Local artist discovered his talent after retiring

Herb Portnoy is proof that a person can discover their talents at any point in life, even after retirement.

The retired marketing and advertising professional just this past week finished hanging his collection of 23 paintings at the Milford Public Library, his second art show since he started painting only five years ago.

He describes himself as a realist in terms of art genre, painting portraits and landscapes from photographs and pictures he clips from magazines. Sometimes he’ll photograph a scene and then paint it. It’s realism, with a fun and colorful edge.

“I life people to look at my work and say, ‘isn’t that nice,’” he said. “It’s positive stuff.”

His show includes portraits from magazines, like one of Taylor Swift that he saw on the cover of a music magazine. There’s a dog and a cat, based on an advertisement he saw. A scenic among his collection is based on a magazine illustration that drew his attention because of the colors, lines and composition.

Most of the paintings are watercolors, but the Milford man dabbles in acrylics, too.

Portnoy lived in Orange and Hamden before settling in Milford. He worked 17 years as advertising manager for Stop & Shop before opening his own advertising business, Herb Portnoy Advertising, in New Haven.

In that line of work, commercial design was right up his alley, but he’d never tried his hand at painting.

When he retired, he signed up for an art course at the Woodbridge Senior Center.

The first painting completed was a floral scene, which he did in the class.

“The art instructor said, ‘Start painting,’ and I asked him if he was going to put up a subject. So he set up a still,” Portnoy said.

The painting of a vase with flowers is among the pieces on display at the library through the end of the month.

“I discovered I had some hidden talent,” Portnoy said. “God has given us all some kind of talent.”

He’s put that talent to good use, completing some 40 pieces since he started his hobby. Portnoy has four daughters and seven grandchildren, and he said he’s done their portraits.

It is a hobby, he said, though he has sold eight to ten pieces.

As he finished hanging his matted and framed paintings last week, people paused on their way up the stairs to the library to study his images. Portnoy smiled as he watched them.

There’s never a wrong time to explore talents and hidden gifts within yourself, Portnoy said, encouraging others to do the same.