It’s easy to get lost in a Douglas AmEnde painting. Messages on postcards, notes in sheet music, and topographic map details are among the mesmerizing elements in the Connecticut native’s one-of-a-kind artwork.
During the last three years, AmEnde has been combining his love of history with his passion for painting, incorporating pieces from his extensive antiques collection in his New England-inspired acrylic paintings. His thousands of vintage treasures range from topographic maps (some of which are 4 feet wide) to a foot-high stack of letters exchanged by members of a prominent Massachusetts family from 1929 through the 1950s. “It’s safe to say I won’t run out of stuff any time soon,” he says with a laugh.
A self-taught painter with a background in graphic arts, AmEnde says it’s not all roses when he’s creating these “cheerful” paintings. “It ends up being like a puzzle,” he says. He paints the painting itself, leaving blank spaces on the canvas where he will insert his antique pieces. AmEnde says he lets subject and color dictate what antique pieces he uses in his artwork. “The painting needs to stand out on its own,” he says. “I want the piece to embellish the painting, not the other way around.” AmEnde’s waterfront scenes often feature man-made objects that he considers iconic to Cape Cod—where he has enjoyed vacationing since he was a child—including Adirondack chairs and picket fences.
One of his favorite paintings, “Heron Moon,” depicts a great blue heron—like the one that lives in the lake behind his home in Connecticut. In the painting, the heron is set against a backdrop of marsh grass. “Every blade of grass is a piece of a map,” he says. “There are probably 70 pieces of map in there to make it look like real marsh grass.”
“It’s a meticulous process,” AmEnde says of his work, “but when it starts to take shape, I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Douglas AmEnde is represented by Chatham Fine Art, 492 Main Street, Chatham. To learn more, visit chathamart.com and amendeart.com.