Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Report-Frederick Waugh

Frederick J. Waugh-American Marine Painter by George R. Havens, University of Maine Press, 1969
 To paint the sea you must love it, and to love it, you must know the sea. -F.Waugh

Today was my expedition up the coast to stock up on supplies and sundries. It rained and hailed but I made it through just fine. Tomorrow we are supposed to get a nice winter storm and I will be snug in the studio painting.
Tonight I thought I would post a brief book report on Frederick J. Waugh-American Marine Painter. I have read other's comments on the book and it seems to me that most seem to not think much of the content and style of writing. I would be interested to know why. The book was written in 1969 and based on interviews of the son and daughter of Waugh as well as written and anecdotal information from friends and associates. The language and tone of the book is from a more formal era than that of books we read today. I rather liked it. It seemed to be in keeping with what apparently was Waugh's character.
Most of the book mainly focuses on his marine painting career which basically began when he was first married and had moved with his bride to the Isle of Sark. The book also discusses his childhood and artistic training. Frederick Waugh apparently wasn't a temperamental or "colorful" artist instead he was a well trained, hard working, and enthusiastic artist. He and his family are portrayed as loving and supportive.
I found the biography interesting and informative. It gives a pretty good idea about what it takes to be an artist of that caliber. I was surprised to see how some of the economic and political challenges he faced are similar to what many artists face today.
In between all the biographical information would be the occasional quote or observation on his working methods. The final chapter before the conclusion also contains a summary of his unpublished manuscript on his methods of painting the sea. Oh how I wish someone would unearth them if possible and print them up (preferably in an e-book!).
It sounds like he had a fantastic life and well-earned recognition during his lifetime. Here is a quote from one of my favorite passages describing his methods:
 Hour after hour, Waugh studied the complex movement of waves and foam. He learned how to concentrate his view, how to master one single detail at a time-the sudden curl of a wave, the flash of brilliant green of air-filled water where the light shines through, the rushing, variegated pattern of white spume near shore, the angry mass of surf flung high above the black rocks.*
I was also amused to find that painting the sea is still as challenging today as it was then:
 The tides rise with fearful suddenness in this region, sometimes as much as thirty or forty feet in all. Forgetting this in his absorption-or not yet having learned it perhaps in his newness to the island-Waugh was once nearly caught in his dangerous post of observation by the on-rushing water. Just in time, he managed to  scramble back hastily to the top, leaving his paint-box behind.*
The tides in my area can rise above 9 feet, which is bad enough. However, the sneaker waves here travel 50 yards quite suddenly. Have to watch for those. Thankfully I haven't had to leave my paintbox behind, yet, and hopefully never!
Frederick Waugh lived a long and productive life. I wish there was more about him as he is definitely under-appreciated. I had to return the book, which I got from the library on an inter-library loan. I would love to have this book in my collection to read and re-read for inspiration.  Alas, it is quite pricey being out of print and all. The copy I had was marked "discard". Someone had scored a good bargain and then donated it to the college library, for which I am thankful.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in painting the sea, art history, or even for just an interesting biography.
I will finish the post with a picture of the Central Oregon Coast taken as morning broke on our December drive to California. This rest stop is fantastic and the waves and swells there huge. They slosh around and make the most amazingly awesome sounds.
©2013 R.L. Delight, Rest stop on the Central Oregon Coast as morning breaks.

Oh, and need I say that the Isle of Sark is high up on my list of places to visit and paint?

 *Frederick J. Waugh, American Marine Painter, George R. Havens University of Maine Studies. No. 89., pg. 53.

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