Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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September 6, 2017








Thanks to Tabor at One Day at a Time for allowing me to use her photograph as inspiration for my painting. I’ve been busy the past few months, and this will be my eleventh canvas this summer. I haven’t posted pictures of all of them but perhaps I will when this one is completed.




 Blank Canvas


I purchased a canvas 36 by 36 inches ( I don’t think I’ve ever painted on a square surface before) and sketched the main characters in the composition. I usually do this in burnt umber, which works well with later colors. Usually, I start painting the main character, which in this instance is the Jewish man watching the chess players. Just to be different, I began with the massive tree trunk, which I thought would provide a challenge. I don’t think it’s going to give me as much trouble as I thought, although I’ve only sketched in the bark and will add texture later with a palette knife. You might recall that I toned the canvas for The Guitar Player yellow because I wanted to end up with golden tones, but this time I left the canvas white, like the Impressionists, so my colors would look brighter and more natural.



The main characters are sketched in. The Jewish man looks more squat than I want and I’ll correct that at a later date. I elevated the head of the Jewish man and added definition to the shopping bag he’s holding. He looks less squat but there’s still a few corrections that need to be made to tweak the composition.



I’ve been spending so much time painting portraits that it’s refreshing to paint figures that don’t require a struggle over a likeness, although that little boy is starting to look an awful lot like CJ when he was a boy.



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CJ might appreciate that. It's really coming together. That's a fascinating character photo.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on September 6, 2017
I've often wondered if (when people have children) they look at other children and pick out things about them that remind them of their own kids. You're not the first one I've noticed who has pointed out similarities between one child and another in some fit of whimsy. I suppose that all of us from time to time are longing for a connection to the greater ocean that is the human race.
By: Michael Offutt on September 6, 2017
Pretty soon you will need to have an Open Studio exhibit!
By: Kathe W. on September 6, 2017
I like this topic a lot, I think I mentioned I often watched similar matches in the park across from my old office. I always thought it interesting how chess united people of all ages and cultures to a common bond.
By: cranky on September 6, 2017
It's really neat how you're showing the process. Maybe you should get your own PBS series.
By: PT Dilloway on September 6, 2017
I am so glad you got the go ahead on that photo. I love it. Can't wait to see the finished product but love how you take us through the process. I think PT Dilloway has a great idea. I'd sure watch.
By: Arkansas Patti on September 6, 2017
I once painted an old woman who turned out looking like my grandmother & another time I did a young girl who looked a lot like my daughter. I think you paint what you know!!
By: fishducky on September 6, 2017
I love watching the process of your paintings!
By: The Bug on September 6, 2017
This is going to be nice Stephen, I like what you are doing here.
By: Jimmy on September 6, 2017
You are so talented, Stephen. I, too, enjoy watching the development of your paintings.
By: Catalyst on September 6, 2017
It's already amazing to me!
By: messymimi on September 6, 2017
You're able to bring more life to a blank canvas than a photograph brings life to it's surface. Very nice.
By: Robyn Engel on September 6, 2017
I fascinating for this non art type to hear how you make certain things by color.
By: red Kline on September 6, 2017
This is looking really great! I love to see how you create the painting first with using burnt umber and how you change a few things u til you like it.
By: Birgit on September 6, 2017
Thanks for letting us see how the magic happens!
By: Val on September 6, 2017
What fun. You chose a great photo as inspiration.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 7, 2017
A wonderful photo to use as a study. It is fascinating to see your painting reveal itself, or should I say, to see you create that reality.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 7, 2017
That's progressing well. It's fascinating to see progress shots like this and see the process you follow as the work unfolds.
By: Botanist on September 7, 2017
You certainly are very talented.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 7, 2017
I find it fascinating how you create a painting and that you show us the process of it all!
By: Pixel Peeper on September 9, 2017
Like everyone else, I'm enjoying seeing your process. Eleven canvases sounds like a lot to me, considering all the work that each one takes.
By: jenny_o on September 11, 2017
As so many before me have already mentioned. I too share their interest in how you break down the process and provide insight as to how you see it evolve.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 13, 2017

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