Russ KramerOne of the world’s finest marine artists, Russ Kramer creates paintings of great moments in yachting history that provide a remarkable sense of “being there.” From America vanquishing the Brits in 1851 to Finisterre in a stormy Gulf Stream over a century later, you can almost feel the spray on your face.

“I grew up on Long Island until my early teens, then Tampa Bay,” says Russ. “I remember sailing in summer camp on the Sound, but most of my experience came afterward. I had a 9-foot Catyak, which I would lash trampoline-down to the top of my Fiat X1/9 and head to the beach for a sail. One day, I got too tired (lazy) and left it overnight. Of course, it was gone the next day. I hope whoever stole it had as much fun as I did…that little boat could fly.”

“Long before I was painting myself, I collected prints by my two favorite artists – Carl G. Evers and Thomas Hoyne. Evers’ technical skill has never been matched, and Hoyne’s figurative work inspired me to paint the human experience of being at sea, not just the vessels. Since my teens I have been a working artist, but in commercial illustration, newspapers and the ad agency business. I did my very first gallery painting at 42, sixteen years ago.”

“I’ve done all the America’s Cup races up to the 12 Metres, and a couple of those too. Being on some rough deliveries in the Gulf Stream inspired me to do several early Bermuda racers as well. I like to draw the viewer in with a strong human element; my large studio works usually combine historic, narrative and figurative ingredients. Often I will have an idea for a dynamic composition, and do a simple thumbnail sketch. Then I’ll find a race or a classic yacht that will lend itself to my vision for the finished work. Though the works are exhaustively researched and planned in advance, I then try to paint quickly and with expressive brushwork; overly technical paintings can lack a certain spirit. There’s a big difference between a picture and a work of art.”

“Nowadays there is much accessible research on the internet for my subject matter, including turn-of-the-century newspaper articles and old issues of Rudder and Yachting. Mystic Seaport Museum, MIT, the Herreshoff Marine Museum and the New York Yacht Club libraries are tremendous wells of inspiration for me. I often build simple paper and board models from plans of the vessels, and dress and pose friends to stand in for crew. The process of development is as much fun as finishing and selling the painting.”

“I showed my first painting at the Mystic International Marine Art Exhibition in 2002, and the Maritime Art Gallery at Mystic Seaport Museum and their patrons have been great supporters of my career ever since. I live right across the river from the Seaport, and my family and I have become happily woven into the community. Russell Jinishian has sold many of my works over the years through his gallery in Fairfield, CT. He’s the nation’s number one dealer in marine art, in my opinion, and a great guy too. Roger King in Newport, RI has also placed a few of my recent works and I’m grateful of my association with his gallery.”

“I am honored to have had a one-man show at the Mystic Museum of Art recently. I borrowed back over a dozen original works, and included several sketches and models. It was a thrill to see them again all together. Of course, my studio and gallery at 48 West Main Street in Mystic is always open, and I welcome folks to come in and see what I’m working on. I’m currently finishing up a small commission of a small boat, and will be moving next to a large commission of a large boat. Of course, the families are always depicted, and the collaborative process of commissions is most enjoyable for both me and the client.”

“My wife Laura and son Jack (14) and I enjoy being on the water, and in Mystic there are myriad opportunities without us needing our own boat. Back in the day I lived aboard my 48-foot Hatteras for a few years. That was a great lifestyle then, but life is full of different chapters. Currently my vessel ownership is limited to the paddle-powered variety, as saving for Jack’s college doesn’t square with my big boat dreams at this stage in life. But I would wish for nothing else right now. Jack loves the summer programs at New England Science & Sailing, and sailed Optis well. This year, he’s into surfing and windsurfing. Laura and I like to take the tandem kayak leisurely up and down the river, or head out into Fishers Island Sound on friends’ boats. Abbott’s is a good spot to tie up and throw down some lobbies!”

“Doing what I do, I am fortunate to have met and shared adventures with wonderful folks with all kinds of boats, large and small. I’ve done deliveries to and from Bermuda, Charleston to Newport, the Maine Coast and Caribbean. I love being out in the Gulf Stream studying the weather and waves, and taking lots of pictures. Remember, the bigger the boat, the smaller the waves!”

For aspiring young artists, Russ advises, “You must learn to draw well; it is the foundation of any good painting. But more importantly, you must learn to SEE. That’s difficult to teach someone; it comes from within. Observe carefully the great paintings by great artists, and learn from them. Begin to see the world as perpetual inspiration. Even the mundane scene can become compelling if you see it the right way. That can be magic.”