Former crime artist based in Bath's themes now are honor, innocence, beauty
By BOB HOOKWAY
Special to the Sunday News | June 28. 2014 11:17PM
Craig Pursley paints a portrait in his Bath Village studio. (BOB HOOKWAY/Union Leader Correspondent)
Bath artist Craig Pursley uses local amateur models as his subjects. Former Bath resident Miranda Belyea, seen in "At the River of Forgotten Dreams," posed for 25 of Pursley's works. BOB HOOKWAY
S ome images stay with us forever. Many, fortunately, are pleasant: what we were doing the day we met the person who would become our spouse; that perfect day at the beach last summer; any number of mental snapshots from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
This painting by Craig Pursley was used for the cover of a then-California Angels game program.COURTESY
While working as an artist in California years ago, Craig Pursley was expanding a career in providing sketches of suspects for local law-enforcement agencies. Word of his talent spread, and Pursley added newspaper assignments for the Orange County Register, drawing in courtrooms where cameras were not allowed.
Bath artist Craig Pursley with his portrait of late New Hampshire Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who was also of Bath. The portrait now hangs in the Executive Council chamber at the State House in Concord.COURTESY
"They asked me a couple of times to go to the morgue," he recalled. "Once, I was there when they were doing an autopsy. That was an education I didn't really care to have. I didn't know that was going to happen. They pulled back the sheet, and there was a woman on a stainless steel table who had been stabbed 33 times."
Though the image stays with him, you won't find it in Pursley's American Heritage Gallery of Art in Bath Village.
Pursley's models are not professionals. One used to scoop ice cream at the shop next door before she moved to Florida. Another was from across the river in Bradford, Vt. Innocence shines through in their portraits.
Over the years, he said, he's had to rely on a variety of artwork to sustain his livelihood. At one time, he provided work that was made into baseball cards distributed by the leading manufacturers in the industry, Topps, Bowman and Upper Deck. He also designed and produced artwork to help promote Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game.
Two of Pursley's works are on display in the New Hampshire State House - "The Public Servant," a tribute to the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton of Bath, and an elegant portrait of former New Hampshire Gov. and U.S. Sen. Henry Wilder Keyes, a North Haverhill farmer who was governor during World War I - and New Hampshire magazine recently named him "Best White Mountain Artist."
"April was very successful. I sold 20 paintings," Pursley said. "One person came and thought he might buy two paintings, and he bought six. This might be our best year ever."
Online: Pursley's work can be viewed at www.pursleyart.com.