Meet Painter David McGranaghan

January 14, 2015 7:19am
McGranaghan 3

By David McGranaghan #4318 oil on canvas 12 x 24″

If you walk the lake regularly you’ve probably noticed David McGranaghan painting lake scenes, his blue coat protecting him from the winter chill. David was recently featured in the Seattle Times and in response, we heard from several Greenlakers saying how much they enjoyed his paintings. So we decided to reach out to David to find out more about his painting and connection to Green Lake.

Seattle Greenlaker: From your website it looks like you have quite a background in art and painting. Why do you paint Green Lake scenes?
David: Since about 1981 when I moved to Seattle (from upstate NY by way of Eugene, OR) I found Green Lake to be an ideal subject for the kind of landscape painting I like to do: the elements of water, trees, a pathway that meanders into the distance and the constant movement of people and animals giving it a relaxing yet vibrant ambience.

McGranaghan 2

By David McGranaghan #4302 oil on canvas 24 x 18″

How long have you been painting at Green Lake?
David: I’ve painted Green Lake off and on over the past 34 years but only in the last 6 months have I focused on it so persistently, day after day.

SG: How often do you come to the Lake?
David: I try to paint at Green Lake 2 to 4 hours everyday, weather permitting.

SG: We’ve seen you on the north side, is that your usual spot?
David: The north end has certain features that are more conducive to my sensibilities about composition, but I’ve found interesting vistas all around the lake.

SG: When you aren’t at the Park, what other places do you paint?
David: I will paint almost anywhere. I enjoy the challenge of expressing the aesthetic possibilities of the most mundane, prosaic scenes. I’ll paint street corners with stop signs and utility poles. But, like most people, I enjoy the expanses of trees, fields and water that are a respite from the urban bustle: the Arboretum, Discovery Park, Golden Gardens, etc. I also take photos that I may work from later, though I prefer to work directly from life.

SG: How would you describe your painting style?

David: I’m primarily a “plein air” painter, which means that I work in the open air, outdoors. It’s a practice that I began when I was 14 years old. I started oil painting, first indoors, at age 10. Once I discovered the Impressionists and read about their lives, I was hooked. The sensation of light through the use of color has been and continues to be my primary fascination.

I value the formal education I’ve received but the actual techniques I employ in my plein air painting practice were self-taught.

SG: What questions do you get while painting?
David: I’m often asked how long did it takes me to paint this or that painting. I first got that question long ago at an outdoor art show in Livonia, New York when a couple decided to buy a small painting of mine for $10. They casually asked how long it took me to paint it. The wife was quite put off when I proudly said “half an hour.” “Great! Here’s $10 for your half hour of work!” That was 1973 when the minimum wage was $1.85/hr. I mentioned this to my earliest mentor, the acclaimed portrait painter, John Peisley. He told me that his paintings didn’t take hours or days. They took 30 years! I also realized years later that the other dozen or so paintings I had there in Livonia didn’t sell and never would. So, that $10 was also payment for the time put into all the others that failed to sell.

McGranaghan 1

By David McGranaghan #4316 oil on canvas 12 x 24″

Ever since then, I’ve been a little defensive when asked this ubiquitous question, especially when it’s preceded by “How much do you get for a painting like that?”. I realize, of course, that it is usually an innocent question, that the questioner isn’t trying to assign an hourly rate to my work, but may be impressed by how quickly the image forms. Nevertheless, I want to add that for every hour of actual painting, there’s at least 3 or 4 more hours of business related activity, besides the aforementioned years of training and experience. Is there a message here? I guess; PLEASE, stop asking how long it took. Seriously, I hear that about a dozen times a day! I mean, you wouldn’t ask a musician how long it took to play the tune you just heard! It takes as long as it takes, but with a painting, you get to look at it for a lifetime.

I’m much more interested in questions about aesthetics. And, “How do you know when it’s done?” makes me smile. When I’ve ruined it, I suppose! But, seriously, to paraphrase a quote from Voltaire, ‘in the pursuit of perfection, the good may be destroyed.’

SG: Where can people buy your art?
David: I’m currently in a show with two notable artists, Doug Keith and Katarina Reka at the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s gallery through Jan. 23rd. My work can also be viewed on my web site at

Thanks for your time David!