Austin Dwyer sees beauty and mystery through mist.
It’s a powerful technique, a method the award-winning maritime artist uses to draw people to his paintings.
Such an engaging work is “Winter Respite,” an oil painting that captured the imagination of onlookers and the People’s Choice Award at the recently completed Small Works, Big Presents: The Gift of Art exhibit at the White River Valley Museum.
As its title suggests, the painting shows a small but powerful tugboat taking a break, tied to a dock in a fog-shrouded harbor.
“When you have a mist, you get that illusion of depth or distance, which the artist is looking for,” said Dwyer, 76, of Mukilteo, who has painted and taught art for many years in the Northwest. “When you look at the painting in the mist … you have a strong focal point and then after that, things begin to disappear in space. I think that’s what’s exciting about mist. It makes people look more into the painting, to get more involved in your painting.
“And there is something about a tugboat that’s so romantic.”
For winning the exhibit’s People’s Choice Award, Dwyer received a $400 cash prize and the opportunity to have “Winter Respite” grace next year’s invitation.
The juried art show and sale, which closes Sunday, represents high quality works of fine art and crafts from throughout the Northwest.
Jurors chose 76 pieces of work from 420 submissions for the exhibit. All told, 122 artists from Washington, Idaho and Oregon entered, with 18 percent of their submissions making the show.
Dwyer’s style is all his own, impressionistic and realistic. He enjoys painting all things on high seas and gentle waters but also shines creating landscapes, “plein air” outdoors and portraits.
Painting brings out the best in him.
“I never worked a day in my life. When people go to work, I go to my studio,” said Dwyer, who also dabbles as an author and musician.
“When you paint, you have to have an idea, otherwise it’s calisthenics,” he said. “The real drive is having that single idea.”
Dwyer calls it an obsession, yet his devotion to his craft hasn’t kept him from spending time with family and friends. He and his wife, Mig, raised eight children, and dote on 22 grandchildren.
Through his art, Dwyer is able to give something back. He teaches art to small groups and continues to guest lecture at universities. He is frequently asked to jury shows and conduct workshops.
Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, Dwyer traveled extensively before landing in the United States to join the Air Force. After being discharged in 1961, he arrived in Seattle, a proud American citizen.
Dwyer is a fellow and past president of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters. He is also a signature member of the American Society of Marine Artists and a member of its board of directors.
He studied at the Burnley School of Professional Art in Seattle and after graduation co-founded Cohen-Dwyer Advertising and Marketing. Dwyer also taught illustration and design at the Burnley school for 14 years.
Dwyer retired in 2005 but continued to promote his maritime paintings, which can be found in galleries and private institutions throughout the U.S. and Europe. He recently co-founded, with C.R. Bryant, the Pacific Rim Institute of Marine Art.
Small Works, Big Presents: The Gift of Art
• Exhibit: White River Valley Museum, 918 H St. SE, Auburn. Sponsored by the Auburn Arts Commission and 4Culture.
• Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
• Admission: $5 adults; $2 seniors and children; 2 years of age or younger are free.
• Information: Call 253-288-7433 or visit www.wrvmuseum.org.