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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Peculiar Picture #35

April 3, 2015






It’s been a while since I’ve added to my Peculiar Picture feature. For any new followers who might not know, I’m a retired illustrator with a file cabinet filled with pictures that, for one reason or another, were never used. This is common for professional illustrators. Typically, one out of three pictures are actually printed.


This piece is the antithesis of the sunny and bright Buccaneers of Buzz I posted two weeks ago. Instead of sunshine and glowing spring colors, this Pied Piper is filled with the colors of a bruise. I’ve posted other illustrations featuring the Pied Piper theme, but this is the darkest. Still, I’ve always liked it for its stylized composition and angry paint strokes. I thought it fun to have the piper dressed in fairy tale clothing while the kids look more modern. I’ve never sold this work; maybe it’s just too dark.


But it is a dark story.



The Pied Piper, acrylic on untempered Masonite, 11x14 inches





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Great choice for colors! I know bits and pieces of this story and you're right. Like many fairy tales, it does have a tragic backstory.
By: Al Penwasser on April 3, 2015
I like it! I think the dark shades tell a stronger story.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 3, 2015
You should put your collection of unsold work on display. The public can then see and appreciate the work of a true local artist.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 3, 2015
oh, that IS creepy!
By: TexWisGirl on April 3, 2015
TexWisGrl stole my comment.
By: Cranky on April 3, 2015
Beautiful done and extremely unsettling...
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 3, 2015
Great piece!
By: John on April 3, 2015
There's a magical allure to that picture. I don't see it as dark, actually. Rather, I didn't, until you told me it is. Have a great Easter weekend, Stephen.
By: Robyn Engel on April 3, 2015
There's a magical allure to that picture. I don't see it as dark, actually. Rather, I didn't, until you told me it is. Have a great Easter weekend, Stephen.
By: Robyn Engel on April 3, 2015
There is a distinct old master style to this. Methinks Rembrandt would like it.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on April 3, 2015
The Pied Piper - I love it! It's very dark and creepy, as it should be. That theme is in the novel I'm writing and I think the disappearance of kids is a universal fear. Great painting!
By: Lexa Cain on April 3, 2015
I find it fascinating, but I could NOT have it hanging in my home where I would see it every day!!
By: fishducky on April 3, 2015
I totally agree with Daniel. Your work is too good to sit in a file cabinet. Perhaps your own Internet gallery??
By: Akansas Patti on April 3, 2015
That is a very dark painting to go with a dark story. there is some rage and doom in the background.
By: red on April 3, 2015
wonderfully creepy
By: Ellen Abbott on April 3, 2015
I'm missing the obvious, I guess. I just assumed they were going on a cave tour.
By: Val on April 3, 2015
I love this picture! The cool tones and background make it edgy...I think it's perfect.
By: Cherdo on April 3, 2015
I really like this version. It is the spirited walk of the children as if they are out for a day of fun and the heavy walk of the piper who is so determined and foreboding in his step.
By: Tabor on April 4, 2015
It can be dark, or it can be following your dream. Yes, the original story is very sad.
By: mimi on April 4, 2015
it is indeed a dark story- I remember reading it as a child and being rather frightened by it. Your illustration feels dark and scary also.
By: Kathe W. on April 4, 2015
Putting the children in modern dress while following a classic image of the Piper adds a particularly haunting edge to an already eerie vision.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 4, 2015
You're right...it is a dark story. I remember reading a commentary about how so many people think our world today is so much more dangerous than in the "good old days" when kids could grow up free of fear and danger. The writer thought it was quite the opposite, and that all those fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, etc.) were stories told to warn kids to be aware, not to go with strangers, or wander off. The Pied Piper in the fairy tale is the same character of modern times, luring kids with candy, or teenagers with drugs...or so that commentary told. And you did a wonderful job with your painting - it looks like an abyss is just around the corner.
By: Pixel Peeper on April 4, 2015
Ooh I love it! I don't know why, but that Piper reminds me a lot of Johnny Depp :)
By: The Bug on April 4, 2015
Great piece. I think this must be something all artists go through. Keeping all their work! There are paintings, sketches, giclees everywhere in this house! Lol
By: Bouncin Barb on April 4, 2015
Your illustrations are remarkable Sthphen. I'd like to be able to draw and paint.
By: Rick Watson on April 4, 2015
Oddly enough, the bright tones around the piper and children made me think of the "magic" tune luring the children along. But yes, the darkness all around just lends itself to the malice that occurs... Cat
By: Cat on April 4, 2015
Your artwork is always fantastic. I think you chose the perfect colors to portray the mood of the story. Happy Easter to you and the Mrs.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on April 5, 2015
As talented as you are, I can't understand why you have ANY unsold illustrations.
By: Catalyst on April 5, 2015

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