Art Paine, Fine Artist

The Art of Boats, the Boats of Art

Judy Blue Eyes

Judy Blue Eyes

Lauren’s Knockdown

Lauren's Knockdown

Peace Maker

Peace Maker

Here is Lundy Robinson, in his trademark hat and trousers, driving Peace Maker at full speed. His mainsheet man, like all Bahamian mainsheet men, is built like a prize fighter and has to be. Because the rules say that these boats must remain traditionally Bahamian in character, meaning no winches are to be used! Even though in actual fact not many of the boats are sailed from the far out islands, or even built there, the hail ports indicate a connection. For instance Peace Maker’s hail is “Lovely Bay, Acklins.” This is indicative of a Bahamian cultural tradition. Young sons and daughters, if they are bright and ambitious, often go off to Nassau for education and eventually to lead a modern, middle-class life. But they will always identify with their origin island. This goes down generations. A successful Magistrate from Nassau who desecended from several forebears there will still answer a question, Where You From, with the name of some forgotten village on his great-grandparent’s island. I once asked the same of one of the past Prime Ministers, a man fully identified with the political hullabaloo in Nassau. “Lisbon Creek, Andros” was his instant reply. On Acklins Island, it might as easily have been “Snug Corner” or “Goodwill” or “Delectable Bay”. Bahamian boats hail from places that sound as wholesome and beautiful as the boats themselves are.
This is the quintessential Art Paine theme of charging sloop, intense human effort, and most of all, delightful, masterfully painted shallow water

He Reached For It

He Reached For It

Every year “Cap” Rolly Gray’s daughter paints up Tida Wave for Regatta. She’s always white (the boat of course) but the name and other decoration vary. Some years the name is on the transom and some, like here, on the side. There might be a spray-painted tidal wave painted at the cutwater. One year she even mis-named the boat Tidal Wave until a hail of protest got it the “L” outa there.
The purchaser of “He Reached For It” is a retired elementary school art teacher who herself never had any children. But her love for children and her love for art, but more poignantly her love for BEAUTY, are instantly transparent. She has had every operation done upon her eyes that’s possible. Seven times on one eye and five on the other. But at age 80 she is resigned to the fact that she’s going blind. She said to Art that it was her wish to see and store up in her mind as much visual beauty as possible before she cannot see, can only remember.
If Art Paine had heard that whole truthful story BEFORE she gladly bought the work, she wouldn’t have had to actually pay for it. This is an exciting painting. It is a blast of color, and the artist hopes that it isn’t evident that those colors were combined with some consideration of classical “color theory” as much as for photographic accuracy. He is reaching for it on a wall in a beautiful cape-style house with a gorgeous view of Port Clyde, Maine. A view she sees less and less of every day.
It was vital that he leave hold of the mast and extend his efforts just a few more inches, daring the angle of heel and the slick, wet foredeck.. But did he ever actually get it???

August Tuesday at Rolleville

August Tuesday at Rolleville

FYI, August Monday, the first Monday in August in the Bahamas, is a national holiday when many Nassau and Freeport residents go home to their origin islands to party. There are numerous small sailing regattas, beauty pageants, dances and sport field days then. For we Northerners and Maine-iacs the weather would be frightfully hot. Bahamians consider this time, when the trade winds still blow enough to keep down the sand flies, the height of wonderful summer. (As opposed to September, when the trades fail to do the job and life in the Bahamas is only barely bearable.)
Forget the subject, which is two racing dinghies, while racing home, pulled up on the beach, their captains catching a snooze. The painting is not about that.
This work is done on a canvas that has been repeatedly gessoed and smooth-sanded to a perfect porous Flake White surface. This in preparation for the repeated thin washes that create the image. This is a painting done almost in the same way as a watercolor, with many places reserved out as highlights. It is a brilliant and translucent work, only revealing itself as an oil through opaque areas that could never have been so contrasty without a little thickness and texture. There’s a limited palette, but just as is true with a good Winslow Homer….well, better yet…. Just as is true with the very best of Winslow Homer watercolors like “After the Hurricane”, a limited palette can still show all the color variation necessary, through subtlety. What makes it work is that each color is completely accurate. Thank god the days of amateurs doing abstraction are behind us. Some of them, just like you suspected, were phonies. It is impossible for the diligent figurative artist to be phony, and it is particularly impossible for the diligent figurative MARINE artist to be phony, since marine art is obviously wrong if even slightly inaccurate. Note the accuracy, in color and in draughtmanship, of Winslow’s “After the Hurricane.” “August Tuesday” is at least comparable.

Bedding the Sun

Bedding the sun

Everything’s different across the Gulf Stream. Bahamian sailing has it’s own rules of engagement and it’s own nautical terms. For instance, the points of sail are not Beating, Reaching and Running, but Beating, Checking and Bedding. A boat going downwind is sailing Onna Bed. Here’s Southern Cross, sailing the long stern chase into the late afternoon sun. She’s bedding down the sun, as the Bahamians would say. This is a very small painting, only 8 by 10, on canvas board. It is probably one of the best oils Art Paine has ever done. Art has worked in what he calls necessary spurious colors throughout the foreground water, and that’s what makes the entire image work. The effect is similar to that of using a grisaille that shows through the finish painting, but in this case such accents as the russet around highlights is added as a thin wash over a nearly completed painting.

Conched Out

Conched Out

Conched out is a rare watercolor by Art Paine. It depicts a colorful pile of flotsom that washed up in storms around the base of a coconut tree. To the artist, it is also representative of the fugitive quality of beauty. The exact scene, the exact tree, and in many ways the entire little tropical town of Steventon, are much changed after a dozen years. On the site of “conched out”, the coconut tree having been removed, is now the very popular native restaurant “Warren’s Conch Shack”. What remains is the incredible view of Exuma Sound, and of course more discarded conch shells than ever, given the restaurant’s island-wide popularity.

Chasing the Waves

Chasing the Waves

The “New Chase” again. Perennial class “B” sloop champion built and sailed by Lauren Knowles of Mangrove Bush, Long Island, Bahamas. The bow boy is Stephan Knowles, who a year after this painting was done won the national youth sailing championship at Regatta Time in Exuma. In so doing he earned a summer’s trip to a summer sailing community, Cotuit, on Cape Cod. There Stephan had to learn all the American ways of racing. Like starting under weigh instead of at anchor. Like all the complex racing rules and tactics.
Cotuit is a place where a lot of wealthy and accomplished, forgive me for saying it but WASP-y folks live. And they take their racing in Cotuit skiffs extremely seriously. Art Paine, who now paints, once augmented his other vocations by building rather gorgeous varnished, sleek, competitive Cotuit skiffs in his shop in Bernard, Maine.
Stephan Knowles, age only sixteen years, entered in the most prestigious summer event of the season in Cotuit, the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club overall club championship. In a boat, the “Airforce” built by Art Paine. Against all those intensely competitive dare I say WASP lifetime sailors who know the shallow muddy waters of Cotuit harbor by the back of their suntanned hands.
Stephan Knowles, in the year of the summer of 1999 at the age of sixteen took home the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club overall club championship first prize to his home on the island of Mangrove Bush, on forgotten little Long Island, in the sleepy Bahamas. In a year or so, probably Lauren Knowles will give over the tiller of New Chase to Stephan. Then, Marcus Mitchell…..then we’ll see!

Tiniest Anglican

Tiniest Anglican

In the village of “the Ferry”, on Little Exuma Island, is what is billed as the World’s smallest Church. Art Paine has reason to doubt that, because long ago with a girlfriend he knelt and prayed it would all work out in a tiny roadside chapel in the town of Startup, Washington State. But certainly this is the World’s smallest Anglican church. Year after year the church has baked in the sun, and one year the bouganvillea and Frangipani and other tropical flowers all bloomed at once in profusion around the old rugged cross and the church bell. It was a sight to see. This is a poor reproduction of the painting, but a top Maine art critic once remarked about the clouds.
It did, by the way, all work out. Just not exactly the way they prayed it would.

Beautiful Loser

Beautiful Loser

The buyer loved the integration of frame and painting. In fact, Art suited the painting to the frame rather than the conventional other way around. The artist found an antique floor register for five dollars at a yard sale. This is the metal framework with adjustable louvers that was installed over a basement coal furnace. Something you might only find in a Maine barn sale. (The louvers had to go, and Art did some welding and gilded the metal.) The frame was ornately embossed and had ten Corinthian crosses dispersed around the border. Instantly upon seeing it Art resolved to do a painting of his all-time favourite Class “A” sloop, “Southern Cross”. This boat never wins races, although it is by far the prettiest sloop ever to sail in Elizabeth Harbour, Exuma. One reason it doesn’t win is that it’s sailed by a preacher, not a mailboat captain. The boat is owned by a small Baptist parish in New Providence, and the crew usually consists of the huskiest fellows that occupy the front ranks of pews. They return year after year, finishing down at the bottom of the standings. Yet the whole race is ennobled and beautified by their presence, and artists like Art Paine are viscerally inspired. One time that frame was a floor grate over a coal stove. It marked the place where welcome energy brought conviviality to the whole chamber. Does it still do so, married to another purpose?

Why They Go So Fast

Why They Go So Fast

The owner of this painting is Steve Callahan, who spent 76 days crossing the Atlantic on a life raft and hence wrote the spellbinding best-seller “Adrift.” Steve is a talented amateur artist and a yacht designer. The painting is far nicer than this unfortunately off-color digital image on the website. It is framed in plaited straw mats from the straw market beneath the Ficus tree in George Town, Exuma. This straw was plaited by “Izona” Rolle, who is the unquestioned fastest and best straw-weaver on the island. She plaits straw by the fathom, and will cut you a deal, and indeed will plait all night practically in her sleep–if she likes you. She likes the artist.

The yacht depicted is one of Art’s favorites, the incredibly beautiful “Running Tide”, originally built by Rupert Knowles and “cut” (meaning much altered) by Rupert’s grand-nephew Mark Knowles of Mangrove Bush. There are sixteen men and boys aboard, most of them out on the pry. Late evening, April 26, 1999, off Volleyball Beach, Stocking Island.

Really Love to Pry II

Really Love to Pry II

This painting sold to a true connoisseur of marine art, a man who loved the painting upon first sighting in the beginning of the summer. It waited for him. Now it’s proud and rightful owner, he dutifully intends to transport it from his winter home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to his summer home in Mt. Desert, Maine. One wonders if he doesn’t take it aboard his Sabre 32 sailboat on extended cruises throughout the East Coast?
It has been said that nobody paints Caribbean transparent water in oils as well as Art Paine and this depiction is among his very best. Art sometimes is compared with Winslow Homer, and he has little to be ashamed of in terms of his depiction of water. Though Art readily admits that he has a long way to go to even begin to emulate Winslow’s accurate lithographer’s eye, and unerring ability to tell a story through his work. As to that, Art points out in his droll way that his painting is improving every day and he has an Homeric advantage in not quite being dead yet.

Ari’s Bad Day

Ari's Bad Day

Art Paine is both a writer and an artist. Although he’s a heck of a lot better artist than writer he still gets a kick out of a good play-on-words. Like Ari’s Bad Day. It seems like Ari does have an incredible string of poor luck. It was probably an incidence of that, rather than bad will, behind the name of his home-built dinghy, “Empty Promises.” But the boat is ill-starred. The first year he sailed her, Ari battled his way right to the head of the dinghy fleet, only to capsize right at the weather mark. And watched the whole fleet go sailing right by. It was a terrible day for Ari. But of course we should put this all in perspective. A thousand miles North, in Maine where Art Paine comes from, it snowed a foot on that very day and the power went out and cars were spinning out and going off the road. It was interminably gray. So. Ari had a bad day. With the temperature at eighty degrees, the wind a perfect twenty knots, beautiful clouds passing by in waves, casting their dense cobalt shadows across sunlit Elizabeth Harbor. There he stood on the keel, viewing a scene of ineffable beauty. On his terrible, horrible day in Exuma, in the trade winds a mile North of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Stepping Tida Wave

Stepping Tida Wave

There was this one year when it blew hard and wouldn’t stop. Cap launched Tida Wave off the deck of his mailboat anyway, and it did a right good dance out there in the choppy shallow water. It didn’t seem like a prudent thing to do, but then again they had to get the boat set up by morning, for the Prime Minister’s Cup. They got the mast in O. K. Concentrating so hard on steadying her and getting the butt of the spar into the deck that they were in complete ignorance of the incredible beauty of the sand-hazed permanent green light, warm, lovely water. The artist took a picture.

Rage Rage

Rage Rage, oil on canvas, 16x20

This painting has an interesting history. Art Paine has been a professional yacht designer. He is best known for having designed and built “Airforce”, a cold-molded wooden yacht that started in the 1985-’86 running of the singlehanded B. O. C. around the world race. It was the last, and the most beautiful, wooden boat attempting to race around the world. He has also worked with his twin brother Chuck designing yachts. A few years ago Art took on the design of a 30 foot wooden replica of a Falmouth Pilot Cutter. The client was an older gentleman who was successfully being treated for prostate cancer. Although the process of working with Art gave him surcease from the treatment regimen, in the end though he beat the cancer he elected not to have the boat built. Art painted the work after the man phoned up looking for a sketch of the boat for the dining room. Though he loved the painting, he really didn’t feel he had room or budget for an Art Paine oil.

As soon as the painting was done, Art sent a picture of it to a friend who had bought his premier work from three summers back. The woman’s son works at Fleet Bank in downtown Boston and is an avid fan of Art’s work, and in fact bought that original work from his mom. When he saw “Rage Rage” in an e-mail from his mother, he phoned immediately and bought the painting.

During the time Art was working on this dramatic, open-ocean scene he kept dreaming up equally dramatic titles, all emphasizing the British nature of the vessel and the near-suicidal nature of the skipper’s seamanship. In his mind, Art imagined the following scenario that explains it all. The skipper had sailed singlehanded on the open ocean all his life. He reveled in it. But he was always a prudent seaman. He’d never have carried full sail, let alone a jackyard topsail, into the night. Especially in huge seas that are only a harbinger of the storm to come. But the man has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. And he wants to depart this life doing that which he has always loved. Hence the jackyard topsail and, at this very moment, the real possibility of a goose-wing gybe!

Mindful of that monster breaking wave behind him, a wave the captain cannot possibly see while concentrating on steering down the troughs, Art kept coming up with obvious titles like “Illingworth’s next to last wave”. Whilst gloating upon one and another trite title to his wife in the kitchen, his learned mate modestly interjected the perfect one. “Do you know Dylan Thomas, she asks?” Art says he knows vermilion and it’s effect when mixed with Payne’s Gray, but isn’t quite up on English Poetry. Carey says, the perfect title for a paintng that is really about such end-of-life choices is from his most famous verse: “DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!”