After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Windham College in Putney, Vermont, painter and Martha’s Vineyard native Allen Whiting came to a fork in the road: Should he try and make it in the big city, or return to the island he called home? “A lot of friends and acquaintances went to New York, but I knew my life’s work was on Martha’s Vineyard,” says Whiting.
Growing up immersed in a beautiful landscape and surrounded by art, it seemed natural that Whiting would head down this path. “I grew up on a farm in West Tisbury, which gave me my muse,” says Whiting. “I was always looking off into the distance trying to figure out the colors. My father was very patient.” Whiting may have not set foot into a museum until he was 20 years old, but he was surrounded by art growing up. Works by his grandfather hung throughout the home and his best friend’s father was famed Vineyard artist Stanley Murphy.
Even from an early age, Whiting recognized that there was something special about his home. One day, as a child, he was riding in his father’s pick-up truck when the tree line on their property came into view. “I knew at that moment that something was there for me, but I didn’t know what it was,” he recalls. “I still own that land and I’m still painting it. I’ll get it right one day.”
Much of Whiting’s widely admired work features four simple elements: sky, water, horizon, and foreground, which come together in a quintessential landscape format that never gets tired. The subtle differences in color, season, and depth make each piece its own distinct creation. Using oils allows him to capture the rich texture of the landscape around the artist.
Being a Vineyard native has given Whiting privileged access to many of the scenic nooks and crannies on the island. In the off season, he can enjoy the entire island without the summer traffic, and even after all these decades, he never has to leave his own property to find inspiration.
“Can you legitimately make a career out of painting in the same 10-mile radius your whole life? The older I get the more things reveal themselves,” he says. “Of course I’d love to paint nude women, too, but I can’t seem to get that together.”
Life, that ephemeral commodity, has been good to Whiting. Now, at 67, his plan is to simply stay focused and do the best he can. “This is it. So I just want to make decent paintings,” he says. “Artists are petitioning for that big table in the sky. In this world of art, we’re always petitioning.”