Artists’ Studios | Craig Pursley


Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Meg McGovern Hamilton

Craig Pursley in his studio in Bath, NH

Craig Pursley in his studio in Bath, NH

This story was featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Describe your studio. The studio was completed last October. For me the studio is all about history—local and personal. There are two beams on the ceiling that were hand-hewn in 1778. The huge trees that produced them were just seedlings about the time that da Vinci was born. The knee wall in the studio is made of discarded wood from the oldest covered bridge in America, built in 1827, and the old carved initials are still there. I also have a sign from 1832 that came from another bridge located just 100 yards from my studio, and I have an old ceramic doorknob that came from the room where my mom was born. I have a light fixture that is a combination of a broken buggy wheel, a small yoke, and a kerosene lantern. There’s also a Revolutionary War jacket and several military hats and helmets going back a hundred years that I found at antique stores and auctions.

What elements were important to you in designing your studio? North light and the inclusion of historical elements.

Describe the surrounding environment. I look out on the beautiful Ammonoosuc River Valley, with an old barn just up the dirt road. In the spring, we get a huge variety of gorgeous songbirds that fly to the feeders on the deck of my studio. And there are bald eagles, osprey, hawks, geese, and ducks overhead. From the studio, I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, foxes, and even an otter. I haven’t seen a bear yet, but there’s been one on the property several times.

How does the surrounding environment influence your work? I’ve lived in some beautiful places, but nothing compares to the inspiration of rural New England. In the summer we can have threatening thunderheads or cumulus clouds tumbling through and a sky bluer than any I’ve seen anywhere else. The hills are full of maple and cherry trees that can look like they’re on fire in the fall. Some winter mornings and evenings the snow looks electric blue. Then spring brings a million lush greens as the landscape explodes back to life to the chorus of songbirds. Out front there is a great hay meadow and a river winding around it. Beyond that is a calendar-perfect shot, a quintessential New England village with a covered bridge, an old church with a tall steeple, and the oldest general store in America. Who wouldn’t be inspired?

What inspires you to paint something? It’s all about light. It can be crystal clear or fog-shrouded and mysterious. But I am especially fond of the extra color of early morning and late afternoon.

Craig Pursley's studio in Bath, NH

Craig Pursley’s studio in Bath, NH

What artists have influenced you? Andrew and N.C. Wyeth, John Singer Sargent, Adolphe William Bouguereau, Jeremy Lipking, Scott Burdick, and Maxfield Parrish, who lived not far from here.

Do you listen to music while you work? Constantly. I play anything from big band to classic rock to blues but mostly movie soundtracks. For the last four months I have been very inspired by the film scores of Mark McKenzie, who, though maybe not as well-known as some others, I believe to be the best at emotional, visual, and melodic scores. In February I will be having a unique show of my paintings at Tirage Art Gallery in Pasadena, CA—nearly all of the 30 or so paintings have been inspired by Mark’s film scores. People will be able to hear the music that inspired each piece. And Mark will be there playing his music. He just finished a project with Paul McCartney, and he did the orchestration for movies like Dances With Wolves. So we’re calling it a two-man show—my paintings and his music.

If your studio were on fire, what one thing would you save? I have a 1778 flintlock musket that was used by French troops in the American Revolution. It is not in pristine condition, and the barrel was cut down to shorten it, so its monetary value is less than any painting I have in the studio. But I can repaint those. The musket is not replaceable.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not painting? I am so lucky to have a great and very supportive wife, and I love our waterfall hikes, film outings, or even just playing cards or games together.

What is one place people will never find you? On the face of a United States silver dollar. I might get to be on a nickel or a quarter someday but never a silver dollar.

Tirage Art Gallery, Pasadena, CA; American Heritage Gallery of Art, Bath, NH; Art 3 Gallery, Manchester, NH; The Banks Gallery, New London, NH; Rich Timmons Studio & Gallery, Doylestown, PA.

Featured in the November 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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