Art

Meet Brian Simm -- forester, traveller, watercolorist

.... former Melrosian makes a mark in the world of art.

Donald R. Norris

The Down Maine watercolor by former Melrosian Brian Simm is the first submission to the Silver Stringers' project called "Unrequited Art", in which we, the Stringers, urge all local artists to participate.
For more details see the related story Unrequited Art -- Solicited.

Brian Simm lives some hundred miles from the nearest ocean, but part of his regimen in retirement is to make an annual pilgrimage to New Harbor, on the Maine coast, where he spends two weeks painting intensely. Lobster boats, harbors, a multitude of light houses, bridges -- for he is surrounded by the quaint beauty of this small fishing village.

He is a watercolorist, and an exceptionally good one. He is also a native of Melrose, MHS class of 1949 -- but he and wife Priscilla retired to a beautiful country home they built in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. From their solar-heated sunroom they overlook rolling fields and the picturesque valley of Beard Brook, a small rambling river that drains the southern foothills of the Sunapee range.

If one had to pick an ideal place for an artist to retire, their yet-to-be-paved Jones Road is exactly that place. Within view from their window is a handsome 200 year old stone arch bridge, and a mile up the winding country road is Gleason Falls -- both of which Brian has painted many times, in many lights, in different seasons, in morning and evening light. They are surrounded by sparkling old New Hampshire towns, ancient churches, glistening rivers, old barns and endless picturesque farms and mountain scenes that go on forever.

Brian went to the University of Maine in Orono to learn forestry back in the early fifties. After a couple of years with the army, he joined the Maine Forestry Service and worked in the area of Millinocket -- so far north of Melrose that you need an overnight to get there. One year later the New Hampshire Forestry Service spotted his talent and he moved to Hillsboro, where he and Priscilla bought a huge white 200-year-old home with carriage house, hay loft, workshed and barn, all stretched out together. There they raised their two sons, Scott and Steven, in that old farm house.

I first met Brian back in 1947, when he sat in front of me in Dave Gavin's math class at Melrose High. We hit it off pretty well, since we were both outdoors people, like to shoot and hunt -- and paint, even at that young age. And so Lorry and I, and Priscilla and Brian kept in touch for the next fifty years, and frequently he and I would paint together. It seems there were endless possibilities with 15 minutes of his house.

There was one day, an exceptionally warm fall day where the autumn colors were just beginning to fade, that the four of us packed a huge picnic lunch and drove four miles up Beard Brook. We found an area where a glacier eons ago had dumped a string of boulders in a narrow draw, and there we perched in the warm sun, looking down the valley. Brian and I had but to climb off our rock and set up our paints, for we were in the midst of one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Life has been like that for Brian and his painting -- constantly surrounded by beauty. Ironically our picnic site was only a mile or so from where he and Priscilla were to build their new home.

As time went on, Brian became intrigued with stone-arched bridges, those masterful relics of early New England that abound in New England. And one day, at a flea market, he sold several of his bridge scenes, and soon discovered that people liked what he did. He had a very light palette, and most of his work is vignetted. His instructors saw the talent and the style and encouraged him to develop his unique ability. And as his popularity grew over the years, he won many awards and now is invited regularly to display his work at prestigious state-wide shows.

Now, in retirement, he and Priscilla occasionally serve as volunteer rangers in the Federal park system. Two years ago they spent two months at the Painted Desert National Park, and recently signed up for a similar post at the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia, later this year.Both of them also spent one week as volunteer chefs at the weather station atop Mount Washington last summer, and Brian returned in January with his brother-in-law, Dick Lindstrom (another MHS '49er) for an experience of a lifetime -- winter on Mount Washington with temperatures at 50 below zero and winds of a hundred miles an hour.

Incidentally, Priscilla (who recently returned from hiking in the Austrian Alps with the AMC) is also an MHS grad, class of '51. Her sister Carolyn married Dick Lindstrom, and they live in nearby Reading. The Powers family was closely associated with the First Baptist Church in Melrose.

Upon his retirement, Brian bought his first computer and now spends much of his time on the internet, where he has a web page for his forestry consulting service. Between all his other activities, he does find time to paint. It's in his blood.


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