Just A Minute Mr. Disney – Let’s Take A Look At The Art Of Peter D. Spaine!

Another South Kingstown, Rhode Island artist, a fine gentleman by the name of Peter D. Spaine, contacted me this past summer when he read about the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts in an early June issue of the RI Catholic newspaper. He invited me to his home where I met his lovely wife Marlene, and viewed his studio while discussing the goals of the Institute. We chatted about sacred iconography while I enjoyed his paintings and wood carvings.

Peter has a great studio space and it is filled with an assortment of his paintings that depict pirates, Civil War generals, cowboys, desperados, hobos, saloon hall sweeties, and characters from Moby Dick and Treasure Island.

While you will occasionally find a land or seascape, Peter is primarily concerned with portraying his fellow man and the extraordinarily different characters that humanity has produced.

Peter paints the stories that his mind develops and prods him into fleshing out in paint. He works in acrylic and occasionally in oil. He also showed me a number of pieces he created using cut pieces of colored paper to tell the story. He very generously gave me a gift of one of these paper “paintings.” I like it very much. It portrays one of my favorite characters from American literature – Captain Ahab – who with his harpoon at  the ready is staring out to sea – waiting…

Spaine has created traditional paintings of seascapes, portraits of grandchildren, and the typical scenes many of us have painted; but the idea that stands out about him is, similar to Walt Disney, he uses paint the way a writer would use ink to express the stories that pop into his imagination. An example being a series of two themes that I found to be quite exceptional in their ability to focus my eye and move me into the action of the story itself.

The first is a scene from his series entitled “Little Italy” (seen below) which captures the action, personalities, sights and sounds of that New York neighborhood with its pushcarts and fresh produce at the turn of the last century. He has a similar series that portrays the Jewish Quarter of New York in the early 19th century, and the difficulty that a Jewish matron encounters when she thinks it is safe to go out on the front stoop and secretly have a quick cigarette. Each painting is filled with details that marvelously enhance your understanding of the story.

Peter is a unique and wonderful storyteller, as with all the members of the Fra Angelico Institute, I am priviledged to call him my colleague. As a member of the Institute, he is currently working on a series about St. Francis of Assisi, one of the Institute’s patrons. I have seen some preliminary drawings and I am very impressed.

The first two images below is one of Peter’s “paper paintings” – using colored paper to create the image. It is of the Captain Ahab scene that I described above. The third and fourth images are a collection from some of the paintings in Peter’s studio that he selected to bring to our Autumn meeting.

Photos taken with the permission of Peter D. Spaine; images Copyright © 2011 Peter D. Spaine All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Deacon Paul O. Iacono All Rights Reserved