A coasting schooner glides on a changing tide past a set of fish weirs perched on seaweed-draped rocks. It’s morning in Maine in Don Demers’ oil-on-canvas work First Light of Day.
The setting is Bar Harbor, looking toward Bar Island. Demers created the scene in his Kittery, Maine, studio based on plein air studies he did on location. “That’s how I typically work,” the 60-year-old artist says. “I invented the passing vessels and the fish weirs, knowing that weirs had been used in that location. [It’s] a hybrid of my work from direct observation and an invented narrative that I’ve put into the scene.”
Demers’ passion for painting goes back to his school days, when he began to discover his artistic abilities. After high school, he studied at the Worcester (Massachusetts) Art Museum and Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.
Then he went to sea.
Demers broadened his outlook and honed his skills by serving as an able seaman and deckhand on tall ships, including two square-riggers, sailing around the globe. “My working knowledge of sailing ships grew exponentially,” he says. “It gave me the ability to create believable and credible marine subjects.”
Professional success followed, first as an illustrator doing book and magazine covers for publications as far-ranging as Sail and National Geographic. He has been named a fellow of the American Society of Marine Artists and earned the prestigious Maritime Heritage Award, among many honors.
As for those days at sea, Demers appreciates the priceless nature of what he absorbed aboard those schooners and tall ships. “My experience as a sailor and deckhand profoundly changed my life, from the firsthand experience of being at sea and all that entails to the people I got to know and still do to this day,” Demers says.
To view this and other works by Don Demers, go to the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at jrusselljinishiangallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue.