Oil painting by Donald Demers
Don Demers was working on a little seascape, a painting of the Maine coast around Boothbay, with the sea, a tree-covered island and a picture-perfect sky. Then something happened.
“While I was painting, this lobster boat came around the bend and started hauling a string of traps,” the 57-year-old artist explains. “I don’t usually use photography as a reference, but with the boat spinning around and moving, I took a couple of shots of her before she headed off. [And I] did a couple of very quick sketches to get the feel of her moving in the water.”
Back in the studio, Demers created a dramatic setting for the lobster boat with a rocky shore, a changing sky and a choppy, running sea. “That felt more appropriate for such a tough working boat,” he says.
The result is “Running Tide,” a stunning portrait of daily life along his beloved Maine coast. “It has been an inspiration to me since I was a boy,” he says. “Its straightforward relationship between humans and nature and the symbiosis inherent in that relationship fascinate me. There’s a simultaneous sense of the past and present there. Watching the eternal rhythms of wind, water and shore always comfort and compel me to create. Through my creative process, I attempt to be included in the totality of that place.”
Demers has spent his life on and around the water, first as a crewmember on square-riggers and schooners. He remains an avid sailor, watching the sea, observing its many moods, studying it “relentlessly,” as he puts it. “That, along with painting and drawing it from life, has allowed me to have a good understanding of its anatomy and its kinetics,” he says. “You have to have a deeper understanding of water’s nature under a variety of conditions to understand it enough to portray it with motion.”
November 2013 issue