Pounding Home

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Courtesy of the  J. Russell Jinishian Gallery, jrusselljinishiangallery.com

Courtesy of the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery, jrusselljinishiangallery.com

This painting is a result of my first trip to Jonesport, Maine, and seeing an old wooden Beals Island lobster boat pulled up on the shore,” says marine artist Robert Dance from his studio in North Carolina. “I feel very fortunate. I firmly believe that the most beautiful lobster boats are built on Beals Island.”

That trip was back in the late 1970s, and the old wooden boat in question was the Maria Elena. Dance took some pictures and “stashed the sight of it in my memory,” as he puts it. Years later, he came upon the Maria Elena once again, hauled out for sale on Maine’s Great Wass Island. “The old boat was in terrible shape,” Dance says, “but I had the presence of mind to photograph and measure it from every angle, knowing I would draw plans for that beautiful boat.”

Dance turned the plans into a detailed model, and that’s the boat in his dramatic work “Pounding Home.” It shows the Marie Elena driving through the rough seas along Maine’s rocky coast. The skipper is hunched over at the wheel, with the boat largely hidden by a great explosion of spray.

Spray is always a challenge for a marine artist to get right; Dance says he uses a combination of technique and patience. “To get depth into my water and skies, it may take me 20 or 30 glazes,” he says. “I often take a brush with few hairs or a stipple brush, and stipple with white paint those areas of spray. This leaves tiny, raised areas of white paint. When dry, I will glaze over such areas with lightly tinted glaze. Then, with a small palette knife, I will scrape over the stippled area, leaving the glaze in the recesses and the whites exposed at the top.”

It is not unusual for Dance to spend six months on one painting. “No matter how normal an artist looks,” he says, “all of us are crazy.” 

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue.

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