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Lone Survivor - Soundings Online

Lone Survivor

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Oil painting by Joseph McGurl

Joseph McGurl has been called “one of the most gifted contemporary artists” of the American landscape school. His style has been compared to the 19th century illuminists, but with a thoroughly modern approach to style and subject.

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The influence of the sea has been strong in his life and his work. The son of famed muralist James McGurl, he graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and studied in Europe. He worked as a yacht captain, covering the East Coast from Maine to the Bahamas and painting at the same time. Today, he cruises with his family on an Alden ketch named Atelier (French for studio). “That’s where paintings often come to life,” he says.

“Lone Survivor” is a 24-by-30-inch oil, and the scene is Bailey’s Island, Maine. “A favorite location,” the 55-year-old artist says. “The geography was intriguing, as were the piers perched on the rocks. The light was beautiful when I was painting the sketch upon which this was based.

“The boat is red, like a boiled lobster and the blood which along with sweat and tears is spent in the profession of lobstering,” he says. “The lobstermen are similar to artists and any other self-employed workers; they have to survive on their own. They have to work harder and smarter in order to survive.”

The location sketch is perhaps the key to McGurl’s creative process. “Creating a two-dimensional image out of the reality we experience is an incredibly abstract thought process,” he says. “I think it is impossible to be a realist, which is the type of art I make, without experiencing reality on a very deep level. When I am painting the ocean, I want to paint the real ocean, not a photographic depiction of it. For this reason I spend an incredible amount of time interacting with the ocean on many different levels.”

For more of McGurl’s work, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at www.jrusselljinishiangallery.com.

September 2013 issue