By Kelly Baughman
When a passion for art turns into a career, you never “work” a day in your life. That’s the case for Dennis Boyce.
Born in New Jersey just minutes from the Big Apple, Boyce spent much of his time on the streets of Manhattan taking in the city lights, architecture, and most of all, the art culture. Knowing that he had a passion for all things creative, Boyce attended Pratt Institute and pursued a fine arts degree at The Art Students League.
Upon graduating, Boyce dabbled with his own art, showing at various New England galleries, but said he didn’t jump in with both feet. “I got married, had a family, and knew that I needed something stable to provide for my family. Art was risky, so I kept it a hobby,” Boyce said.
He scored a job working in the art field in Boston with the Polaroid Museum Collection. “At the time, Polaroid had invented a camera that was said to take such color accurate pictures of original artwork, that it could be reproduced into prints that could pass as originals. It was a monster of a camera. Probably ten feet tall by ten feet wide with a giant lens. I was hired to take photos to increase the collection to be reproduced,” Boyce said.
This intriguing job allowed Boyce time in the museums after hours with his camera, getting him up close and personal to some of the most priceless works of art in existence. “It was amazing to be able to take these pieces and hold them in my hand. I was a big fan of John Sargent and Winslow Homer at the time, and to be able to touch their one of a kind pieces was very inspiring,” Boyce recalled.
Boyce knew that he wanted more than just admiring the art of others, so he convinced his wife to move to the Gulf Coast, an area he said he felt was an up and coming art market with a community welcoming and supportive of artist of all kinds. “I started small, showing in local galleries, attending art shows and festivals, and trying to learn my way around the art community in the area. I did that for a while, but seven years ago, I decided it was time to sink or swim with my dream of being an artist, and I’ve been lucky that the art gods shined down on me,” Boyce said.
Boyce said he threw himself into his art, painting on literally anything he could get his hands on. But it was one particular item that changed everything for him. “I was looking for something to paint on one day and came across the old hurricane shudders in my garage. They were made out of press board, or OSB as it’s known in the construction world. I began painting and realized quickly that it added a whole new element to the brush strokes. When I was finished, it was something I had never really done or seen before. I knew I wanted to continue exploring that technique, and it caught on really fast with art lovers in the community. I sold all of them in one week,” he said.
For the next several months, Boyce spent his time showering construction sites repurposing OSB that was being thrown away. “I became aware of how much waste there is in construction, so I felt like not only was I creating some cool pieces with very low overhead, I was recycling something that would’ve ended up in a landfill somewhere,” he said.
His impressionistic takes on sea life, the coast, Native American culture, ravens, and more became so popular that Boyce began taking orders on art he had not even created yet. “I was lucky to have found something different from the other artists in my genre and people were loving it. I couldn’t paint fast enough to keep up with the demand,” he said.
Now working out of his home studio, Boyce said he makes himself paint every day whether he feels like it or not. “Like any artist, there are days when I’m not feeling it. Days when I don’t feel creative, but I force myself to paint something each day. It keeps the creative juices flowing and sometimes great work can come from finding inspiration unexpectedly,” he said.
Boyce unexpectedly found inspiration for a children’s book when he painted his characters and got motivated to write a story about them. “The zoo had asked me to consider writing a story, and I sat down to write and came up with nothing. I painted some characters, and the story just came to me,” Boyce said.
The book, called ‘Tittle Tattle At the Zoo’, was published and Boyce spends much of his time reading the book to kids K-5 in schools all over the Gulf Coast. “The Kindergartners had short attention spans, the fifth graders were more inquisitive about the storyline, but the third graders….those are my people. They loved both the pictures and the story. I always had their undivided attention. But no matter what their age, being able to share my own book with kids is so rewarding,” he said.
In addition to being a successful original artist and author, Boyce also works with Pepsico to create one of a kind pieces to honor employees for their hard work and dedication to the company. He paints unique works for years of service and special retirement pieces that reflect the each worker’s time and contribution to the Pepsico brand. “It has been an honor to be able to take something so personal to these people who have devoted their life to the Pepsico brand and create something they can be proud of that lets them know that they were valued,” Boyce said.
These days, Boyce is working on reviving the once popular Artwalk at the Purple Parrot in Perdido Key. This pop up art festival will take place every Sunday from noon to 4 pm, and will feature art, jewelry, food, music, and all things local to the Perdido Key and Orange Beach area.
“I was very lucky to meet some great people in the art world in Perdido Key like Talis Jayme, Maureen Turner, and Noah Moseley, and business owners like Chris and Tracy Mull from the Purple Parrot. They have supported not just my art, but the whole art community in the area. I’m excited to bring Artwalk back, and hope it will be a great success,” Boyce said.
In addition to the revival of Sunday Artwalk, Boyce will be attending The Point Restaurant’s upcoming ‘The Point Art Festival’ on Saturday, February 16th from 2 to 9 pm. This festival will have 25 vendors in the courtyard and parking lot featuring art, jewelry, photography, local honey and other handmade items, live music all day, and drink and food specials.
Boyce said that being an artist has shaped him into the strong person he has become. “From Seaside to New Orleans, I’ve broken all the rules. Instead of sending in my resume to a gallery, I just take my work with me, pound the pavement, and walk in. For every ten “no’s”, there’s one or two “yes’s”. I’ve learned how to take rejection. I’ve grown thicker skin. I’ve learned how to pick myself up, keep going, and push myself out of my comfort zone to recreate myself over and over. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.”
For more information about Dennis Boyce, visit www.boycedennis.wixsite.com or find him on Facebook at Art Dennis Boyce. His book, ‘Tittle Tattle At the Zoo’ is available on Amazon.com and LuLu.com.