Portland artist goes digital in Yarmouth library's debut exhibit

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YARMOUTH — At first glance, Clyde McCulley’s artistic renderings of scenes from the Portland area look like real paintings.

Looking closer, one can see that the images displayed on thin metal sheets are actually made using a computer.

McCulley, who used to be a painter as well as an art professor, is now a photographer. After taking pictures with his digital camera, he then uses computer software to manipulate the photos to look like they were created with a brush and paint.

“When I’m on the computer, my mouse becomes the paintbrush,” McCulley, 73, said. “I get the creative feeling I used to get when painting.”

McCulley’s work, which is the first exhibit at the renovated Merrill Memorial Library, not only features images of Portland, but is based on paintings by Edward Hopper.

Hopper, who lived from 1882-1967, painted many scenes in Maine, and around Portland and Cape Elizabeth. McCulley uses many of Hopper’s elements in his own work.

“I’ve always liked Hopper,” McCulley said. “I always found it interesting, the subjects he painted and his use of colors and lighting.”

Many of McCulley’s pieces feature light slanting through windows, and almost all of his pieces are very bright. He said he likes to saturate the colors using his computer to resemble the brightness of Hopper’s paintings.

“If you look at Hopper’s paintings, he painted (scenes) much brighter than they were,” McCulley said.

At times, Hopper didn’t contain his whole subject within the canvas, and McCulley doesn’t either. In many of the pieces by both artists, the tops of buildings are cut off.

“It makes the viewer become more part of the painting because they have to complete the painting in their subconscious,” McCulley said.

Some of McCulley’s pieces are from coffee shops and cafes around Portland, and of a single, unsuspecting person. Hopper did this as well, and McCulley said he likes the solitude the pieces depict.

McCulley says the method in which he creates his art isn’t new, and that most photographers use editing software.

“Photographers always manipulate their work,” he said.

McCulley said he wondered if Hopper would “like that I used a new medium” to capture some of the same scenes he did. He concluded that Hopper would.

“He’d probably get a laugh out of it and say if he had a camera, he could have done it in half the time,” McCulley said.

McCulley’s pieces went up in Merrill Memorial Library’s second floor art gallery Jan. 12 and will stay there for two months. Library Arts Committee member Happy Marsh, who is a friend of McCulley’s, said his work is a great first exhibit to have in the newly renovated library.

“I really admire this work that he does because he has really captured the essence of what it is to be human,” Marsh said.

McCulley will be hosting a talk at the library on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. to showcase his art and to discuss how he creates his pieces.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements

Portland-based artist Clyde McCulley will be discussing his digital art at Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.