‘Devyn’s Boat’ is the People’s Choice

Posted:  Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 9:45am

A young man is standing at the ship’s wheel of an old wooden boat. In front of him lie the harbor, the ocean – and far beyond, endless possibilities stretch out before him in Nathan Campbell’s painting, “Devyn’s Boat” depicting Campbell’s eldest son aboard his first vessel.

During the Boothbay Region Art Foundation’s annual ART in ME show, gallery visitors were asked to vote for their favorite work of art to determine which would be this year’s recipient of the People’s Choice award. Campbell’s painting won.

Campbell received the news – and the $500 prize donated by Knickerbocker Group – from BRAF Board President Sally Giddings Smith at Red Cup Coffeehouse Dec. 7, with June Campbell Rose and soon-to-be incoming president Mark Coates. Why Red Cup? Nathan’s brother, Dan Campbell, owns the popular, let’s have a cuppa Joe and catch up, spot in Boothbay Harbor. And, Red Cup is where the painting is, and will continue to be, exhibited.

Nathan (Nate) Campbell has been the people’s choice before, but you’d never know it, in fact, he’d be the last person to tell you so. At the informal presentation he said, “I’m surprised, honored and flattered.”

This time there’s a special significance associated with the honor - this painting is very personal.

“There’s a lot of emotion emitted from the painting that I put into it.  It’s different than others I’ve done,” Nate said. “In the way he’s looking out, the way the harbor opens out to the ocean (pauses) there’s this sense of sadness, I don’t know why … it might just be something I sense personally … I was looking at a man looking out to the future.”

That young man, a senior at Boothay Region High School, worked for local fishermen to save up the money to buy a vessel. When he found “the one,”  Devyn named it after his grandfather,  the F/V J.H. Dexter,  in the fall of 2016. It had been  out of water quite some time at a boatyard Downeast.

Nate said the boat was over on the east side at Atlantic Edge as Devyn worked on making the vessel seaworthy. That’s the location for the painting on the day Devyn was moving it from the town dock there. The idea to paint what he was watching came in a “fleeting moment,” during which he snapped several reference photos of the old wooden boat.  Through “Devyn’s Boat,” Nate has immortalized this milestone in the life of  his son who became a lobsterman this past summer with the 150 or so traps the boat was sold with.

Nate Campbell has been painting all of his life. He credits his art teachers Manon Lewis and Sarah Wilde who did “a lot of extracurricular things” to help him grow as an artist; and the innate abilities passed on through the family genes including his mother, June, his aunt, Susan Webster, and an artist named Eva Jones. Eva summered in the region and gave Nate’s aunt lessons when Susan was 14. When Nate was 12, Eva gave him a crash course on art at her place in Bayville for about two hours. 

“She explained how you transfer the way you see the universe onto the canvas – and I absorbed it all,” said Nate. “I hope I’m carrying her knowledge on well through my work.”

Red Cup Coffeehouse is at 29 Commercial St., right across from the waterfront park. Next time you stop in for a coffee (or more) be sure to spend some time with “Devyn’s Boat,” hung on the brick wall to your left as you walk in the door.