By Seth Daniel
When former Fire Chief Gene Doherty gathered at his home with a full house of family members of Christmas Eve, he had no idea what was coming.
In fact, with his entire family watching, his brother, John Doherty, unveiled a large painting by Mark Martelli of the recently retired Fire Chief standing in front of Central Fire Station – carrying the chief’s trademark expression.
“It was really amazing,” said Doherty. “My brother John commissioned it from Mark and he gave it to me on Christmas Eve with everyone there. He really captured me. We all joked he captured my ‘mean Gene’ look. I was amazed by it.”
The portrait is just one of many portraits done by Mark Martelli, who works from the Department of Public Works (DPW) and also teaches karate. Martelli said his friend, John Doherty – who also works at the DPW, commissioned the painting.
The work took about two months to capture Chief Doherty, said Martelli.
“John gave me several photos of Gene and I’ve known Gene most of my life too,” said Martelli. “I used the photos and decided to put the Fire Station in the background. It went from there. I worked on it off and on and off and on. I stepped away from it for a while. Finally, I came back to it and I got him. That’s how it works. I do a lot of portraits and commissions. You have to step away for a week and then come back to it and that’s how you get the sparkle in their eyes.”
Martelli, 60, said he also does paintings of pets and a lot of motorcycles as well. He said it was something he loves to do.
“I’ve been painting my whole life,” he said. “I started painting in my mid-teens and I took some classes and studied at Cambridge Adult Education Center and a few other places. I do get commissions a lot. I actually just also finished a painting a dog for a woman in Winthrop for a Christmas present.”
Doherty said the photo used to get the painting was right after he had come out of a major fire at Suffolk Downs a few years ago. In the photo, he carried a serious expression as it had been a tough fire with a lot of heat and flames.
“He really captured my likeness,” said Doherty. “It was a wonderful gift.”
Mark Martelli can be reached at [email protected]