When the Spy recently saw the 2019 Waterfowl Festival poster, an essential and historical part of this popular event, was graced with the remarkable work of artist Nancy Tankersley, it was a pleasant surprise that the subject of her work was an actual human being.
Not that we have anything against ducks or geese, but, to our knowledge, this is the first time in its 49-year history of Waterfowl that a “person” was the featured image. And how appropriate that Tankersley, this year’s featured artist, and perhaps one of the country’s most respected Plein Air artists, was the first to break that long-overdue milestone.
And the results are stunning in the way “Podgin’ for Oysters” allows us to watch a quintessential waterman, lean and focused, working hard for his daily catch.
But, being the Spy, we also were eager to know who the waterman was in real life, and with the help of the artist, we were able to spend a few minutes with Robbie Bowan. We found surprising similarities between the subject Nancy captured so well and Robbie’s gentle and generous nature. With his commitment to saving the oyster industry, including helping the UM Horn Point Laboratory and Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, Robbie is just as committed to chairing the annual Crab Pot Christmas Tree & Lighted Boat Parade. And that is after he finishes his day job on his two boats, Preacher Man & The Provider, hoping that all his hard work will yield profit.
We spoke to Robbie at his home last month about being waterman, his optimism that this legendary vocation can be saved, and how it feels to be on canvas.
This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the 2019 Waterfowl Festival, please go here.