Forrest Rodts likes to let his artwork do the talking. His clever titles reflect little narratives in his paintings, which are predominantly realist illustrations of typical island-inspired subjects: sailing, shorescapes, lighthouses, seagulls. Often playing with dramatic viewpoints, his compositions feel like snapshots, allowing viewers to place themselves in each scene. Standing in front of a painting, your eyes become those of the artist. His yearning matches yours.
Rodts’s knack for setting a nostalgic, romantic scene sparks a yearning for those Cape and Islands memories that we all have: enjoying a Beetle Cat cruise through a calm harbor under a rich morning sky, or lolling in the hot afternoon sand, surrounded by parents in beach chairs, and tailgates full of coolers and towels. Standing in the warm glow of one of Rodts’ paintings, the memories of perfect summer days come flooding back.
For Rodts, the goal is simply to make beautiful images. His prime inspiration is Nantucket, where his family ties go back generations and he spent every summer as a kid. “Having spent as much time on the island as I have, I like to evoke those feelings that I had as a kid and reproduce them for people,” he explains. “Nantucket is home for me, it really is. It’s a combination of a beautiful island with people I’ve spent my whole life around. It has a special place in my heart and it is where I’d rather be.” He has vivid images that remain with him still—the diesel fumes of the ferry, looking out the portal window at the first glimpse of the harbor, peering up at a nearby boat from a swim.
While Rodts was artistic as a kid—“I was the guy who was always drawing,” he says—he didn’t discover painting until college. “I had a couple of professors who let me do a lot of independent studies and let me paint what I wanted to paint,” he says. Looking back, he appreciates the guidance, but also the freedom these teachers allowed him in developing his own style as a painter. “They were very loose—I had guidance, but not in a particular style.”
Rodts relishes in the technical details of painting realistically—perhaps it is in the details that the dream becomes more fully formed. “I love the details,” he says. “I’ve tried to do some things that are more abstract or more impressionistic. I have too much fun trying to make things look realistic. I think it’s more of a testing of what I can do technically and artistically, of bringing an idea to a piece of canvas or a board.”
Driven by intuition, Rodts works on his composition and color palette in small sketches, but leaves the creative magic to happen on the final painting. “Something will hit me. I don’t like to do too many studies because I’ll put too much in the study,” he explains. “For me, it’s about that start of inspiration, and pushing myself to get it out.”