Sailing to Yesterday
Maritime painter Richard Loud paints scenes from another era with uncanny ease and insight
Painter Richard Loud charts a course to yesterday each day. As he paints, he breathes life into the classic maritime designs of the late 19th century. In his free time, he literally navigates his timeless 1930s 41’ John Alden-designed Yawl Volya in Buzzards Bay, the same waters the most famous yachts in history raced, cruised and adventured. Both activities are halves of a whole that sustain each other.
About his time on his boat, Loud says, “It’s a short season here in the Northeast, but even though it is a short season, you think about it all year, and it makes me happy to just think about it.” He explains how this time spent on the water influences his work on the canvas: “You have to be out there and be exposed to the whole thing—the water, the ocean, the waves, the sky, the horizon—it just refreshes you.”
Loud doesn’t work from photos for the inspiration of his work. Instead, he says, he envisions the way it was when he was in his own boat and most amazingly, Loud also extends his imagination to how it might have been for those intrepid souls that enjoyed their days on the water, long before he was ever born.
Loud’s father, Frank Loud, as well as being an artist in his own right, was considered an accomplished boat designer and builder, first at the respected Quincy Adams Yacht Yard, and on his own after the yard’s closure in the mid 1950s. It was as a 5-year-old child that Loud first explored his own artistic talents, painting beside his father as he worked on technical drawings of boats, an artistic endeavor in its own right. That familial osmosis of understanding the structure, movement and sensibility of classic watercraft is apparent in Loud’s paintings that accurately and romantically present some of the most famous boats in maritime history as they battle to win a regatta or simply cruise from port to port.
When asked about his formal education, Loud humbly says, “None. Except for my father, and except for John Stobart.” This statement illustrates Loud’s understated nature, as Stobart is arguably considered one of the preeminent maritime artists of modern times. But again, Loud’s self-deprecation does not over-emphasize Stobart’s influence as he casually mentions that Stobart was responsible for teaching him the Old Master process of underpainting, thus allowing for the warmth and luminescence achieved in his paintings. The other invaluable and transformative technique Stobart shared with Loud is to scrape the canvas with a razor blade halfway through the painting in order to perfect the plane of the painting—a subtle factor that contributes to the fine detail and internal glow, like a polished pearl, that is inherent in Loud’s work. Regardless, Loud clearly values his personal relationship with Stobart, with whom he stays closely connected.
Warm relationships amongst those who also share a love of quintessentially designed boats, sailing and the New England seacoast appear to be a recurring theme in Loud’s life, as he mentions his friend Jon Wilson, the founder and publisher of WoodenBoat magazine. “Dick is unusually gifted to my eye, and I’m married to a painter, who I obviously think is gifted. I love anyone who can capture the spirit of a place or an activity. My bias is sailing and my passion is sailing yachts. But boats and the way they move through the water, are not easy to capture in a way that is authentic. Dick does that and he has mastered it,” Wilson says effusively. He continues to say: “I used to be a boat builder before I was a publisher, and I think anyone who witnesses that skill of eye and hand recognizes the truth that a painter like Dick is able to portray in his work. And since I knew his father and had great respect for him as a person as well as the beautiful designs he created, I can only imagine that his understanding of the beauty found in boats has influenced his son’s abilities.”
To Wilson, “What the painter gets to do is to try to convey something almost four dimensional. And what I mean by that is that in a two-dimensional format like a canvas, they not only portray a three-dimensional object but also another dimension, a spiritual one. Dick has that gift. Forgive me for using fluorescent language here, but if I were trying to convey something that was both technically and spiritually right and technically and spiritually profound, it would look like one of Dick’s paintings.”
Another influential relationship is the one he shares with fellow maritime artist Laura Cooper. Both Loud and Cooper (who respectively are Fellow and Signature members of the American Society of Marine Artists) earned their time to paint by time spent in the local school system—Loud first as a science teacher then as a physical education teacher, a position he retired from in 1992 to pursue painting full-time, and Cooper in her current role as a school nurse. “We both taught in order to earn time off to paint,” Loud says. With summers off to sail on Volya, whose Russian translation literally means “freedom,” and other blocks of time like afternoons and school vacations, time spent doing what they mutually love includes hours on the water gathering inspiration or at the easel bringing it to life.
Perhaps Loud is one of those rare creatures that would have been comfortable in another time and age, or maybe he is simply a conduit between the past and the present. Regardless, his ability to imagine a bygone era of magnificent examples of yacht design—with puffy wind-filled ivory-colored sails against a backdrop of a sun-dappled bucolic coast, and carefree children playing in the dunes before their governess calls them to nap—is truly the stuff of dreams. But what is not a dream is Loud’s ability to provide an understanding of the world of sailboats, sailors and captains to those of us who gaze at the ocean’s horizon and subliminally process the images and triggers Loud provides. Without having lived in the time he portrays, and even without having ever stepped aboard, the viewer of Loud’s work is able to emotionally connect to the essence and beauty of sailing without any words or formal ideas exchanged.
Jon Wilson perhaps sums it up most succinctly: “There are many painters that are able to capture the incandescence of a scene, particularly on the water. But Dick’s work is different. Incandescence can sometimes blind us, but what matters more is that it is pure and, to my eye, profound.” At the core of that purity is the simplicity. And Richard Loud—whether influenced by inherited genes, or technique shared by masters, or fueled by a desire to break out of a regimented school day and jump aboard Volya—successfully charts a course for exploration of days gone by.
Richard Loud (maritimeartsstudio.com) is represented by Tree’s Place in Orleans and Pierce Galleries on Nantucket. This August both Loud and Cooper will be included in a new work exhibition at Tree’s.
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