A career fashioned around a passion for designing and painting yachts

Chuck Paine in his studio

Tenants Harbor artist Chuck Paine and his twin brother, Art, began a competition to “out-paint” each other when they were only five years old. Over sixty-five years later, they both have mastered painting dynamic marine scenes that often depict sailing vessels on challenging seas.

Raised by their mother and grandparents on Jamestown Island in Narragansett Bay, the boys developed a close relationship to the ocean and the vessels that sailed upon it. The family provided art supplies to the boys at age five, when that ferocious competition between them began. The direction of their work also took hold around that time when their grandfather, a caretaker for many summer homes on the island, took the boys to see an enormous seascape painting by William Trost Richards which hung in one of the vacant mansions. Awestruck, Chuck Paine instantly knew the subject he wanted to paint. Trips to boat yards on the island also sparked his desire to design yachts.

Moving to the mainland at Warwick, Rhode Island to attend a public school with a robust art curriculum, the Paine brothers received a top-notch education. They were among the very few selected by their art teacher to attend the Rhode Island School of Design on Saturdays. This experience introduced the brothers to other forms of art and subject matter that enhanced their artistry.

After high school, Chuck Paine was awarded a full scholarship to Brown University to study mechanical engineering. He wanted not only to paint pictures of yachts, but design them as well. While there, he also took art classes and never stopped painting and drawing.

With a college degree in hand, Paine entered the Peace Corps in 1969 for a two-year stint in Afghanistan and Iran, where he picked up some experience in computer programming. By the time he returned stateside in 1971 he was qualified to become a yacht draftsman and worked for Dick Carter in Nahant, Massachusetts for a couple of years. But fate intervened when Paine met Deborah Wheelock, his future wife, and he left the firm. The couple traveled to Iran, Afghanistan, India and other regions he’d come to love from his time in the Peace Corps.

Returning to America, Paine found work as a carpenter until he earned enough money to open his own firm designing yachts. In 1974 he established C.W. Paine Yacht Design, LLC, in a rental apartment in Tenants Harbor. Four years later the firm moved to Camden. Notably, Paine’s company designed 16 sailboats for Morris Yachts in Northeast Harbor and also won bids for many multi-million dollar yacht designs. However, dedication to engineering yachts led him to neglect his passion for painting. Recognizing this problem, his wife encouraged him to pick up the brush again in 1999. Although creating art was secondary to running his firm, Paine’s ambition to gain mastery in oil painting required hiring instructors such as Barbara Applegate and Cynthia Hyde. “I look at myself as a student,” remarks Paine. “My goal is always to improve as an artist.”

Retired from his company in 2008 (although he still designs yachts part-time) Paine is now a full-time artist drawing inspiration from his surroundings, both on land and sea. “I keep coming back to the marine subject because it’s such a challenge—and to compete with my brother who is a superb artist,” he explains with a wink. An adherent to classical techniques and materials, Paine begins by creating a grisaille on prepared canvas. A grisaille is an underpainting rendered in neutral colors to establish the forms and values of the final composition. The overpainting is rendered with oil paints applied with great detail for a realistic depiction. However, Paine strives to “loosen-up” his work to create “the happy accidents. The times that you let yourself go and something wonderful happens,” he explains.

Paine and Wheelock have lived in Tenants Harbor since 1976, having served our community in many volunteer positions over the decades. Paine’s spacious studio is found on the second floor of the barn attached to his home where many of his dynamic paintings grace the walls. Paine’s work may be viewed at www.painefineart.com.—Katharine Cartwright


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