An illustration of seals from a field guide to the Gulf of Maine by Matt Messina. IMAGE COURTESY OF MATT MESSINA

Exhibit graces floating gallery

BAR HARBOR — An art exhibition aboard the Bar Harbor Whale Watch boat Friendship V is set for Thursday, June 2, from 7-9 p.m. at Harbor Place.

The show features paintings created for a new field guide for the Gulf of Maine by Matt Messina, a College of the Atlantic senior who has been working as a naturalist and chief mate aboard the college’s research and tour vessel, Osprey, for several years.

The show includes Messina’s original paintings created for the field guide in watercolor and gouache, an opaque wash sometimes used with watercolor. “It lets you pull out the white highlights,” Messina said with a grin, “so it’s kind of cheating.”

He wanted to include images and information about everything people see from a boat in the Gulf of Maine, not just animals, so he organized the guide into categories “sea,” “sky,” “life” and “people.”

The “sea” and “sky” sections include illustrations of atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena, he said. The “people” section includes types of boats and other evidence of human activity, such as lobster trap buoys.



“All the things I was struck with as a novice mariner are in there. My research included talking with local people about their experience, what kinds of questions they get the most.”

He spoke with Rosemary Seton of Allied Whale and Jay Carroll of the Maine Marine Patrol, among others, in writing the descriptions in the guide. Working with Osprey captain Toby Stephenson, who wrote a foreword to the guide, has provided a base of knowledge about life in and on the Gulf of Maine.

“Field guides are intended to help people appreciate the world around them,” he said, but few have images that match what you actually see from the deck of a boat, for example, the top of a seal’s head or the fin of an ocean sunfish. “I wanted to capture the view from the gunwales,” he said.

He also hopes his images help people think about organisms’ individuality – there’s more to notice about a plant or animal than what species it belongs to, though that’s a great start. In the painting of harbor seals in the guide, for example, he wanted to show that they look very different depending on whether their fur is wet or dry.

Messina has been drawing and painting as long as he can remember. His parents are both artists: his mother is a graphic designer, and his father is a photojournalist for the Hartford Courant. He met wildlife artist Kathy Goff, who has been a mentor, at a gallery opening when he was in high school. He also has enjoyed working with COA art Professor Catherine Clinger, he said.

Only a few copies of the “proof of concept” first edition of the field guide have been printed, Messina said. He hopes to continue to work on it and make it more widely available in the future. Prints of some of the paintings will be available at the exhibition.

Contact Zack Klyver at the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, 288-2386.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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