I have been intrigued for some time by the large scale works by New York City based painter Scott Houston Mcbee. My eye was taken by the scale of the works, detail and perfection of his ocean liner elevations. Recently, I had the chance to interview Scott.
MC: As an introduction to your art work for the MaritimeMatters readers, could you tell us about your very latest commission?
SHM: My latest commission came by way of the author Duncan O’Brien who’s new book on the Matson liners is called “The White Ships”. I purchase his book for research. I have been wanting to paint the Matson liners MALOLO and LURLINE for the past two years. I had informed Mr. O’Brien of my intention of painting these beautiful ships and let him know I would be sending him some photos of my results. The following year I had finished with LURLINE and beginning my work on the MALOLO. I sent Mr. O’Brien a picture of my finished LURLINE and he loved it. He then requested if I could paint the SS MONTEREY of 1952 for him.
MC: I am very interested in your choice if scale and medium, how did this evolve?
SHM: Initially my painting started out on a small scale of 1/350. My partner saw these small studies and suggested I try painting one on a much larger scale. I have always been fascinated by the large scale ocean liner models made by the ships builders. I took my partner’s advice and fell in love with the end result. Working on a much larger scale allowed me to work in greater detail and the large scale creates a stunning visual impact. The paintings are executed in gouache and india ink on 90lb acid free paper.
MC: And how large are they?
SHM: They are roughly around 3 x 9 feet, NORMANDIE being the largest to date.
MC: How do you begin the process for each piece and how long might one take to complete?
SHM: Each painting begins with a lot of photographic research as well as an exhaustive search for plans. After I have decided on the scale the plans are transferred on to paper and then inked from the keel up. After the inking process I lay in all of the colors for covered portions of decks, shadowed areas of masts, vents, deck houses and funnels. The coloring of the exterior hull and super structure come after, adding details as I go. After all the color is in place I re-ink the entire ship and lay in the rigging. The last item to go down is the name. The whole process usually takes from 3 weeks to a month.
MC: What influences do you credit, are there other maritime artists you admire?
SHM: The books of William Miller, Maurizo Eliseo, the movie “The Poseidon Adventure” 1972, The Queen Mary Museum, Long Beach, CA.
Other artists I admire and am inspired by are Stephen Card, Antonio Jacobsen and Lawrence Dunn to name a few.
MC: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and when did you discover your fascination for ocean liners?
SHM: I was born and raised in northern California, in the San Joaquin Valley. From a very young age I was always doodling over ships or building models and launching them in a pool or creek. I was hooked when I saw the opening sequence of the 1972 film ” The Poseidon Adventure”. The night time scene of the SS POSEIDON plowing through a gale had a powerful impact on me. I had never seen something so big move with such grace and power. I was ten years old. I still get that feeling when I am working on a painting. I attended San Diego State University. I moved to New York City in 1989 and work as a commercial artist/art director in advertising.
MC: Do you have any up coming projects you’d like to share with our readers?
SHM: I have just recently completed the L’ATLANTIQUE and have plans for the following ships of the French line – CHAMPLAIN, LAFAYETTE, FRANCE of 1912, PASTEUR, as well as the DUILIO, VICTORIA, ROMA, and CONTE BIANCAMANO of the Italian line. It’s endless. My dream/goal is to one day to publish a very large coffee table book of my paintings in conjunction with their amazing interiors.
MC: Where can people see more of your work and find out about shows?
My work is represented by the Chinese Porcelain Company on 58th and Park Ave. I also have a dedicated website that I am always adding to. Just go to www.scottmcbee.com. I am currently working on an extension of my ocean liner series with a focus on classic steam yachts of the 1800’s – 1900’s. I would also like to add that my ocean liner series has been featured at the South Street Seaport museum as part of the recent NORMANDIE exhibit and is also part of the permanent collection at the Master Works Foundation in Bermuda, featuring the SS QUEEN OF BERMUDA.
MC: Thank you Scott for introducing your stunning works to us and I wish you every success.
Scott is available for commissions and can be contacted through his website www.scottmcbee.com
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.