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.”

island-light-fish-pier
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.

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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

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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.

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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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Essence of Island Life, the Last DIAA Show for 2018

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Part of the essence of island life, at least in Maine, is that summer comes to a screeching halt. All of a sudden the take-out shacks close, the summer homes close up and lobster gear (including fishing boats) start to fill the yards.

On Sept. 25, the Deer Isle Artists Association opened the final show of the season, “Essence of Island Life.” I don’t always pay as much attention as I should to the  DIAA exhibit themes, but this time I did.

Essence of Island Life

I submitted three oil paintings and three watercolors, and all arguably depict the essence of island life. Two small oils feature Eggemoggin Reach, which separates Deer Isle from what William Butler Yeats once called ‘the old bitter continent.’

And then the biggest oil painting I’ve ever done: Naskeag Point. OK, Naskeag Point is a peninsula in Brooklin, Maine, which isn’t exactly an island. But I think the trees, the islands, the water and the clouds do give a fair representation of the essence of island life.

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Naskeag Point, oil on canvas

My watercolor Powder Island shows a familiar scene in Stonington Harbor. Fishing boats and dories pass it all day long on the way to and from Fish Pier.  The quarries on Crotch Island used to store powder on that middle island for blasting rock. The island quarries are a whole ‘nother story that can wait.

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Powder Island, watercolor

The vantage point for Powder Island is from Inn on the Harbor. Dan and I stayed there while deciding exactly which coastal town in Maine we should move to. The inn helped us make up our mind.

One of the inn’s new owners, Dana Durst, was walking on a sandbar in Smalls Cove late one afternoon in July. Smalls Cove faces west and gets tremendous sunsets, but I almost prefer the quality of the pre-sunset light. I really like this painting, and I kind of hope no one buys it. Which usually means someone will.

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Smalls Cove, watercolor

So if you’re in Deer Isle, stop by and see The Essence of Island Life: An exhibit of baskets, painting, photography, pottery and weaving.The reception with artists (which, sadly, I will miss) is on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 3-5 pm at the DIAA gallery in Deer Isle.

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Brooksville Farmers Market, Every Tuesday

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Who knew that art lovers patronize the Brooksville Farmers Market?

Actually I did know. Paul Rickert, a wonderful watercolorist, used to sell his paintings at the lively little market in Brooksville, Maine.

The market is near Buck’s Harbor Marina and Buck’s Harbor Yacht  Club, so as you can imagine it attracts quite a few yachters and summer cottagers. Many of the cottagers go back generations to Brooksville. The Brooksville Farmers Market is also near a charming country store called (you guessed it) Buck’s Harbor Market and a fine restaurant called, yup, Buck’s.

Other vendors include Blue-Zee Farm, where Renata sells the best red peppers ever along with blueberries, lettuce and other produce, and Poland Farm, where Kevin sells farm-grown beef and pork. Sometimes he brings his guitar and sings King of the Road for me. (Along with other songs.)  I did a watercolor of Kevin a few years ago:

Brooksville Farmers Market. Watercolor on 140-lb. paper. 12″ by 12″.

I can’t leave out Courtney Haight, who, when he isn’t playing the steel drums, sells heirloom tomatoes, vinegars and barnboard tables.

Vendors also sell jewelry, coffee, lime fizz, jam, granola, books, photographs, eggs, lard, ceramics, textile art and lunch.

Brooksville Farmers Market

This spring I thought I’d try selling prints and cards at the Brooksville Farmers Market. I asked my mom to come up with a display (she’s much better at it than I am) and borrowed a tent from my friend Spoon Bob.

Part of my display t the Brooksville Farmers Market. Dad painted the “Artwork by Leslie Landrigan” sign.

As an afterthought, I included a few original watercolors in mats.

And I brought along four birdhouses that my dad painted over the winter.

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Birdhouse by Luke Miller.

The birdhouses, a steal at $39 each, have all gone home with a happy owner. So have a surprising number (to me) of original watercolors, along with quite a few prints.

These two guys are easily my best sellers.

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Window Kitty. Print.

 

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Sand Beach. Print.

So every Tuesday I schlep the tent, the tables, the tablecloths, the fake calla lilies, the box of cards, the box of prints, the easel, the framed painting, the cash box and the print rack, I drive them to Brooksville and I set them up. From 9:30 a.m. to noon I’m there, meeting new people and swapping market gossip with the other vendors.

So please come on down and say Hi!

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The 12 by 12 (By 12) Is Here!

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The Deer Isle Artists Association’s popular 12 by 12 (By 12) exhibit is scheduled to start Tuesday, July 31, at 10 am sharp.

Be there at the starting gate if you have your eye on a particular work of art.

The 12 by 12 (By 12) features paintings, prints and collages (also known as wall art) no bigger than 12″ by 12.” It also includes 3-dimensional art, such as ceramics, baskets, fiber art and sculpture, also no bigger than — you guessed it — 12″ by 12″ by 12″.

Every work of art sells at an extremely reasonable price of $144 ($12 X $12). The gallery hangs new work as pieces sell. The show lasts two weeks, as all DIAA summer exhibits do, until August 12.

The exhibit is important to the DIAA because it raises money for operating costs.

If you’d like to meet the artists, the reception will be held on Sunday, Aug. 5, from 3 pm to 5 pm. Wine and lemonade will be served, and there will be plenty of food as well.

I’ve shown my work in the past two 12 by 12 (By 12) exhibits. This year I’m donating three watercolors to the show.

They are: Farmers Market,12-by-12-Farmers-Market

Farmers Market, Watercolor, 12″ by 12″Caterpillar Hill and

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Caterpillar Hill, Watercolor, 12″ by 12″

and, finally, Cape Rosier.

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Cape Rosier, Watercolor, 12″ by 12″

These are all Maine scenes. Farmers Market, as its name implies, pictures a scene from the Stonington Farmers Market,

Caterpillar Hill is the view from a stunning lookout on Route 15 on the way to Deer Isle (or the way back). It overlooks Penobscot Bay, the island and the Penobscot River. If you happen to drive by, check out the informational markers. I believe they explain the disastrous Penobscot Expedition during the American Revolution. It didn’t go well for Paul Revere.

Cape Rosier is a part of Brooksville, also part of the Blue Hill peninsula. I’ve just recently discovered this beautiful part of the world and plan to paint much more of it!

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Paintings and Prints at DIAA “Distinctive Marks” Show

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I’ll have both paintings and prints in the Deer Isle Artists Association show, Distinctive Marks, starting Tuesday, June 19.  My paintings will all be watercolor (though I am doing oils these days too), and they’re all new.

Like this one:

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Barred Island

All my work for this show will be landscapes. Because they were painted between November and June, the palette ranges from somber to bright.

November Sunset, for example, shows Causeway Beach in (you guessed it) November.  As I recall I painted it just after the furnace went out on a very cold day.

November Sunset, watercolor, 12″ by 16″.

A very long, wet, dreary spring followed our very long winter here in Maine. Only recently did the temperature exceed 70 — and that was in June, for godsake. But suddenly the sky cleared, the sun came out and  the flowers bloomed. Many, many flowers bloomed, and they did it all at once.

So after toiling over a muted palette I wanted to paint something bright and exuberant. I had plenty of scenes to choose from, but I picked one of my favorite views: from Highland Avenue in Stonington, looking down at the harbor.

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Lupine Madness, watercolor, 11.5 by 11.5.

Distinctive Marks is an exhibit of 3-D works, painting, photographs, pottery and sculpture . Also showing work in the Distinctive Marks show will be Emily Brett Lukens. Ron Deprez, Mary Eaton, Steve Ettlinger, Alan Flowers, Stephan Haley, Jill Kofton, Jerry Levitt, Luna Lyman, Julie Meranze-Levitt, Woodley Osborne, Cynthia Stroud-Watson, Maura Tillotson and Alice Wilkinson.

A reception for the artists will be held Sunday, June 24, from 3-5 pm at the DIAA gallery.

The Deer Isle Artists Association, founded in 1972,

Founded in 1972, the Deer Isle Artists Association is a member-run nonprofit organization committed to creating and exhibiting art. Our more than 100 members include painters, sculptors, printmakers, jewelers, fiber artists, photographers, ceramicists and other artists.

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Inn on the Harbor, New Home for My Work

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There are at least two wonderful places to stay in Stonington: Inn on the Harbor and Boyce’s Motel.  Dan and I stayed at both while hunting for our dream home in Stonington, and we had nothing but good experiences.

Putting cards in racks at Inn on the Harbor.

Jay Brown and Dana Durst bought Inn on the Harbor a year ago and worked their tails off freshening it up. Over the winter they held community potlucks in their dining room, which is how I got to know them. (There is, by the way, a rich potluck culture on Deer Isle. You’d better have a couple of go-to hors d’oeuvres recipes if you want to survive the winter here.)

At their last potluck, I asked Jay and Dana if they’d be interested in selling notecards I’d made of Deer Isle scenes in winter

On the Hard, notecard, 5.5″ by 4″.

… spring

Oceanville Garden, notecard, 5.5″ by 4″

…summer

Deer Isle Bridge From Caterpillar Hill, notecard, 5.5″ by 4″

and fall.

Scott’s Landing in Autumn, notecard, 5.5″ by 4″.

They said sure, bring them on down.

But then the dilemma presented myself: How do I package them? So I ordered clear bags. Then I thought I need to explain what they are. So I ordered a postcard to go in the package with the cards.

While I was at it, I decided to order some more postcards.

Church of the Morning After, pastel
Blue Hill Overlook, watercolor
Clamming at Causeway Beach, watercolor
Moving Day. Watercolor
Boys o Summer, watercolor
Sand Beach, watercolor

The postcards arrived yesterday, so I spent this morning assembling what seemed like thousands of little doodads: notecards, envelopes, stickers, scotch tape, postcards. Fortunately the cats were not in terrorist mode and I got it all done without a mishap. (They find it comforting to chew on the cellophane bags.)

All the while I remembered two things people had told me: One, a salesman for R.R. Donnelley in Chicago. He said, “Anyone can write a book, not everyone can sell it.” The same applies to art, I thought. It’s one thing to sit in a studio and create images; quite another to schlep paintings around, reproduce them, frame them, price them, keep track of them (seriously) and convince people they don’t suck.

And I remembered what my friend Michael Daugherty said to me over the winter. He’s the former co-owner of the Isalos Gallery in Stonington with his wife Rebecca. Michael told me people have no idea the amount of work gallery owners put into selling a work of art. I take his point.

Anyhoo, my notecards and postcards are now on sale at the Inn on the Harbor in beautiful downtown Stonington, Maine. Stop in and see for yourself.

 

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The Jordan Pond House Gives Me Fits

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Jordan Pond Intruder, Watercolor on 140-lb. paper. 9″ by 12″.

The Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park was originally a restaurant built in the 1870s next to (surprise!) Jordan Pond, a deep, clear lake formed by a glacier. At one end are two mountains called ‘The Bubbles.’

Jordan Pond, looking toward The Bubbles.

In the 1890s, the Jordan Pond House hosted high-society events for the wealthy summer people of Bar Harbor. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., bought it and gave it to the National Park Service in 1946. That was the year before the Year Maine Burned.

In 1947, 200 wildfires in two October weeks wiped out nine Maine towns, left 2,500 homeless, consumed 2,000 acres in Acadia National Park and burned many of the seasonal estates and grand hotels  in Bar Harbor.

Jordan Pond House

The Jordan Pond House survived that fire, but not another one in 1979. It was rebuilt with a large gift shop. Today it serves tea and popovers on the veranda overlooking the pond, along with locally sourced Maine cuisine.  I’m told the food is a cut well above the usual Aramark park fare.

What I love about the Jordan Pond House is the way people cluster under the entryway, which is covered with some sort of vine. I’m guessing wistaria but it could be something else.

I like the way the vines filter the light, the way the entryway frames human figures. But I’ve never been able to take anything resembling a decent picture of them, no matter how fast I am with the smart phone. So I had to make this painting up pretty much from memory with a few reference photos.

I had a terrible time with this painting. It took me three tries to get the vines right, the flowers gave me fits and the background didn’t work. I left it on the dining room table for two weeks before realizing I needed to lighten the background. Then it took another day to realize it needed something in the middle. I put in the dog, though I don’t think they’re allowed in Acadia.  Hence the title, Intruder at the Jordan Pond House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boys on Beaches

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boys on beaches
Rock Throwing at Sandy Neck, Watercolor and Gouache on 140 lb. paper, 9″ by 12″, $300.

Boys on beaches having fun are irresistible subjects for me. Boys on beaches wearing red are even more so.

I love paintings that show a person’s mood or emotion in an identifiable setting. Boys on beaches are almost always having a blast, and their body language shows it. They’re as joyful as — well, Louis Armstrong playing Potato Head Blues.

But I digress.

Friends ask why I do representational art. The great Edward Hopper explains why:

The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form and design.

He also explains, sort of, why the color red on a Cape Cod beach is so vibrant:

…there’s a beautiful light there — very luminous–perhaps because it’s so far out to sea; an island almost.

The painting above is taken from an image of my nephew Scotty throwing a rock at Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable, Mass. He was 10 years old and visiting his grandparents in nearby Sandwich during Easter vacation. Scotty and his older brother and sister were getting restless, so Grandma and I took them to the beach. That’s the power plant and the Sagamore Bridge in the background.

It took me a year to get around to it, but I finally finished Scotty this week.

boys on beaches

I’ve done several other paintings of boys on beaches. One, Boys of Summer, was just accepted into the New England Watercolor Society Regional Juried Exhibition. (Very exciting.) They’re walking on the boardwalk on Town Neck Beach in Sandwich.

Another of my favorites was also set at Town Neck Beach:

boys on beaches
Cape Cod Potato Chips. Watercolor on 140-lb. paper. 12″ by 14″. $600.

I painted the last two paintings five or six years ago. The boys are probably in their late teens by now. I hope they’re still able to cut loose at the beach.

 

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