Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Parents and Children

July 15, 2016

When I was little, my best friend’s mother took up painting. Helen Delgado lived next door and I’d spend hours watching her slap paint on canvases. Unfortunately, she had more enthusiasm than talent, but she ignited my passion for painting. Helen painted fruits, vegetables and flowers. One day I asked if anyone had ever tried to paint a person.


She smiled and said, “Of course. Maybe someday you’ll go to a museum where you’ll see many paintings of people.”


When I was older I went on a school field trip to a museum in San Francisco where I saw a painting that astonished me—my first Rembrandt. I studied it with amazement. What I saw seemed impossible. Before me hung the image of a man who looked not only real but capable of thought. I’d seen Helen smear colored grease on canvases but the result was nothing like what I saw hanging on the walls of that museum. It seemed miraculous, the very definition of magic— that someone could apply colors mixed with oil and create what appeared to be a living breathing person.


As an artist, people have always fascinated me. There was a time when I fancied a career as a portrait painter, and while I did execute commissioned portraits it wasn’t enough to support a family and eventually I turned to illustration.


Here are two paintings that reflect my interests at the time (1980-1990). The first was a portfolio piece to drum up business for possible father/daughter portraits. I was going for a classy, sophisticated look that might appeal to well-heeled parents with lots of disposable cash. I was never commissioned to paint a father/daughter portrait, but I did paint many portraits of children.






The second painting is much more intimate. It shows Mrs. Chatterbox with our son CJ when he was a baby. I sketched this directly on the canvas while the two were relaxing on our bed. It was painted quickly, in one session, and never completed, although I’ve come to like the sketchy, unfinished quality.






This was my first portrait of little CJ; dozens more would follow. The poor little guy would eventually run and hide whenever he saw me placing a blank canvas on my easel.  





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never been tempted to do people though I have done the occasional human in the etched glass though I never like they way they come out. now, this job, I have 5 people I have to render.
By: Ellen Abbott on July 15, 2016
I've always had trouble trying to draw people, probably related to my inability to recognize people in real life. I deeply admire the ability to capture a likeness on canvas.
By: Botanist on July 15, 2016
I like the unfinished look. You've captured a moment in time better than any camera could.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on July 15, 2016
I like the second one with it unstructured and quick style. I can see the love.
By: Tabor on July 15, 2016
I love the family painting of Mrs C and CJ- so quick and fresh! My kids used to run away when I got out the camera!
By: Kathe W. on July 15, 2016
You captured that moment so much better than a camera would have. Funny about CJ running. I guess painting makes a child sit longer than they are accustomed. I use to hate even the quickness of a camera.
By: Arkansas Patti on July 15, 2016
Little CJ looks like a mini version of you in this painting. I like the unfinished look too. Mrs Chatterbox looks more interested in the book than your son did. :D
By: LL Cool Joe on July 15, 2016
Amateur artists seldom get hands the right size!!
By: fishducky on July 15, 2016
What a darling boy he was! If i could paint, i wouldn't be able to help wanting to paint him often, either.
By: messymimi on July 15, 2016
I agree, the "unfinished" painting has an interesting quality I wouldn't touch.
By: cranky on July 15, 2016
I love that second one. Such a tender piece.
By: The Bug on July 15, 2016
Seems to me painting human portraits is sort of the artist's Gold Standard. True? I can't fathom the talent you and others must have in order to do that. :)
By: scott park on July 15, 2016
I like the first portrait, love the second one of Mrs. C and your son. But something else in your post just made me realize something. Your reaction to other people's painting as a child made me think that maybe professions like accountants and salespeople and truck drivers and such are made, but artists are BORN.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 15, 2016
Baby CJ and Mrs. C! My cold, cold heart began defrosting at the sight.
By: Val on July 15, 2016
I like both portraits you did but especially your wife and son. Your wife is reading and in another happy world. Your son looks like he could be up to some mischief.
By: red Kline on July 15, 2016
These posts featuring your art or your explanation of a piece are wonderful. I admire your skill and talent and like your work.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 15, 2016
I actually like the "unfinished" one of Mrs. C and CJ. I like the whimsical style. I especially love the way you caught the light on CJ. Lovely!
By: Lexa Cain on July 16, 2016
And again I'll say it: You are gifted! I LOVE the protrait of CJ and the saintly Mrs. C.
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 16, 2016
The second piece is finished.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 16, 2016
These are very good- I really like the one of Mrs. C and CJ on the bed, relaxing. He does look like you.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on July 16, 2016
You are a gifted artist Stephen. It takes a good eye and a different way of looking at things to paint.
By: Rick Watson on July 17, 2016
I actually like the one with CJ better. It seems softer and, though unfinished, more realistic.
By: Al Penwasser on July 17, 2016

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