Artist in his element

Iowa-based marine artist
travels Ohio River

He draws inspiration on trip to Tall Stacks

By Don Ward

MADISON, Ind. (November 2003) – Late Sunday evening, Oct. 12, the Celebration Belle paddlewheeler docked in Madison, Ind., carrying only its crew, two journalists from the Quad Cities, Iowa, newspaper and noted marine artist Michael Blaser.
The group was headed to the Tall Stacks festival in Cincinnati and stopped in Madison to board 450 people and more crew the following morning for the final day’s cruise into Cincinnati.

Michael Blaser

Photo by Don Ward

Michale Blaser with new print "Nocturne."

Blaser had been talked into making the nearly week-long journey aboard the vessel, which had no showers or sleeping quarters on board for guests. The artist and journalists had slept on the floor of the dining room all week, but spent the night in a hotel in Madison in preparation for the final cruise on Monday, Oct. 13.
“It’s been quite an adventure, more so than I ever expected,” said Blaser, a native of Davenport, Iowa, where he lives with his wife, Gay. The couple is familiar with Madison because of Blaser’s print, “Madison Landing,” which he sells at Binzer’s Custom Framing at 301 W. Main St. Two years ago, the couple appeared at the Madison Chautauqua, where he sold and signed prints.
On this trip, Gay was to join her husband in Cincinnati, where they were scheduled to take part in an art festival in conjunction with Tall Stacks. Blaser was promoting a new print of a painting titled, “Nocturne.”
One of Blaser’s art fans, Ralph Wischmeyer, met Blaser at the boat ramp to talk about the trip and see the new print. Wischmeyer owns one of Blaser’s original paintings, “Cincinnati Morning,” and six prints.

Celebration Belle

Photo by Don Ward

The Celebration Belle leaves Madison in fog.

“They’re all over our house,” said Wischemeyer, a Cincinnati native who is an anesthesiologist at King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services. “What I like about his paintings are their realism – they take you back to that time period.”
Another Madison resident, Keith Webster, owns the original painting of “Madison Landing, 1936.”
Blaser said the experience of the trip along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers from Iowa was “life-changing.” He described foggy nights and beautiful crisp fall mornings. He did some painting on the top deck as the boat cruised.
He said he was struck by the politeness of the river people who operate the boats and tugs, and found the language of the radio communications interesting.
Blaser has a busy schedule in the months ahead. He has been commissioned to do a mural for a casino in Colorado and will be flown to Vancouver to make some changes to a painting he did there.
The Celebration Belle is homeported in Moline, Ill., and can carry up to 800 people or 660 when seated for dinner, according to Capt. Scott Schadler. Schadler and his father, Joe, own and operate the vessel, which has a crew of 36 when cruising. This 1,000-mile, one-way trip was an unusually long voyage for the dinner cruise boat. Schadler said it would take five days to return to Moline.

• For information about Blaser’s artwork, call Binzer’s at (812) 273-3873 or visit: www.michaelblaser.com.



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