East Boothbay painter Brad Betts’ love for the Maine coast is apparent when one visits Down East Gallery in Edgecomb, which occupies two large buildings on Route 27 – a two-story farmhouse and a recently rejuvenated 1904 post-and-beam barn. The gallery is co-owned by Betts and his wife, Danielle.
In the farmhouse gallery, on both floors, are numerous paintings by Betts featuring sailboats with bright sails, sparkling water, and skies dressed up with puffy, dramatic Maine-style clouds.
“Clouds over the Kennebunk,” for instance, is a 30-by-40-inch oil painting offering sails, water, and clouds in all their Maine-evoking glory. The clouds, which Betts excels at, are particularly striking.
“Fair Winds and Following Seas” focuses on a boat sailing on pleasantly cooperative blue water. Framing the boat, and serving as a backdrop for the boat’s sails, is a beautiful pink-and-white burst of fluffy clouds. The sails’ pastel colors nicely echo the colors of the clouds and the blue sky.
“Fishing in the Ice” – largely painted in shades of blue – features two sailboats traveling on a cloudy day in still water between several small icebergs, a mountainous backdrop behind them. Notable in this piece besides Betts’ effective way of having the sails catch the sunlight is that he has chosen to use great detail in depicting the sails while choosing to use broad, more impressionistic strokes in painting the water. This move serves to call attention to the beauty of the boats while at the same time giving one the impression of a vast, icy body of water. (“Fishing in the Ice” is part of Betts’ “Historic Maritime” grouping of paintings; see more at downeastgallery.com/historic-maritime.)
Hanging above “Fishing in the Ice” is “Summer Light,” yet another eye-catching oil depicting boats sailing on sparkling water. Once again, the painting’s spectacular clouds function as a sort of main character in the piece.
Notable in all of Betts’ depictions of clouds is the expert way he captures the sunlight shining through, behind, and on them.
Next door to the farmhouse gallery is the barn gallery, which features a recently installed stage for music and other events and is where one can find more of Betts’ fantastic clouds. In this gallery, Betts’ paintings are plein air pieces from his travels, many of scenic locales other than Maine, such as France; Italy; Sedona, Ariz.; and California’s Joshua Tree National Park.
“Joshua Tree” offers a daytime desert scene. The top half of the painting is filled with clouds and sky, the light from the sun creating a bright-white line outlining the cloud’s round edges.
Next to “Joshua Tree” hangs “Sunflowers – Edgecomb, Maine.” The clouds in this piece are stunning. Though there is a building in the piece, it decidedly takes a back seat to the field of yellow sunflowers in the foreground and the explosion of glorious, white, sunlit clouds that rise from the horizon against a brilliant blue sky, almost like smoke billowing intensely from a large wildfire.
Sprinkled throughout both gallery buildings alongside Betts’ work are sculptural works by such talented artists as Susan Bennett, Sam Betts, Mike Lewis, and John Bowdren. Bennett, a former Bath Iron Works employee, for example, offers metalwork that is both rugged and sophisticated at the same time, and Lewis’ wood carvings of sea creatures are downright entertaining and whimsical.
Look for Priscilla May Alden’s brightly colored handwoven tapestry pieces, almost reminiscent of the American Southwest. “Seascape I,” for one, is a largely red, orange, blue, and teal abstract wall hanging featuring what appear to be a happily sauntering starfish and several spirals suggesting sea snails.
Hancock’s Gull Rock Pottery and textile artist Jess Wrobel weigh in with finely made coastal-themed pottery and pillows, respectively.
Down East Gallery is offering a holiday special through Tuesday, Dec. 31, when select paintings, tapestries, and sculptures are 20% off and Gabriel Greenlaw glassware is 50% off. Shop at downeastgallery.com or call Betts at 318-3282 for more information and/or to schedule a visit to the gallery.
Down East Gallery is located at 146 Boothbay Road, Edgecomb. Follow the gallery on Instagram. Sign up for the gallery’s mailing list at downeastgallery.com/contact to learn about upcoming events in 2020, including the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, art openings, and concerts.