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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Line By Line

April 19, 2017

In order to be a successful illustrator, I found it necessary to wear a lot of hats. Clients often wanted portraits of CEOs for corporate reports, authors of newspaper columns and local politicians for editorial pages. Budgets were often small so color portraiture was out. I needed to create an inexpensive black and white product for images often destined for newsprint, which isn’t the best paper for reproduction; images often look washed out or mushy.


So, to satisfy my clients I set aside my paints and changed hats. I’ve long been interested in pen & ink line drawings. You might recall some of my previously posted caricatures. To increase my business, I developed a crosshatch style that reproduced cheaply without losing the rich tones, even when reduced to the size of a postage stamp. These proved extremely marketable. I was able to execute one in about an hour and clients paid several hundred dollars for them.


The challenge was to create portraits using a series of overlapping lines (crosshatching) to create the illusion of tone and texture. Too many lines will “muddy up” and look terrible on a newspaper page. Unfortunately, I had to rely on the client’s photograph for my likeness which meant I didn’t have the subject before me to add my own interpretation.


Curiously, I was never commissioned to create pen & ink portraits of women, probably because women require a lighter, softer touch.


I haven’t created one of these in a while, but there was a time when many local newspapers and magazines included my work.


Here are a few samples:













I hope everyone is having a terrific week. Take care.



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I love those Stephen. Being able to do that is a gift. R
By: Rick Watson on April 19, 2017
Love it... a gift indeed! At approximately one per/hr you good do one for each regular fan in the "Bull Pen". :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 19, 2017
Wow - is there anything you can't do?
By: The Bug on April 19, 2017
I have always thought this type of drawing is so very cool. Impressive
By: Oma Linda on April 19, 2017
Seeing drawings like this always makes me think of the Wall Street Journal. Amazes me how realistic they always look.
By: Kelly on April 19, 2017
Smart way to do it. And that you could crank one out so quickly was a double bonus.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 19, 2017
Wow - an hour to finish one? That's amazing. Maybe there wasn't a demand for portraits of women because there were fewer women CEOs - just a thought.
By: jenny_o on April 19, 2017
Those are great portraits. I appreciate your behind the scenes explanations. Fascinating. You are a talented artist.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 19, 2017
PS-Lana my lovely bride and a wonderful artist just walked into the study and saw your work up on the screen. "Very nice. Very, Very nice. Those are excellent!" she said.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 19, 2017
Great portraits--they'd all look good in newsprint
By: Sage on April 19, 2017
What a cool look. I am sure your subjects were delighted with your work.
By: Arkansas Patti on April 19, 2017
Wow you work so quickly. A drawing like that would take me hours, and look completely overworked.
By: LL Cool Joe on April 19, 2017
Those are AMAZING! The crosshatching reminds me of the books I had when I was a kid, where you paint water on the picture, and color appears. That's not why your portraits are amazing, though! You seem to capture the subject's personality.
By: Val on April 19, 2017
Wow you did those in a couple of hours? I could try for years and never do that well.
By: PT Dilloway on April 19, 2017
Hey, you could do my portrait anytime. I like these.
By: red Kline on April 19, 2017
By: messymimi on April 19, 2017
I wish I could draw like that!!
By: fishducky on April 19, 2017
Very nice Stephen, that takes talent my friend.
By: Jimmy on April 19, 2017
That is a great skill to acquire, working with the constraints of a very specific medium.
By: Botanist on April 19, 2017
Like several others have said, amazing you could do that in an hour.
By: cranky on April 19, 2017
Exceptional work! I wonder how many women CEOs there even were and if, at the time, companies wanted to publicize a woman CEO if they had one.
By: Mitchell is Block on April 20, 2017
very clean and nicely done.
By: Ellen Abbott on April 20, 2017
Your work is just wonderful!
By: The Broad on April 20, 2017
Impressive to say the least. Those portraits could pass for photographs. I'm in awe...
By: STL Fan on April 20, 2017

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