A City’s Canvas: Zac Trainor Profiles of Artists of Downtown Winston Salem


“Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

“I paint to rest from the phenomena of the external world – to pronounce it – and to make notations of its essences with which to verify the inner eye.” ~ Morris Graves

These quotes demonstrate the passion and desires that drive artists to produce their work or hone their craft. It can even become a seemingly mindless endeavor that the heart drives forward in the midst of a project. Either way, one thing is certain: for a piece to come alive, it needs the heart and soul of its creator. Zac Trainor not only realizes this, he has used this knowledge to push him to become the painter he is today.

Zac Trainor spent much of his childhood in a small town in Massachusetts, taking in the sights and sounds of his surroundings, and using them to create his work. Trainor received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Graphics from Springfield College in 2003, where he also studied Fine Arts. The techniques that he studied included drawing, painting, sculpture and other mixed media methods.

“I grew up in Fall River, MA, a waterfront town about an hour south of Boston, and even closer to Providence and Newport in location,” said Trainor. “Being never too far from the water or a beach, the colors of the sun, sky, and water, as well as the changing colorful layers of the seasons I experienced growing up, strongly influenced my palette and layering. My path growing up was always on a creative curve, and I always wanted to be creating or building something. I don’t know that I ever had a moment where I said, ‘This is my future,’ but more than being an artist, art was the only thing I always understood. Art was never something separate from me or my person. Everything that I work on, whether it be painting, installation, or music, is a combination of my experience up to that point. To say it is my future would imply it was a career choice, but it is not a career. It can be, but above all else it is a discipline and a way of life for me. There is never a time I am not an artist.”

Trainor also uses aspects of his family’s history in his art, and it is a practice that has made a special contribution to his work. “Fall River has a dominant population of Portuguese people who migrated from the Azores, my family included,” continued Trainor. “My grandparents were from the island of Sao Miguel and came over to the US when they were both in their teens. This also provided a large population of devout Roman Catholics, which I was raised as. Though I claim no religious affiliation now, I feel a lot of the lessons and ceremony of my youth still coming through in my work. I often will place a symbol in the position of the third eye that is essentially a plus sign. Like the multiple meanings a simple symbol can have, that shape alone, two lines, can represent, math, science, religion, philosophy, metaphysics, astrology…it represents a lot. My grandmother’s passing in 2014 brought a large amount of darker tones into my work. Before that, I only used black as an outline or accent. For a solid year, it took over as the dominant color in my work for the series ‘Let Us Not Pretend.’”

Trainor’s creations seek to understand time and an exploration of his place in it. “Over the last few years, my work has evolved into a sort of meditation and evocation of both the beautiful and harsh realities of this world and the mystery or defeat of what may lie beyond,” said Trainor. “Each work is a dialogue with the past, present, and future, not at separate instances, but rather all moments happening at once. Each piece brings me closer to understanding something more about myself, my surroundings, or my place in time. Each piece serves as a reflection, an action, and a warning.”

This understanding of time that Trainor seeks in his work is not what makes him unique, as we all seek those answers in some way, form, or fashion. It is how he uses his work to ask those questions. With his history and personal observations, Trainor has used his work and passion to find his place in the area’s art scene, and judging from his body of work, and his motivation to dig even further into his craft, Trainor is poised to make even bigger splashes in the future. Luckily, downtown Winston-Salem is the place to be to do just that.