Two artists, Ray Ellis, 91, from Edgartown and Joshua Chase, 10, from Hudson, will be featured this morning on the Today Show. The two are new best friends. Joshua earned the attention of talent scouts when pictures of his paintings were submitted by his mother, Chantel Chase, to the television program’s nationwide search. One of the signature paintings is an interpretative copy of Mr. Ellis’s painting Moonrise over Edgartown Harbor which includes a sloop and a ketch sailing towards the Edgartown Lighthouse.
Joshua is one of four finalists in a talent contest held by the Today Show. The winners were selected from hundreds of submissions from around the country, of artists, singers, dancers and magicians. He will appear this morning with the three other finalists in a half-hour special called Stars of Tomorrow. It will be aired from 8:30 to 9 a.m.
Joshua told the Gazette he did the painting earlier last year as an August birthday present. “I gave it to my Mom. She was always talking about the water.”
He has a copy of Mr. Ellis’s book Martha’s Vineyard: An Affectionate Memoir and has studied his work for a while.
“I really love painting,” Joshua said. “I feel it is magical how I can take a blank canvas and make it into a piece of art work.”
The journey to the Today Show began about eight weeks ago. At the urging of her aunt [Kathleen Evan] in Maine, Mrs. Chase submitted pictures of her son’s work. “I sent pictures in with a little description,” Mrs. Chase said.
“I got a call. I looked at the caller ID, and it was NBC. I said, ‘Oh my God.’ I was stunned. They asked, ‘We got the paintings. Does he have any more.’”
After they looked at more pictures, Mrs. Chase said she got another call. “They said, ‘we really love all the paintings and we want to talk to your son.’”
They also wanted to know who was Joshua’s biggest influence. The answer he gave without hesitation was Ray Ellis.
From there the story grew. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to film Joshua meeting Ray for the first time?
The filming for this morning’s special began with a visit to the Chase home in Hudson. Last week Today Show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager and a film crew showed up to meet the boy’s family and see the small room where he paints.
“Jenna was nice,” Mrs. Chase said. “She talked to Joshua. She was very loving, asking questions. She was so sweet to him.”
The next step in the story was a family trip to Edgartown to visit Mr. Ellis.
It was not an easy trip, for it was postponed twice. They planned to come last Thursday, but an ocean storm with high winds cancelled the ferryboats. They spent the night near Woods Hole. They made another effort on Friday morning but were turned back after many of the boats were cancelled.
Mr. Ellis said he urged the family and the camera crew not to give up. He told them by phone, “I think this is too good a story to miss.” Plus, he said he wanted to meet the boy. So much of Mr. Ellis’s efforts is to encourage young people to paint.
On Sunday, they travelled to the Island on the noon boat. Accompanying the film crew were Joshua, Mrs. Chase, Joshua’s father Philip and his older brother Benjamin, 12.
It was the family’s first visit to the Vineyard.
“I grew up in Mystic,” said Mrs. Chase. “I love being on the water. I grew up near the docks. I miss it.” Hudson is 20 miles west of Boston.“When we got on the ferry, it was so beautiful,” Mrs. Chase said.
Mr. Ellis said he was standing outside of his studio as the family got out of the car. The camera recorded Joshua coming up to him and giving him a hug.
“That is the age when I started painting,” Mr. Ellis said. “What I would have given to have a million people look at my sketches when I was 10 years old.” When Mr. Ellis was 10, “television hadn’t been invented yet,” he said, and radio was just getting started.
Before they met, Mr. Ellis said he already knew the youth was talented. “I had a picture emailed to me of that painting. I can’t believe it. It makes mine look like. [Mr. Ellis paused.] It makes mine look just like a painting. He is really good.”
On Sunday the family spent time with Mr. Ellis and his wife Teddie. They even went to the Edgartown lighthouse where the two artists could enjoy the view that inspired their paintings.
And by 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon they were back on the ferry headed home.
“This is a really big deal,” Mrs. Chase said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of this occurring, that my son has a talent in painting. It is beyond beautiful. It touches you.”
To see more work by Joshua Chase, visit his website: joshuawilsonchase.com.