Mural research at the Maine Maritime Museum

seguinYesterday I spent the day at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, doing mural research in the photo library.  It was a fascinating day looking through hundreds of vintage photographs.  This kind of research is enjoyable but is also essential for this type of mural.

I need to make sure that I am getting details historically accurate.  What does a schooner shipyard of the time look like.  What kind of jobs are going on.  All this is very important.  To the right is a nice clear photo of the tugboat the Seguin.  This tug was built in 1884 and towed schooners down the river for many decades.  I needed a clear image of its structure so I can find how to draw it for the mural.  With a clear enough series of photos I can ‘learn’ the ship and then draw it from any angle I need.

There is another aspect that, as a painter, and a story telling painter, that I find very important.

While some photos are of important events in history, a lot of the type of photos I learned from yesterday were the snapshots of the day.  Just someone with a camera.  In these I often look at the main event but I can also find out essential story telling details by looking a tiny corners of the photos.   Someone bending to pick up a tool.  A woman with a basket of bread.  Little things that take time to see and decipher but that will flesh out the daily lives of the people I am trying to portray.

While posed photos of famous people may tell me what that person looked like.  Other photos will tell me how people lived, worked and played.