Every painting has a story, and this one is no exception.
One day a couple of weeks ago, an ad from The Reader’s Digest arrived in the mail. Usually I just toss every piece of unsolicited “junk” mail right into the recycle bin without reading it, but the gorgeous landscape photo on the cover of this one caught my eye, and I opened the folded ad to see what else was inside. I’m glad I did- I saw some beautiful contest- winning photographs taken by readers from around the country.
One particular image entitled Oquaga Lake stopped me in my tracks- a gorgeous wooden rowboat on a quiet lake in Upstate New York. The light was early-morning soft, the waters still, and mist wreathes the trees on the opposite shore. The colors are subtle and quiet. The symmetry of the composition gives it a sense of serenity and peace. It’s a place I want to be. Idyllic, but real. An escape from the noise and turmoil of the world.
And, I love wooden boats. There is an elegance and beauty to their lines that always appeals to me. Here in Port Orchard, Washington, there is an annual Wooden Boat Festival. Most of the boats that participate are yachts, houseboats, and sailboats, from around the 1920s on, but there are sometimes a few rowboats present, too.
I often use photographic references for my paintings, and usually take the pictures myself. Using another photographer’s image makes the painter’s version a derivation of the original. Every photographer owns the right to their own image, unless they intentionally release them, give permission for their use, or sell them. Derivative works are not usually allowed in public art shows. I don’t care about that at all- I only paint what appeals to me. That’s the sole impetus.
Because I usually post my finished paintings on my own website, here on Oursalon and on FB, I wanted to make sure to do things the right way, so I set about seeing if I could find the photographer and ask her for permission to use her photo.
It wasn’t hard to find her- I had her name and the place she took the picture- Google sent me right to her. I saw that Tracy Maines is involved in a local charity in her community called The Food Bank of the Southern Tier, based in Elmira, New York. In order to raise money for the food bank, Tracy has written a cookbook called My Cottage Kitchen Cookbook that includes many of her beautiful photographs and terrific recipes. Proceeds from the sale of the cookbooks go to the food bank.
Well, I wrote an email to her telling her how much I loved her photograph and expressing my desire to make a painting from it. I included links to my website so she could get an idea of my style.
I got a nice note back from her. She was very supportive of the idea, and gave me permission to go forward. She retains full rights to her photograph. She had a very creative suggestion re: compensation, and asked if I would be willing to purchase a copy of her cookbook - and naturally I readily agreed.
We’ve been writing back and forth since then, and have developed a nice relationship. Tracy was kind enough to send me a high-resolution copy of her image that made it much easier for me to work from. She also gave me some history on the Whitehall rowboat. The original Whitehall rowboats were made to ferry goods and passengers out of Whitehall Street to and from the larger ships in New York Harbor. Hers is a newer replica of that type of boat, built by an 80 year old shipwright in Maine. It took him three years!
In contrast, the painting only took 4 days, about 20 hours, from beginning to end.
I asked Tracy if her rowboat had a name, and she replied that they call her, simply, The Whitehall.
The title of my painting is simple, too.
Whitehall Rowboat, Upstate New York (2017) Painting by Rose Guastella, oils on canvas; 18” x 24”
from a photograph by Tracy Maines, used with permission of the photographer
It occurred to me that when I posted the image of my painting, I would include a bit of this story, and let folks know about the food pantry and the cookbook Tracy has written, in hopes that some might be inspired to contribute to her very worthy cause. Her goal is to raise between $25,000.00 and $30,000.00 and as of this writing, she’s halfway there.
Here are a few links that might be of interest:
The Reader’s Digest photo contest images, including Oquaga Lake by Tracy Maines.
The website for Tracy Maines cookbook (My Cottage Kitchen Cookbook)
The Wikipedia article on Whitehall rowboats