It’s early morning on Chesapeake Bay. A skipjack with its mainsail up ghosts past Baltimore Light, heading out for a day’s oystering. The rest of the fleet shows dimly through the diffused morning sun.
David Turnbaugh’s oil painting H.M. Krentz, Sunrise Rendezvous at Baltimore Light reveals the beauty that can be found in the ordinary, everyday life on and around Chesapeake Bay. For almost a half-century, the Maryland native has painted hauntingly beautiful scenes, many showing the iconic wooden skipjacks hard at work.
“I had an interest [in art] growing up,” Turnbaugh says from his Towson, Maryland, home. “Rainy days were always drawing or painting days.”
Later, studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art, he found painting was “something I really loved to do.” With his instructor, Jacques Maroger, he studied techniques and mediums of the Old Masters as he developed his own realist style. “Without Maroger, I might not be an artist at all,” Turnbaugh says.
A career as a high school art teacher followed. Then he took a fateful ride in a friend’s boat. “We went out on the Bay and watched [the skipjacks] at work,” Turnbaugh recalls. “It was just a beautiful scene. It impressed me so much that I wanted to do more of it.”
Turnbaugh also saw that the waterman’s way of life — rugged and raw but capable of great beauty — was passing away. “It was clear to me that they might not be around much longer,” he says. “There were good paintings to be done.” He became an artist full time.
The Chesapeake made, and still makes, a wonderful, everchanging backdrop. “Go out on the water on a nice, beautiful morning, pretty early, about 6 or 7 o’clock, when the sun is low,” he says. “You’ll see things and colors — there’s nothing prettier, really.”
The experience never fails to inspire, the 80-year-old says. “Art is my passion, the way I capture and celebrate life.”
To view other works by David Turnbaugh visit the Annapolis Marine Art Gallery website at annapolismarineart.com or visit the gallery at 110 Dock St. in Annapolis, Maryland.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue.