First Trap - Soundings Online

First Trap

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OIL PAINTING by
 Robert Beck

It’s well before dawn in Maine, and 15 miles offshore, in the early morning murk, a Jonesport lobster boat is getting ready to go to work.

In “First Trap,” artist Robert Beck has captured the subtle atmosphere between night and morning: the diffused light, the lingering shadows, the chill in the air. “Things are fuzzy in the morning — portions of the men disappear into the shadows of the boat,” the artist says.

He should know; he was there.

“The sun was breaking through the clouds by the time we got to the first lines,” he recalls. “The two men paused to look out at the dramatic sunrise, and they commented about how beautiful it was, what a great place to work.”

Beck agrees. There’s no place to paint like Maine, and nowhere in Maine like Over East. The topography of the coast, the romantic bent, the sparse population and the way of life make it special.

“I fell in love with the Jonesport-Beals Island area because it wasn’t influenced by the tourist trade,” he says. “It’s a fishing village. Observing and recording this community has become a way of life for me. I’ve painted in Europe, Africa and across the U.S., but I return every year to Jonesport.”

To create the shifting light in his scene, Beck worked with oil paints on a smooth, gesso-covered panel, using glazes at the end “if I need to adjust a color or value,” he says. “There was no specific technique to the way I got that morning feel.”

And, though much of his work is done from life, he also creates in the studio, from imagination.

“My work as an artist centers on the places, events and occupations of our time. Basically, who we are,” Beck says. “I have been called a documentary painter because I often set up in the middle of distracting and fluid environments and paint the heart of what’s going on.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue.