Winter Carnival theme inspires Saranac Lake artist Scott Rohe
SARANAC LAKE — Raptors invade the Waterhole, a caveman steps out of the Dew Drop Inn, and a giant Tyrannosaurus rex marches down Main Street.
These are just a few of the images from the mind and brush of local artist Scott Rohe. The paintings are inspired by the theme for this year’s Winter Carnival, prehistoric. They currently hang in his dining room, but the paintings can be seen on the Facebook page for “Rohe arts and crafts.”
“I did one and posted it on Facebook,” he said. “Then people liked it so much, so I just started doing more.”
Every year for Winter Carnival, Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau draws an image to go along with the celebration. It gets printed on buttons and posters as well as banners inside the Harrietstown Town Hall. Rohe said he wanted his own project to capture Saranac Lake.
“I like Trudeau and Doonesbury,” Rohe said, “but when you look at the stuff, it doesn’t really have any kind of feel for the town. Obviously some of the themes are tough, but I figured, why don’t we just do pictures with actual scenes from downtown.”
One painting has raptors walking around Romano’s Saranac Lanes, possibly interested in a slice of pizza, a beer and couple of bowling frames. Another shows a dinosaur running past the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
“That one was a little hard,” Rohe said. “I forgot you guys had the Gothic lettering (on the front of the building). It takes a little bit more time to get it all laid out and spaced correctly.”
Rohe said his favorite is one of a T. rex in “The Thinker” position, modeling for an ice carver. He had his son Connor pose as the dinosaur for the painting.
Rohe used to work for the village water department, driving trucks, going underground and fixing water mains. But in 2017, health complications left him unable to work. He started randomly passing out and having seizures. Doctors still don’t know why, he said.
“For me, I’m kind of getting used to it,” he said. “I’ll pass out, wake up and go, ‘Oh, I guess it happened again.'”
His right arm also occasionally goes numb and gets pins and needles.
“It almost feel like you’ve slept on it all night, and when you wake up, it’s all tingly,” Rohe said. “It’s hard to tell if you’re holding onto something, dropping things all the time.”
To keep his arm from going numb, Rohe likes to paint.
“It’s relaxing,” he said, “a form of therapy.”
Dinosaurs in downtown Saranac Lake is just Rohe’s latest series, but the rest of his pieces are all over the place. His sketchbook has landscapes, Marvin the Martian and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. One of Rohe’s favorite sketches is jumble of gas masks next to a clock showing 1:23 p.m. The piece was inspired by “Chernobyl Disaster: As We Watched,” a documentary Rohe said he’s watched countless times. It helps him fall asleep.
“It’s really just what happens to pop into my head that day becomes what I paint or draw,” he said.
Next to the dinosaur paintings is grab bag of Rohe’s other work: eyeballs floating in a mason jar of water, Slimer from “Ghostbusters” and rangers in a helicopter circling the Altona Flat Rock forest fire of 2018. One of his paintings shows little white pills spilling out of prescription bottles, accompanied by cigarettes and bottles of Glenlivet and other whiskey.
“All (the doctors) could do is keep prescribing medicine to me, saying, ‘I hope it works; I hope it works; I hope it works,” Rohe said. “I’m also a smoker, and they said, ‘Don’t quit right away because of stress. Wait until we figure out what’s going on.’ I just threw the two bottles in the background for composition.”
Rohe and his family moved into a new house about four months ago. He doesn’t have a studio or a private work space set up for his painting. He keeps his easel in the family room where his kids watch TV and play Xbox. Light shines in through a window to his left as he paints from the comfort of a wooden rocking chair that belonged to his great-grandmother.
“She used to rock me to sleep in this thing,” he said. “It’s held together with rubber bands and everything else, but it works.”
To his right is a plastic dresser full of dozens of brushes, pencils and paints. And finally, Rohe keeps most important tool for an artists on his windowsill — a hot pink Revlon hair dryer.
“I started using a different type of paper recently, and as soon as I hit it with the water color, it starts to ripple,” he said. “It drives me nuts.”