Inspired by Rembrandt, local artist emerges from shadows into the limelight

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Warren Tracy Davis uses an old-world art technique called alla prima to achieve his paintings. Alla prima is the process by which wet paint is placed in layers before it has the chance to dry. He typically finishes paintings in an hour.

Warren Tracy Davis has spent the past two years painting — a lot.

When asked to come up with 100 paintings for his first-ever art show, how could he say no? Instead of giving up, Davis got to work.

"Every one of these paintings is a learning lesson," the Hanover-based artist said.

Drawing much inspiration from the likes of Rembrandt, Gustav Klimt and Vincent van Gogh, Davis paints with an impressionistic style that aims to elicit the raw emotion of the subjects he captures.

Davis' gallery show at the Hanover Area Arts Guild, featuring 100 new paintings, opened at the beginning of June. An artist’s reception is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 22. It's open to the public.

Davis said that although he often gets embarrassed to tell people he's an artist for fear of ridicule, the gallery opening brought in more than 500 guests eager to see his art and meet him —  some even “touched my heart.”

Warren Tracy Davis' art show opened June 1 at the Hanover Area Arts Guild.

He most likes to see how people interpret his paintings, encouraging spectators to use their mind, rather than their eyes, when looking at his pieces.

Prior to joining the art world, Davis spent 26 years as a firefighter in Baltimore, first joining when he was 18. Upon retiring, he took classes at the Schuler School of Fine Art to study with the masters of drawing and painting. 

“I get very excited about painting,” Davis said. “It’s just what I do.”

He likened painting to the doves that sit outside his window in the morning — they sing because it’s what they were born to do. 

Typically, Davis wakes up knowing what he wants to paint. 

Though it might seem daunting to complete a painting each day, Davis said he uses a classical painting method called alla prima, which is the application of various layers of wet paint in one short session, to finish his paintings.

Warren Tracy Davis primarily works with acrylic paints. His first gallery show, which opened in June, features 100 new paintings.

When using acrylic paints — which dry very quickly — the carefree, quick strokes of the brush are key in mastering this style. 

At first, Davis would grow exhausted after finishing a painting. Now, he spends more time studying the reference photos from which he draws inspiration for his works than the actual painting itself.

Describing his excitement much like a Kentucky Derby horse bursting through the gates, Davis gets passionate about painting. His ultimate goal is to make others think beyond what they see on the canvas.

His elementary school art teacher, Sam Little, said she couldn’t be prouder of her former student's accomplishments.

“He’s got a style here, and it comes so easy to him,” Little said of Davis’ paintings. “It just flows off his fingers.”

Warren Tracy Davis takes a photo of his grandchildren, Luke and Liam, who are observing Davis' art, on June 12. Liam wants to be an artist like his grandfather when he grows up, Davis said.

Though Davis originally intended to paint in a realistic style, he ended up falling into impressionism. 

Referring to himself as an emotional person, Davis said he likes to paint people most because he can translate any emotions into those characters.

“I want to share how I get lost in a painting with other people,” he said. “I’m trying to connect with people who don’t understand what an artist is.”

To view Davis' work, hours for the Hanover Area Arts Guild, at 32 Carlisle St., are as follows:

Friday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m

Sunday: Closed

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 5 pm.

Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m

Thursday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.