For the past two decades years, Cutchogue resident Roy DeMeo has been in love with the process of painting the world around him.
DeMeo, who is now 90, began painting in 1990 at the age of 69, about five years after he retired from running a business called Island Visuals — a company specializing in printing and plastics fabrication — in Franklin Square. He’s lived in Cutchogue since 1986 and is still an avid boater and teaches boater safety classes through the U.S. Coast Guard at the Southold Town Recreation Center for kids and adults.
And his love of the coastal vistas of the North Fork is apparent in his collection of artwork now on display through October at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library.
“I’ve always been a boat person,” DeMeo said. “I worked on small boats with the Coast Guard during World War II – that really shaped the rest of my life.”
And 20 years ago, a local art teacher named Jacqueline Penney took his life post-retirement in a new direction — he began painting and never stopped. DeMeo said he enjoys the process of painting so much that he wish it would never stop.
“Once I got into it, I realized how fun it really is,” he said. “I completely absorb myself in a subject — my latest painting of an osprey took me a year and a half to do. I love the process of creating the painting more than the finished product, because once it’s over, it’s just a picture.”
DeMeo said that he also enjoys the different perspective on the world that the process of painting offers.
“Suddenly, everything is interesting — a leaf, a tree,” he said. “You just appreciate what is around you more than you normally would.”
The gallery is displayed in a chronological fashion on the second level of the library. DeMeo said he’s never shown the first painting he ever created, which is a fall scenescape of the head of East Creek on Eugene’s Road. Others from early on include a realistic painting of the old red post office in New Suffolk before it burnt down in the early ‘90s, various takes on local marshes and a few pieces done with watercolor and colored and lead pencil. DeMeo said he prefers working with acrylics.
“Watercolor is just hard to control, I guess I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to this,” he said.
Several small pencil sketches also line the walls of the second level of the library. DeMeo said that sketches he made while visiting England “made the trip.”
“Sketching teaches you to truly look at things,” he said.
Visitors to the library can also see DeMeo’s work with fog — his painting of Race Rock Lighthouse near Fishers Island is one of his more dramatic pieces, and later works include a highly detailed version of New Suffolk’s breathtaking Kimogenor Point, Alice’s Fish Market from the dockside in Greenport before fire destroyed that part of the building in 2010, and a vibrant painting of an osprey landing in a nest to feed the chicks.
“I had trouble getting the nest right, and it was Jacqueline who suggested that I paint the negative spaces around the twigs first,” he said. “It was difficult to see something like that from the inside out — but it worked. She is still my mentor when I hit a roadblock.”
DeMeo dedicated his display of paintings to his longtime art teacher and to his wife, Toni DeMeo, who was honored by the New York State Senate this year for her dedicated volunteer work at Eastern Long Island Hospital.
“There wouldn’t have been a show without them,” he wrote in his introduction to the art display.
Prints of some of DeMeo’s paintings are available for sale. DeMeo also makes custom Christmas cards with images of his work. The exhibit will be on display at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library through October. Click here for more information.