to him what his purpose in art was to be. He wanted to emulate this man and rigorously studied his techniques. As moved as he was by Inness, Dennis said that his efforts failed; he just could not reach the perfection he was seeking.

Fortunately, Dennis did not give up. He traveled throughout New England and Europe, especially England and Scotland taking photographs so he could paint them later. A chance discovery of another landscape artist, Bruce Crane, allowed Dennis to reconsider his own style and techniques. Crane, who paints landscapes in a moody (light and dark), earthy, monochromatic style, but with less detail than Inness, seemed attainable to him. Again, Dennis immersed himself studying and learning Crane's techniques until he formulated own style.

After this self-discovery, Dennis had his first real break. He was invited to exhibit his paintings in several art galleries on Newbury Street in Boston, which is to art as Rodeo Drive is to exclusive. Some of his paintings were placed next to Crane and Inness. This modest and cerebral man says he didn't feel worthy to be next to them.

Dennis' beautiful, oil on canvas landscapes usually depict dusk, dawn or immediately before or after storms with light being the focus of the painting. Darkness or shadow areas play an important part, as well, because they allow the light to emanate from his paintings. It is clear when viewing Dennis' work that his many years of studying have resulted in a technique few artists achieve.

When asked if there is a message in his art, Dennis says, "I want people to see what they see everyday, but don't see, such as sunsets. I want them to re-look at things they see day in and day out."