The water splashes against the sides of the tugboat as a red buoy bobs in the water nearby.

It seems like a photograph but it’s not. It’s a painting by local artist Dennis Lighthart.

Lighthart, who has been painting professionally for more than 40 years, gained his love for painting boats, ocean landscapes and beach cottages while his father, who was in the U.S. Navy, was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

But his passion for art started much earlier. His great-grandmother, grandfather and mother all painted, and Lighthart recalls picking up a paint brush himself as early as age 8.

Although born in South Dakota, Lighthart got a chance to live in a lot of different places because of his father’s Navy service. Lighthart attended college in Key West, Florida, for 2½ years where he learned a lot from other artists while attending classes on houseboats. He would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Norfolk State University after his family moved to the Norfolk area.

Lighthart has lived in Perquimans County since the 1980s and likes to sail the Perquimans River and other area waterways.

He has used a variety of media in his art, including acrylics, watercolors, oils, charcoal and pen and ink.

His work has been featured at art galleries and his pieces have been commissioned by interior designers and customers around the country. Locally, his art is available at Arts of the Albemarle and the Perquimans Arts League.

Whether the work is a barn, a beloved pet or a cottage at the beach, Lighthart says his goal is always to capture the spirit of his subject.

“There is so much to paint and so little time,” said Lighthart. “It is not hard to be inspired.”

In addition to painting, Lighthart owns a cabinet and woodworking business that he and his family continue to operate.

When he is not painting or woodworking, Lighthart likes to get together once a week with fellow band members of the group, Ol Ocean Highway, to play guitar. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

For more information about Dennis Lighthart and his paintings, visit