If you spend any time in the Village of Ellicottville, chances are you will come across his work. After all, John Mets has been doing this for a while. “This” refers to his artwork and it’s something that has been engrained in him since the day he was born. With an award winning watercolor artist for a father and a mother who had multiple masters’ degrees in keyboard performance, it most likely came as no shock to those who knew him as a child that John Mets grew up wanting to capture the beauty of his natural surroundings.
Mets grew up in the Finger Lake area of Skaneateles, NY, outside of Syracuse. He relocated to Ellicottville back in 1981 where he began working at Rainbow Lake. In 1983 he transitioned to a bartending job at Madigan’s and continued to do so for the next decade. If you frequented Madigan’s during that era and remember a 6’ 7” man behind the bar, then you remember John Mets. Eventually Mets made his way back to Rainbow Lake where he opened The Flying Goose Restaurant, and while the restaurant is no longer open for business, Mets did keep its namesake alive and well. Just type in www.theflyinggoosegallery.com and you will be taken to Mets’ website where you can see vivid examples of the art that John creates.
When you do visit that site, you will probably get the impression that winter is Mets’ favorite season. And you would not be wrong, which explains why he has made WNY his residence; it has given him ample amounts of inspiration to draw from. Just listen to him talk about snow and you’ll begin to understand that his appreciation for something as seemingly simple as a snowflake goes above and beyond that of most people. “They say Eskimos have umpteen ka-jillion different words for snow,” embellished Mets. “To a small degree, I understand. I’ve lived in the north most of my life, and have skied since I could walk. Different snows can literally convey different feelings. Soft snows with big flakes meandering through the air, cold crisp mornings where every step crunches and the air itself seems to be frozen. I try to convey some of those feelings in my pictures.”
Make no doubt about it though, Mets is no one trick pony. From summer and fall landscapes, to family portraits, to pictures of pets. He’s done it all and done it well. His current goal is to improve his exposure for his non-winter works in the Ellicottville area. Aside from his website, much of Mets’ work can be found at Ameri-Can in Ellicottville.
Q&A WITH JOHN METS
HEGEMAN: Describe your artistic process. What is it that makes you look at a place like the exterior of Watson’s Chocolates, for example, and determine that it would be a great subject?
METS: First, this is ‘digital art’. In a sense, anyone can do it. It’s a combination of photography and digital painting. Anyone can learn to use the tools (Corel Painter, Wacom painting tablet and pen, computer with a big RAM). It’s another story in getting the tools to do what you want them to do to create what’s in your mind. Learning how the tools work is what one might consider the ‘craftsmanship’ part. The nuts and bolts. Using the tools to create a work of art which draws one in, expresses a feeling or emotion … that’s the artistic part that’s not so easy and something I aspire to do better all the time.
HEGEMAN: What/who are your artistic inspirations? Who influenced you to start painting?
METS: For inspirations, that would be my father. And while I’m not really conscious of it, a lot of my work is very similar in style to my father’s. Kind of amazing how that happens. As to big names, here are three I’ve always liked (there are many more) - Hopper, Innes, and Monet (who doesn’t like Monet?) But especially Hopper. His use of light, composition, and subject matter … love it. His subjects, be they a person, building or landscape, might seem a little bit stark, a little bit isolated, maybe even a little bit inconsequential, but to me, his true artistry is in bringing out how consequential those ‘people, places, and things’ are.
HEGEMAN: Do you have any other hobbies that occupy your time? Do they offer any sort of added inspiration to your artwork?
METS:Skiing, biking, and golf. Throw in some woodworking and in general, seeing how things work. (Like taking apart a broken stereo amp, reading about electronics, and paying more to buy the parts to fix it rather than just buying a new one.)
HEGEMAN: We touched on the namesake behind The Flying Goose Gallery in our intro. Did you transition right from the restaurant to selling your artwork?
METS:The Flying Goose was mine from 1993 to 2000. From there, I did start doing this. Originally, I was looking for a way to reproduce traditional watercolor artwork on wood for a tangential project. Came across Photoshop, played around with it some, popped an ‘artwork filter’ on a photo, and that started my fascination with ‘digital art’.
HEGEMAN: From your website I see that you have a lot of "local" prints for sale but that you also have paintings from Cape Cod and Italy. I'm assuming those were memorable trips that you have taken? Have you visited either place often? What do you enjoy about both places?
METS:While I grew up in Skaneateles, all members of my family now live on the Cape. I usually get there once or twice a year. The Italy section all comes from my sister. She has an Italian restaurant on the Cape and makes it over to Italy about once every two years. She takes the photos; I rework them into the digital art. (This is also how I do a large portion of commissioned work: People email me their photo, I rework into the artwork.)
HEGEMAN: What is your favorite piece that you’ve done?
METS:The first answer that comes to mind is that it changes all the time. Thinking some more, the two pics of the first page of my website, “Soft Snow” and a commissioned one I did of a little Yorkie type dog (Max) would be two. With Soft Snow, it took forever to get the snow to look the way I wanted it to. And with Max, he was a bit pensive; I tried to convey that in the picture.
HEGEMAN: On the subject of your commissioned work, is that a nice change of pace for you/does it challenge you more because you end up having to paint something that you might not normally ever thought to do?
METS:With commissioned work, it can be a bit more difficult. People send me photos, and I don’t necessarily know any background of the subject matter. Don’t know the emotion I should try to convey. Then again, if someone sends a vacation photo to me, ‘light, airy, happy, carefree’ are all adjectives that come to mind and something I would try to convey in the artwork.
HEGEMAN: And finally, on a less light, albeit important note, you are a cancer survivor. You’re also an avid bicyclist. Did your passion to ride stem from beating cancer or was that there before your diagnosis? And did your triumph over cancer affect the way you look at your art?
METS:Always loved biking. It holds a degree of the same thrill of freedom that it did when I was a kid. I rode from upstate NY to Teton Village WY (Jackson Hole ski area). Planned on riding to the coast but ran out of money in Teton Village. Got a job and lived there for a year. I also rode from NY to Maine then down to Florida. It’s a great way to see the country and meet the people in it. Cancer came later. I don’t think I attribute any conscious changes in my artwork endeavors to it. Overall view of life, yes. In that sense, it affected all aspects of my world.
Mets’ words come across as a man who makes sure he has a laser-focus on the things that matter most to him and that he lives his life ensuring that no moments get wasted or unappreciated. His artwork brings him happiness, and as a result he is never truly at work; he is just experiencing life.