He’s a man of many talents and assumes the role of fighter pilot, husband, father, and artist. Matt DeGree, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 pilot has been sharing his artwork with the Coronado community for the past year and a half, but now it’s being showcased on a grander scale. DeGree’s cloud and ocean-scape paintings are hanging in Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge during the month of March. This is his second time, in less than a year, being a featured artist at the urban eatery.
DeGree recalls the first time his paintings went up at the restaurant. “I consider myself an amateur, so I felt a little unworthy at first,” he explains. “But once I got my work up on the walls, it really fit the space well. One Sunday my extended family all drove down from Orange County to have dinner at Leroy’s and look at my art. It was awesome. Plus it was fried chicken Sunday at Leroy’s, which can’t be beat. I even sold a few pieces at that show, which is really amazing – it’s pretty cool to see other people enjoy my work.”
Restaurant goers can expect to see stunning ocean-inspired artwork cascading on the walls. “I go through a lot of blue and white paint, so get ready to see a mix of watercolor and oil paintings that relate to the beach, the ocean, and life in Coronado. You might even see a little Hotel Del red in a painting or two,” says DeGree.
DeGree attributes his inspiration for paintings to his love of the sky and sea. “I love the beach, so most of my work somehow revolves around the ocean and waves. I grew up on the beach, from California to Virginia, Italy to Australia, so water has always been a constant in my life. Any day I can get in the surf is a good day,” says DeGree. “A desire to be in the clouds is what made me want to be a pilot, so I really enjoy painting skies and clouds, as well.”
Despite taking an art class in high school, DeGree didn’t discover his talent until 10 years later when he was set to deploy on the USS ENTERPRISE. “My Mom happened to give me a bunch of paints for Christmas that year,” he explains. “I decided to bring them on the ship to give myself a hobby in my downtime. That was an eight-month long deployment, so I ended up having quite a bit of time to paint, sketch and draw. If I didn’t have a night flight, I would spend my evenings sketching my wife, Ashley, and painting the beach, the two things I missed the most on deployment. That deployment was six years ago and art is now a part of my everyday life,” he adds.
DeGree was born right here in Coronado, but, moved every two to three years as the son of a Naval Officer. “It was always a dream to get back here one day,” says DeGree.
After graduating from the Naval Academy, he followed in his father’s footsteps and has been a Naval Officer for the past twelve years. After falling in love with his college roommate’s little sister Ashley, getting married, moving around the country to fulfill orders, and being sent on deployments, DeGree finally made a return to Coronado.
“We moved here in July of 2015, just a few weeks before my son, Rowan, was born,” says DeGree. “Ashley was eight months pregnant at the time and we had just finished the nursery the night before, but when I called her to ask if we could move to Coronado in just two weeks, she said, ‘Absolutely yes!'”
Since moving to Coronado, DeGree has embraced ‘the island life’ wholeheartedly. “We are island hermits and feel so lucky to live here,” he wittingly replies. “We walk or ride bikes to the amazing parks, the beautiful beach and bay and the awesome restaurants all the time.”
While a large majority of his paintings are commissioned, he’s excited to share the rest of his art with the community. “I’ve painted a lot of children at the beach, pets, homes and hometowns. I’ve even painted a Marine as a mermaid,” says DeGree. “I’m always happy to turn someone’s favorite photo into a painting they’ll keep forever. You can contact me via email at [email protected] or my Facebook page, Matt DeGree Fine Art, for more information or a custom order.”
DeGree’s artwork will be displayed at Leroy’s from March 01 – 31, 2017.