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 #37

September 14, 2015


It’s been a while since I opened my illustration file and posted a Peculiar Picture. An explanation for new followers: I’m a retired illustrator, and during the course of my fifteen year career I created many pictures in my spare time on speculation—uncommissioned busy work for my portfolio. Typically, a third of an illustrator’s output isn’t published for one reason or another, but commissions are desirable because the artist gets paid whether or not the art is used. I’d try to anticipate images art directors might need. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head (I’ve actually done an illustration of that metaphor) and produce a big moneymaker, but other times my work failed to find a buyer and ended up in my file cabinet.


Art directors love metaphors, and I ended up painting such pictures as Swimming with Sharks, Catching a Tiger by the Tail, Burning Your Bridges, etc. Images related to business usually sold well, so here’s a businessman balancing precariously on a frayed rope. This picture was designed as a magazine cover; the space at the top was left empty to accommodate the masthead.


This image wasn’t a total bust. I believe it sold three or four times. I still own it because I sent the clients color transparencies. If they wanted to photograph the piece themselves, I’d mail it at their expense and the original was later returned so I could sell it to someone else. If a client wanted the image exclusively, there was a buy-out price.


I painted this in acrylic about twenty years ago, but it wouldn’t be hard to alter the face and make him look even more like Stephen Colbert.






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That's cool you sold the image several times. You should make him look like Colbert. Someone would snag it.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on September 14, 2015
Well, i can understand that one selling more than once -- i've felt that "rope is about to snap" feeling more than once in my life. Fabulously done.
By: mimi on September 14, 2015
cool image! That could be the stockbroker teetering on the stock market ....
By: Kathe W. on September 14, 2015
Your work is wonderful. And, yes, I thought of Steven Colbert!
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 14, 2015
Very cool. I can think o several business men where I'd be rooting for the rope to snap. They had computers in the Vietnam era? I guess theydidn;t fit in your pocket.
By: cranky on September 14, 2015
He does look like Colbert. I really like how distinctive his facial features and expression are, Stephen. I'm surprised it didn't sell more. It's a prize.
By: Robyn Engel on September 14, 2015
Great picture. Stephen Colbert would be great but keep Donal Trump in mind too! Lol
By: Bouncin Barb on September 14, 2015
Cool image! (Think you could alter that guy to make him look like the weird-haired Donald...?) Makes me smile just to think of it.
By: Susan Swiderski on September 14, 2015
You really should make him look like Colbert. Especially now. When the jury's still out on how he's doing as Letterman's replacement.
By: Al Penwasser on September 14, 2015
Perfect for so many uses!
By: jenny_o on September 14, 2015
Wow does that ever get the message across!! Glad you sold it several times, hope it continues to produce for you.
By: Akansas Patti on September 14, 2015
One of your better ones!!
By: fishducky on September 14, 2015
I enjoy seeing your art work and appreciate your sharing pieces here. Reading your post prompted me to wonder how fascinating it might be to see "out takes" (to borrow a tv news term) or rejected pieces. I'm sure other illustrators have files too. What an interesting art display that would be. Guess an imaginative curator needs to be located who stage a show- Good Art that Wasn't Accepted" or some such.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 14, 2015
I agree, a very versatile painting. Would love to know who actually used it, and for what stories.
By: Tom Sightings on September 14, 2015
Illustrators amaze me. As you say you paint a metaphor. It's always interesting.
By: red on September 14, 2015
Clever marketing strategy. Kind of like renting the same tea bag to various folks around the dinner table. But not.
By: Val on September 14, 2015
Gosh I love this illustration! There is so much thought that went into this. Love the thin rope and he does look a little like Colbert. My computer is working again...for now:)
By: Birgit on September 14, 2015
that's a good one!
By: TexWisGirl on September 15, 2015
Love it - and yes, he does remind me of Mr. Colbert :)
By: The Bug on September 15, 2015
A great piece!
By: John on September 15, 2015
Hey that's a cool one! (of course they are all cool though ) Hey, on a different note .. Do you have coffee cups for sale?!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on September 15, 2015
You are so talented. Multi-talented, in fact. But I couldn't figure out why that guy looks so alarmed. I thought he was Clark Kent and, you know . . .
By: Catalyst on September 15, 2015
Oh my - you painted the feelings my husband has about his job!
By: Pixel Peeper on September 15, 2015
I love the full size image with the frayed rope... There's time I've been there.
By: Sage on September 15, 2015
You are so talented! And yes, he DOES look a lot like Colbert!!
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on September 15, 2015
You have a remarkable talent Stephen. I can see that illustration on a magazine cover.
By: Rick Watson on September 16, 2015
I never wanted to go into commercial art and wasn't a painter besides. luckily for me I stumbled on something I could build a businees and livelihood out of.
By: Ellen Abbott on September 16, 2015
Stephen: You are blessed with a great imagination. I never made the Colbert connection, but I can see it now.
By: Michael Manning on September 16, 2015
This is one of my favourites, it's in a slightly different style for you I think.
By: LL Cool Joe on September 17, 2015
This illustration could be used in so many different ways. I was just imagining how all the Republican candidates would look on their frayed bits of twine.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 25, 2015

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