Art — Art group picks artist of the year

Donovan now paints ‘peace and tranquility’ but started out at Velcro Arts U.S.A.

By Michelle Saturley

Lawrence Donovan was born in Manchester, but moved to Claremont as a child. While he was growing up, he often thought about returning to his birth city, especially after he developed more than a passing interest in art.

“I was an only child of a single parent, who was manic-depressive,” Donovan said. “My cousins lived across the street, and I spent a lot of time with them. I had an older cousin who was like a brother to me, and he was the one who first taught me how to draw.”

Young Larry, who says he was “not an athlete,” suddenly found something he could do well. He kept up with the drawing, even after his cousins moved on to other activities.

“I started taking oil painting classes with a woman who taught at the community center in Claremont,” he said. “She was the one who first taught me about using color and light, and about the basics of composition. She taught me everything she knew.”

Still, Donovan yearned for more knowledge. At 14, he started taking the bus from Claremont to Manchester to join the Manchester Artists Association.

“This was back in the ’50s, when their headquarters was at the Armory,” he said. “It was a very informal group at the time. They were very nurturing.”

It wasn’t long before Donovan made the move to the Queen City and began his education in earnest at the Manchester Institute of Art. He studied under Ernesto Valentino, an artist and designer.

“That changed a lot for me,” Donovan said. “It was then I realized that this was something I could do for a living.”

Donovan quickly found other artist friends in Manchester, including Oscar Durand, who remains one of his favorite painters, and colored pencil virtuoso Jeanne Lachance, who introduced Donovan to the East Colony Fine Art Gallery. Other local artists who inspired him were Dennis Sheehan and Stan Moeller.

“I took a workshop with Stan at Mohegan Island that totally changed the way I paint forever,” Donovan said. “It made me observe nature in a different way.”

Nature remains one of Donovan’s favorite subjects to paint.

“Art is change, it’s a constantly evolving process, and nothing illustrates that better than nature,” he said. “I also think I am drawn to the peace and tranquility of nature.”

Donovan’s history with the Manchester Artists Association is a long, on-again off-again affair. He was the third president of the organization when he was still a young transplant from Claremont, but took a break from the group when he landed a job at Velcro Arts USA.

Today, Donovan is the vice president of the MAA, as well as a juried member of the East Colony Fine Arts Gallery.

“My big task as vice president is to serve as chair for the Art in the Park festival in September,” he said. “This is my last year as vice president, so this September will be my last time organizing it.”

Donovan still plans on working behind the scenes after his term as V.P. ends.

“I’m interested in working behind the scenes on fundraising for the new MAA Gallery. It’s such a great space. I love that it’s not a juried gallery. It’s a perfect place for emerging artists to gain some confidence and learn about showing their work.”

Donovan also plans to continue with his day job, working at the SEE Science Center, which is right up the street from the East Colony Gallery.

“When I retired from Velcro Arts, I had been home for a few months, and I started to go a little stir crazy,” he said. “I thought a part-time job would help. I saw a help-wanted ad for the SEE Science Center and called right away. I was the very first person they talked to. When I went in for an interview, I just clicked with the place right away. I love the energy there. It’s different every day.”

As if his painting, his job and his work with the MAA weren’t enough, the artist fills his spare time by passing on his knowledge of art to others.

“I teach an oils class at East Colony to adults who have come to art later in life,” he said. “It’s great, because the students are from all walks of life and have wanted to do this just for themselves. They’re very serious about it. We had a student show at East Colony recently and their work was impressive.”

Currently, Donovan is gearing up for a new show at East Colony. He says it’s been his most challenging series of new works yet.

“I got the idea to paint these classic Victorian cottages of the White Mountains,” he said. “My family had this lovely old cottage at Thorn Mountain in Jackson, and the memory of that place has stayed with me. Everyone in my family has a cottage in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region, so that architectural style speaks to me.”

Donovan is primarily a free-form painter, and has found the adjustment to a more realistic architectural style of painting challenging.

“I’ve been consulting with Randy Knowles, who is a member artist at East Colony, quite a bit. He specializes in this kind of painting,” he said. “I’ve been working like crazy on this series.”

With his job at the Science Center, his painting, his teaching and his work behind the scenes at MAA, Donovan says he is living  his “dream life.”

“I finally have that peace and tranquility I wanted as a child,” he said. “Everyone in my life has value to me. I don’t believe in that ‘tortured artist’ mythology. I’m definitely a better artist when I’m happy and fulfilled.”

Larry Donovan is the featured artist of the month for July at East Colony Fine Arts, located on the first floor of Langer Place, on South Commercial Street next to Fisher Cats Stadium. Donovan’s work is also on display at the MAA Gallery, located at 1528 Elm Street. For more information, visit

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