Born in West Virginia, Dennis Morton grew up in orphanages and foster homes around the country. He painted his way through a colorful palette of childhood memories filled with joyful experiences and loving homes, contradicting more stereotypical ideas about foster life. After a family from New York City adopted Dennis, they moved to Keene, New Hampshire, where he met and began formal training as a portrait painter in 1972 with Richard Whitney—a renowned portrait and figurative painter. Dennis soon matured into a successful portrait artist in his own right, exhibiting in group and solo shows in a number of galleries. In 1988, Dennis was honored at the New Hampshire State House where twenty of his portraits of dignitaries were exhibited, six of which Governor John Sununu purchased.
Dennis moved to Hawaii in 1991. He continued to receive portrait commissions while pursuing a new interest in landscape painting. Occasionally, he painted portraits of historical figures from Hawaii, such as Father Damien and Queen Liliuokalani; however, he shifted his focus mostly to landscapes. His new painting style ranged from extreme realism to impressionistic reflections of the dramatic mountains and spectacular effects of color and light on the windward side of Oahu, particularly in Kaneohe and Ka’a’awa.
Most of the time Dennis paints out of doors. “You have to struggle sometimes to find the right spot,” he says. “But the place often carries the whole painting.” Bringing a composition to completion may require returning to the location numerous times to observe and experience the natural colors, lighting, and shadows in play. Capturing that “right balance” allows him to recreate in his painting not just the visual beauty but also the emotional response to the scene that initially inspired his choice of a particular location.
Dennis's landscape paintings of Hawaii can be found in offices of the Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank as well as in the courtyards of Punahou, the Castle Medical Center, and in many private collections and galleries. His Waimea Horses, one of a series of twelve Mauna Kea landscapes, won first prize for the Palette Award of the Hawaiian Association of Artists.
In recent years, Dennis returns each summer and fall to New England and the Lakes Region to appreciate and capture on canvas the brilliant colors of the northeastern landscape.
Visit Dennis's website at www.dennismortonhawaii.com.