Jul 3, 2014
12:46 PM
Arts & Entertainment

Official Coast Guard Artist Debuts Latest Work, Supports National Museum

Official Coast Guard Artist Debuts Latest Work, Supports National Museum

Courtesy of Cory Mendenhall, USCGA

Artist Tony Falcone in his studio

The large white sailboat striped red and blue cuts through crystalline blue waters beneath aquamarine skies dotted with puffy white clouds.

At least, that is how artist Tony Falcone saw the Barque Eagle, a training sailboat used for future officers of the U. S. Coast Guard, in action. When the Prospect-based fine artist was commissioned to create a painting of the iconic Coast Guard ship a year ago, he wanted to give life to the vessel.  

Instead of painting the ship in profile (which has been done many times before), Falcone wanted to depict it moving towards the viewer, coming off the canvas. That required getting up close and personal with the Eagle. Last summer he took a trip to Jacksonville, Fla. to join the crew on an eight-day trip to Bermuda where he was able to work side-by-side with the cadets and take photos of the ship on open waters.

“Being on the ship gives you a sense of pride,” says Falcone. “When I’m painting where the captain stands, I’ve been there. I know what he’s looking out at.”

He’s extremely proud of the 30 by 42 inch oil painting titled, “Leading the Way" (pictured right courtesy of Visual Impact in Danbury). It sits prominently displayed in his studio (the top portion of a converted dairy barn) in anticipation of its debut at a private unveiling for the members of the Barque Eagle Society of the National Coast Guard Museum Association on July 10. The event will be held at the New York Yacht Club in Newport, RI and the unveiling will be done by former captains of the Eagle and former Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp.

Falcone was commissioned by The National Coast Guard Museum Association to create a painting for auction in support of the first national museum dedicated to the U.S. Coast Guard’s history. The National Coast Guard Museum, which broke ground in May, will be a four-story, 54,300 square foot building with four floors of interactive exhibits, event space and lecture room plus a reception area, gift shop and café in the New London Waterfront District. The museum will serve as a tribute to the men and women who currently serve and have served in the Coast Guard for the last 223 years.

The Association hit its first $1 million in fundraising for the museum in June. Grassroots efforts like the Barque Eagle Society, a group of donors who have contributed a minimum of $1,000 donations to the museum, have helped make the goal possible. Society members will receive limited edition prints of the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle painting created by Falcone at the ceremony on June 10.  

“Leading the Way” is the artist’s latest project in his long-time partnership with the Coast Guard. Falcone is known as the official Coast Guard Artist and he has dedicated the last decade to creating a series of large oil paintings on linen depicting the history of the institution from World War II through 9/11 called the “U.S. Coast Guard Historical Murals Project.”

(One painting from the series, "Ocean Station Vessel Launches a Weather Balloon in the North Atlantic Ocean, 1964," pictured above.)

One painting titled, "Coast Guard Units Respond to Attacks on the World Trade Center," which depicts the Coast Guard evacuating 650,000 people from Battery Park in lower Manhattan, was exhibited at the Intrepid Museum in New York in conjunction with the 10th anniversary “9/11 Retrospective” in 2011. All of the paintings are currently housed at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

Falcone says he will be sad to let “Leading the Way” go, as he has been with all of his work over the last 40 years. He’s dedicated a year of his life to the Eagle–creating thumbnails, sketches, color tests and many versions of the final product. After so much dedicated focus, the painting becomes a part of the artist.

“I love them all,” Falcone says of his work with a smile. “I wish I could have them all back.”

(Mural at the Floyd Little Field House at Hillhouse High School, left.)

It would take a lot of effort to recover all of the works of art Falcone has created. He fell into art in 1974 from his career as a New Haven firefighter. He worked part time as a life guard and pool director in Bethany, and it was there that he completed his first mural of a giant ice cream cone with the pool’s art director, who would become an artistic collaborator.

“That’s all it took,” Falcone says of the experience. He was hooked on art and started experimenting more and more with mural painting. His two worlds collided when he was commissioned to do a mural in the city’s new fire house, and shortly after that he decided to quit his job as a fireman and become an artist full time.

Falcone transitioned to canvas during the recession when large scale murals were hard to come by. He began creating paintings of landscapes and cityscapes in and around Connecticut that became a series of greeting cards. (See an example, the Yale Medical Complex, here.)

“I had been thinking that a mural is monumental but really something small is monumental,” says Falcone.

He has had a steady stream of work for many years–the ultimate goal for anyone trying to make a living as an artist. It’s made possible by his business partner and wife Judi Andrews, who Falcone says, “Is very good at scheduling.”

“She has a better vision of our future that I do,” he says with a laugh.

Art is Falcone’s passion, but it’s also his business–a mindset that has likely contributed to his prolonged success over the past decades.

Falcone’s notable work includes murals in the Yale University Law School, Albertus Magnus College (pictured directly above), the New Haven Register, the Ronald McDonald House and the Floyd Little Field House at Hillhouse High School (pictured above). He has created a floor mural in the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History and the larger than life depiction of horse-racing at Sports Haven in New Haven (pictured right).

He has completed executive portraits at the Yale School of Medicine, the Yale University School of Nursing, Probate Courts in Hartford and New Haven and the Superior Court in New Haven. In addition, he has created a well-known portrait of President Barak Obama (pictured left) that he says he attempted simply because he wanted to get better at portraiture.

He has been inducted into the Amity High School Distinguished Alumnus Hall of Honor in Woodbridge and is a member of the Portrait Society of America.

Falcone is constantly pushing himself to try new mediums. Currently, he is working on a bronze “portrait bust” sculpture of Otto Graham, NFL Football Hall of Fame Champion.

“I’m willing to try everything,” says the artist. “Being challenged [allows me to] never get tired of what I do.”

For more on Tony Falcone and to see his work, falconeartstudio.com.

And to learn more about the U.S. National Coast Guard Museum and their fundraising efforts, visit coastguardmuseum.org.

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

Official Coast Guard Artist Debuts Latest Work, Supports National Museum

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