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photo: daniel forster

      john mecray grew up one block from the atlantic ocean in historic cape may, 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.
     john decided 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 experience".
      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 clients.
      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 beginning.
      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 moving forward.
      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.

 

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