A serendipitous event occurred around that same time as Armand once again took to canvassing neighborhoods trying to sell his original paintings for a pittance. There were few takers until the Dr. Charles Warren Helsley opened the door. Armand vividly remembers Helsley standing before him, dressed like a lord, all starch and pinstripes despite the sweltering heat.
Hoping he had finally met a man of cultivated taste, Armand showed him an ocean scene he had painted, one he imagined but hadn’t actually seen. Helsley surveyed it and, to encourage the young artist, purchased it. Then, clearly struck by Armand’s potential, he said, “If you’re going to paint the ocean, you ought to see it.” He invited the young artist inside. Armand soon learned that this man was the pastor of the East Congregational Church.
Before long Helsley invited him to stay for dinner. Over the man’s shoulder Armand could see Mrs. Helsley working in the kitchen, a hefty no nonsense cook who was preparing dinner with trimmings, the kind of spread he would not likely receive at home. As fresh linens were laid and formal place settings aligned, the cleric eyed Armand’s damp and wrinkled white shirt with its open collar and rolled up sleeves. “We dress here for dinner,” he said. Then to Armand’s astonishment he led him to a closet, flipped through a ministerial wardrobe suitable for dispensing the sacraments, and selected a hot-looking swallow-tailed coat for Armand to put on.
Dinner conversation ranged from landscape to seascape. Insisting that Armand should actually “see” the ocean, Helsley invited him to spend time at their summer home on the Maine seacoast. “You should be there,” he advised, “and see it in person, witness it, the sea, the rocky coast.” Later that summer, thanks to Helsley’s generosity, Armand was now afforded the opportunity to not only imagine the ocean, but experience it. Easel ready, he studied the waves as they crashed over boulders with an entire ocean’s worth of momentum.