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

Prologue

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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Peculiar Picture #34

June 18, 2014

This illustration was painted shortly after moving to Oregon. I was still working in oil at the time. This piece was done on textured paper, with the forms wiped out while the paint was wet. Other colors were added later. My illustration was intended for a fluff piece The Oregonian was running on the forestry industry.

     

When it came to creating illustrations I always tried to hold my personal opinions in check, but I was not a fan of Oregon’s forestry industry, which at the time was characterized by clear-cut deforestation—massive land stripping that removed every tree in sight. Sure, saplings were planted between the stumps but this only made tree farms, not forests. Oregon’s forest industry has come a long way since then.

    

My picture was promptly rejected. I wasn’t given a reason for the rejection but today the reason seems obvious. The focus of my painting is not the lumberjack, who looks pathetically insignificant beside the venerable old tree he’s bringing down. It probably didn’t help that I depicted the lumberjack as unsubstantial, lacking true form and definition, yet the tree is fully developed and reflects the gravitas of something that, unlike the lumberjack, has been around for hundreds of years.

    

Shortly after completing this piece I switched to quick drying acrylics and gave up on moody images such as this. I also became more adept at concealing my feelings and went on to become a regular freelancer with The Oregonian. Today, after a ten year hiatus from painting, I realize I shouldn’t have given up so easily on expressing my feelings; this might not have been a successful illustration, but in my eyes it works as a painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Comments

21 Comments
Especially on that closeup the guy has his head back and that stream seeming to emanate from between his legs...you know what I'm thinking. Maybe someone there thought the same thing.
By: PT Dilloway on June 18, 2014
I like it, especially the highlights that accent the lumberjack and the tree, which is virtually split in two already. This one makes a statement, if not for the Oregonian, for environments and/or people with ole fashioned common sense.
By: Robyn Engel on June 18, 2014
Wow, I think it is perfect. So glad you are picking up the brush again.
By: Akansas Patti on June 18, 2014
I think you are quite talented and should definitely let your emotions guide your art. This painting definitely speaks volumes.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on June 18, 2014
I think your observation is correct - this is a painting depicting the sadness of cutting down such a fine tree. It's great!
By: The Bug on June 18, 2014
i agree with your feelings that came thru your painting well.
By: TexWisGirl on June 18, 2014
To some extent we need to hide our personal feelings in order to make a living or just get along in life with other people. But I think if we totally bury our feelings, we've sold our soul. Glad you are starting to paint again!
By: Pixel Peeper on June 18, 2014
I agree, it is peculiar. He's oiling his chainsaw. ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 18, 2014
Yes, i can see how the industry wouldn't like it, but i certainly do.
By: mimi on June 18, 2014
Like Pixel said, sometimes you have to sacrifice your feelings or ideals in order to make a living, within reason of course, as a true artist i imagine it was a very difficult thing for you to do and in this case you failed. Failed as a commercial endeavor but certainly not as an artist.
By: Cranky Old Man on June 18, 2014
I like it. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 18, 2014
The part I like best is the lighting.
By: Val on June 18, 2014
The lighting is great!!
By: fishducky on June 18, 2014
Yep, much more a romantic painting than something representing a dynamic industry. Than fine line between commercialism and art!
By: Tabor on June 19, 2014
This is a great piece Stephen and it says far more than words ever could.
By: John on June 19, 2014
powerful painting- gorgeous use of color and light!
By: Kathe W. on June 19, 2014
Well, after seeing the complete illustration, I don't see why it was summarily rejected. After all, only Paul Bunyan was really as big as some lumberjacks would like to believe they are. Yeah, I've been around a few, and chicken-haulers ain't got nothin' on them! (LOL?)
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on June 19, 2014
When I was doing graphic design I had to hide my true feelings about most of the work I was doing. Not always easy is it?
By: LL Cool Joe on June 20, 2014
I love the sense of insignificant human in comparison to the might tree - men destroying something that's been around for hundreds of years.
By: Bryan Jones on June 21, 2014
I would be curious to compare it to the picture that was selected. If they were doing a story on the current (in that time) practices of forestry, wouldn't that painting portray that?
By: Cheryl P. on June 25, 2014
This is a very powerful painting. Wow! But, I agree it doesn't convey the message that would have been desired. It's heartbreaking. The grand ancient being destroyed by the faceless monster.
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 11, 2014

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