Herbert “Herb” Parsons is native to New York City but found his inspiration in more recluse locations. Alongside his passion for painting, Parsons is an avid runner, cross-country coach, sailor, boat enthusiast, writer and nature lover––to name a few. With vast talent and rampant curiosity, Parsons’ fascination and admiration for the Maine coast is unwavering.
Parsons has long had a fascination with figuring out how things work. From boat engines to running courses to landscape paintings, Parsons learns by doing. With such eagerness to understand the world around him, it follows that the artist has committed so much of his life to learning and teaching. A graduate of Harvard University, Parsons went on to receive a BFA in Painting from Yale University. He didn’t stop there, however, continuing to take courses in drawing, painting and graphic design. The artist dedicated decades of his career to teaching both children and adults in the studio and the classroom.
Parsons works in Maine’s dynamic climate—which does not always agree to work with him. “Painting afloat demands adjusting for wind and current relative to the angle of the sun, avoiding wakes from passing boats that otherwise would have me grabbing my easel to steady it, and watching the outgoing tide that may leave me aground in the nooks and crannies that I favor,” Parsons wrote about working on the water. The dynamic climate of the Maine coast comes through in his pieces—often in muted tones and grays. Hundreds of landscapes later, the artist is still taken by the craggy coastline.
“Once I've picked a subject and its dimensions I cut my primed, underpainted, and unstretched canvas from a small roll, clip it to a sheet of Masonite, and begin,” Parsons wrote on his process. “I keep my paints, turpentine, and brushes in a metal pail, which I hang from my easel— its weight helps to increase the easel's stability. For a palette I use a smooth piece of wood mounted on the easel. Back ashore I may work further on a specific canvas, making small adjustments or trying to get the sky just right for the sixth or eighth time.”
Parsons' family has been visiting North Haven for generations. Parsons owned and operated the Calderwood Hall Gallery on North Haven for nearly three decades (1984-2012). He has also coached the local cross country team and taught adult education classes. Previously, Parsons spent years in the US Coast Guard. He has hosted a radio show, designed t-shirts, refurbished a lobster boat, run six marathons, acted in plays— and more. How Parsons has time for it all remains a mystery.
Parsons’ work has been shown in galleries across the country from Washington State to Maine.