Chatham is a quaint seaside fishing and tourist village
on Cape Cod, Massachusetts that is home to a bucolic downtown, restaurants, historic
inns, and numerous bed and breakfasts. Chatham is bordered by Nantucket
Sound to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Pleasant Bay to the
north. Wildlife abounds and changes seasonally. It is not unusual
for me to see humpback whales, right whales, minke whales, grey seals, harbor
seals, harp seals, coyotes, snowy owls, and all types of migrating birds and
waterfowl. Fishermen and boaters also see orca, tuna, and great white
Like the early settlers to Cape Cod I'm an explorer at
heart. I enjoy beach combing, sunrises and sunsets, and finding hidden
paths to the ocean. My photography is all handheld, I rarely use a
tripod, I take my photos on my daily explorations. Out of college I was a
police officer and was trained in firearms. I use the same techniques I
was taught to shoot a gun to hold my camera steady. It is rare my daily
walks are less than five miles, my longest in fact that you’ll read about soon was
Chatham also has gorgeous sandy beaches and three
magnificent lighthouses. The most popular lighthouse is Chatham Coast
Guard Station where the US Coast Guard still operates Chatham Lighthouse and a lifesaving
station. Chatham Light overlooks an expansive beach which of course is
known as Lighthouse Beach. Seven miles to the south of Chatham Light is
Monomoy Point Light on South Monomoy Island. Monomoy Point is an iron
lighthouse that is painted red but is the most lesser known because the island
is federally protected and a boat is needed to reach it. About four miles
from Chatham's downtown is Stage Harbor Light which is located on Nantucket
Sound at Harding's Beach. Stage Harbor Light is Cape Cod's newest
lighthouse having been built in 1888 but was decommissioned in 1933. The
walk to Stage Harbor Light is incredible regardless of the season.
The natural light in Chatham is known as a photographer's
dream. I often make educated guesses regarding where the best light will
be on at a particular time of day. The fishing boats, lighthouses,
beaches, and wildlife all combine to make my photography naturally
My journey to Chatham and to photography is filled with
coincidences. After leaving police work
in 1989 I went into sales. Most of my
vacations were trips I won from my company, places like Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico,
Bermuda, England, Banff, Aruba, the Caribbean islands, and cruises. Although I lived in Central Massachusetts, I
rarely went to Cape Cod except on bike rides.
I led a bike group in my town that would participate in charity bike
rides that started in Boston and went to Provincetown, the tip of Cape Cod. While training my biking partners would talk
about Chatham, Chatham Bars Inn, and the Wequassett Inn. They would always laugh because I didn’t have
any idea where any of those places were.
In 2014 my wife was incredibly stressed from her job and
I had a minor melt down. I told her we
were taking a vacation and she was putting down the computer. She asked where we were going, I told her
Chatham, she asked where that was, I told her Cape Cod. She asked where we were going to stay, I told
her I would find a place. I found a home
on-line and in August we went to Chatham for a week. On the first night of our stay there was
storm and the home’s yard was a mess. I cleaned
up branches, sticks, and debris and put them in a pile in front of the
house. The following day the owner came
by and asked who cleaned the yard. I
told her I was taking care of her house as if it were mine. She was thrilled and offered me a free
weekend in the Fall. The rest of our
stay was uneventful except we both thought Chatham was charming and the type of
place we would like to retire to, the type of place our kids would want to
On the first night of our Fall stay we went to dinner at
one of the local restaurants. While
eating I saw a woman I thought was one of my wife’s work friends from a previous
job and pointed her out. They looked at
each other and started screaming, “What are you doing here, what are you doing
here!” My wife’s friend said they had
just bought a house here and we should too!
My reaction was “NOOO! I don’t
want a house on Cape Cod!” My wife’s
friend’s husband happened to be our mortgage broker. Unbeknownst to me, after leaving the Cape my
wife contacted our mortgage broker and got us preapproved for a vacation
home. My wife booked us a room at
Chatham Bars Inn for the week after Christmas and our mortgage broker set us up
with a realtor. My wife broke the news we
were going house hunting while at Chatham Bars Inn.
We looked at 13 houses.
The second home we saw was under construction and my wife, against my
protests, bought it. The house was under
construction, the process was exciting but not without pitfalls. When the home was finished we began spending
weekends. I fell for Chatham and the new
home very quickly. It didn’t take long
before I was depressed leaving. Off Cape
I was working from home so I’d stay extra days and my wife’s job was taking her
out of town for two weeks a month. I started
staying those two weeks too. Ultimately,
I stopped going back and my wife would come to Chatham for the weekends she was
I continued biking through this adventure. When I moved to Chatham I was cycling about
200 to 250 miles a week. One of my new routes
was from Chatham to the Cape Cod Canal.
The round trip was 80 miles. On
July 3, 2015 while biking back to Chatham from the Canal I wasn’t paying
attention while going down a hill on Route 6A in Cotuit. I hit a pothole, my chin hit my handlebars,
and I was knocked unconscious. When I awoke
a woman was taking my pulse. I was okay
but my bike was unrideable, my body was battered, and my ego was bruised. The next day I took a walk in Chatham. I walked 15 miles. My walks continued on a daily basis but I was
going slow and noticing the beauty. I
started taking photos.
Not too long after starting my photo taking journeys I
had a lot of images and didn’t want to delete them so I started an Instagram account. My kids were initially embarrassed by my jump
to the internet but it wasn’t long before I was getting compliments and their
friends were following me. As the years
passed I progressed in my photography and many of my followers asked me to open
a studio, I was uninterested. One of my
followers owned a retail shop in Chatham.
Chatham, pre-Covid, had a Summer event every Monday night called “Monday’s
on Main” where bands were spread out in the center of town. On July 4, 2019 one of the shop owners asked
if I’d do a pop-up shop outside her shop on July 28th. I didn’t have any pictures printed or framed
nor did I have a way to display them. I
told her I would do the pop-up shop and in three weeks I figured it out. I did “Monday’s on Main” three times and sold
$3000.00 worth of photos. Shortly thereafter retail space opened next door to
the shop I had been displaying outside of.
I took it, quit my job, and on November 22, 2019, “The Colors of Chatham”
opened its doors.
Welcome to my journey!
My earliest recollection of drawing began as far back as I can
remember with a box of crayons, a coloring book, and my
imagination. I continued exploring different mediums; from
charcoal drawings to painting backyard landscapes.
I took a break after high school and studied classical piano at
“The School of Contemporary Music,” in Boston. Shortly
after attending, I transferred to privately study under
Madame Charloff’s group of musicians and Mr. Serge Conus. It
wasn’t until my family and I purchased a second home in
Chatham that my love of drawing began to emerge. Once
settled in, my husband would always ask if we could pack up
and spend the day at the beach. I always said “What am I going
to do at the beach?” One day he said, “Why don’t you draw?”
I took his advice and joined a pastel class offered at my local
public library. Pastels were an easy medium to set up and travel
with, this is how my pastel journey began. I joined art clubs,
attended art classes, read pastel books, entered exhibitions, and
began selling my artwork.
What I like most about pastels are the luscious vibrant colors,
the spontaneous approach it offers, and the beautiful shimmering
reflection of light it delivers upon one's surface.
I continuously explore and photograph the ins and outs of
Chatham and the surrounding areas. This tranquil picturesque
place is my inspiration, along with the sounds of classical or jazz
music, which is a constant in my studio.
I am drawn to the calming effect of a boat's reflection in still
water or the soothing rhythmic movements of the sea. Art allows
me to express a semblance of peace which nature presents to
us everyday in the powerful stillness of a moment.
My studio is located behind Carmine’s Pizza in downtown
Chatham. In the warmer months I open my studio doors, paint
outside, and welcome all who visit. My open doors are how I met Barry Desilets and became part of The Colors of Chatham.
John’s love affair with painting began 50 years ago when he
began creating paintings of 19th century ships. These were vessels of all
sizes and purposes; wonderful clipper ships, sleek yachts, and pilot schooners,
as well as alongshore small boats of no great historical import and so small
that few people in their time believed worth recording them. As the years passed
John widened his artistic horizon and produced paintings that cover a range of
subject matter that include dog portraits, paintings of his children, landscape
views, wildlife scenes, liquor bottle labels. bas relief carvings, and
wooden-bodied antique station wagons.
John’s preferred medium is watercolor, but he’s used
pastels, oils, acrylics, crayons, colored pencils, and once smoked-down
cigarette ends to do a bar room portrait. Surfaces dimension of these paintings
has ranged from large murals to 2X3” miniature watercolors. Among the surfaces John
has painted on, other than watercolor paper and canvas, have been ceramic
tiles, hen eggs, wooden goose eggs, the shells of sea scallops, sea clams and
oysters, tabletops, the tops of antique wood boxes and the wood carvings done he
John’s paintings tell stories rather than offer views, and
he continually strives to be the narrative painter that his hero Winslow Homer
was. If you look closely, and use your imagination, you might see the work of
19th century American luminist school of painters such as Martin Johnson Heade,
A.T.Bricher, John F. Kensett and other masters of that period.
From 1975 until 2010 John, his wife, two daughters and a
series of black labs lived in a home on the shore of Juniper Cove in Salem,
Massachusetts. John’s studio was next door, a restored fisherman’s shack on the
water’s edge. What a spot to live and work! In 2010 John, his wife, and the
current dogs moved to the family homestead in Chatham on Cape Cod where he has
continued his artistic endeavors.
In 2015 John sailed into
uncharted waters when he began to write and illustrate the first of three books
for children. The books are about an adventuresome young field mouse named
Bertie and his friends. View them and a small sampling of my paintings at www.bertiesadventures.com.
My art business has been designated as a "Trusted Art Seller" with The Art Storefronts Organization, which means you can shop with confidence, and know that I stand behind the quality and value of my products.