Port Townsend's 'fantasy world'

Posted 8/28/18

At a first glance of Michael Hales' new artist book's cover, "Remarkable Port Townsend," one can surmise what lies between its covers: Port Townsend's whimsey.

The painting "Remarkable Port …

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Port Townsend's 'fantasy world'


At a first glance of Michael Hales' new artist book's cover, "Remarkable Port Townsend," one can surmise what lies between its covers: Port Townsend's whimsey.

The painting "Remarkable Port Townsend" has a first-person view from a Superman-like character, reflected in a red balloon, as he flies down Water Street, toward the ND Hill Building and over the usual and unusual suspects crowding the street. A keen eye can pick out a recurring chalk artist as she sketches the "Mona Lisa."


Those with even keener eyes, who know Hale's 550-page novel "Antiqueus: Quest of the Mazzergast," can pinpoint and name a floating wizard who is a chief character in that narrative.

In the painting embellishing his cover, Hale took some liberties, such as depicting Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in the background, when in reality the viewer would not be able to see them at the same time from that vantage point.

"It was an unusual enough painting," Hale said about the cover image, drawing attention to the recognizable light-red and beige ND Hill Building and the point of view.

He decided the 15-year-old work would capture the essence of the local area more than any of his other paintings. This is just one of several of his works included in "Remarkable Port Townsend," which was recently published.

Instead of an all-encompassing book of his

art, Hale opted to limit it to his pieces focusing on life in Port Townsend. The book can be split into two halves, the first being the more whimsical nature of the city and its events, with Hale depicting as much of the personality of Port Townsend in form of Easter eggs in these mosaics. The latter half encapsulates the maritime industry for which the area is well known.

The book's publisher, Mike McAndrew, placed coinciding views painted years apart, showing how time changed the area Hale put into acrylic, a medium he favors because of its faster drying properties for even quicker turnaround.


Making the move to Port Townsend in 2000 to write "Antiqueus: Quest of the Mazzergast," Hale took three years to pen the novel and even more to get it published. He employed himself as illustrator, placing numerous depictions of his characters within the sheets, as well as maps of the geography of Atlantis. From Phoenix, Arizona, Hale relocated to Port Townsend not only to write his book, but also to get out of the heat of the southwest.

Having always had a knack for sketching in his youth, Hale was introduced to painting in high school, which translated to studying architecture at Washington State University and later to a fine arts major. His studies in architecture gave him the ability to properly map out buildings and draw them accurately. He also had a stint in Los Angeles, where he worked on movie sets.

Hale cited James Cameron's "Titanic" as the most known work he could stamp his own name on, but could not name any more as the production crew were often not told much about the productions, but only what was needed. Hale did, however, work on TV show backdrops, including "The Arsenio Hall Show."

Hale said he has painted so much of Port Townsend, he is now on the hunt for new scenes to catch his interest. Having only seen it once before, Hale took the plunge to move to the area and was astounded with how much there was to put into paint.

Using longhand over three years, he wrote "Antiqueus" full time, gaining help from Sherry and Max Grover, who obtained a computer for Hale to put his novel into type. He did not take any time to paint, but was full of ideas and sketches for the time to turn back to the medium.


Detail is the name of the game for all of Hale's work, putting small strokes into each of his characters and objects. To start, Hale takes his camera in the morning, to get the perfect shadows on the buildings and snaps a picture. He then sketches out the image, and projects it onto his canvas in order to get a base. When that is done, Hale begins the meticulous painting process. Depending on the size of his work, whether 3-foot by 3-foot, 5-foot by 6-foot, 4-foot by 4-foot or otherwise, it takes hours to perfect.

McAndrew, a photographer and friend, photographed each of his paintings to be printed in "Remarkable Port Townsend." As a friend of Hale's for 11 years, McAndrew was the workhorse behind putting the book together. During a conversation last October he gotthe idea to create a book from his artwork. Over the winter and spring, they made additions and subtractions to the compilation, ending up with what made the cut.

Hale and McAndrew decided to go with The Printery in Port Townsend to print and bind all the books, because it could do it with a lower budget. Along with traditional means of getting the word out, such as promotional digital and physical materials, McAndrew made a video of the book, which is a basic slideshow of samples of the paintings coupled with music.

With knowledge in the publishing industry, McAndrew has an arsenal of equipment in order to get the best pictures.

"I have a small apartment, so it has been a challenge to do the larger prints," McAndrew said with a laugh, adding there were a few he had to take standing outside to shoot back inside.

For each of the paintings, McAndrew used about a dozen different exposure settings on his camera. He said the trickiest parts of the process was getting the painting lined up perfectly and the color correction, working with Hale to get each as close to the original as possible.

Their friendship began when McAndrew made an impromptu stop to Hale's studio apartment with another acquaintance, getting blown away by his paintings that covered his walls. Hitting off their friendship was second nature with their collective interest in art.

"I saw his work, and it was quite remarkable. His colors, his treatment and attention to details are unsurpassed," McAndrew said, pointing out the intricacies of Hale's maritime-themed pieces. "His work has this romantic, really warm glow to it. It tells you a lot about him and the viewer. As a historical work, it is critical to this time and place. It's a way to preserve it."

Every painting they wanted to include was not readily on hand, most having been sold or hung already, in such places as the Northwest Maritime Center. After locating the ones they wanted in the book, sometimes having to ask owners to borrow the paintings, McAndrew took a concerted effort to properly photograph each one.

Hale and McAndrew's goal was to get the book published just in time for Wooden Boat Festival in September, as well for the holiday season, to sell and market the area to any outsiders who were visiting during that time, which they succeeded at doing.

To Hale, it encapsulates three of Port Townsend's characteristics, which are its art scene, downtown businesses and maritime industry.

"That's the joy of Port Townsend," Hale said. "It's almost like a fantasy world. There's all these fun things for artists to paint."

As a co-op member of Gallery 9, Hale's work can be seen from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at 1012 Water St. "Remarkable Port Townsend" can be found at Gallery 9, Abracadabra, What's Cookin!, William James Bookstore, Imprint Books, The Green Eyeshade, Northwest Maritime Center and The Printery.


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