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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Picture of the Week #2

July 23, 2014





Actually, it’s more like the picture of the month since it took that long to complete this painting. Hopefully, you’ve read my previous post (click here) so this picture, which I call The Little Sultan, will make sense.


In Turkey, boys between the ages of five and ten are dressed up as sultans and fêted for an entire day. Later that evening they’re circumcised. I received several comments calling this custom barbarous, which was not my intention. The boys are well-loved and surrounded by loving families. These costumes, along with a full day of feasting and celebrating, cost a small fortune and are a reflection of how much these boys are cherished.




As an artist specializing in portraiture, I’ve long wished I lived in an era when men wore more interesting clothing. Drab sports coats and limp ties aren’t much fun to paint. I relished the opportunity to let my brush sing while whipping up silks, jewels, pearls and feathers. Written on the sash are letters from the word Masallah, loosely translated as God protect you.   


The most difficult part of this 24 by 48 inch painting, the largest I’ve created since returning to painting, was Hagia Sophia in the background. Halfway through the creative process I realized I’d painted this world-renown building too photographically. It looked like a portrait of Hagia Sophia with a boy standing in front of it. I had to repaint the building, removing much of the detail and graying down the colors so it wouldn’t compete with the focus of the composition—the figure.






This is also the first time I mixed portraiture, landscape and architecture. The face of the little boy was a challenge. I repainted it half a dozen times, and eventually it ended up looking much like my son CJ when he was this age.


My hope was that viewers would reflect on the little sultan’s expression and wonder: Does he know? Has a friend or older brother told him what is about to happen? You get to be the judge.




Yes I was drawn to the face and it looks to me as he absolutely knows what is in store for him. I wonder if I did not read your previous post if I would have been as drawn to his face. I think yes, but not in the same way.
By: Cranky Old Man on July 23, 2014
I'm not an art critic but I think it's very nice. It seems better if you're going to circumcise a kid to do it shortly after birth so he doesn't remember it later.
By: PT Dilloway on July 23, 2014
He knows ... but he doesn't really know. But what's the big deal if they use an anesthetic? Regardless ... very intriguing story and painting. Great face; and I also esp. like how you painted the folds in the pants.
By: Tom Sightings on July 23, 2014
In my opinion, the young boy has been prepared by his family for this honourable rite of passage. It has more to do with their beliefs.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 23, 2014
your painting is wonderful. And yes, I do believe the expression in his eyes says he "knows". We as westerners are so judging of other cultures ways. As I always tell my grands, we may not agree with or completely understand anothers views but we do need to respect those views. This young man's knowing is apparent but really how could he really know until he knows. Great job with the painting and the grinding of our brains as we contemplated this. Oma Linda
By: omalinda on July 23, 2014
Gorgeously painted- and judging by his stoic gaze he does know what is in store for him. As for our reactions to this practice....perhaps we should not put our values on someone else's culture.
By: Kathe W. on July 23, 2014
If we wasn't the "Little" Sultan before circumcision, he certainly was after.
By: Al Penwasser on July 23, 2014
the painting is marvelous! such detail and texture!
By: TexWisGirl on July 23, 2014
Yes, I think he knows. By my interpretation you've pained a face and eyes that know and are "enduring" the brief festivity, realizing what comes eventually. You are a skilled painter and artist. Your work is rich, textured and beautifully done. If you are seeking such, I hope you begin doing portraits for people.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 23, 2014
He knows, that's the point -- he is entering a covenant, according to the custom of his people, and he has to do so willingly. He's scared, but committed.
By: mimi on July 23, 2014
And, idiot that i am, i forgot to say i love this painting, you did a fabulous job!
By: mimi on July 23, 2014
You really are so good. I am glad we know the story behind face so we understand what his resignation is for.
By: Akansas Patti on July 23, 2014
Beautifully done. I'm quite certain that he would know. I'm sure he's aware of the magnitude of the day. You've captured his expression so well.
By: Hilary on July 23, 2014
Oh, yes. He knows. Love the detail on his jacket.
By: Val on July 23, 2014
Fabulous painting! And yes, he looks resigned about SOMETHING happening...
By: The Bug on July 23, 2014
As I read the comments, I kept scrolling up again and again to look at the boy's face. Yes, I think he knows what's coming - but he is probably not aware of the exact details. If it were me, I'd want the procedure done and over with first thing in the morning, and be celebrated as a sultan for the day afterwards (maybe a day or two later, after the pain goes away).
By: Pixel Peeper on July 23, 2014
Obviously they know. Older brothers and friends would go into great detail.
By: red on July 23, 2014
The painting's fabulous! You did a great job making the clothing look sumptuous. I'm impressed! :)
By: Lexa Cain on July 23, 2014
I wish I could paint as well as you!!
By: fishducky on July 23, 2014
You have an INCREDIBLE talent. But you already know that. :) S
By: Scott Park on July 24, 2014
Methinks you could make a small fortune painting portraits from photographs for people.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 24, 2014
That painting is absolutely beautiful. I hope they give him a local. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 24, 2014
A great piece. So detailed, if it were me at that age and I knew what was going to happen my eyes would have been crossed! :)
By: John on July 25, 2014
I think any little child who was dressed up and feted would know that something unusual was on the way and I bet someone did prepare him. He's not looking forward to it.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on July 25, 2014
This painting is awesome. I think you captured the emotion of what was about to happen to the young fella very well, and I will bet that you also added your own feelings about it too- well done!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on July 25, 2014
Superb painting. And, yes, he definitely knows which bit of his anatomy he will lose at the end of the day.
By: Bryan Jones on July 26, 2014

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