Wayne Martin brings sparks of joy wherever he goes. Whether he is driving with his loyal dog, Scrappy, to the water at sunset, displaying his watercolor paintings, or generously helping and supporting his neighbors, Wayne is sure to make you smile. Our family is always excited to see Wayne’s truck in the evenings and to say hello to Scrappy. In our recent conversation, Wayne shared his and his family’s history and his passion for painting.
Wayne is a 6th generation waterman, and his son is a 7th generation waterman. He began working on the water in 1962 with his father when he was 17 years old, and he did not retire until he was 75. Similarly, his father worked on the water dredging oysters from when he was 12 years old until he was 77 years old. Wayne’s career as an oysterman was interrupted by his time in the Navy and by various moratoriums that were placed on fishing. Wayne remembers that there used to be more fish and that the biggest moneymaker used to be shadfish; however, a moratorium was placed on shadfish in 1988. Before that, the Kepone disaster in the 70s shut everything down in the James River. Kepone was an insecticide that a factory in Hopewell, Virginia produced. For nearly 10 years the chemical’s waste was dumped into the waterway, and government officials overlooked the danger. Fishing was eventually prohibited because of the danger, and this was a severe blow to the fishing industry. During these forced times away from the water, Wayne worked for Canon as a toolmaster and for GE, but he always found himself returning to his roots.
Speaking of roots, the Martins have claimed Virginia as their home for hundreds of years. John Martin landed at Jamestown with John Smith, so Wayne can claim that his family has lived here since 1607. The Martins moved to Rescue in 1870. Wayne moved across the Chuckatuck Creek 34 years ago when he got married, and he said with a laugh that he’s still called a “come here” because he moved from the neighboring Isle of Wight County.
Wayne has been painting for 33 years and began because of his brother and friend. His brother went to college to be an artist, and his friend, a watercolor artist, invited him to a painting class. Wayne was hooked as has been doing it ever since. He is mainly inspired by the nature around him, especially water scenes. Commercial boats, lighthouses, and waterfowl will frequently make their way into his paintings. His favorite picture was of the Shoal Lighthouse on the James River with a boat loaded with oysters in front of it. Wayne still attends art shows with his paintings, and he is the featured artist at the Suffolk Cultural Arts Center for the next month.