Former lighthouse keeper paints every Maine lighthouse

Posted May 31, 2011, at 4:52 p.m.
Some of former lighthouse keeper Ernie DeRaps’s lighthouse paintings.
Photo by Lisa Shea
Some of former lighthouse keeper Ernie DeRaps’s lighthouse paintings.
Former lighthouse keeper Ernie DeRaps busy at work painting Maine’s Seguin Island Lighthouse.
Photo by Lisa Shea
Former lighthouse keeper Ernie DeRaps busy at work painting Maine’s Seguin Island Lighthouse.

RICHMOND, Maine — Ernie DeRaps of Richmond, an 83-year-old former lighthouse keeper, recently completed a painting of every Maine lighthouse with hopes to use the paintings as a stepping stone to reprint the dual book “Lighthouse Keeping and Light Housekeeping” that he and his wife, Polly, authored in 2006.

The two-sided dual book was published by FogHorn Publishing in cooperation with Lighthouse Digest and quickly sold out. It was DeRaps and his wife who formed the dual sales force that led the book being sold out so quickly. The energetic couple gave numerous presentations where they showed slides and talked about their life at Maine lighthouses. Each presentation was followed by an autograph signing of their books.

One half of the book tells of DeRaps’ memories of lighthouse life. When the book is flipped over and upside down, it tells his wife’s experience of lighthouse life. The book has two different covers and includes numerous images and photographs.

DeRaps said that he would like to see his book reprinted so that copies could be distributed to every library in Maine, as well as being made available to those who have not yet read their story of lighthouse life. Current economic conditions have prevented the book from being reprinted. Kathleen Finnegan, of FogHorn Publishing, says it’s a difficult decision to make when considering the reprinting of a book that so many people already have.

“If there were a positive way to conclude that there was enough interest in a second edition, we would certainly consider it,” she said in a press release.

Upon his third retirement in January of 2008 at the age of 80, DeRaps took up painting in acrylics. With no formal training, he started painting Maine coastal scenes. When he read about gallery art shows, he realized that he would need to keep his paintings to one theme, so he decided to create a painting of every Maine lighthouse. He hoped that, because the art was done by a former lighthouse keeper, it would draw some public attention. He also hoped that he might be able to sell the paintings to raise money to have his book reprinted.

His first eight lighthouse paintings were 14 inches by 18 inches and were randomly selected from his collection of lighthouse slides. Then, as he painted lighthouses from the southern part of the state while working his way up the coast, he changed to a 16 inch by 20 inch format. His last painting was completed on March 18.  The displayed paintings now take up more than 250 square feet of wall space when hung 2 inches from each other.

DeRaps says he does not plan to sell his paintings until they first have been displayed together in a gallery or museum. Then, if there is a market for them, he hopes the paintings will generate enough income to reprint his book.

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