Twilight on the Fish Pier

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Lobster fishing may conjure images of colorful old salts hauling wooden lobster traps into their dories. The reality, as I tried to show in Twilight on the Fish Pier, is much different. At least it is here in Stonington, Maine.

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Twilight on the Fish Pier, oil on canvas

Stonington lands more lobsters than any other place in Maine and possibly the planet. That’s quite an achievement considering only about a thousand people live here. But the question nags: How long can Stonington fishermen continue to haul a living out of the sea? As the ocean gets warmer, the lobster keep moving north. Everyone in town wonders if — and some wonder when — the lobster will migrate to Canada. In the past year, we have all heard the words, “If the lobster go away…”

So my painting also poses a visual question: Is the lobster industry in its twilight?

Lobstering

Last year, fishermen (and, increasingly, fisherwomen) landed 119,640,379 pounds of lobster in Stonington. Fishing accounts for about three-quarters of the town’s economic activity.  Fishermen sink a lot of money into their fishing businesses. Boats cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and traps — you can use 800 at a time — cost about $100 each.

Stonington, located at the southern tip of Deer Isle, juts into Penobscot Bay. It’s an inlet of the Gulf of Maine, where lobster congregate more densely than anywhere else in the world. One reason for the abundance of lobsters may be the demise of cod, which prey on lobster. The cod fisheries are pretty much exhausted, though I did hear some cod have been spotted recently.

Lobster fishermen generally use herring as bait, but federal regulators have limited the herring catch. That makes bait expensive and hard to get; “bait crisis” is another expression you might hear around here.

China

There’s a common misperception about Stonington lobsters that has become obvious lately. Ryan McCaskey, a two-star Michelin chef, is opening a seafood restaurant in our little town. The restaurant, Acadia House Provisions, has already gotten national press attention. Forbes called it ‘the summer’s hottest pop-up restaurant.’

Some reporters have written that McCaskey’s restaurant should help local lobster fishermen. They apparently assume Stonington’s  fishermen sell their lobster to local restaurants. That would mean 120 million pounds of lobster are eaten locally — or 120,000 pounds per capita.

Um, no. A lot of the lobster goes to China. Once the fishermen catch the lobster, many of them take it to the Fish Pier, where the supply chain to China begins. Big refrigerated trucks take them off the island. The sound of engines, both marine and automotive, is as familiar here as the wail of the foghorn.

When President Trump hit China with tariffs, China hit back with tariffs on lobster.  That has caused a good deal of anxiety here. China’s tariff dwarfs the Mueller report as a topic of conversation. But so far, it seems, so good. Some middlemen are selling lobsters to Canada, who sell them to China.

So it isn’t quite twilight on the fish pier. And it may never be. But there are definitely clouds on the horizon.

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When You’re In Deer Isle, Paint Deer Isle

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Since I live on Deer Isle, it only makes sense to paint Deer Isle.

A few years back I went to Florence, Italy, with the Art Students League to paint. We spent the morning in a studio painting models, then roamed the museums, restaurants and churches of Florence. I had the good fortune to meet Jules Maidoff, a well-known American artist who has lived in Florence for many years. Jules told me not to waste my time in a studio. “You’re in Florence — paint Florence,” he said.

Point taken.

To Paint Deer Isle

During Maine’s long winter, thoughts turn to spring, and so does my painting. I chose to paint Deer Isle conservation land because the Island Heritage Trust hosts an annual art show during its birding festival, Wings, Waves & Woods.

The IHT owns and manages some of the most spectacular land you’ll ever see.

Among my favorites is the Settlement Quarry, which many years ago produced the granite for the New York County Courthouse (now the New York State Supreme Court building). Granite quarrying was a boom business here back in the late 19th-early 20th century. My house, in fact, was once a boardinghouse for granite workers (There’s a former whorehouse next door, but that’s another story.)

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I can’t leave out the Settlement Quarry when I paint Deer Isle! Oil on canvas. 2″ by 40″.

Climb to the top of the Settlement Quarry and you’ll get a stunning view of Penobscot Bay and the islands. It really rivals anything you’ll see in Acadia National Park.

My New Spring Line

I also included my painting, The Marge, in the show, because it shows the beach at Scott’s Landing, another Island Heritage Trust property.  Along with several paintings of Scott’s Landing, I have quite the beach glass collection that testifies to my hours on that beach.

The Marge. Oil on Canvas.

Sometimes I paint in watercolor, and sometimes I paint in oil. Sometimes I paint both, though not at the same time. I had painted Scott’s Island, where the author Robert McCloskey lived, in watercolor last fall. Something about that painting made me go back to it, so I repainted it in oil. I’m not sure if that’s allowed in the art world, but I don’t care.

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I really didn’t paint Deer Isle here, but I painted FROM Deer Isle. View from Kezar Mountain, oil on canvas.

The Last Best Place

I also included a photo that’s IHT-ish — Marnie Reed Crowell‘s back yard. Marnie has written a book about the IHT lands called Beads and String — a Maine island pilgrimage.  One day in December Dana Durst from Inn on the Harbor and I had tea at Marnie’s house in Goose Cove.

We talked about the island, about how it’s changing and whether it will turn into Nantucket if the lobster go away. Marnie calls it ‘the last best place.’ Then the sun started going down, and we rushed outside to see the amazing light. I took a zillion pictures and then decided to paint Deer Isle from Marnie’s back yard.

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Goose Cove, Oil on canvas. 

So my new spring line of paintings will be at the the IHT barn at 420 Sunset Rd. in — where else? — Deer Isle until Friday, May 24. Stop by and see some other exquisite work by Carolyn Walton, Lorraine Lans and Frederica Marshall

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Luke Miller Birdhouses at the Island Heritage Trust Barn

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If I have any artistic talent at all, I get it from Dad (Mom would agree). As a boy, Dad loved to draw. I remember seeing his excellent portrayal of Lou Gehrig, framed and hanging on Grandma’s bedroom wall. Now that he’s 67 (not quite chronologically, but in all other respects), he paints marvelous birdhouses and signs them ‘Luke Miller.’

Here’s an example of a Luke Miller birdhouse:

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Those birds might look good on pants, too.

I took some of them to the Island Heritage Trust barn for the annual Wings, Waves & Woods art exhibit. You can buy one for just $50.

Floating Free of Time

Dad grew up in New York City, and he has a New Yorker’s attitude toward nature. He likes to look at it, but participate? Please. He always admired a friend who bought a Morgan horse and put it in the field behind his house just so he could look at it.

Later in life, my father got into birds. Mostly to watch them over a martini while they dart around my mother’s bird feeders.  She has a hummingbird feeder by the porch. On the bottom of a Luke Miller birdhouse devoted to hummingbirds, Dad wrote, “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration.”

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Luke Miller, birdhouse painter extraordinaire

Dad spent his career in banking, and with six children he had little time for art. But his style and flair always suggested an artistic sensibility.

Then there are his pants. As early as I can remember he’d wear his preppy Go-to-Hell pants to Mass on Sunday. More than once he prompted the priest to do a double-take while serving up Communion.

Don’t get me wrong, Dad is always well dressed. Always. Just the other day he and Mom and I went to The Sagamore for dinner near their home on Cape Cod. It’s the go-to spot for chicken parm and live piano music heavy on the Cole Porter.

As we passed the piano to leave, the piano player interrupted his number to say to my dad, “I like your pants.” Which I immediately texted to my siblings, who then (between giggles) tried to guess which ones he was wearing: The margarita pants? The pheasant pants? The lobster pants? Correct answer: navy blue corduroy Polo Ralph Lauren pants patterned with hunters and mallard ducks.

Luke Miller Birdhouses

A few years back, Dad started painting birds on birdhouses, first for one sister, then another, then the brothers. Mom called one day and said, “He’s getting really good.” He got inspiration from the birds in the backyard, at the hummingbird feeder, from bird guides, from the birds on the bedspread.

He got so good I started selling Luke Miller birdhouses at the Brooksville Farmer’s Market last summer. They sold out.  So now he’s introducing his new spring line, just in time for Wings, Waves & Woods.

About Wings, Waves & Woods

Spring in coastal New England is a grim affair, overcast and rainy and bone-chilling. April especially is no time to start a diet or give up smoking. April 2019 had the most rainy days in recorded history, which means we saw the world in shades of gray for a month.

But stacks of new lobster traps and the sweet sound of birdsong are signifying the coming of our glorious summer. Now that it’s mid-May, spring arrives on Deer Isle with flocks of birds from the tropics and birders from Away. From May 17-19, the towns of Stonington and Deer Isle host dozens of bird-related events, including eagle spotting, guided shorebird walks, a live owl demonstration and a boat trip to see the puffins.

And, of course, Luke Miller birdhouses at the IHT barn at 420 Sunset Rd. in Deer Isle, Maine. They’re all  nine inches high and six-sided, with birds (sometimes two) on every side. They’re varnished, so you can put them outside but you probably wouldn’t want to.

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Hummingbirds floating above time, carrying hopes for love, joy and celebration.

Dad donates all the proceeds from his birdhouses to charity, either the Franciscan Kitchen and Shelter in Louisville or Covenant House for homeless children in New York City.

Email me at [email protected] if you’d like to see more photos of the Luke Miller birdhouses. He’s been cranking them out pretty fast, and he got a big new bird book for Christmas so he’s expanding his repertoire of birds.

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I Paint The Marge Because My Subconscious Told Me To

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I finished this painting a few weeks ago, and I decided to call it The Marge. Marge as in Margin or Marginal.

Technically, I suppose, it shows a figure (as usual, my husband Dan) walking the beach at Scott’s Landing. Scott’s is a preserve where the northern edge of Deer Isle meets the Eggemoggin Reach. Scott’s Landing used to be the ferry landing, but since 1938 the Deer Isle Bridge has carried people across the reach from the mainland.

The Marge, though, isn’t just about the margin that divides the land and the sea, it’s also about the space where light meets shadow. The liminal space, the space of transformation, of discovery, of anticipation. (Dan is anticipating finding blue beach glass.)

To me, the painting is about the subconscious meeting the conscious, something I’ve had reason to think about – a lot – lately. Because art to me has always been about reaching into the subconscious, figuring out what it’s trying to tell me. I suspect it’s exceedingly bossy.

Marge Moments

Sometimes I have marge moments where I understand how my subconscious is steering me. One day I figured out how it ordered me to pick up a ginko leaf.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I took an abstract painting class at The Art League in Alexandria, Va., and I had to find a symbol.

I couldn’t decide. Then one rainy fall Saturday I went into the city to visit the National Gallery of Art. Afterward I walked back through the nearly empty streets to the Judiciary Square Metro stop, and I looked across the plaza at the Canadian Embassy.

Despite the Brutalist architecture I have fond feelings toward that embassy. I had a friend there, a public relations officer named Doug, who started his career as a stand-up comic in a Toronto nightclub with Howie Mandel. Then he went into the military, where I got to know him when he was with NORAD (long story, I was a reporter, he was a public relations officer). Then Doug went to the Canadian Embassy. He invited me to monthly luncheons with Canadian diplomats and military officers, along with U.S. business and government types. The food was great, the conversation interesting, and Doug always delivered a wildly funny monologue straight out of Monty Python.

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The Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

So on that rainy Saturday I was walking to my Metro stop and I caught a glimpse of the red maple leaf on the Canadian flag fluttering above the embassy. Then I looked down and spied a yellow ginko leaf plastered onto the dark wet sidewalk. I knew instantly that was my symbol for my painting class. And then, moments later, I realized why: because of my pleasant thoughts about the Canadian Embassy.

Yikes, I thought. My subconscious is in charge.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Which brings me to Janet Moore.

I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and as a little girl I spent hundreds of hours in the Cleveland Museum of Art. A print from the museum, Renoir’s Mademoiselle Lacaux, gazed at me from my bedroom wall.

When I got older I’d walk to the museum and hang out with the American and European painters. I always visited J.M.W. Turner’s Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

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Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons. Turner captures the marge where fire meets air meets water.

I loved the Impressionists, like Monet’s The Red Cape.

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The Red Cape. Another marge: inside meets outside.

And I always found David’s Cupid and Psyche entertaining.

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Cupid and Psyche. There’s something about his expression.

There often weren’t many people in the museum, and I got in the habit of roaming around, glancing at paintings until one really grabbed me.  I was in the Marge Zone.

Fast forward a bunch of decades and I moved to Deer Isle, Maine. Definitely the Marge Zone, the place where land meets sea and urban corporate nomads meet island fishermen descended from generations of island fishermen.

Janet Moore

A few weeks ago a dear old friend from Shaker Heights came to visit. Her name is Janet, and I remembered she was named after a woman named Janet. An artist from Shaker Heights who moved to Deer Isle.

When Janet arrived I got the full story.

Janet Moore (read more about her here) was curator of children’s education at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her father taught at Dartmouth and had a summer home on Sand Beach Road in Deer Isle. When he died, he left the house to her, and she retired there.

I realized I had seen Janet Moore many times as a school girl on field trips to the museum. She would take us around to several paintings and talk about them. I’m sure she taught me to love Turner’s Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.  In 1968 she distilled what she’d been telling us into a book, The Many Ways of Seeing An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art.

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The Marge. Oil on Canvas.

Back to the Marge

I wonder: Did my subconscious tell me to paint Dan hunting beach glass at Scott’s Landing because I loved that cadmium red cloak Monet painted?

I also wonder: Janet Moore certainly helped me feel at home in art museums. Because I feel at home in museums, do I feel at home on Deer Isle, as she did?

Questions to ponder.

 

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ART matters 4: How a Reporter Turns Into an Artist

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One of the amazing things about Deer Isle is that 60 or 70 people show up once a month in winter to hear three artists talk about their work.  It’s remarkable because Deer Isle’s population is smaller than small, according to the government.  A couple thousand people live here, maybe, in the winter. Also, for four years, we haven’t run out of artists.

Hub White puts the discussions together at the Deer Isle Artists Association, and his wife Pat and Cindy Bourque-Simonds make cakes that can only be described as astounding. The artists yammer on for a while, then the audience asks questions, then everyone has cake and coffee and mingles.  It’s called ART matters.  (Hub likes to brand it with the typeface.)

In April, I got to get up and speak with Katy Helman and Carole Ann Fer for the ART matters 4 Altered Surfaces discussion. Katy also paints, and Carole Ann makes pots.

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Sink or Swim by Katy Helman.
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Plaid Porcelain dish by Carole Ann Fer.

ART matters

So what do I say, me, a self-proclaimed artist, to a group that includes some heavily credentialed artists? They’ve gotten art degrees, taught art in colleges, studied and worked at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

I decided my ART matters talk should describe how my training as a reporter influenced the way I do art.

And I used as an example my recent painting, Mail Boat.

Reporters’ minds are like radar, always searching the environment for a story. Always observing the familiar for some new spin, some new twist, that will suggest a story.

And reporters are always looking for story elements as well. Ledes, nut grafs, kickers, money quotes. One day when I was working for AP in Washington I sat through a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Sen. Trent Lott got excited about something and said, “We’ve got to make it look like we care.” I thought, “There’s my money quote.” The editor took it out of the story.

So when I took the mail boat to Monhegan last year, I noticed the amazing morning sunlight. “There must be a painting here,” I thought, much the same way I thought that Commerce Committee hearing offered a story.

I took a whole bunch of photos, the way I’d take a whole bunch of notes in my reporter’s notebook.

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artmatters1

I didn’t realize I had a painting until well after I’d returned home and looked through the dozens of photos I’d taken.

So I decided on this guy:

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Putting It All Together

I brought Mail Boat and a few other paintings to ART matters, and I described the painting’s elements the way a reporter would describe a story.

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Mail Boat 

I view the lede as the sunlight on the crewman’s face. The lobster boat serves as the nut graf, or the paragraph that puts everything in context. And the reflection on the door works as a kicker — a tidbit that keeps the reader going.

Every news story should have a human element, but I don’t think I have to point out where it is in Mail Boat.

So…ART matters turned out to be great fun. Katy and Carole Ann gave terrific presentations, we all got our egos stroked with kind words from the audience and the cake exceeded all expectations.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Spring Sale! Cherry Blossom Watercolors

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It’s a little painful to read my friends’ Facebook posts about cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C., when I’m swathed in wool and hearing the wind howl outside. Mother Nature is not nice to Downeast Maine in the spring. We don’t even have crocuses yet. All we have is some buds and ducks exchanging amorous looks.

Since the rain and cold have kept me indoors, though, I’ve cleaned out my studio. And I found a lot of old watercolors. Way too many old watercolors.

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Blue Cherries

This one, Blue Cherries, shows the cherry blossoms at Hains Point in Washington, D.C. Dan and I used to play golf there early on weekend mornings pretty much year round. During cherry blossom time we’d drive around the point for our own private cherry blossom viewing. It wasn’t at all crowded, which, if you know Washington, is saying a mouthful.

Cherry Blossom Time

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Cherry Blossom Time

The Senate Garden also offered a few uncrowded moments on Capitol Hill , at least when the protesters were taking a break. (I shouldn’t make fun; I often joined the protests myself.) The Lower Garden is far enough from the Capitol that the paramilitary doesn’t patrol it much either. There’s nothing like the sight of a semi-automatic weapon to jolt one out of one’s cherry blossom reverie.

Anyway, I painted these two ladies blissfully contemplating cherry blossoms in the Senate Lower Garden. I like to think they had a nice trip to the nation’s capital.

 

 

 

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Cherry Blossoms 

I probably stalked this poor woman because I liked the color of her coat and the way the light filtered through the cherry blossoms. When the right moment came I took some quick photos with my cell phone. I always carried a cell phone (had to), handy for snapping unsuspecting watercolor subjects on the streets of Washington, D.C. I took this somewhere near the House office buildings.

So … since they’re just a painful reminder that moving to Maine meant giving up spring, I decided to sell them for $100 apiece. I can’t even guarantee they’ll have a mat. But shoot me an email, [email protected], and let me know if you’re interested.

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Incite Art, Create Community

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A bumper sticker that says “Incite Art, Create Community” decorates quite a few cars here on Deer Isle (along with “Fish Forever”). Opera House Arts (aka the Opera House) has been selling it for about 20 years, and I experienced its full meaning just the other day.

Incite Art, Create Community

It all started last summer, when my friend Katy Allgeyer decided to incite art, create community by staging an exhibit at her Art By Katy gallery for me and another Leslie married to a Dan, Leslie Anderson. I didn’t know Leslie well, but got to know her during our show, which Katy called Leslie Squared. (You can see my paintings here.)

Then one day in the fall Leslie asked me if I’d like to go painting with her. Of course I did.

So on a gorgeous day in late September we climbed Kezar Mountain in Little Deer Isle and looked down at a smattering of islands. The children’s book author, Robert McCloskey, lived on the island that looked like a pie with a slice cut out – Scott Island.

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That’s Scott Island in the background, Leslie Anderson holding her painting.

I’d actually interviewed McCloskey, sort of, when I was an Associated Press reporter in Boston. Some kid from Boston College had stolen one of the bronze Make Way for Ducklings ducks in the Public Garden. When they found it – in the BC library, I think – I called up McCloskey and asked him what he thought of the theft. “No!” he said. Then he hung up on me. I didn’t blame him one little bit.

Up on Kezar Mountain I painted Scott Island on an Arches watercolor block, which has a flap that protects the paper. Then I took it home, left it on the block and forgot about it.

Scott Island. Watercolor, 10″ by 14.”

Sea Times

Six months later, the Opera House presented Sea Times – local actors portraying Deer Isle old-timers who’d been interviewed by middle school students in the 1980s. They told 20 stories of winter on Deer Isle in the olden days. One reenactor portrayed Robert McCloskey, who talked about the first and only time he spent the winter on Scott Island with his wife and infant daughter.

“Sea Times” intermission at the Opera House. Note that red sweatshirt says, “Incite Art, Create Community” on the back.

The next day I was looking for something in my messy studio and came across the painting of Scott Island. So I posted it on my Facebook page and wrote, “Funny thing…” and told the story.

Then a friend who lives on Deer Isle wanted to know if the painting was for sale. Of course it was. She had gotten to know Robert McCloskey’s daughter Jane and grown fond of her, liked the painting and wanted to buy it.

So hours later Dan and I dropped “Scott Island” off at her home. We had a nice chat about our community and then left with good feeling all round.

By the way, I later painted Leslie painting on top of Kezar Mountain.

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Kezar Mountain, oil on canvas, 8″ by 10.”

That’s how it happens. Incite art, create community.

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Island Life, Island Light

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Island Life, Island Light is the way I’m characterizing my latest six paintings. You can see them for a while at the Blue Hill Congregational Church, where the Blue Hill Concert Association graciously invited me to be the featured artist for early March. On Sunday, the Calidore String Quartet was scheduled to perform, and I couldn’t wait to hear them.

One can get a little starved for classical music on Deer Isle. (But just a little.)

Island Life, Island Light

I’ve been used to making small watercolor paintings, so these are big for me: Wood panels, two feet by three feet. I bought them on sale last fall. I hadn’t decided what to do with them. Then Ron Stegall called me one day and asked if I’d be a featured artist for one of the chamber music concerts. Duh. Of course I said yes.

So I chose the March 10 concert, which gave me a few months to (a) find a studio (b) order plenty of oil paint and (c) decide what to paint. I knew I wanted to go beyond pretty landscapes, but I wasn’t sure how.

Then I remembered what Jules Maidoff once said to me in Florence, where I was painting portraits in a studio with the Art Students League. My roommate knew Jules’ daughter, and we visited them at his home. “Why paint in a studio?” Jules said. “You’re in Florence, so paint Florence.”

I’m in Deer Isle, I thought, so paint Deer Isle. It’s not quite like any other place in the world. Not by a long shot.

But actually, one of my paintings, Mail Boat, is about Monhegan Island, not Deer Isle. In the fall I’d taken a trip to Monhegan with my husband Dan and my parents. We took the first mail boat, which left very early in the morning. The light was spectacular. Liquid and golden. Almost unearthly.

So as I stared at my blank panels, I kept thinking about the light on that mail boat. Hence painting No. 1.

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In Mail Boat, I try to capture early morning island light

Two and Three

Then I looked for other subjects, different kinds of island light. Every day on the way to the post office I walk past the green house with the pier, the shed and the lobster traps. On a gloomy January day when I felt blue I noticed how a sliver of light through the clouds gave a glow to the front of the house. Painting No. 2, Gray Day.

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Gray Day, another kind of island light.

Just past that house is the Fish Pier, where fishermen unload their lobsters and scallops. Refrigerated trucks then haul the seafood off the island. I’ve always wanted to do a nightscape, and the Fish Pier from my studio window has a lot of exciting imagery at night. So I had three ideas. I decided they were coherent enough as “Island Light, Island Life.”

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It’s very dark on the island at night, except when there’s a full moon and down at the Fish Pier/

Glazes

I wanted rich color, but I didn’t want to do wet-into-wet painting, which reminds me of frosting a cake, something I’m not good at. I remembered I’d written a story for the New England Historical Society about Maxfield Parrish’s glazing technique. So I researched glazing, and I bought a bunch of galkyd paints and solvents and mediums to go with. Then I put on my work clothes and spent a couple of cold winter months painting all day.

I started with underpaintings, or grisailles, either of acrylic or galkyds. I chose grays for some, umber for others and cadmium red for the most muted paintings.

One evening I walked past the old sardine factory and saw it glow in the late island light. Painting No. 4. The old factory is used for parking now, as the sardines are gone and the sardine factories mostly moved to the Far East. There are people on Deer Isle who’d like those jobs back. I think of this painting as Ruin Porn.

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Island light at the end of the day transforms the old sardine factory.

Island Life

I also had a bunch of photos in my cell phone of LDI Lobster, the lobster shack at the end of the bridge. They have, without doubt, the best lobster rolls I’ve ever tasted. I love the look of lobster shacks, how they evoke the glories of a sunny summer day. I’m sure no one has committed suicide while waiting for a lobster roll to come up. Painting No. 5.

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Best lobster rolls ever.

I wrestled with what to do for painting No. 6. One day in the summer I had gone to East Point for a book club meeting. It was hard not to notice the gorgeous views (I think that’s Cadillac Mountain in the background). So I returned the next day and hung out on the bait dock for an hour or so. I took a lot of pictures of the charming ruffian in the painting. We talked about the Wyeths and about cool stuff around the bait dock – the fish bones, the hidden salt marsh at low tide, the driftwood.

His image kept haunting me. I was struck by the almost magical light and the contrast between the tender way he held the fish bones and the offputting message tattooed on his fingers: FUCK OFF!

So I took elements from all the different photos and voila! Painting No. 6.  I thought about painting in his tattos, but then I decided I preferred a G rating. Maybe I’m just a coward.

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The amazing island light down at the Bait Dock. It does something to reds, so I had to include the bait shovel.

Anyhoo, that’s the story of my latest six paintings. I hope you like them!

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Working in the Winter Studio Toward a March Deadline

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During the dead of winter in Downeast Maine I feel a bit like the farmers who plant their crops and repair their tools. It’s time to stay indoors, order supplies and paint my butt off.

I’m fortunate to have a winter studio above the Island Agency on Stonington’s Main Street (thank you, Morgan!).  With a southern exposure the light is great for eight or so hours, and the window overlooks Fish Pier. So there’s always something going on as the fishermen jet off in their skiffs or bring in loads of lobsters. Even when I’m not looking out the window, I’m soothed by the glug-glug-glug of marine engines.

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The view from the window of my winter studio. Always something doing.

Winter Studio Work

I’m lucky to have an early deadline to work toward this year. The Blue Hill Concert Association asked me to be their feature artist for their March 10 concert. Of course I said yes. It’s a world-class chamber music concert at the Blue Hill Congregational Church, and I’m excited to be part of it. I especially like the pressed tin walls and ceilings that I’ll hang my art against.

I’ve wanted to paint bigger, so I ordered six 2′ by 3′ wooden panels. Then I struggled with what to paint. My friend Katy Allgeyer challenged me by asking, “What do you want to do? Just paint pretty pictures?” And I did want to move on from picturesque landscapes.

I decided to paint scenes of island life, emphasizing island light. Just by happenstance I gave them all two-word names: Mail Boat. Gray Day. Bait Dock. Fish Pier. Lobster Shack. Sardine Factory. 

After thinking about how I’d paint them, I decided the best way to capture island light is to paint in layers. I’ve always admired the paintings of Maxfield Parrish, and I thought his technique of glazing would work in replicating the intensity of island colors — when the sun’s out, that is. Glazing would  also create rich, warm grays, which is what we get here when the sun isn’t out.

I start off with a grisaille, a monochrome underpainting.

grisaille-winter-studio
Detail from a grisaille

Right now I have four grisailles finished, with two more to go. And on days when the wind blows and the snow falls, I comfort myself by thinking it will almost be spring when I complete all six paintings.

 

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Some New Paintings and a New Library Venue

Wooden Boat School Buoys2MB
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This summer I ventured beyond Deer Isle — not that far, but still I ventured. And then I finished up the year with a snowscape of Stonington that I’ve been wanting to do since, oh, last winter.

Stonington Winter
Stonington Winter, watercolor

The Stonington Library

You can’t quite see the Stonington Public Library in the painting — it’s behind the building to the right. But now about a dozen of my paintings are hanging on the library walls. I’d like to put up a few more, but I’ve got to find frames for them first.

The Stonington Library recently underwent a major renovation, and now it’s even more of a jewel. There’s a new reading nook, a handicapped-accessible public bathroom (a very big deal in an island tourist community) and a new energy efficient furnace. Sadly, the fabulous Vicki Zelnick, who has done wonders with the library, will retire soon. I’ll miss her.

Brooklin

I’ve already posted my first painting of Brooklin here, called Naskeag Point.  And my second, come to think of it — Wooden Boathere.

Recently I finished another one, a watercolor called Wooden Boat School Buoys for fairly obvious reasons.

Wooden Boat School Buoys2MB
Wooden Boat School Buoys, watercolor.

I know the whole buoys-hanging-from-a-tree thing is a cliche, but these had so much energy I had to paint them. Besides, as an art history teacher once said, There’s a good reason cliches become cliches.

Monhegan

Monhegan, watercolor

Here’s a watercolor of Monhegan Island from the stern of the Laura B (or was it the Elizabeth Ann?) Anyhoo, I’d been immersing myself in Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, both at the Farnsworth Museum and at the Wyeth gallery on the second floor of the Port Clyde General Store. One Wyeth painting, an overhead view of a rushing stream called The Carry, really wowed me. Later, as I sat looking out at the wake of the boat I got inspired to paint this.

Then I did a couple of small oils, again inspired by a day trip to Monhegan on a sunny fall day.

Abie Rose, oil on canvas
Monhegan Museum, oil on canvas.

 

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