Original article seen in Vol. 22, Issue 4 of The Abaconian newspaper published March 1st 2014, pg. 15
Green Turtle Cay had a new face that became quite familiar recently. Usually found with his easel propped opposite his muse – one of the cay’s street views, homes or beaches, Rett Sturman has created a growing collection of oil-painted scenes like the Albert Lowe Museum he’s recently completed.
After a Google search for beautiful places in the Caribbean, Rett Sturman fell in love with the array of turquoises that New Plymouth’s harbour had to offer. Hailing from Vermont, which is currently experiencing -20 degree weather, he sought refuge on the 3-mile-long island for the past 8 weeks.
Rett, 67, studied for his Masters in Architecture in the 70s at the University of Pennsylvania. There, he realised that he wanted to paint. After “starving for a number of years,” he spent a lot of his time visiting some of his old teachers with his progress and they’d in turn offer their criticism.
One in particular would ask, “Are you feeling strong?” before laying the blows. “But,” he said laughing, “there was some good criticism there and a lot of the time, there would be a little pearl to take home.” So, the then 20-something-year-old wouldn’t be too discouraged. “I felt pumped up and I’ve been doing it for 40 years. It’s taken a lot of practice.”
When home, Rett has someone who takes his soft canvas sheets and makes them into giclee prints, a process of printing paintings via an inkjet printer, which he jokes “makes them look nicer than the actual paintings!”
His work (which in the past has ranged in price from a few thousand to sometimes $25,000 depending on the subject) has been sold in galleries, but after so many years, he began feeling pigeon-holed. “I just burned out.”
Stepping away from the ‘factory-line’ style of working and attracted by the unmodern, loyalist homes of Green Turtle, it’s provided a calm and warm environment to do some of his work that’s “not like anything else [he’s] really done before” and he’s “really having fun.”
Rett has no aims to make a living off of these landscaped canvas prints of predominantly the homes in New Plymouth, he spoke of keeping them and some of his other work in a “treasure trunk” styled file for his 24-year-old son, Evan, to come across.
It’s a beautiful idea that would allow his son to stand in his shoes while taking in the lighting, the people and the surroundings of a paradise unlike anywhere else. He explained how nice it was to have people chatting to him rather than the empty silence of a studio, admiring his work (only a distraction when he’s trying to get the lighting just right). Some of his favourite moments on the Cay include what some of the island people have said.
For example, a quote from one local: “You could’ve built that house by now!”
The capture of the Albert Lowe Museum has taken him about 2 weeks to complete. His cross-handed style of painting professes someone who wants a reassured, steady hand to follow the imperfect lines of the homes. His architectural background brought distaste for the use of rulers to produce lifeless straight lines. “I like to follow the hand of the painter.”
Our ‘artist in residence’ was here painting the different scenes of GTC (from one end to the other) until the 25th of February. His oil paintings, all dried on the self-cut sheets of rollable canvas have travelled in a hard case back to the US. His overall experience on Green Turtle Cay “has been heavenly…it really has. And I’ll be back next year – very happily so.”
View some of Rett’s work here.
All photos were taken by Kelsi Farrington