Retired mechanic follows dream of mastering art
NASHUA – William Cheever Turner, a realist narrative oil painter from Milford, was selected to be the Nashua Area Artists Association’s Artist of for the month for February. His featured wall, “Birds,” is currently on display at the association’s gallery at 30 Temple St.
Turner, who went back to pursue his dream of becoming an artist at age 50, said the he has drawn inspiration for his paintings through many aspects of his life. These influences started at a young age, as his mother was a fine artist who worked in portraiture. Turner also said many of the teachers who he learned under when he went back to art school were incredibly influential.
Turner spent more than 35 years as an auto body mechanic before he decided to pursue his dream as a professionally trained fine artist. He has earned a both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in fine art in visual arts painting.
A former structural aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Navy who spent four years serving in the military during the Vietnam War, Turner said he left the military after he fulfilled his service requirements because of the public reaction to the war. Though he regrets ending his service, Turner, at the time, believed the protesters made it difficult for those enlisted at the time.
After his service, he moved into the auto body field because he would have been required to go back to college to get the proper licensing to work on commercial airplanes. At the time, Turner said furthering his education wasn’t an option, due to his struggle with dyslexia, which at the time wasn’t completely understood.
The time he spent working on cars has had a profound impact on his artwork. Much of Turner’s work involves finding the character in old, rusted vehicles. Though he doesn’t work with the human body and traditional portraiture very often, he finds a similar beauty in the machines with which he is so familiar.
“The vehicle itself, the way they made them, they have a character of their own…” Turner said, “I could see the character of the vehicle as a portrait.”
As he has refined himself as an artist, Turner has been able incorporate stories in his work. Through his struggle with dyslexia, he said his artwork has become a vehicle in its own right, one that helps him communicate stories and ideas better than written word.
“I started to tell a story, an allegory, a narrative,” Turner said, “because I can communicate better through paint than I can with written word.”
His appreciation for art as narration stems from his time studying Greek mythology and Indian folktales – which can be found thematically in much of his work, as well as his time spent teaching art history at Manchester Community College.
Turner said his series of bird paintings came about when he would be looking to draw inspiration for stories to tell and ideas to convey. There are times when, Turner said, he doesn’t quite have those ideas or stories he wants to tell, but still has the urge to paint. During those gaps, he works on his series of birds, which are portraits of those who have visited his yard in one form or another.
Those painting will be on display at the ArtHub Gallery through February. There will be an opening reception from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The event is free and open to the public.