MARC CASTELLI / Shouting at the Wind

Gallery hours: Gallery open by Appointment Only. Please email info@massoniart.com or call Carla Massoni at 410-778-7330 or text 410-708-4512 to schedule.
Friday & Saturday 11-3 are our preferred times. (Exceptions may be made to suit your schedule.)

Masks are required. Visits are limited to one party at a time.

Our online shop is currently featuring Shouting at the Wind available for purchase from the gallery.

Shouting at the Wind was recently featured in HOME & DESIGN’s Chesapeake Views Fall 2020 Magazinevisit their website.


 


Carla Massoni introduces the latest work by Marc Castelli in this virtual tour of the MassoniArt gallery.

In the 2-part Artist Talk series Marc Castelli guides you through the gallery and shares the stories and friendships that make this exhibit particularly meaningful during this time.


Video Acknowledgements

Justinian Dispenza – Andover Media

Francoise Sullivan – Moo Productions

Camilo Carrara – Music Track


Marc Castelli describes the inspiration for each piece in this exquisite exhibit.

 

Getting Her Feet Wet/ Edna Lockwood
watercolor
30″ x 22″
SOLD

At the behest of the CBMM president I have created a series of drawings numbering over 480 of the rebuild of the Edna Lockwood. That was a very unique project involving the construction of a new 9-log bottom to be mated to the already built deck. The Lockwood is the last sailing bugeye on the bay.

It has been a real treat to capture in photographs and the pen and inks along with several watercolors of the project. The staff of the shipyard was most accommodating, friendly and appreciative of the printed photos and the photocopied drawings of the project.  It reminds me the building of the replica 18th century schooner, Sultana in Chestertown. A project for which I have executed well over 1,500 drawings and still counting.  I have documented many Chesapeake boats built by John Swain.  This painting is of the Lockwood the day she was put over. Not the day that was “celebrated” as her very public launch day. This day was private and the attendees were for the most part the shipyard shipwrights and apprentices. In this scene she rests on the railway and is soaking up water. In addition to the indigenous type of craft there are several details that put the place on the Eastern Shore like the native grasses at the shoreline.

Manus Argentum
watercolor
22″ x 15″

Watermen wear all manner of gloves when working. They do so all year long. Some are designed for certain seasons of the year and others for certain harvest seasons. As a result, one sees many gloves in odd places. What do you do with an old holed and worn out glove or the one glove that has no match?

The men I fish with took an old rubber glove and placed it on a pole used for a catfish pen. I took many pictures of this glove over the years. Guess I found it amusing. I am an avid reader of history both factual and fictional and have been reading a series of books about ancient Rome by Colleen McCullough. In one of them an award was given for meritorious service in battle to a small unit of the army, known as maniple. It was a “silver hand” to be placed on the unit standard. Something akin to a battle ribbon on an army unit’s guidon. One morning, I was fishing with a father and son team, with whom I have worked alongside for over 14 years, and saw the glove on the pole as the “silver hand” or manus argentum.  I then realized it as a subject for a painting. I asked my brother (a Roman history maven) about the award, and he pointed me to a book written by Howard Pyle, the great American illustrator and teacher of N.C. Wyeth, Otho of the Silver Hand. A book, I own and forgotten that I have. So many threads…  I even did a pen-and-ink many years ago of a workboat surrounded by gloves bobbing up and down in the water. At that time gloves were just metaphors for me because I had not yet experienced a day on the water with the watermen. Now, I know what gloves are for. One never knows how the circles that intersect like Venn diagrams and then wander out into space only to return in unexpected ways.

The Last One/ Johnny Kinnamon
watercolor
22″ x 30″

As it is for most good things on the Eastern Shore a seemingly casual contact can produce the most interesting and fruitful opportunity. I had been alerted by a CBMM staff member that the last boat builders on Tilghman Island were starting on two boats. These are the Kinnamons, Johnny, 86 years old and his son J.C. in his late 40’s. 

Very few people on the Bay especially this far north are making wood based deadrise workboats anymore. I have never seen, even after 25 years of working alongside watermen, a workboat being built. For several weeks I made the trip down to Tilghman in the mornings to watch the progress. The Kinnamons are very generous with their time and knowledge. Once, I asked what was, to J.C., a pretty stupid question. He answered me as if I was a little slow, and I was. I then told him I had a burden of stupid questions and in response he told me stupid answers were still free. His father, Johnny told me that after building over 300 boats mostly deadrise workboats and being 86 he just couldn’t do most of the physical work anymore.  So, the boat he was working on with J.C.’s occasional help was to be his last boat and it would be his, not never for sale. This painting is from a quick shot of him standing in the door of his shop looking at the her still upside-down waiting for the last sheets of plywood. In the following months I have got to know them quite well and treasure their gentle teasing, joking, stories of growing up on Tilghman, and the sharing of an unwritten wealth of information.

Fish Squint
watercolor
15″ x 22″
SOLD

One late afternoon, Robbie and Sam Joiner and I went looking for fish to try and get some seine net around. Usually we do this up on the Sassafras but this time we went up on the Chester River. Late afternoon light is so full of streaming warmth, especially on the water.

We went up several creeks and while we saw signs, mud swirls, circling ripples, and occasionally the back of a mud shad or carp it was usually in water so skinny that we knew we couldn’t stay without getting all of the boats stuck on bottom. But for me the light was magical that day. Incredible skies reflected in the calm of sheltered waters, warm light on us all. In this painting Robbie is squinting into the light to watch for signs of fish that may be in deeper water as we headed out of the creek.

Tide Against the Wind
watercolor
30″ x 22″

We were hanging net. I should say Robbie and Sam were doing it. I was just trying to keep my feet while the boat pitched and yawed in the steep waves that were a product of tide against strong winds. 

They were hanging the hearts and hedging, leaving the crib for another day. I got to shoot just the poles without net on them in the 2 to 3-foot waves. I like the verticality of the poles against the crazy layering of diagonals in the swells, waves and wind driven textures across the surface of the water.

Rough Work
watercolor
22″ x 15″

Same day as Tide Against the Wind. My intense admiration for these men only increased as I watched them maneuver the small bateau in and out of the poles as they hung net.

All they had was an outboard for power, and the strength of their hands as they held on to the poles while attaching net. Remarkable small boat handling and more amazing was the quiet trust in each other as they worked through difficult conditions. You may ask why not come back on a less intense day? The schedule of fish is not dependent on calendars. If you aren’t ready when most fish show up you will lose several days of fishing to getting set up. Doing so is a lost opportunity to start recouping operating costs, before making any money.

King’s Tide
watercolor
22″ x 30″
SOLD

Same day as the previous two images. The mornings when you can still see the full moon high in the western sky and the sun breaking the eastern horizon are usually called the Kings Tide. It can also be quite rough.

The moon is barely visible above the men and the direct nature of the streaking sunlight is the indicator for the time of day.  Again, I must stress the incredible rough water with which they had to contend. The waves became even more pronounced as the men alternated the net in and out of the poles while they moved toward the shore/shoal end of the hedging.

Shouting at the Wind
watercolor
30″ x 22″

My closest friends are watermen, like the Joiners. This is one of them, Wayne Wilson. The day of this image saw us leaving the upper bay along with several other Rock Hall workboats to try and get back home before conditions got even worse. We were up the bay ghost potting.

That is what is called the dragging for derelict crab pots. Some fool got the idea that lost/abandoned crab pots endanger fish and crabs. Watermen know that if the damn animal can get into a pot it can also turn right around leave. But the MDOT and the Oyster Recovery Partnership got funds for a wet lands remediation program. The funds were to be used to remediate wetlands damaged by bridge construction. We all questioned the effort knowing full well that the oyster money should have gone to oyster replenishment in the upper bay. We even had Sen. Hershey questioning the effort. Turned out the money was already dedicated and no one could change the usage. But the advantage to such a boondoggle was that it came in late March and early April. A time when most watermen were switching from oystering to preparing for the upcoming crab season. This is a slow time with little if any money to be made. It involved upper bay watermen. Rock Hall boats and crews left the dock at 4:30 in the morning in order to get up near Hart-Miller Island on time. This day we knew it was going to get worse as the already hard winds were to increase and swing from WSW to South. This would mean going home would put all of our noses on the wind into that bay long fetch of building waves. So, we decided to take the loss of money for quitting early and get home. It was an incredible display of boat handling in the worst possible conditions that I have experienced only a few times. Wayne went back to throttle down just a hair. The wind and water on his face and in his hair along with the heel of the boat and the sheer amusement at the conditions made for a great shot and solid painting.

Day is Not Over Till, You Get Home/ Tyrigner
watercolor
22″ x 30″

Same day as in the previous painting. This is one of the smaller boats that made up part of the group from Rock Hall heading back home in bizarre rough conditions. Crews on these days were usually family or close friends in need of money. Everyone got paid.

We did have to keep daily logs about the pots we dragged up and what they were made of, the conditions they were in, and if they had corks and lines, or if they were just pieces. Crash Beck and his wife Chrissy were on the Tyriganer that day. Every one teases Crash about the unpronounceable name of the boat. It is made from parts of the names of his sons. Anyway, you can see just how demanding the conditions were that day by the wave the boat just punched through. Not quite just another day on the water.

Better Call a Plumber / Ms. Amanda
watercolor
15″ x 22″

The troughs were so deep at times that small workboats just dropped from sight only to bob up on the next swell or wave. In this case the boat only had a small bilge pump that could barely keep up with the constantly inundating waves and spray.

We stayed alongside as we got closer to Rock Hall and the water got shallower increasing wave height along the edge. Once we got to shore there were several watermen waiting at the dock with ditch pumps to help get the water out. The title of the painting is somewhat of a pun as the boat owner’s last name is Plummer. We all still talk and laugh about that day. I count myself as very lucky to be included in the memories. I have gifted many photographs from that day to the men for their photo albums.

Chasing Blossom / Billie P. Hall and Island Blossom
watercolor
21″ x 20.5″

My old Nikon D-700 is developing “liver” spots in the lens. Probably because I have abused the hell out of it over the years. It has been coated in fish slime, oyster mud, drenched in driving rains and wind driven spray.

I love the glass in that camera and despite losing several functions it still takes really good pictures. But I feel the end approaching so I bought a new camera. Could not afford a new Nikon especially the 28 to 200 telephoto lens I depend on.  I like my new camera despite it’s having so many capabilities. Yet It does shoot nice and solid pictures. This image of Billie P. Hall chasing Island around a mark is one from the new camera. There is such a bright spot at the bow wave of Billie P. Hall indicating that they are coming in hot to the mark. I feel the contrasting geometries of the masts and sails punched out by the crews and gear increased the notion of action. There is a lot of back lighting that illuminates everything at the mark. In the background shadows is the Winnie Estelle, a run boat from the CBMM collection with a deck of spectators.

Ghost Potting
watercolor
22″ x 30″
SOLD

I have carried this image around in my head for months. Just waited to gather enough courage to paint the sky and its reflections. We do live in what I call big sky country. Whether, driving in the countryside or out on the water of this Eastern Shore I cannot escape the fact it is quite flat and the sky dominates.

Yet so few people ever take the time to look skyward. I must have thousands of photos of skies on and in water. We had 10 days of ghost potting in the early spring of last year. There were incredible variations in light, wind, weather and proximities to other boats “grazing” as they tried to hook derelict crab pots. This painting will be the first of a seriously limited edition “watermen” print series that the gallery and I will produce.

Eye of the Needle
watercolor
9.5″ x 20.5″

This is a needle fish that came up in the dipper one day as we were trotlining for crabs on the Chester River. I try very hard not to waste paper. So…

…I had a piece of paper that was just right for such a thin sliver of a fish. The image is almost life size. These are tiny predators with a mouthful of tiny sharp teeth, that eat small fish like silversides (minnows). They catch them sideways in their mouths and then while swimming, turn them to swallow them. Much like birds do that eat fish.

September Blues / Persistence, Mystery
watercolor
24.5″ x 22″

Early autumn light produces some of the most richly blue colored skies. The water also takes in the blues. So many references to blues in this image. The season was very frustrating for Persistence, #12. Mystery, #8, had a tragic loss of a crew person during a capsize earlier in the year.

Yet for all of the dark and beautiful memories these boats carry they have always struck me as elegant in their shapes and angles. The scale of the canvas they carry when compared to their mere slips of hulls is staggering. When painting these log canoes, I have discovered the crew members are the perfect detail/texture to offset and further define the sails and masts.

Haze Light / Island Bird
watercolor
15″ x 22″
SOLD

Island Bird owned and sailed by Judge John North at 89 years of age is one of the smallest log canoes. It was built by the Judge’s great grandfather Sidney Covington in 1882 on Tilghman Island. She was never a working canoe. She was built to race.

There were at onetime 5 of the Island “B” series canoes built by Covington. These were the Island Belle, Island Bride, Island Beauty, and none of these three have survived. Island Bird and Island Blossom are the remaining canoes from the series. But the genius of Covington is still present as exampled by the speed and championship record of the well crewed Island Blossom and the competitiveness of the “Bird”. This image is of “Bird” as she drives into the soft light of what I call Bay haze. She is heeled right up with her crew out on the springboards. The generational aspect of these craft is intriguing. The Judge’s grandson Dylan is now crewing for him and learning the trickiness of the helm.

And They’re Off in Cambridge / Silver Heel, Island Bird, Edmee S., Billie P. Hall, Island Blossom
watercolor
22″ x 30″

The canoes had not raced in Cambridge for 10 years. I was at the last regatta then and remember only 5 boats registering. Oddly enough the five boats were owned and operated by just two families. Recently the Cambridge Yacht Club decided to invite the association back to race.

It is a long haul for towing canoes to the Choptank and trailering can be just as challenging. Yet the river is a challenge and is a huge venue of widely differing conditions. It can be a parking lot of drifting canoes or a set of survival races with the winner determined by just getting around the course and staying upright. One year many years ago, I was on a chase boat watching a drifting parking lot. They were so stationary that I was able to actually have the time to draw them in pen and ink.  I had not until this painting ever included the bridge in my paintings. I did this time to specifically locate the jarring geometries of action on the starting line.

It Takes Great Peace of Mind When Assembling a Racing Log Canoe
watercolor
30″ x 22″
SOLD

When racing in Oxford the North fleet of canoes has been allowed to dock their canoes at a private dock owned by the Stanley family. I have always tried to get to any of the venues before the crews show and start to people my photos and disturb the waters and waiting canoes.

The canoes on Saturday morning are still packaged up from the tow down from the Miles River. For this painting I finally got up enough nerve to take the time to draw out all of the parts represented here in just a cross section of three canes. The Jay Dee, and Island Bird with a hint of Island Blossom at the top edge. There is a lot of wood in this image. A reminder of their heritage, character, construction and the tight rules limiting use of new materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass.

It Doesn’t Get Much Prettier than This / Mystery
watercolor
22″ x 22″

I wanted to paint this image from the very day I shot it. Yes, it is a classic shot for any racing yacht let alone a racing log canoe.  There are good solid reasons that such shots are “classic”.

Grace, beauty, elegance of geometries and to the knowing eye a lot of details indicating speed and conditions. I have tried to shy away from such images but am unwilling to stop taking them. I am unable to shy away from responding to its inspirational qualities of light colors and winds.

There Were Five at Oxford
watercolor
8.5″ x 22″
SOLD

Weather during the two weekend regattas at Oxford in late August can produce some threatening skies and increasingly difficult conditions in which to race. Yet as long as there is no lightning and winds do not exceed 15 knots the fleet will race.

I had a long thin paper remnant that suited this image just so.  For many years I tried to fit my compositions to the half sheet (15 X 22) and full sheet (22 X 30) format. With the advent of computers and editing functions I feel I am now equipped to make my images more relevant to the way I see things.  This exhibition has several pieces that do not fit the previous formats. They feel right when not constricting some of them to fit the previous format. This is not the case for the majority of pieces in the current exhibition. Using this format to have the sky press down on the log canoes as they beat to windward just feels right.

Sforza (L)
watercolor
25.5″ x 22″

Leonardo da Vinci had a commission by the Sforza family of Milan, Italy, for a sculpture of a gigantic horse to be cast in bronze. The scale of it and, the vagaries of the Sforza families prevented the realization of the statue. I have seen drawings, in Leonardo’s hand, of the head and the body. The arching of the neck and the head reined almost against the neck has been in my head for many years.

I am very lucky to have such good friends who are the owners of Waredaca Farm in Western Maryland. For the past three or four years they have let me stay with them during the several nationally ranked equestrian events. I crewed with Bob on the Jay Dee for many years. Some of our conversations included the horse farm and equestrian competitions. I did a commissioned portrait of a guest crew person on the Jay Dee, which turned out quite well. That led to more discussion with Bob about my visiting to watch and shoot images of the riders and horses in the three event competitions. These would be the cross country eventing, the dramatic arena jumping and the esoteric dressage. I first concentrated on the cross-country portion, due in part by my being inspired by the English painter Alfred J. Munning. An early 20th century artist that Bob and Gretchen told me about. To photo the riders and horses as they raced across open fields and hurdled various challenging jumps and water hazards is still inspirational. Arena jumping with the very high sets of jumps gave me many dramatic images. It wasn’t until recently that the Sforza commission came to mind that I saw the opportunity to photograph the heads and necks of the dressage competitors in the same composition. I borrowed a light grayish olive-green color for the background from another great English equestrian painter George Stubbs. This artist also produced a series of anatomical etching of a horse from the bones all the way to the hide. I refer to it constantly when working on horse paintings. Correct form for dressage, called “collected”, is for the plane of the horse’s head to be 90 degrees to the ground. It took a lot of watching to get the timing right as the team came by. Dressage is so wonderfully esoteric to an uneducated person as myself. Yet Bob and Gretchen have been great teachers, patient and generous with their time. Personally, I find the newness of the equestrian subject to be not only challenging (so much to learn about what is good horsemanship) but also mentally refreshing and just plain fascinating.

Sforza (R)
watercolor
25.5″ x 22″
SOLD

Refer to # 20 for text. This was to be part of a two-image set. They can be facing each other or looking away from each other.

The Trakehner at Waredaca
watercolor
30″ x 22″

The drama of composition, view and subject is very intense in this image and it says just what I wanted to capture. The Trakehner is the name of an obstacle to be cleared by a rider and horse on a cross country course in eventing equestrian competition. I had not seen such a jump until witnessing a cross country event at Waredaca Farm.

In this case it is a long trench with bulkheads of wood with logs placed in line over the trench. Very formidable and intimidating. I asked my friend Bob, who owns the farm with his wife Gretchen, if I could hunker down in the trench and photo the teams as they cleared the jump. He said it was alright and for me to get down in the trench at a safe distance and not stand up while the jump was in process as doing so would probably spook the horse and cause an accident. Great! I then dropped down in the trench and found the place where I could watch the jump from lift off to landing.  Enjoying history as I do, it was easy to find certain parallels with WW1, trench warfare being the most obvious, cross country competitions derived from fox hunts and cavalry training. Munning had executed a painting of a Canadian unit of cavalry in a charge during WW1. As I get older it seems as if much of what I paint is made from the many threads of my life.

The Farrier
watercolor
22″ x 26″
SOLD

The weather during one of my trips to Waredaca was beastly hot. The average temperature was in the high 80s and low 90s. Heat and dehydration is always an issue for both horses and riders. I spent some time sitting and talking with the farrier in the doorway of the bank barn on the property. It was not only in the shade but cooler too. He was most generous with this time and patience for my questions.

We discovered many similar passions such a crabbing, oystering and fishing.  He told me of a horse he had to shoe down below in the barn. I asked if I could watch and he told me that was fine. I followed him down the steep steps and entered though some rooms, each increasingly cooler, and stalls to find an area open to the light and this horse tied to a wall. He started to remove a shoe and working on the hoof while I fascinated by what I was witnessing watched. It was the light, soft, and the patient horse and the farrier as he went about the job that yelled, Paint this!”. I was so excited to get back home and give it a try that I could barely finish the day out shooting teams riding through the courses. It is a very successful image. So much so that my wife, Phyllis, picked it as her annual choice for her collection. I was very happy to agree with her choice. For her confidence and faith in my art and letting me quit working for someone else and pursue my art full time 39 years ago I give her the choice of any painting from each annual show. It is a small way for me to thank her for her continued faith, love and patience with me as I pursue making art. She has one hell of a collection.

Vibrant / Some Call Him Cal
watercolor
22″ x 30″

This is the horse in the “Farrier” piece. His name is Vibrant but he is better known as Cal. Don’t ask me why. The light and textures, patterns and geometries in the side of the stall, and the incredible warmth in the colors of the coat inspired me to continue with the variation of the subject.

Having a copy of the George Stubbs (18th century) book illustrated by his anatomical prints of a horse for reference has enabled me to better understand the musculature and circulatory systems of horses and be able to pain them as these incredible animals should be portrayed.

On Call / Henry and His Dogs at Waredaca
watercolor
15″ x 22″

This is the young man who is portrayed at work in “The Farrier” piece. We were setting in the doorway of the barn out of the heat and intense sunlight just cooling off and trading stories. He answered so many questions that day while we sat there.

I had just come to the shade after shooting the arena jumping portion of the eventing competition out in the glare of the harsh sun. As we talked, I just kept watching him with his dogs at his side and felt it needed to be photographed. I did so and later at home felt strongly enough that such an image needed to go through to the next step and become a painting. His tools and machines are just barely indicated to the right. There are grinders, drill presses and other tools he uses in his trade all in his truck. Every equestrian competition has a farrier on call.

Bugatti Blues / 1937, Type 57, Monoposto Racer
watercolor
15″ x 22″

David North, one of Judge North’s two very talented sons, is an incredible rebuilder, re-fitter, re-conditioner of very fine automobiles. He is as every bit knowledgeable as his father about cars from between the wars and into the later 40s and 50s. So much so that owners of automobiles in need of total rebuilds, refits and such seek him out for the work.

His reputation has filled his calendar now for years to come. He has allowed me come into his small garage in Easton to talk, photograph and share our passions for such fine automobiles. He has always been very patient and generous with me and my innumerable questions. At times he is so busy that he just lets me work my way around the two or three projects that are always underway and just look and take photos. I witnessed much of the rebuild of this single seater from 1957. There are many very fine craftsmen, metal smiths and wood workers in the area that constitute the resources from which David draws for very detailed and exacting work. They all work with David in an incredible symbiotic way and the end results are as in this case always spectacular.

From the Land of Oz / 1912 Mercedes Racer
watercolor
15″ x 22″

This beautiful little racing car from early 20th century was discovered in Australia where it had actually been used for racing. I got to see it at the annual Concours d’Elegance of St. Michaels last year. It is an honor for me to be the event’s official artist of record.

My duties are to one of the entries which will then be donated to be auctioned for part a fundraising effort.  But my donation gains me full access to the two days of the event and entry to the main event before the public makes photographing all but impossible. I am a most lucky man. The Norths made such access possible for me over 12 years ago. The scene is replete with beautiful fine automobiles in genteel settings and owners who are most pleasant and eager to share their passions with those who have the time. This little racer had the most wonderful copper tubing all over it for a variety of purposes. I enjoyed painting the wire wheels for once as they are black and did not necessitate my having to paint around them. The raking early morning light always seems to enhance most anything.

Tongs at Sunrise / Cloudy with a Chance of Oysters
watercolor
30″ x 22″
SOLD

A very successful piece of graphic design that haunted my memory until I let it out to become a painting. They are the heads of oyster hand tongs against the morning sky as we made our way out on the river to work.

More Irish Pennants / H.M. Krentz
watercolor
22″ x 30″

The skipjack, H.M. Krentz is owned and operated by Ed Farley. He dredges for oysters with it each dredge season from Nov. 1st to the end of march. Skipjacks are allowed 130 bushels a day for two days a week. For some reason skipjack dredge oysters get more money than oysters harvested by other means.

Noting to do with the quality of the oysters just probably because they are recognized as having been harvested using the state boat. Anyway…During the summer months Ed will take tourists out for a couple of hours tour of the Miles River. He operates out of the CBMM in St. Michaels. His crew consists of a waterman know to the locals as T.D. I have asked what the initials stand for and can only get a best guess,” Touchdown”. Traditionally black watermen crewed on skipjacks in the winter months of oyster seasons. Many were the cooks. This past oyster season saw me driving down to Mt. Vernon to go oystering with a deadrise crew from Deal Island. We met very morning at a gas station just off of Rt. 19 in Princess Anne. The front of the convenient store was crowded with black crews for skipjacks that seemingly were all family and very funny with their teasing, joking and rough conversation.  As they knew who I was going out with that day they accepted my presence and let me enjoy their early morning conversation. In this image Ed and his crew are moving the boat at the museum to make room for the Edna Lockwood. The light on the crewman, the sails and the portions of the boat reflected back and forth in a most interesting manner compelled me to paint this. It is not a scene from my normal view of these bots at work on the Bay. An Irish pennant is a slang term for lines hanging down from sails and rigging, like the reef ties in this image.

Flocks / Edna Lockwood / Flying Cloud
watercolor
22″ x 30″
SOLD

During the refit/rebuild of the bug-eye Edna Lockwood I would travel 100 miles round trip down from Chestertown to the CBMM in St. Michaels for at least three days a week in order to stay current on the rapidly evolving steps.

I did this so that I could have the photos from which to finish the set of drawings portraying her reconstruction. The day in this watercolor was bright and the slip around the Lockwood was filled with bateaus, skiffs and a float used by the riggers to work the bobstays. The float even had a most cooperative flock of ducks. A subject I do not actively pursue as a subject. The small flock just added a small detail. The title, “Flocks”, is a reference to not only the ducks but also the group of small boats and the two log boats built by J.B. Harrison. Those are Edna Lockwood and the racing log canoe, Flying Cloud in the background.

Our Backs – Your Crabs / Moore Family
watercolor
22″ x 30″

Getting out on a workboat crewed by family is for me a very important opportunity. For many years I remember hearing fathers tell me that they had no wish for their sons to work the water as it had no future. Oddly enough the times then were hard and many sons came home to work on the water with their fathers or even for themselves.

In this instance the crew is made up of brothers, a son and a nephew. Any work on the water is hard on bodies. Knees, elbows, eyes, skin and backs all suffer at times. Initially this image did not intrigue me, yet the content of backs bent to the tasks with no faces kept surfacing. Few people understand that even in good times, watermen work at their tasks in very demanding ways that are fraught with many hardships. Few people ever take the time to read, watch or even try to get out for a day to truly understand this job of providing sea food for thousands of people eager for sea food. Some groups have no interest in the human cost of their lampooning watermen as selfish, shortsighted ignorant fishermen. Yet members from these groups are so quick to use crab, fish and oyster feasts as fund raisers. You figure it out.

Oyster Leaf
watercolor
15″ x 22″

When oystering on muddy bottom, a leaf will very now and then come up in the rakes. I have always found some delight in these instances. Having been told by a black waterman that finding oak leaves in such grabs is a sign of good luck.

Now when I am culling, I always place an oak leaf in the bushel for which I am culling. My function on any boat I get out on is to cull. I sort and measure crabs, fish and oysters. What an amazing chance to see all types of life that the Bay has to show. It occasionally gives me a chance to see a back lit leaf caught in the heads of hand tongs.

Caught Napping
watercolor
16.75″ x 30″

When oystering on soft bottom, usually mud, a crab will get caught up in the fluffing process of making a grab of oysters with hand tongs. These crabs are ones that did not migrate to warmer waters down Bay and decided to become “residents” and winter in the mud of creeks and rivers and even sometimes on oyster bars out in the Bay.

They are sleepy and not at all combative despite being woken up from a nice nap in the soft bottom mud. Reminds me of the Bill Mauldin WW 2 cartoon of two cold GI’s remembering the warm mud of a fox hole near Naples. After taking their pictures I gently pick the crabs up and drop them back over board. The morning light on this nearly translucent crab in the linear geometries has made for a neat piece of design and paint.

Always a Hand for the Boat
watercolor
22″ x 15″

This is Robbie Joiner. He is the father of the father and son team of fishing watermen that I have worked with for over 15 years. In fact, I seem to spend more time with them than anyone else. They are incredibly patient, gracious and generous with me and my occasional mistakes. This image is from a morning in the deep dog days of summer when we would leave the creek in Rock Hall at 3:30 to work our way to a pound net site just off the light at Love Point, near Kent Island.

Many workboats now use LED lights to illuminate their work in the dark of early mornings. These very bright lights have given me enough light with which to successfully capture the men at their work. At times the chiaroscuro of deep darks and brightly lit surfaces gives me some great shots from which to develop watercolors. Watching Robbie pass through the pool of light as he worked his way back from the bow is one such image. The darkness of the painting carries an implied danger of potential slipping and falling over board or into the net. I used to do a lot of technical rock climbing when I lived in Colorado. The rule was, always climb like you have three hands. One for the rock at all times. When I was allowed back on the boat after a hip replacement one of the first things, they told me was, always a hand for the boat.

4:30 am; Love Point
watercolor
22″ x 30″

So, here we are once more at the pound net on Love Point and at 4:30 in the summer morning. Sam is working the fish closer to the workboat in order to dip them out and cull them for size, types and send the ones deemed too small or too large and some fish for which we have not market across the cull board and back to the waters.

The LED lights, previously mentioned, lit Sam up in a dramatic spotlight revealing net, large waves and fish all the while as the background disappears into the darkness. Yes, people, this is how your rockfish dinners are caught. Hard and dangerous work is characteristic of commercial fishermen. Savor each bite and sometimes close your eyes to taste the fish and reflect on how it got to your plate. Recreational and sport fishermen do not and legally cannot provide you, the public, with such fish to eat. There is a grace and wonderment for me as I watch and work alongside these men. We are connected. I see things so very few people ever get to see or even think about.

The New Coat
watercolor
22″ x 30″

The potential for dramatic images while out on the water, in the dark using the LED lights as a light source, is remarkable. I have only just begun to see this new time frame and am enjoying the latitudes of chances that had been previously limited to very grainy and soft-focus images.

Robbie is seen here working the nets in his new summer weight oil skin coat. Oil skins are barely removed from their original designs from over a century ago when they were canvas duck soaked with a variety of greases or coated in a solution of linseed oil and wax. While plastics have removed the odiferous quality, they are still heavy. Being wind and water proof makes them hot and difficult to wear while doing hard work. But the alternative of hypothermia in hard winds is far worse. Finding the right amount of darks in a painting to make a dark deeper than the painted surface was solved for me many years ago when Greg Mort shared his palette for the rich darks he uses in his watercolors.

Blue O’clock in the Morning
watercolor
22″ x 15″
SOLD

While working with these watermen I am always looking up at the sky. That is after all where the weather comes from and the first hints of light appear. We live in a region that has the most amazing opportunities for watching the skies and clouds. 

Even on gray days the interaction between the sky and the water is always fascinating for me. I had been reading a book about working on the water and the phrase, blue o’clock in the morning jumped out and stuck in my mind. At the time, I was working on yet another of the severely limited light images. I was taking the time to really investigate the photo. It was then I noticed some really dark streaks of blue sky between the nearly black clouds. What a neat opportunity to visually relieve the huge area of almost black. Then there is the way that light pools and works among the shapes and surfaces of the boat as Robbie ties up the top line.

The Pens at Turners
watercolor
15″ x 22″
SOLD

For many years now I have taken shots of the catfish pens at Turners Creek. The vertical slashes of brightly lit poles in the early morning light, the murky darkness of the shoreline trees waiting for the sun to move further overhead, the water lilies just receiving the light and then a spot of orange on the oilskins of the waterman dropping net from the poles to enable putting the catfish in them.

There is more money in selling catfish live than selling them on the dead market. This means that the men must have a set of pens to keep the fish in until market comes around. As the fish are being kept in the local waters, they can stay quite healthy in the river’s current along with the tidal interchange. Penning the fish also allows them to purge their food. Shipping fish with food or eggs is unhealthy and dangerous. The food inside catfish stomachs can turn toxic and poison the meat. Fish can get stressed when transporting and if they are carrying roe the eggs are released while in transport, turning the water of the live tanks gelatinous which suffocates the fish. There is a lot to know and learn to this fish business. Much more than meets the eye. If you are ever at the docks when watermen are putting out their catches just ask them about what they are doing. Just make sure you politely tell them you are just a curious private citizen looking to better understand. Many opinions about the business of following the water are ill-educated at best.

In the Light
watercolor
22″ x 30″
SOLD

Much of my work is about the light in and on the water. Most of that light is natural. Recently I have been excited by the increasing of my photo opportunities by the watermen using LED lights on their boats. These lights are obviously stronger than incandescent lights enabling the men to better see what they are doing in the dark early hours of the days they are working.

It has been a solution that has eased the aggravation of low light shooting thus allowing me to shoot more effectively while using even the light of false dawn. Early light on the water has always fascinated and enervates me. In this painting you can see in the eastern sky to the left a faint pinkish hint of a yet to rise sun. Putting to mind Homer’s oft quoted “rosy fingered dawn”. Yet the strong light illuminating the bateau and the waterman is from the right. What a great dichotomy of light sources to produce such drama. This almost eternal image of a man in a boat rising on the waters yet to be lit by the sun speaks volumes about that which continues to inspire me about watermen. It is about light, water, skies, hard labor and the sense of composition that living on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake continues to reveal to me.

Timelines; Reaching
watercolor
14″ x 30″

For several years I have wanted to paint an image utilizing the extreme horizontal elements of the hand tong shafts of an oysterman boarding his recent grab of oysters. I just never got brave enough to walk away from the previous compositional format and just draw out what I wanted to say. Not nw.

Something about getting older has pushed me to leave behind the images That speak louder about the amazing things that inspire me.  In this instance it is the gear that at times has been called “stupid sticks” or, “widow-makers” by watermen for many generations. The work is hard, and constantly repetitive. Yet there is no opportunity to be bored. Every grab is different. The tonger has to picture in his mind what he is feeling anywhere from 18 to 24 feet below him as he blindly works the heads to “fluff” up a grab and then bring it to the surface to be deposited,” boarded”, on the cull board. The good ones can feel/see the edge of the bar or where it slightly drops off and prevents a full grab. While struggling with the tyranny of the title, the linear elements of the shafts, horizon and clouds put timelines to mind and the timelessness of the effort revealed a title. The bonus is the shadows across the orange oil skins.

There’s a Storm Coming / Tyrone Meredith
watercolor
15″ x 22″

I have been lucky at times to be asked to be the mate on Tyrone’s head boat, Island Queen II, and have also culled oysters for him for several years now. Always an honor to be accepted into that demographic.

An important demographic, mind you, that is an integral part of the overall commercial fishery of Maryland.  On this cold day fraught with many changes I took a chance and just framed his face in the viewfinder and shot away. The expression on his face has so many possibilities for interpretation. I chose, “Storm Coming” as a way to explain his expression. “Now what” was another possibility.

Pretty Day for Dredging / Helen Virginia
watercolor
8.25″ x 30″

So here I am again with a long narrow slice of paper to paint on. I have already explained how I can better reveal the reason for taking the photo. May times the reason isn’t readily apparent even to me, until I explore the image while drawing it out that the mystery reveals itself.

I am on a reflexive/reactive mode when shooting for much of the time, much like a trained sword fighter. No gap between strike and spark as the Japanese say. I leave the reasoning for shooting to be deciphered later. Sometimes the reason can be so vague that it cannot be recalled or at best isn’t worth pursuing. Good thing that all it costs me is to hit the delete key and move on. While all of my work when finished is ultimately done on “spec”, it is not so for the catch that watermen harvest. They have market for whatever they catch. Sail dredging for oysters with a skipjack can barely be cost effective If there aren’t many oysters to be had. Owning a skipjack is an expensive proposition these days. Many owners use a push boat with a smaller crew to dredge. It is an external power source, as mandated by law, Owners can power dredge just three days a week and have a 130-bushel daily limit. Such numbers do not last all the way through the season and can fall of quite quickly if Mother Nature was not too kind earlier in the year. The deadrise boat I was on was also power dredging with a daily limit of only 10 bushels to the license (2) on the boat. The light is late afternoon and we were working just off the western shore. Pretty day for such vagaries.

On Hard Bottom / Big Jeff Baker
watercolor
15″ x 22″

Jeff Baker is a very large and incredibly strong individual. I have oystered with him on and off for many years. I have also painted him at work many times. One year a gallery patron had recognized him as the subject in a just purchased watercolor of theirs.

Jeff was at the gallery to look at the paintings and the proud owner of the painting asked him to sign the back of the painting. While such public recognition is awkward for many watermen, they do like to tell the story of such moments of appreciation.  On hard bottom is reference to the oyster bar we were working that day. The hand tonger really has to put some serious effort into using the teeth of the rakes to break up the oysters and to dig them out of the hard bottom. While the work is physically demanding, regardless of what the bottom is like, it is the days on hard bottom that will wear even a large and strong waterman out by day’s end.

Keep Your Money, She’s Mine / Johnny Kinnamon
watercolor
30″ x 22″

Johnny Kinnamon is seen here standing in the doors of his shop, and in front of what he says will be the last large workboat of his personal career boat builder.  He is 86 years old this year and has built over 300 boats in just over 50 years. He and his son have many returning customers and when word got out that this was to be his last boat there were several offers to buy it.

He tells a story of a customer wanting to buy a boat that Johnny wanted to keep. So, Johnny told the man the boat was not for sale at any price. His son J.C. steps in to the conversation and finishes the story by reminding his father that the customer showed up at the house to talk about buying the boat. Johnny kept telling the man, no. The man set a cigar box on the table and opened it to reveal hard cash. Needless to say, the boat was sold there and then. His last boat has a story to it also. A customer who really wanted the last “Johnny Kinnamon” boat kept pestering Johnny for a price. He told him it was flat out not for sale. The man then went back to his car, wrote a blank check for Johnny to write in his price and handed it to Johnny. He got his Irish up and told the man again it was not for sale and proceeded to tear up the check in front of him. The name of the boat, and it barely fit on the transom, is Bourbon Street Lady. From Johnny’s memories of mustering out of the Navy in New Orleans as a younger man. Must have been one hell of a party.

Vespertine / Long Cove / Helen
watercolor
22″ x 30″
SOLD

The title is a refence to the activities in the evening of a day, when vesper prayers were said in church. Helen is a boat built in 1936 on Piney Creek off the Chester River by Aubrey Bryden. Her current and longtime owner, who also lives on Piney Creek, cherishes her and takes great pains to keep her right. This image is from the end of the day that Danny Ashley brought her home from having her cabin rebuilt.

.  I was intrigued and excited at the wonderfully smooth water, with late afternoon light and a classic eastern shore background of grasses and scrub trees. There were two paintings of this boat and Danny in last year’s show.  I had seen this boat 25 or so years ago and had only a poor photograph of her. But the memory of her beautiful sheer line, her tucked transom, the perfectly proportioned doghouse and wheel house and her diminutive size stayed with me. I couldn’t believe my luck when Danny told me after a day of clamming with him that he was going to put, the Helen, over in a day or so. I asked if he thought I could go along and shoot pictures. He laughed and told me I was welcome to ride along to the marina with him. I did and even got to drive his truck back to his house on Piney Neck to wait for his return with the boat. I know that sounds a lot like a kid but that comes damn close to how I felt. So many more awards than just imagery. There is the unspoken trust, shared company with stories, that are all parts of why I do what I do. I hope the paintings will indicate in some way these very important parts of their lives that they share with me. I am a very lucky man.


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