Tradition and history commemorated on canvas
East Boothbay artist Brad Betts has had a connection with the sea, old sailing vessels and maritime scenes. That connection was nurtured during his years growing up on the Gulf coast. Betts has a passion for history, particularly the fishing industry, so it too is a oft visited theme flowing through his works.
One of his recurring subjects is the Ernestina-Morrissey, now at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard for restoration. It has long captured his eye and imagination. As a Gloucester fishing schooner, its fine lines are undeniable, but its many “lives” are fascinating. In addition to being used for fishing, it has been an Arctic research vessel, transatlantic packet schooner and finally, an educational venue. This is a vessel Betts was drawn to.
“This is a special schooner to me, as I have used it as a subject in several maritime paintings shown at the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport’s International Exhibition,” Betts said. “But many are not aware that the well-known ‘Man at the Wheel’ statue on the Gloucester waterfront commemorating those lost at sea is Captain Clayton Morrissey, one of her original captains. When I heard (Ernestina-Morrissey) was going to be in Boothbay Harbor, I knew I had to paint her again.”
After the artist learned Ernestina-Morrissey was one of the seven vessels in this year's Windjammer Days festival, he was compelled to paint all of them to commemorate their journey here.
“I decided to paint each ship within a local scene,” Betts said. “As a maritime painter, I’m continuously amazed by the changing character of the ocean and waves, and I tried to represent that in each small 6 by 8-inch painting. For instance, the Ernestina-Morrissey is gliding by Burnt Island Light under sunny skies and a light wind.”
Betts depicts Bowdoin, another vintage vessel now used as an educational venue, approaching Cuckolds Light, Alert rounding Damariscove Island, Eastwind passing Ram Island Light, American Eagle sailing off Ocean Point, Heritage passing Squirrel Island and Lazy Jack here in the harbor.
All seven paintings are included in Betts’ current exhibition at the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library as its Artist of the Month through June 29. Each sells for $600 with 20 percent to be donated to the Friends of Windjammer Days in support of the festival. The 6 by 8-inch paintings will be framed and can be purchased directly from Betts at 207-318-3282 or email@example.com.
Mark Gimbel, of Friends of Windjammer Days, said everyone in the organization were thrilled to hear of Betts' idea.
“We love that artists are inspired by the beauty of the Windjammers that attend our festival,” Gimbel said. “We also thank Brad for his generosity in making a contribution to our nonprofit organization.”
Betts’ inspiration to create these colorful paintings didn't begin and end with the vessels; he is a fan of the festival that brings them to the region.
“We're fortunate that members of our community rallied together to form the Friends of Windjammer Days to keep this great tradition alive,” Betts said. “I felt inspired to do something to help and hope it raises awareness of our fascinating maritime heritage.”