The Circus Ship - Soundings Online

The Circus Ship

Author:
Publish date:
To view this and other works by Ed Parker, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at jrusselljinishiangallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.

To view this and other works by Ed Parker, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at jrusselljinishiangallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Here’s a whimsical painting: a 19th-century steamship in full array, with a deck awash in circus animals and performers, acrobats in the rigging. But there’s more than whimsy to Ed Parker’s art. With a unique viewpoint, he works his subjects in an imaginative way that’s rooted in reality. “Rather than trying to capture a moment in time, I’m trying to capture a moment in a story that draws the viewer in on a different level of discovery,” Parker says.

In this case, the story goes back to October 1836 and the sidewheel steamer Royal Tar. She was making for Portland, Maine, carrying Fuller’s Menagerie, a traveling circus that had been touring Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. A boiler caught fire off Fox Island, and the Royal Tar sank; 32 of the 93 people on board died, along with most of the animals.

The 18-by-24-inch oil painting is simple and straightforward, belying the time Parker spent researching the tragedy. “Sometimes the painting’s subjects are based on actual historical events, and sometimes I make them up, but they have to be in the realm of possibility,” he says. “The only way to do that is through accurate historical research and a respect for the subject.”

The Massachusetts-born artist — “with strong genealogical roots to Maine,” he adds — has created art nearly his entire life. Early influences include illustrators N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, as well as Walt Disney and Looney Tunes. Parker also has an avid interest in American history.

“I believe in the integrity of the subject,” he says. “If you are going to represent a visual moment of a story and want to draw the viewer in, you have to be accurate and create the illusion of believability. If the truth is not there, the whimsical parts don’t work and become superfluous.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue.

Related

Photo of painting by William R Davis

Last Sail Of The Season

“It’s like a vessel that needs a couple of coats of paint for the true color to come out,” William Davis says. He’s describing the way he layered the oils to convey nature’s subtle shades in Last Sail of the Season. “You work in stages. The sky — it might take several coats to get it right.”

Winslow_Home

After The Hurricane

The storm clouds and a veil of rain move off over dark water, taking the violence of the tropical hurricane with them.

Thompson,Neck-Neck_EDIT

Neck and Neck

They were known to the British as the “Big Class.” The America’s Cup boats of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were unruly — sometimes downright perilous — racing machines.

don-demers-scamp-rescue

Rescuers from the Deep; USS Scamp

Don Demers’ oil painting “Rescuers from the Deep; USS Scamp” tells a dramatic tale.

seascape-Hart,Whaling-Delano-Baffin.-HR

Whaling Ships at Delano Bay, Baffin Island

“In my dreams, I am standing a 2 a.m. wheel watch, running down some long, lonely reach of flat water, snow-capped mountains glistening in the moonlight on either side … [cruising] endlessly through the black Alaskan night,” says watercolorist Cooper Hart.

walton-racing-on-L-sound

Racing on Long Island Sound

For Andrew Walton, becoming an artist was in the cards. “The art chooses you, not the other way round,” says Walton, who is known for his detailed renderings of ships and boats and those who handle them.

seascapes_shack

Seascapes: Waterman’s shack

For more than 60 years, James Iams has been casting his artist’s eye around Chesapeake Bay, taking in the sights and spirit of the region’s creeks and rivers, islands and harbors, watermen and boats.