About 15 years ago, while Darien native Peter Saverine was vacationing in Nantucket, Mass., he was searching for a painting of a Nantucket rose cottage as a souvenir.

Finding none he could afford, he decided to take matters into his own hands, literally, and did so, giving it away as a surprise Christmas gift.

Fast forward to the present: Saverine, who is 65 and now lives in Fairfield, is still painting. While he considers it a hobby, he has already sold more than 1,200 pieces of art.

He said he never has any painting longer than six months before it’s sold.

His work is currently for sale at The Dock Shop, Grieb’s Pharmacy, Palmer’s Market, and Barrett Bookstore in Darien, as well as in shops in New Canaan, Fairfield, Greenwich, Westport, Norwalk, and Nantucket.

His work has also been shown in the Darien outdoor show at Grove Street, the Pequot Library in Southport, the Art Society of Old Greenwich, and Greenwich Art on the Avenue.

He’s currently painting 900 Christmas ornaments.

Saverine said he especially enjoys painting seascapes.

“I grew up near the water and find it very calming,” he said. “My wife Holly and I love the beach. We go to Cape Cod and Nantucket.”

He is the author of a self-published children’s book called “Jenny’s Pennies: A Nantucket Tradition,” which is based on a true story about his late mother, Jenny. It sold 10,000 copies and has been reprinted five times.

He’ll be giving a book signing in Nantucket at Christmas.

Process

Saverine paints from the bottom up.

In a painting of the water, “First, I do the basic sky and water, and then I build up with the sand and the waves,” he said. “The very end is where I put the key things like the boat.”

“You don’t really get the fine details until the end,” he added.

Since he paints each piece individually by hand, no two are exactly alike.

He also makes miniature paintings — three inches by three inches, and displays them on tiny easels.

“They are perfect for people who say they have no room for a larger size painting on their wall,” he said.

He makes a batch of six mini paintings at a time, which takes him about an hour.

“It’s like an assembly line, except I’m the only one working on it,” he joked.

He said the miniature paintings sometimes take longer than a large one and are often more challenging.

“With the smaller ones, you are doing the same amount of detail. You are just using a different size brush,” he said, adding that each new color needs time to dry.

He also takes pictures of his large paintings and makes prints from them, and sells the prints.

Family/work

Saverine has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Amherst College in Mass. He has four grown children and eight grandchildren, ranging from 4 months to 7 years.

He’s director of philanthropy at Star, Inc., Lighting the Way in Norwalk, a not-for-profit organization serving individuals who have developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families.

“Our mission is to provide them with a safe, healthy, happy lifestyle with the same opportunities that we have,” he said.

“I love it,” he added. “It draws on both my marketing and creative side.”

A former president of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, he previously worked at the Darien Sport Shop and Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens in Stamford.

He was also owner of Colony Florist in Greenwich and general manager at Nielsen’s Florist & Garden Shop, working for the late Jerry Nielsen Sr., who was his mentor, he said.

“I always admired him,” Saverine said. “He was a community-minded person. Nielsen loved being an entrepreneur.”

Saverine worked at Nielsen’s when he was in high school. “They are a second family to me,” he said.

Reflection, donation

Saverine said ever since he has been a painter, he has taken a deeper look at his surroundings.

“I’ll find myself looking at either the trees on the horizon or at a bush or flower and trying to figure out how would I paint that — what colors are in it, what shadows,” he said. “It makes you look at something in much more depth.”

He is also aiming for a “more simpler look in the bigger paintings.”

When he first started painting, he said he felt he had to paint every detail such as every window pane and every shingle, “but I now realize you have to step away,” he said.

He added that not everything needs to be defined.

“You have to let your imagination fill in some of the blanks,” he said.

For the spring, he plans to paint on larger canvases.

“I like this new landscape style — a thick canvas where the sides are painted, and no frame.” he said. “I’m finding younger people are really not into frames.”

Donation

Local charities Saverine has supported through sales of his artwork over the years include the Darien Arts Center, Post 53, Greens Ledge Lighthouse Preservation, the Darien Land Trust, the Community Fund of Darien, Blue Wave Sports Boosters, the Rowayton Historical Society, the Rowayton Arts Center, the Pequot Library and the Greenwich Arts Center.

“It’s my way of giving back,” he said.

Someday, when he retires, he said he might turn his hobby into a part-time job. For now, though, he said it’s just for fun.

“It’s grandchildren money,” he said, adding that all his eight grandchildren live close by.

For more information or to order a painting, contact psaverine@yahoo.com.

sfox@darientimes.com