Ovid Ward’s paintings jostle all the senses: the smack of a catboat hitting the saltwater in Racing Off Chappy, the skin-prickling chill of Winter on Cape Cod, the salty smell in Clear Morning Air. In Ward’s art, you are there: on the waterfront, walking the snowy field, riding the hulking ferry. “I like the paintings to tell a little story,” Ward says, “a glimpse of time.”
The artist’s impeccable execution places the viewer square in the center of the scene; not by way of photo realism, but by a looser method that engages a deeper part of the interior mind. “I think of my work as slightly less real than photorealism,” Ward says. “You can see brushstrokes, and not all areas are tight. It’s a little more painterly.”
The pristine technique is no surprise. Ward designed cars for Chrysler for many years and then boats for Hatteras Yachts. In between he painted a “vision”— an artistic plan—of the waterfront in Oakland, California. Now he is in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, where he has lived for 40 years, photographing his subjects and returning to his studio to paint. It’s a simple island life, what he had always wanted. “I’m not the richest person in the world,” Ward says, “but it’s okay.”
Back in the studio, Ward draws a grid on a board and the photo to get correct proportion before applying paint. He paints exclusively with acrylic on board. “It dries quickly and cleanup is easy,” he says. The board gives him freedom to compose his paintings and introduces a rigorous physical aspect to his work. “Sometimes I might whack a part of the board off to change the center of focus,” he says. “Canvas seems so delicate and fragile.”
He loves action, movement, and weather that can knock a person to the ground. One painting, Sunrise on South Beach, is a taste of the way the oceanfront weather can turn on a dime: “I like the darkness of it,” Ward says. “I wanted to get the violence of the weather.” The physicality of his paintings is often cut with a calming nature. Cat Nap, a lonely scene of a gaff-rigged day sailor, is draped in a purplish-blue autumn sky, the boat reflected in the still surface. Water, in fact, is somewhat of an artistic bar Ward reaches for, what it all boils down to. “It’s the water,” he says. “I try really hard to be good at water.”
Ovid Ward’s work may be seen at North Water Gallery, located at 27 North Water Street, in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard (northwatergallery.com); The Hearle Gallery at 488 Main Street in Chatham (thehearlegallery.com); and at ovidward.com. His work is also shown at A to Z Gallery in Wellesley (azfineartgallery.com).