Artist Paul Schulenburg’s scenes from the region

by Kelly Chase

Paul Schulenburg was an artist from the start. He grew up in Upstate New York in a house filled with his grandfather’s landscape paintings. “I spent a lot of time reading comic books and trying to draw cartoons when I was a kid,” says Schulenburg. “At about age twelve I started to look at my grandfather’s paintings and I tried to draw what I saw in his paintings or what I saw around me.”

Today, Schulenburg continues to paint what’s around him: the dunes of the National Seashore, boats afloat in the harbor, and fishermen and women working along the waterfront. On his canvas, he captures quiet moments that are true to the region, such as a streak of light across a cottage lawn and a leaning boat caught at low tide. “Cape Cod is a wonderful place to live and an inspiring place to be an artist,” he says. ”We remain here because of the relaxed atmosphere throughout most of the year ultimately bringing the excitement of the summertime, and of course, because of the natural beauty and vibrant arts community.”

I saw all the activity, the colors, and the people working; and I was inspired to try painting the commercial fishermen. I thought it would be a fun challenge."

— Paul Schulenburg

About 20 years ago, when Schulenburg was searching for inspiration on a gray day, he made his way to the Chatham fish pier and was moved by his observations. “I saw all the activity, the colors, and the people working; and I was inspired to try painting the commercial fishermen. I thought it would be a fun challenge,” he says.

Schulenburg’s working waterfront paintings have become some of his most popular pieces. Working at his easel, he catches scenes of the arduous work in broad strokes of color and texture. “I enjoy watching what they do,” he says. “I am fascinated by the fact that what they are doing is so completely different from what I do to make my living.”

Yet, as he spent more time at the dock, he realized painters and fishermen weren’t so different after all. “Fishing is a tradition that goes back thousands of years, and oil painting is a very old tradition as well,” he says. “We both find ourselves in a somewhat precarious situation wondering, will there always be enough fish to catch? Will there always be people interested in buying oil paintings?” 

For now, the sold tags on Schulenburg’s pieces seem to answer his question. But in fishing and in art, there’s always the unknown. Perhaps it’s what keeps lines cast and brushes damp. Painters and fishermen seem to be drawn to the chase. 

“The fishermen and women work hard, and get their hands dirty going out into the ocean in an attempt to bring back their catch,” he says. “I go out in search of subject matter, something I can capture and bring back in the form of an oil painting, getting my hands dirty in the process, and hopefully finding an interested art collector who will enjoy what I create.” 

For more information on Paul Schulenburg, visit his website, schulenburgstudio.com; and Addison Art Gallery, 43 South Orleans Road, Orleans, addisonart.com.