When Trevor Watson first spilled his personal secret to the gallery owner down the street from his South Boston home, he was promptly turned away with an apathetic smile. His crime? “I’m self-taught,” he says with a laugh.
Watson’s journey into the art sphere was certainly not glamorous by most standards. He started his career in retail, which he later traded for furniture painting. While swirling hydrangeas and French scroll onto polished wooden chairs and tables, he privately collected the secrets of earning money creating art.
“To make a living in this type of business, you should stick with the trend,” he explains. “You need to think about the next popular thing.” For Watson, that means fresh new takes on the classic Cape Cod beach scene. His technique is important proof that following a trend does not negate creativity. Each of his scenes has both a characteristic softness and depth that transport the viewer to a dream-like state. “I really like doing transitional pieces,” Watson says. “When you step back from the piece, it could be so many things. They’re kind of impressionistic, definitely not contemporary, and I like it because it looks like something a decorator would place in a room.”
Watson’s mother perceived his talents long before he did, enrolling him in art classes when he was young and offering encouragement during a period when the arts were severely undervalued. Still, he took a 10-year hiatus from painting until, he says, “I just felt like I couldn’t stay away from it. I didn’t finish school, so it’s really the only thing I know, and I really enjoy it. I owe a lot of that to my mother.”
Except for those art classes of his youth, Watson has learned everything from his own experiences, from artistic technique to business practice. “I opened up my own store, and then I just started painting,” he remembers. “I have my studio set up with furniture so you can visualize a piece in your home. And I make fish out of reclaimed wood, which is fun because it clears your head from painting and adds texture to the store.”
His intuition for what customers respond to extends to his artistic medium as well: “I wet down pieces of wood so it all becomes very soft-looking, almost like watercolor,” he explains. “And I buy samples of house paint from Home Depot and paint with those.” The combination of damp wood and house paint creates the distinctive softness of Watson’s artwork. Occasionally he mixes paint with plaster to incorporate texture, but the softness is never lost. Moreover, painted wood is more affordable than other mediums for Trevor’s customers, who range from the Lark Boutique Hotels group to acclaimed Boston designers and families who want to add interest and intriguing whimsy to their homes. His choice of materials and natural abilities allow him to be prolific in his production, which also meets the strong demand for his work. “Art should be reasonable for people to purchase,” Watson believes, “My medium is cost-effective, and people like it.”
But more important than the cost, Watson’s paintings stand out for their quality. He devotes ample time to setting the mood in each of them. He enjoys creating paintings with a strong ethereal setting and believes a carefully curated color palette is the most important aspect of establishing each mood. “Since I like my color scheme to be very ethereal looking, I tend to go with the more subdued colors,” he says, “I just started selling epoxy pieces, which gives the color some depth as well. But it’s all about the mood.”
These days, Watson knows what he wants — and has it. “The work of creating art should be fun,” he insists, “so I don’t really take commissions, because when people ask you to change or add something you second guess yourself and you get in your head. Steering clear of that doubt is my biggest challenge.”
Bottom line: Being self-taught was never a hang-up for Trevor. In fact, his technique and style were born from it. So while the South Boston gallery of years ago may have rejected the unique painter who followed his own instincts, Watson was undeterred. “After all,” he has always believed, “art should be for everyone.”
Find Trevor Watson’s work at TREVORS HOME & GARDEN, 3187 Cranberry Highway, E. Wareham (next to Olson’s Garden Center).
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