Gallery on Merchants Square ~ King of the Road!

Steve King, owner of the Gallery on Merchants Square, historian and art connoisseur has one of the most beautiful galleries we’ve ever visited, located in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Not only is his collection of exquisite art wide ranging, individually selected by him, but the ambience as you walk in is warm and welcoming.  Oriental rugs, bronze sculptures and upscale antique furniture not only enhance the paintings on the wall but are also offered for sale. 

I feel fortunate to have a large collection of my ship paintings prominently displayed as you enter the gallery.  The way Steve has arranged my work with perfect lighting and in a nicely appointed corner of his gallery thrills me.  Steve has lived along the Chesapeake for years, sailing and exploring the coast.  He has an extensive knowledge of ships of all kinds, past and present.  His acceptance of and excitement about featuring my maritime work is most appreciated!

For all of you who haven’t visited Gallery on Merchants Square, it is a must stop while in Williamsburg.  Steve has paintings of the Williamsburg area, beautiful landscapes, maritime scenes, a nice collection of Russian art, colorful still-lifes, bronze sculptures etc…

The gallery is located above Williams-Sonoma in the historic district.  Please stop in if you can and introduce yourself to Steve.  He’d love to see you. 

You’ll love the large collection of art so allow enough time to really take it all in!!!!

Maine Coast Cards ~ Our Little Company!

In the early 1990’s my wife Jen and I thought it might be a good idea to develop a notecard line featuring some of my Maine paintings.  I was a new artist; excited about the endless potential paintings I could paint featuring our surroundings along the coast of Maine.  Jen had been successful in launching a salad dressing business in our prior life and we both have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit in us.  At the time, there really wasn’t anything like it, reproduced paintings of the coast of Maine on notecards.  We thought it might fill a niche.

 

Well, next thing we knew we were on our way to check out printing companies.  We knew the net profit per card would be small so in order to get the cost per card down we had to produce in quantity.  We also wanted to support a Maine business, not to mention the name of our company would be Maine Coast Cards.

Notecards are small in size (5 x 7) but when you produce 60,000 of them in a run, on huge presses, all of a sudden you have pallets stacked with boxes that will fill up closets and take up significant office space!  We weren’t thinking small but we weren’t quite ready for what we had created!  LOL. It was exciting to think of all the possibilities!

We started the business with just 6 images of Maine scenes that I had painted. We started driving up and down Route 1 (more east and west if you look at a map) along the coast of Maine stopping in every small town and gift shop we could find.  I would park and wait in the car while Jen would run in with her little bag of cards and try to sell our “line” of cards to the shop owner.  I would give her the thumbs up as she went in, wishing her luck and when she came out she’d give me the thumbs up, or down, depending on how it all went. 

Usually the shop owners were very friendly.  Most greeted her warmly. Even though we weren’t Mainers, we were selling a Maine product and they liked that.  Jen was never pushy, always smiling and excited about my art, the cards and being able to offer the store owners something new.  However, there was a gift store in the Scarborough area (to remain unnamed) where Jen walked in and in no-time the door flew open and Jen was almost being booted out by a lady with a scowl on her face!  How dare she cold call her!  No appointment!  Jen is already small in stature but she felt even smaller!  LOL.  We still look back and laugh at that experience. I can picture it like it was yesterday. 

Jen secured quite a few small accounts, lots of quaint gift shops up and down the coast.  The card business was fun and it was a nice way to familiarize people with my art.  But we had thousands of cards.  We started thinking bigger and signed up for a big trade show in Portland, Maine.  We bought a booth in the new products section and when the time came we went with our measly notecard line and two limited edition prints and opened our booth for business.  We were somewhat mortified when we looked around at all of the elaborate booth set-ups.  People put huge effort and significant money into their displays and we looked like real newbies! 

I think the starkness of our booth and Jen’s friendly face worked in our favor because we landed the big LL Bean account!  LL Bean; the largest outdoor sporting goods/clothing/furniture retail store in the state of Maine and a must-stop for everyone traveling to Maine.  They are known internationally for their quality Maine products and they wanted our little line of notecards! 

We went home totally jazzed, had more notecards printed immediately, and loaded thousands more notecards in many more boxes into our house.  Business was good.  LL Bean asked us to produce a line of postcards with my images as well, which we did. 

After I started painting for MBNA full-time, I was producing fewer Maine scenes.  We realized that in order to keep all of the shop owners and LL Bean happy we would have to produce more notecards with new images on a regular basis, which meant printing thousands of new cards every year.  We decided to gradually phase out the business.  To this day we continue to sell out our inventory.  We have a good friend that is representing us and selling them on Etsy online

Jen helped Maine gallery owners get their own line of notecards started and the concept lives on. 

It was a great entrepreneurial experience!  We did it together and we learned a great deal.  It has been fun looking back on our little venture.

Here are just a few of the notecards from our collection.

Interpreting a Vision ~ Honoring a Business Leader (and Retired General!)

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This is a fascinating story.  One that I hope I tell well.  Here goes.  A while back we received an email through our website from a company called The Linc Group (an international facilities management company). They were interested in commissioning me to paint a 16th century Spanish Galleon ship (which is their company logo).  The painting would be a retirement gift for retiring Executive VP and COO, Major General David Whaley, U.S. Army, Ret.  My first thought was what a nice honor that would be.  Little did I know!

My first phone call to discuss the commission was with Lieutenant General Ross Thompson, U.S. Army, Ret. and Senior VP, Operations for The Linc Group.  He said he would like to arrange a three-way conference call with the President and CEO of The Linc Group, Mr. Tracy Price, to discuss the painting.

Next thing I knew I was listening to Ross Thompson and Tracy Price tell me the amazing company story. They explained the symbolism they would like me to include in the painting and informed me as to how meaningful this painting will be to its recipient, the soon to be retired Dave Whaley.  My enthusiasm for the project was growing quickly!

It all turned out to be quite fortuitous, as the retirement dinner had already been planned and was to take place in Williamsburg, where we live!  Ross Thompson kindly asked us to attend and present the painting at the farewell event!

The fascinating company history begins with Mr. Price selling his software company to Enron in 2001 and going to work for the perceived powerhouse Enron.  Shockingly, nine short weeks later, Enron imploded.  He was bound and determined to save his old company and sever the Enron ties.  He led a management team buyout to take back his company. After two grueling years of endless battles and red tape he accomplished his goal, renaming his new company The Linc Group. It was to be the sole surviving company from the Enron wars.

Tracy Price and Dave Whaley together had a strong vision for this new company and it is reflected in the company ideals, corporate culture and logo, all a direct result from the Enron debacle.

In our conference call, Tracy Price described his vision of the painting to me.  In the far distance, there should be a battle scene with the crooked "E" Enron logo somehow incorporated into the scene, maybe some flames, ships burning….  The ship Intrepid (the company logo ship) should be firing its cannons with its flags flying high and the Intrepid should be the main focus of the painting.

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After spending some time researching 16th century Spanish Galleons at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News and at the Williamsburg Library, I began work on this exciting and challenging painting.  Creating a distant battle scene, painting the good ship Intrepid under full sail on the open sea and telling the company story with all of its symbolism made the painting process all that much more gratifying.  Most of all, the honor of having this painting going to Dave Whaley as his retirement gift made every painting day fulfilling. 

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My wife and I attended the retirement dinner for the unveiling of the painting here at the beautiful Williamsburg Inn.  While my painting rested on the easel under a blue cloth in the front of the room, we had the distinct pleasure of listening to the management team one by one pay tribute to their mentor, boss and friend Dave Whaley.  By the end of the evening we felt like we knew Dave personally.  The love in the room was palpable.  Everyone delivered heartfelt, emotional tributes.  It was unmistakably obvious to us that this is a great man!

Tracy Price unveiled my painting, his vision now on canvas, and shared some thoughts of how this project came about. Ross Thompson then eloquently read my summary of The Intrepid painting, after which I was introduced as the artist.  My wife and I were greatly honored to be there on such an auspicious occasion.  We shook hands with Dave Whaley and I told him what an honor it was to paint this painting for him and to get to meet him personally.

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As we drove home from the Williamsburg Inn, we debriefed, both of us struck by the emotions of the evening, the love and admiration for this man and how fortunate I was to be the one chosen to paint The Intrepid for him. 

I am grateful that this rewarding commission came along and that we had the opportunity to cross paths with some truly wonderful people through my work. Just another reminder of the power of art!

My summary of this painting that was read at the retirement dinner and the explanation of all of the company symbolism is posted in the follow up to this blog.  I hope you all enjoyed reading about this painting as much as I enjoyed telling the story! 

Update

on 2012-06-27 13:38 by Administrator

The Intrepid

When envisioning and creating this painting my goal was to tell a story of hard fought battles and ultimate triumph. I endeavored to convey this through a dark, smoky battle scene on the horizon line offset by the victorious Intrepid emerging through brighter, clearer skies as a strong, fearless leader and an unmatched competitor. 

The Spanish Galleon Intrepid, which is the central focus of this painting, is cutting through a wave, riding high and fast to symbolize success, strength, perseverance, and leadership.  I painted the crow’s nest and the upper deck railings with red panels, common on 16th century galleons.  Red, being a bold color, is frequently associated with winning and strength.  

The RAF flag is flying high atop the main mast reflecting the company ideals of respected, admired, and feared.  The gold leaf laurel branch under the ship’s name symbolizes a triumphant ship.  The blues in the RAF and banner flags are The Linc Group logo colors. 

The Intrepid is firing off her portside at her present day competition (flying British flags to represent global competitors).  The British ship is veering off course intimidated by the bigger, stronger competition.

Off the stern of the Intrepid is the sinking of the ship Enron.  She is listing to her starboard side, water gushing over her rails, fire burning up her deck with no hope remaining.   Smaller ships around the Enron are burning and shooting at each other, symbolizing all who went down with her.  The one galleon surviving the firefight (TLG) is heading out of the smoke of the “Enron wars” to fight another day!

The mighty hawk, with its wide wingspan, is guiding the ship to the blue skies that lay ahead and toward enduring success.   

I painted a choppy, big sea but not so turbulent as to put the Intrepid in danger.  Dark shadows indicate the deep water final resting place for those that went down with the ship Enron.  The good ship Intrepid cuts through the sea with power and pride forging ahead with a stiff wind in her sails and a strong vision for the future!

San Giorgio Maggiore ~ Exploring Light and Color

This view from San Marco past the gondolas and across the river to the island of San Giorgio is one frequently photographed by tourists and photographers when visiting Venice, Italy.  At first glance my photograph appeared tranquil, with early evening light and colorful reflections.  Once I started painting, I realized that the diminishing light created intense darks in the black gondolas and black reflections.  So strong were the darks that I felt like it might create more of a somber mood than what I wanted to convey.  I switched to an Impressionist palette in which blacks became purples and blues with a tad of Titanium White added to lighten up the darks.  I found myself using colors that would compliment each other in order to create an overall twilight tone.  It became an exercise in color exploration which I found challenging, frustrating and fun.

Sometimes the painting process flows and sometimes it’s experimental and takes longer.  The latter is the case with this painting.  A couple of times I thought I was close to finishing and the next thing I knew I was almost starting over.  Finally, I felt like I was onto something and progressed to where I could sign my name.

The bright white church on San Giorgio, along with the bold surrounding architecture, I felt deserved to be in focus even though the distance could have easily muted any definition.  Being a maritime artist, of course the colorful, reflective water and gondolas captured my eye from first glance. 

Art is not a science but an inexact science in which exploration of light, color, composition, brushwork, etc… is necessary in order to create something new and different.  I’d love to hear from you artists out there, or those interested in art, what you think of my San Giorgio painting.