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 #4

August 20, 2014












Artists often set aside paintings in progress for a variety of reasons. Perhaps other commissions got in the way, the subject of a portrait might have died, or the artist didn’t have the technical skill to finish it. I was heavily under the influence of Rembrandt when I began this painting of fantasy characters in 1985. I recently found it in my garage and decided the time had come for me to finish it.





Several neighbors walking past my garage while I was working on this picture said it reminded them of something from Game of Thrones, which I knew nothing about back in ‘85. I’ve always liked pictures that ask more questions than they answer so I resisted painting a particular scene from any well-known story. I grouped characters in a way I thought provocative so viewers could make up their own story. I had no idea the result would appear so Shakespearean.


After finishing Fantasy Characters, for lack of a better name, I found an old photograph taken while I struggled with the original. When I study the photograph I’m shocked at the unsophisticated color scheme, particularly the nauseating yellow, so



I set out to rectify this. I also decided one crown was enough, so the fellow in the center of the composition, now in a red cloak and engaging the viewer with a shifty gaze, lost not only his crown but his hair as well. The old king with the resigned expression, who does wear the crown, is no longer a hunchback and I’ve placed a drape on his shoulder to partially cover his distracting jewelry. I also shifted the light source on his face to be more consistent with the setting sun behind them, creating more facial shadow and giving my brushes an opportunity to wallow in paint and play with his wrinkles.


In addition, the sword has been altered. As a model, I used a sword I received as a Christmas present when I was a teenager. It’s a World War I Prussian Calvary sword decorated with Maltese crosses. It probably doesn’t matter but I changed it to better fit a Medieval scene. I also took the sword out of the hand of the fellow in the red cloak and placed it in the hand of the bearded man in blue, seen in profile on the left. Unfortunately, a bit of the photograph has been cropped at the bottom.





There might be an interesting story hidden in this picture. If you’re in the mood to write something I’d be fascinated to read what you come up with. I just hope my next painting doesn’t take twenty-nine years to complete.  


Choosing up sides?
By: Cranky on August 20, 2014
It makes me think more of The Hobbit than Game of Thrones as you seem to have the makings of a party going on an epic quest that somehow involves that sword.
By: PT Dilloway on August 20, 2014
The heavily overcast yellow painting has my eyes.
By: Robert Deniro on August 20, 2014
Moving the sword seems to make it more the focus in your painting than in the original. And the earrings..makes me think of pirates. I know..I'm of no help whatsoever. :)
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on August 20, 2014
The sword's pommel fashioned into a lions head has an air of nobility to it.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 20, 2014
I'm so amazed by your talent. These are wonderful. Yes, Game of Thrones.
By: mindy on August 20, 2014
amazing that it is the same painting! i really thought it was 2 different ones. the original - the gent on the right is robert deniro. :)
By: TexWisGirl on August 20, 2014
If you were not so critical of your talents, you just might make it as an artist. (LOL?)
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 20, 2014
I caetainly like your revised painting better- more dramatic for sure and the use of color is far more intense in emotion. No idea for a story unless the man on the left wants to sell this sword and the guy in the middle is figuring out how cheap can he get it. and the flooew on the far right is thinking what a putz the guy in red is. Have a great day!
By: Kathe W. on August 20, 2014
Well, i'm no help either, because i like some aspects of both, although i'm drawn to the newer one more. Something is up, and it makes me sad that i'm not a storyteller.
By: mimi on August 20, 2014
The fellow in the right as you look at the painting has a very different expression in the earlier painting...almost chagrined I would say?
By: Tabor on August 20, 2014
The finished piece is more balanced and a nice composition. The face, especially the eyes of the King in painting 1 is powerful and enigmatic however. In the finished version I see the King as more wizened, saddened even. My scenario for the piece-the King looks pensively past the sword into the distance, recalling the day he presented it to his son, the Prince. The Chancellor, the man in the middle strokes his beard and contemplates what is to come next, now that the hooded priest or advisor tells the King his son has been killed but his sword was recovered.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 20, 2014
They look like very tough characters. but the king has a very friendly looking face.
By: red on August 20, 2014
That's certainly an improvement. Not a fan of the mustard capes.
By: Val on August 20, 2014
I still dunno anything about Game of Thrones ... I thought maybe you were working around to something like a self-portrait!
By: Tom Sightings on August 20, 2014
I love the character of this painting Steve, and the realistic expressions on their faces. Funnily enough I like the original too with the yellow. The both have their own energy!
By: John on August 21, 2014
That man in the crown resembles a British actor, especially in the yellow version. Ian McKellan? I'm not sure.
By: Catalyst on August 21, 2014
I do like your revised work the best. You are a master of putting a whole story in a subjects eyes. I see pain and loss in some with sneaky guile in others. Well done.
By: Akansas Patti on August 25, 2014
Stephen: At the risk of sounding like the bartender in the Dudley Moore film,"10", I like your style better than the photo. The beads would have made Telly Savales blush--and we know about his gold necklaces, right?
By: Michael Manning on August 25, 2014

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