Dempsey Essick is a self taught, self expressed realist watercolor artist. He is known as the Hummingbird Bird Artist; not only for the hummingbirds he paints but for the hidden hummingbirds he hides in his paintings.
Erupting through the sand of North Carolina's outer banks like giant smokestacks, a chain of picturesque lighthouses guide passing ships around the notorious "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Each of the lights can be identified, at night, by its distinctive flashing signal. Four of the lights, built on the Cape Lookout plan, look enough alike in daylight that each light has a distinctive "daymark." Cape Lookout is painted in black and white diamonds; Cape Hatteras has a black and white spiral; Bodie Island has black and white bands; and one light, the one at Currituck Beach, near the village of Corolla, was left unpainted.
The oil wicks were first lighted in the Currituck Beach Light on December 1, 1875. Burning whale oil at first and later kerosene, the keepers carried the oil up 214 spiral steps to fuel the light. The rotating mechanism, which was powered by weights, much like a grandfather clock, had to be rewound every two and a half hours throughout the long and frequently stormy, night. The first order Fresnel lens, which was installed when the tower was built, is still in use today, sending a warning flash of light every twenty seconds across nineteen nautical miles of treacherous ocean.
In his painting of the Currituck Beach Light Station, Dempsey Essick had focused on the three-story, Double Keepers Quarters. Prefabricated and hauled to the site, the house is the lone survivor of three US Lighthouse Service, Grand Duplex style houses using the "Stick Style" architecture that has since been copied by hundreds of beach dwellings and is now known as "Outer Banks Style." Dempsey's meticulous attention to detail includes the interconnected roof gutters designed to route rainwater to the covered and ventilated underground cisterns at each side of the house. The cisterns were the only source of fresh water for the two families who shared the three-story dwelling.
Viewers who are unaccustomed to the rich detail of a Dempsey Essick painting will be delighted as they delve into the picture and become aware of the small touches like the tree leaves and flower petals, and the bricks, and the wood grain. Those who have done some painting themselves will be astonished at the technique, especially the realistic cloud formations, thought by many to be impossible using watercolor. Dempsey has experimented for years to perfect his own technique to realistically reproduce cloud formations in his paintings. The beautiful bank of cumulus clouds behind Currituck's brick tower is a testament to his persistence and his devotion to his craft.
In the end, the viewer comes away with a sense of what it was like in the early days, before there was even a road to Currituck. In those days the Keepers and their families came by boat, by horse and wagon, and, later, in cars with half the air let out of the tires for traction in the sand. They were the people who worked in the face of hurricanes to keep the sea-lanes safe. They cultivated gardens and planted flowers and made a home in the wilderness. And always - always towering in the background, there was The Lighthouse, dominating and insistent like a beautiful but dependent child, always in the comer of the eye, always demanding the full measure of the Keepers time and energy.
In "The Currituck Keepers Quarters," Dempsey Essick has captured more than just a beautiful and historic scene. He has also captured a glimpse of the spirit of independence and self-reliance that has made our country great.
As is the artist's custom, he has included the rebus type hidden image of a hummingbird in this painting. Actually, in this piece, there are two hidden hummingbirds. Good Luck...