Whaling Watercolours by artist Scott Kelley

Scott Kelley's watercolour paintings of whales were inspired by the whaling log books which he stumbled upon in the Providence Public Library, Rhode Island (U.S.). His watercolours explore the beauty of these great giants, the 'chase' that those who hunted them wrote about in diaries and logbooks.


Looking through whaling logbooks at the Providence library, my fingers went black from turning the pages. It was as though some small part of whaling had rubbed off on me, the soot from the try pots, fires that burned night and day. Melville called it “the left wing of the day of judgement”. The true history of American whaling is in those logbooks, and hundreds like them, written by the men who went to sea. Those pages hold the excitement of the hunt, the chase, the danger, as well as the boredom and near-constant longing for home, all of it the sum parts of whaling.

They put to sea, and hoped.

I could never have been a whaler, but would love to have been aboard a whaleship in 1856, to see how it was done, meet those men, hear their stories, somehow get it all down in my own sketchbooks and journals, my fingers black from soot, as well as ink.

To have put to sea, and hoped.

Scott Kelley, Peaks Island, Maine


Scott Kelley was born in Binghamton, New York in 1963. He studied at The Cooper Union School of Art, New York; The Slade School of Art, London; and was a fellow at The Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He had his first solo exhibition at the age of eighteen with The American Realist Gallery in New York, and has had over 15 solo exhibitions since then.

Kelley’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Portland Museum of Art and the Portland Public Library. He was awarded a fellowship to the Edward Albee Foundation in 1993. He also received a grant from the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which sent him to Palmer Station, Antarctica in 2003.

Scott Kelley lives and works on Peaks Island, Maine, with his wife, Gail, their son, Abbott and their dog, Francis.