Navigating Choices

Art - Like Literature - Captures Essential Truths

Much of the art that moves me explores our experience at the intersection of one world and another. Sea and land. Man and woman. City and country. Feeling and intellect. Offense and defense. Generosity and greed. Benign and evil. Past and future. Trust and mistrust. Life and death.

A practical, real-life example is the boat. A boat floats on a membrane separating two universes: fathomless reaches below and infinite space above. Sailors who live in that narrow in-between are a metaphor for each of us who live between now and then, yesterday and tomorrow, right and wrong, left or right, risk and reward, failure and success. We all float, sink or fly by the choices we make.

Seen in this way, the art of sail becomes a bridge between the creative process and the secret explorer in each of us.

Three-masted Topsail Schooner  Oosterschelde  NL   (2018) by Mark Roger Bailey

Three-masted Topsail Schooner Oosterschelde NL (2018) by Mark Roger Bailey

Lovers desperately seek perfect union yet are distinct beings. Prisoners of their bodies, they are separated by heart or mind, love or lust, soul or body, past or future. They are so close yet so far away.  

Day and night are rich with potential meaning between bright color and blackness, light and shadow, openness and mystery, work and sleep.

The fact is that I am thinking about storytelling puzzles constantly, making notes about whether this story renders better through this lens or on that page. For too long, the New England Yankee in me always said, go slow in revealing what you're up to. You'll confuse readers if they think you're passionate about art, and you might confuse art collectors if they know you've published novels and optioned them for the movies. The Californian in me says relax, don't second guess yourself, trust the flow. It's way bigger than you and will show the way. The traveler in me asks what are you doing? Whatever it is, is it more important than experiencing the stories that are happening right now in the Hebrides, Antarctica and the Aegean? Who will I listen to today - the Yankee, the Californian or the traveler?   

What are we to do with all the potential of these intersections between universes? We must choose. Art is born in the choices we make, where we sometimes find ways to express the beauty and meaning of this existence between opposites.

Collectible limited edition art by Mark Roger Bailey

Collectible limited edition art by Mark Roger Bailey

View my Tall Ships collection and please stop by my Gallery Shop to consider a special series of signed and numbered limited-edition prints for the collector. A miniature print of a tall ship would make a wonderful gift for yourself or a thoughtful surprise for a friend. 

The Art of Sail | Tall Ships

Why Maritime?

My artistic interest in sailing vessels goes back to my earliest memories on the shores of Lake Champlain in Northern Vermont. The mystery of wooden rowboats caught my imagination at first. Rowboats. How was it that humans figured out how to build wooden crafts that could both float and leak simultaneously? Every harbor had dinghies patiently filling with water while waiting for their owner to return, who would bail them out with a coffee can or bucket, then row off to the deep water mooring where a more substantial boat waited patiently for its master. Being around these workboats was powerful stuff for the curiosity, intellect and ambition awakening in my seven-year-old self.

Then I noticed that the larger boats were also bailing water from their bilges, fighting the intrusion of the lake on which they floated. The mystery and majesty of vessels large and small fighting the same good fight shaped my early attempts at ordering and understanding the facts of life on the water.

Then one day while out in an uncharacteristically stiff wind braving breakers on the beach, I saw an even larger vessel, a three-masted fully-rigged ship (full rig means that all masts and yards carry square sails) beating north through the robust winds and high waves. It was an honest-to-goodness blue water tall ship on Lake Champlain! THAT caught my attention. That extraordinary vision seared its way deep into the folds of my brain and took root in my soul. That afternoon is as much an influence on the man I have become as anything else I have experienced.

Later, I tested myself on sailboats on Lake Michigan, the Pacific Ocean off southern, central and northern California, Chesapeake Bay, Mamala Bay south of Oahu, Gage Roads off Fremantle, Western Australia, and the North Sea. These experiences sharpened my skills and bound me to the waterman’s ways. Increasingly, occasional encounters with tall ships drew me closer like Ulysses’ sirens.  Increasingly, I organized my life around getting to the tall ships and photographing them, finding their elemental selves afloat and ashore. Tall ships are in a class of their own where natural and human mysteries are expressed in wood, iron, canvas, and hemp. Each vessel reflects human passions, aspirations, and purposes that are as distinctive as the sailors who master the winds that power them across the sea.

Tall Ships Series

Artistic inspiration is an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. For me, curiosity is a foundational component of the process. It starts with a question such as what is that? Why is it doing that? How does it work? In the process of solving any one of those questions, inspiration sparks creativity, which results in art as an expression of my experience of the subject.

Readers, clients and buyers are people with multiple interests of their own, also. Curiosity is a hallmark human characteristic, after all. Inspiration is all about being open to all possible answers to a given question and finding a connection with truth, however fleeting. Creativity, then, is about being human and curious and disciplined simultaneously… intentionally.

Sailing vessels are floating manifestations of centuries of sailors’ curiosity. Their curiosity was inspired by necessity to create something functional, to solve a problem. In my view, along the way they created art.

As an artist, my process is to observe a vessel and its rig at various times of day, paying particular attention during early and late daylight hours for maximum angles of slanted light. I also prefer to study vessels and rigs during the midday hour or two to see how the rig shadows cascade onto deck and water. This strategy is not always practical, so I adapt to circumstances and stay flexible, yet with my ultimate vision still in mind.

Foremost to me is finding that unguarded instant where the ship and her rig reveal themselves to the appreciative eye, a pivotal moment where art supersedes science. Like every relationship, there is a give and take; an exchange in which individual priorities must bend to mutual recognition, appreciation, and need.

I then pare down the composition, light, and shadow to allow the ship’s rig to speak for the vessel and the sailors who sail her. To me, these studies convey a palpable sense of quiet strength and particular respect for these vessels. Each image strives for one essential, elemental truth that is absolute and immutable. If I ever achieve that single moment of artistic representation of pure reality, I’ll let you know!

Spars Above the Treeline  (2018) by Mark Roger Bailey - Barque  Charles W. Morgan

Spars Above the Treeline (2018) by Mark Roger Bailey - Barque Charles W. Morgan

In the meantime, I invite you to view my Tall Ships collection and please stop by my Gallery Shop to consider a special series of signed and numbered limited-edition prints for the collector. A miniature print of a magnificent tall ship would make a thoughtful surprise for the love of your life. 

Creativity Squared

Writing + Art Photography

Writing and photography are competing and complementary pursuits for me. Until now, their competing aspects kept my workspaces separate and distinct; writing here, developing photographs and printing there. Two sides of the same creative force divided into two creative spaces. Until today.

Writing is impossibly difficult and immensely rewarding. While it costs far more in time and effort than anything I have ever done, it compensates with learning, discovery, and understanding.

Photography is also difficult, yet opens me up to the world, other lives and remarkable stories in a journey of discovery that makes me a better person and, hopefully, a better artist. Always has. Blotched and imperfect daguerreotype images from 1838 France, then England, and later from the U.S. Civil War captured my imagination during rainy afternoons among the stacks in the village public library. Large format impressed me with the mystery of glass, solution and light. Then medium format seemed to perfect the beauty and authentic documentary truth within the confined borders of a print. The spectacular advances of 35mm, Polaroid, film to digital, and DSLR photography seemed essential and worthy. If I could learn enough, I might just be able to translate my innate curiosity and empathy for certain subjects into meaningful works that support others’ interests. This is how we discover the truth, by gathering fragments, piecing together theories of reality. Evolving.

The world is large and diverse, yet most of us live within walking or commuting distance of our day jobs. Most of us grow up thinking small, grateful for a paycheck, fearful of the loss of that paycheck, amazed when we find friendship, humbled when we discover love. Decades fly by as we prepare for our life’s great aspiration. Time passes, and we find out that as we made plans our life spent itself. We were focused on job, family, house, and taxes while time focused on… time.

Today, I break through the wall that separates my writing and my visual art. Writing and Photography. A new beginning for both.

I am pleased to present a series of my images of tall ships, each of which captures a sense of story that I strive for in everything I do. And each of which inspires new stories in my imagination.

Debut: Tall Ships

I have been photographing boats for longer than Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours required to become world-class. Yet I still feel I am only beginning to understand the truths to be found at the intersection of time, skill, and insight.

Flying Jibs and Euterpe - The Star of India

Flying Jibs and Euterpe - The Star of India

Discovery is a fundamental quality of the sailing experience. No two moments afloat are alike. Every ocean, season, and transit is a one-off. Each tack, reach and run is unique. And the human skills that developed over thousands of hours learning and eventually mastering the ability to navigate all this newness are fragile and fleeting, for we are here for only a blink of an eye in the scheme of time. Yet the more one discovers, learns and masters, the more opportunities present themselves to challenge us. In this way, we find out the soul of nature, weather, seas and the vessels we build to walk on water and take flight on ever-changing winds.

Whether writing or shooting, telling a story about the history in a 2,000-year-old tibia or documenting time’s stresses in a 178-year-old whaling ship’s arthritic rib, my goal is the same: to capture meaning itself, inspire the viewer’s imagination and touch the timeless in everyone who looks upon them.   

I invite you to visit my gallery and view my new Tall Ships collection at, and while you’re there, please stop by my Gallery Shop.

Until next time,


Full Moon Silhouettes

I invite you to pause for a moment to view this video by Mark Gee of Wellington, New Zealand

Shot on a Canon ID MkIV in video mode with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L and a Canon 2x extender II, giving the equivalent focal length of 1300mm.

Music – Tenderness by Dan Phillipson :

Mark Gee – Wellington, New Zealand

“Shallows at Dusk” Wins John G. Mitchell Award

By markrogerbailey


“North Cove Shallows at Dusk” (2012) by Mark Roger Bailey

My photograph, “North Cove Shallows at Dusk,” has received the 2013 John G. Mitchell Environmental Conservation Award.

The award by the Land/Conservation Trusts of Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem, Essexand East Haddam (CT) honors the American environmentalist and former editor of National Geographic Magazine, John G. Mitchell (d. 2007). Past editor of Sierra Club Books and a longtime field editor and writer for Audubon Magazine, he also wrote many books, including LOSING GROUND (1975), ALASKA STORIES (1984), and DISPATCHES FROM THE DEEP WOODS (1991).

I captured this photo in Essex, CT late one April afternoon. The river bottom stones in the foreground, the larger boulders in the middle distance sharing the deepening water and the reflected glow of sunset spoke to me about the interconnectedness of our existence along the banks of one of America’s great rivers.

1930 Model A Ford_Mark RogerBailey

1930 Model A Ford parked under patriotic bunting before the Griswold Inn, Essex, CT (2012)

My photograph of an antique Ford automobile, “Model A Before Griswold Inn,” placed second in the Cultural Historic category.

Good Night, Earth

By markrogerbailey

Photographer Knate Myers compiled this amazing time-lapse video from stills captured by crew members on the International Space Station (ISS) and shares it with us on Vimeo.  The perspectives, scale, movement, and color are amazing.

Thank you, Knate.  This is inspired, and inspiring, work.

Images Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

Music by John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)

Related Links

Vimeo | Knate Myers

Knate Myers | Photography  (Zenfolio)