Artists Reflect the Great Maine Outdoors

It always thrills me when I find artists who can capture the best of Maine’s environment, in photographs, paintings, wooden crafts, sculpture, music, and other mediums. Two of my favorite artists are the subject of today’s column.

 Ralph Brissette of Augusta creates amazing and unique wildlife art works, most of which he sells at ridiculously low prices on E-Bay. My sister Edie Smith asked Ralph to create a special piece last Christmas for my grandsons Addison and Vishal Mellor, and that piece is pictured with this column. It will come as no surprise, as you examine the piece, from the owl at the top to the rabbit at the bottom, that this really captured the imaginations of my grandsons!

Ralph manages the front office for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) – and along with his coworker Wendy Bolduc, does a superb job of handling hundreds of visitors, calls, and emails each week. But his best talent comes out when he gets home. He’s been painting since he was in High School, starting with portraits and progressing into creating works of art on a range of items from mushrooms to walking sticks, some of which he carves himself. You’d be amazed at what he does with turkey wing bones!

Ralph told me that when he is out hunting deer or turkeys, he spends most of his time hunting for things he can paint. Former DIF&W Deputy Commissioner Paul Jacques is Ralph’s best customer  – no surprise if you’ve ever seen Paul’s massive collection of wildlife art. Ralph is currently working on a painting of Mount Katahdin on an ice saw that Paul found somewhere.

I also got a peak recently at DIF&W’s print that will be given to the department’s best volunteers next year – a beautiful painting of three brook trout going after smelts. Ralph created it and donated it to the department, a very generous act.

You may see Ralph at a craft show or discover his work on E-Bay, but you can also arrange for a special piece by contacting him at 207-622-4874 or 207-523-9238, or by email to ralphbrissette@roadrunner.com.

Stan Keach is a nationally-known bluegrass songwriter whose song, Whispering Water, was in the National Top Ten Bluegrass Singles Charts in 2009. But Stan’s greatest talent is working with young people, many of whom have found themselves and their real talent by playing for and with Stan. He’s an amazing man and someone I respect and admire enormously.

So when Stan showed up at my Mount Vernon door in a rainstorm recently, with an as-yet-unreleased new CD, I was of course all ears. The title of the new CD is Cry of the Loon. Stan sells most of his CDs at his shows, but you can contact him directly to purchase one: 207-397-2241, stanleykeach@hotmail.com.

Bear in mind that I loved his Bear in the Barn CD with the Maranacook String Band, so a new CD from that band, with more of Stan’s amazing and creative songs, was a great gift. And that’s what this CD is – a gift to Mainers.

There’s a song about my boyhood hero, Don Fendler, and another about the Brady gang, shot down in Bangor. The song Slow Down (You’ll Hit A Moose) should be played on that AM station available to tourists as they enter Maine on the turnpike.

“Now a moose’s eyes will not reflect,” sings Stan and the band.

“And that’s a fact you gotta respect

“At night, he’s just a big spot o’black

“Until he’s lyin right across your lap.”

‘Slow Down! You’ll Hit A Moose!”

The string band is really good, consisting of Julie Churchill, Lee Stetson, Zachary Greenham, Megan Dood, Dan Simons on one of my favorite instruments, the mandolin, Sam Bryant, and Stan. Guest artists on the CD are Bud Godsoe and Steve Stetson. Steve plays the guitar for Minnehonk Blues – another favorite, and not just because I live on the outlet of that lake.

But it’s Boots from L.L. Bean that may be your favorite. It’s sure to become a classic. It’s an hilarious parody of all-things-Maine.

Get a copy of Cry of the Loon CD. And yes, you’ll “get it.” You’re a Mainer.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.