With white clapboard siding and rustic red roofs silhouetted against the whites and blues of a Maine coast sky, plus the Monhegan lighthouse bell in the mix, artist Doug Brega captures both the reality and the mood of an iconic New England scene in this work titled Monhegan Light.
This is the type of place many art fans would like to see in person, while feeling the sea breeze, smelling the tangy salt air and enjoying the solitude. It’s also the kind of scene the 72-year-old artist is known for.
“I strive for a precise and honest interpretation, not a mirror of reality or a personal comment about a subject,” Brega says. “Beauty is found in clean forms and the solid function of each architectural element.”
A contemporary American realist, the artist grew up in western Massachusetts, surrounded by elements of New England that later became his subject matter, including the region’s people, its villages, homes and farms and, later, its waterfronts and islands.
He developed an interest in art at an early age. “My twin brother, older brother and I grew up drawing cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and doing sports signage in high school, besides playing on the teams,” he says. After graduating from Paier College of Art in Connecticut, Brega worked as a commercial artist, designing cottage cheese and sour cream containers for a dairy company. Along the way, he studied the works and life of Andrew Wyeth.
Then, he got his break. “I got backing, went out to Martha’s Vineyard and painted for a year,” he says. A successful show at the Silvermine Guild in New Canaan was followed by a one-man show in New York City. “I sold them all,” Brega says.
The painting featured here is a good example of his watercolor technique, where reality and emotion are created with a series of washes that Brega describes as very loose. “Then I slowly put more detail in them to bring them alive,” he says. In his portraits, he tries to capture an expression; it’s the same with a landscape or seascape. Says Brega of Monhegan Light, “This could be a portrait of architecture, as well as an expression about who lived there.”
This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue.