mecray grew up one block from the atlantic ocean in historic cape
new jersey, where his family has deep roots. encouraged by his parents
and high school art teacher he applied and was accepted at the prestigious
philadelphia college of art (now the university of the arts) where
he majored in illustration and painting,
maintaining a place on the dean's list.
to honor his military obligation after junior year by taking the army
up on its promise of duty in europe - and spent 2 1/2 years "experiencing
all the continent had to offer". his first duty station was with the
2nd armored cavalry in bayreuth, germany, home of the wagner opera festival
- which broadened his love of classical music. then he transferred to
7th army headquarters in stuttgart and the 7th army symphony orchestra
and soldier shows company where he was the set and poster designer.
when the soldier shows tour neared an end he obtained the position of
illustrator for the 7th army's psychological warfare unit - the 5th
loudspeaker and leaflet company. each position allowed ample time to
visit museums in every country in western europe. it was "a priceless
returning to finish college in 1961 john
began his career as a freelance illustrator in earnest. during his senior
year he showed his portfolio wherever he could. a chance interview at
girl scout headquarters in new york led to his selection to illustrate
the senior girl scout handbook, a big achievement for a young illustrator
- still in school. after graduating john was asked to return to his
alma mater to teach a drawing class. despite a blossoming career, he
agreed to one day a week. during the sixties john illustrated four books,
did magazine illustrations and developed a long list of advertising
in 1972 an invitation to crew on
a forty foot sailboat bound for st. thomas in the virgin islands was
irresistible - and opened the door to a whole new career. by his second
trip he was painting marine scenes with a growing passion. in 1975 a
stroke of destiny led john to purchase a painting by james e. buttersworth
which proved inspirational and auspicious. it led him to meet the author
of the definitive book on buttersworth, rudolph j. schaefer who, after
seeing john's work, became a friend and advisor, purchasing several
of john's paintings. he introduced john to kennedy galleries in new
york and instilled the idea that, with dedication and focus, marine
art could be a successful full-time career.
in 1976, after a third passage to
the virgin islands, he gave up his successful philadelphia based illustration
career and moved his family to newport rhode island to devote full-time
to marine painting. by chance, their june 25th arrival in newport coincided
with the arrival of the tall ships '76 participants - an auspicious
the 23rd defense of the america's
cup took place in newport in 1977. it proved to be a courageous
summer with both gary jobson and ted turner buying paintings and establishing
long-term friendships. john also published his first yachting print,
the j-class sloop rainbow which was also featured in yachting
magazine. close-in deck views would become a trademark for the artist.
1978 saw the publishing of the l.a. dunton with mystic seaport and the
beginning of another enduring relationship.
by 1979 john's keen interest in
yachts and yachting history led to the founding of the museum of yachting
- and their annual classic yacht regatta. when the museum was offered
the j-class sloop, shamrock v. john encouraged the hesitant board
of directors to accept the offer. the america's cup challenger became
an awesome fixture on narragansett bay.
in 1993 he helped found the international
yacht restoration school, where he is a trustee. the success of
iyrs enabled the school to acquire shamrock from the museum in
1995. in 1998 it was sold to provide seed money for a project john had
been aiming for since 1981; the restoration of the 1885, 135 ft. schooner
coronet - america's most historic yacht. that project is now
john has been fortunate in his long
time mentor and agent, marguerite riordan, noted art and antique dealer
of stonington, connecticut. in 1995 she produced a second major exhibition
of his work. it included twelve paintings and six drawings - the output
of several years work. the opening was a huge success and made the weekend
all the better when the next day he married the love of his life, mary
gillette, appropriately, on the grounds of the newport art museum -
with the former captain of coronet presiding.
john is a member of mystic seaport
museum's yachting committee, the new york yacht club, the national trust
for historic preservation and the herreshoff marine museum, among others.
in addition to his deep commitment to yachting subjects john restored
an 18th century house in the historic hill section of newport and a
rare 1936 mg/pb race car. he also designed and produced three high-quality
books on the fabled leica camera - of which he has a world-class collection.
since 1997 john has donated one
of his limited edition prints to each of 45 leukemia cup regattas held
throughout the country. they are featured items in the regatta auctions
and help to raise funds for the fight against leukemia/lymphoma. http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/regatta.
nine offshore yacht deliveries between
new england, bermuda, the caribbean and countless yacht races have given
the artist a personal knowledge of the effects of wind, sea and light
on a variety of sailing vessels. those experiences imbue his paintings
with a sense of reality appreciated by sailors and non sailors alike.
john mecray's authoritative images evoke an era that produced sailing
vessels which are almost beyond comprehension today. his work has helped
engender a greater appreciation for the magnificent racing yachts that
are his trademark.