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:
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.
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.
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.
We adopted Brownie and her sister Gracie about 10 years ago. Dan wanted to name them Brown Cat and Gray Cat because of their coloring. I quickly intervened and suggested Brownie and Gracie.
As kittens they’d lived somewhere under a Wendy’s dumpster in suburban Washington, D.C. Gracie, who had a high kitty IQ, protected Brownie, who was always a little wild and – let’s be honest – a little stupid.
Brownie is a Kitler — a kitty with a Hitler moustache. It suits.
One Saturday morning Dan and I walked into our suburban D.C. living room to see them basking in the sunshine. I snapped a picture with my cell phone that inspired a gouache and watercolor painting of them – one of my favorites.
Gracie died at a young age. I wept at my desk. She had FIP, and Brownie was a carrier. If we wanted another cat, it had to be an older one. Otherwise Brownie would transmit the disease to a kitten.
Hence Mack, a staid older cat dubbed the Love Bug by the shelter volunteers. Mack is larger than some dogs, and he can be quite intimidating when he jumps in your lap to demand Love Time.
In winter, they sleep in our bed, which is why we call them the Thousand Degree Cats. One night the cats heated Dan so much he went to the downstairs bedroom to sleep. He woke up realizing there were still two creatures on the bed. No, wait, there were three – Brownie and Mack were playing with a mouse. Dan got dressed, scooped the mouse into a cardboard box and took him to the Stonington dump, where he could live a happy life.
That little adventure inspired a birthday card. I’m glad I got into the habit of making kitty-themed cards for Dan. It’s hard to find good greeting cards on a Maine island.
Brownie, despite her personality flaws, inspires some of my favorite paintings. Like this one.
In one way or another, I’ve been working for two years on this painting of an interior courtyard at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
By Day Nineteen at the DIAA Gallery I finally finished it. I may do it over, but, like my lobster trap painting, the details are so exhausting I probably don’t have it in me.
The painting is based on a bunch of photos I took while wandering the National Gallery of Art during my lunch hour. My office was 10 minutes away from the NGA, and I often took solace there during the winter of 2014-15. My boss was abusing me at work, and he had ordered my colleagues not to talk to me. I was just trying to survive until I could sell my house and move to Maine.
The image of the shadowy guard in the background is what the painting is about. He reminds me of me back then, a marginalized presence looking at an aspiration (even if the aspiration was to kill a goose rather than sell a house).
Judith Felch, the DIAA’s treasurer, came in to the gallery one day while Oscar and I were painting, and she mentioned she was taking her grandchildren to Washington, D.C. Judith graciously listened as I rattled off my rules for survival for tourists with children in Washington, D.C.
Prepare for security. You can enter few public buildings in Washington without going through a metal detector. And don’t be alarmed by the paramilitary surrounding the Capitol. They probably won’t shoot you.
Have a plan for a place to rest. The National Mall is not friendly to pedestrians, so break up your day with a meal or a snack. The café at the Sculpture Garden, the courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art are good places for lunch. The Botanical Garden is a good place to rest after the Air and Space Museum.
(Here, by the way, is what the National Gallery is featuring:
I get a lesson in climate change at The Harbor Café, which overlooks Stonington Harbor.
Oscar and I decide to have lunch there on Day Eighteen. (Thursday, Jan. 27, if you’re keeping track of our artists-in-residency at the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery.)
The Harbor Café is a Stonington institution, open year round and, when nothing else is open, the restaurant of last resort. The food is what you’d expect in a Maine fishing village: hearty American fare.
Oscar and I sit in the window so we can watch the world go by, mostly in pickup trucks. Sandra brings me the haddock sandwich I ordered. The fish is the size of a pork roast. Oscar ordered the same. This is about as good as fried fish gets. We are happy.
“They’ve stopped working on Hagen Dock,” I say. “The barge is gone.”
A fisherman, an older gentleman at the next table, laughs. “They ran out of money,” he said. “They’re good at that.”
“They’ve done the hard part,” says Oscar.
“The hard part is finishing it,” says the fisherman.
“Maybe the hard part is paying for it,” I say.
The fisherman explains the dock has to be built up to the orange barrels. They’ve actually just paused because of the weather.
“There’s going to be a catwalk around it, so we can’t tie our skiffs up to the floating dock anymore,” says the fisherman. “Years ago I wanted them to fill in the harbor, build a wharf, shore up those buildings. When I first got here all those buildings were on dry land.”
Now they’re on pilings. “Wow,” I say.
“The tides are two feet higher than they were 20 years ago,” the fisherman says. “They used to be 10 feet. Now they’re 12. Those buildings are all gonna be gone. If they’d done like I suggested, we could put our boats right up to the wharf, there’d be parking.”
“People could walk along the waterfront,” I say. “Tourists love that.”
“And there’s plenty of grout,” he says. “Just barge it over from Crotch Island.” There is a quarry on Crotch Island. Some days when the wind is right you can hear the rumble and roar of the quarrying.
Sandra brings the check. Oscar insists on paying. I always worry, because Oscar can’t do numbers. He pays with a credit card but he doesn’t leave a tip. I slip Sandra $5 bill. “Oscar can’t do numbers,” I say. She smiles.
I painted one of those buildings on the waterfront. Wonder how long it will last.
Today I finally fix my painting of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. There’s a triangular rock under a pine tree with too much light on it, and it ruins the composition. I feel it staring at me from up on the wall, like a portrait with eyes that move. Finally I can’t take it anymore. I take the painting off the wall, paint out the rock and put it back on the wall. There. Much better.
There’s a bumper sticker you see on Deer Isle that says “Incite Art. Create Community.” (You also see “Fish Forever.”) I believe the Stonington Opera House printed it about 20 years ago.
Oscar and I create some community today as we incite art in the DIAA gallery. We host a parade of visitors, people stopping by on the way to the Post Office or the library or driving through town.
Hub White stops in and I give him the bad news: His ART matters 2 discussion series will fall on Super Bowl Sunday – and the Patriots are playing. With this arty crowd it probably won’t affect attendance much, not half as bad as a Bagaduce Chorale concert.
Hub sighs. “Next year I’m going to notify the NFL not to schedule the Super Bowl on the same day as ART matters,” he says.
Oscar looks up from his painting. “Is football still big at Michigan?” he asks.
Rebecca Daugherty and Michael Daugherty drop in. They live directly off their work, writing and painting and paddling kayaks. They used to run an art gallery in Stonington called Isalos, and now Rebecca is painting in a studio in Stonington’s old elementary school. Michael is a Maine Guide who wrote a book on kayaking and is working on a novel.
I am embarrassed about my lighthouse paintings. I give Michael and Rebecca my shtick about how it was Edward Hopper who made the lighthouse a cliché. Rebecca says Winslow Homer painted lighthouses before Edward Hopper and they were awesome.
Michael says you make things your own. “When Edward Weston photographed peppers, people said peppers had been photographed before,” said Michael. “But Weston said, ‘These are my peppers’.”
A storm. The lights flicker. If there’s a power outage perhaps the Central Maine Power drones will locate the source quickly.
Oscar calls and says we should forgo the DIAA gallery because of the roads. He posts on Facebook a picture of ice on his roof.
Dan is skeptical, I say I’m going in anyway. Then Dan looks at our eaves and sees ice. We hear few if any pickup trucks roaring by. If even the crazy pickup drivers are staying home, I am too.
Oscar has been working on a painting of two white buildings on Greenhead, a peninsula that sticks out in Stonington Harbor. At the end is the Greenhead Lobster Company. Greenhead is Stonington’s answer to the red fishing shack in Rockport, Mass., which artists once called Motif No. 1 – and now everyone else does.
I’m also working on a painting of white buildings, Mark Island Light. I put them both up on the wall.
Oscar is reading a book of poems by Stu Kestenbaum, I wish I could remember which one. Stu is our neighbor in Deer Isle, former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, current interim director of the Maine College of Art, member of the Church of the Morning After, occasional pickleball player, very nice guy and Maine’s poet laureate.
Oscar held out a page with the poem Only Now, the first 15 or so lines heavily underlined.
We throw away so many things, pack them into translucent garbage bags where you can see through to the once beloved objects. The humbling moment is to realize it’s all heading to the dumpster, not just my journal and last month’s bills, but all of history, and all that will be left is an ember rotating in space. Don’t worry, it will all start over again. This isn’t the only world, this is just one try at it. This is the world that had ice and snow, this is the world where the apple blossoms fell to earth, this is the world where the clapboarded churches stood so white against the blue sky, like a remarkable original idea that gets our attention.
He pointed to the line about the clapboard churches. “That’s what we’re doing,” he said.
I have to play pickleball right after art today so I won’t paint with oil yet. I’ll be too messy and stinky. I gather some turkey soup and a few brushes and I pick up Oscar. I’m a little late because the power outage messed up the clocks. Also because I had to stop and take a picture of the old sardine factory near Oscar’s house for a New England Historical Society story.
Oscar says it’s okay I’m late, he wasn’t ready yet. We chat with Diana in the kitchen and tell her everything we did yesterday sucks. She says often the first thing you do is.
“Have fun,” she says as we leave.
“It’s work,” I say.
“I know, but it’s fun to work,” she says.
Oscar has a red Moleskine book he uses to help communicate. It has names and addresses, business cards, sketches. The book is ragged, he says it’s time for a new one. He hands me an envelope.
it’s my Christmas card. I love it.
He asks me to write my name and address in his new book. I see it’s from the National Gallery of Art. I point to my fountain painting. That’s from the National Gallery, I say. He tells me he loves that place. Shows me pictures he took there, of paintings by Picasso, by Stuart Davis. That’s what he wants to do with his Church of the Morning After painting.
I should bring in my Picasso book, the one Jean-Michel Basquiat used to pore over when he was living with my friend Alexis Adler. About the time he met Andy Warhol. We’re not sure how Alexis ended up with the book, but I was so glad she returned it to me several decades later. With Basquiat’s smudges and scribbles in it.
(“I like the druggy downtown kids who spray paint walls and trains
I like their lack of training, their primitive technique
I think sometimes it hurts you when you stay too long in school
I think sometimes it hurts you when you’re afraid to be called a fool” – from Songs for Drella.)
Oscar shows me another book. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. “I can’t use the right side of my brain anymore,” he says. “I can’t do architecture.”
“I have to find a way,” he says.
By 10:30 on Day Four all I’ve done is lift mistakes from my paintings. I lift the sky from the Maine lobster trap painting. I lift the sky from the Acadia Panorama painting, which looks like two separate paintings fighting with each other. Maybe if I lighten the sky it will be better. Maybe if I replace the cobalt with cerulean and a dash of cadmium the sky and the land will stop fighting each other.
Day Four Visitors
Hub White comes in, our first visitor. He’s a DIAA board member. “It’s because you don’t have a visitor’s chair,” he says. He finds one in a closet.
Oscar and Hub both studied architecture at the University of Michigan — at the same time, Oscar realizes. We talk about how gray it is in the Upper Midwest, how it gets dark here at 3:30 pm, what it’s like to paint big and to paint small.
Someone mentions John Singer Sargent. It’s his birthday today. Hub says he likes his travel paintings and his watercolors better than his society portraits. I say I think Sargent did too. I think he had to suck up to a lot of rich people to make a living, then when he didn’t have to anymore he painted what he wanted to paint. Like ‘Gassed.’
Andy Warhol sucked up to rich people, too. Wonder if he’d been so successful if he hadn’t befriended Edie Sedgwick. Probably. There are plenty of rich people in Manhattan.
After Hub leaves, Linda Campbell drops in. Her surveying office, Due North, shares the building. I say I hear she’s becoming a drone pilot. She says there’s so much to know: airspace, weather, kinds of planes. She was taking a class at UMaine-Orono and everyone in it works for CMP, Emera or big construction companies. When the power went out on Wednesday the power companies sent drones to look for the outages, she says.
Annie Taylor Gray comes in briefly. She drove three hours to Bangor and back for a two-minute dentist appointment.
When I get home I post a photo of our Day Four work on Facebook.
“There was a lovely feeling in there today,” posts Annie.
I was born in New York City, grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, returned to New York City as a Barnard undergrad and did some time in corporate America in Chicago while wasting much of my youth at Wrigley Field. Then I fled to New Hampshire where I started a journalism career, which took me to the Massachusetts Statehouse (yes, I have great stories about it) and then to Washington, D.C., as an Associated Press reporter.
I was not cut out for Versailles on the Potomac, and it would be an understatement to say Arlington, Va., never felt like home. I left AP to work for a labor union, which at least gave me more time to paint. In 2015, my husband Dan and I moved to a former stonecutters’ boardinghouse in Stonington, Maine.
While working as a reporter, I had very little free time. Watercolor suited because it was portable and quick. For a long time I practiced endless still life paintings of household objects. So boring.
During the oughts I got turned on to John Yardley, an English watercolorist who does lots of light-infused street scenes.
It was just around then that cell phone cameras got to be quite good. I started taking pictures of scenes in downtown Washington, D.C., feeling predatory but shameless as I followed an orange coat or a white shirtsleeve until it caught the light just right.
Sometimes it took hundreds of cellphone images and lots of sketches before I could extrapolate a painting from them.
Sometimes I’d snap a photo and immediately see a painting, like this one. I was walking in front of the Capitol on my way to work, and just after this bicyclist passed me I whipped out my cellphone to capture him.
I found I love to paint people in streetscapes and landscapes and all kinds of scapes. I like to paint animals, too. (Dan says that’s all I should do.)
Painting people and animals means knowing how to draw.
I spent a lot of time in Washington sitting still – for hours on the Metro as it lurched toward the station or in rooms listening to people prattle on sententiously.
I used that time to practice drawing people. I’d look for someone on the Metro wearing earbuds (they rarely move except to the music) or I’d draw a politician in a hearing room. Sometimes I’d draw from C-Span images. (You’d be amazed at how much reporting comes off television monitors.)
Another place I found ideal for sketching people is the racetrack. Race fans sit very very still while they pore over the racing form, oblivious to me as I observe and record them. Saratoga is a wonderful place to paint, filled with color and motion, stock still subjects and plenty of filtered light.
I also like to paint on Cape Cod, where my parents live. The light on Cape Cod, as Edward Hopper noted, is luminous.
So now my home is in Maine, where my hero Winslow Homer lived, though I’m on Deer Isle and he was farther south. Every other person on this beautiful island is an artist or a fisherman. I found a lot of things to paint. I also joined the Deer Isle Artists Association last year and learned a lot about making and selling art in the Deer Isle gallery.
I’m taking the next step with this website. With the help of my husband (thank you, Sweetiepie) I’ve posted images of a decades’ worth of my best paintings. Most are for sale, though some are already sold. I’m open to doing commissions (I even paint signs and I’m real good at lobsters) and I’m open to negotiations. Just email me at [email protected] or call at 207-348-3129. I’m on Instagram and Facebook as well.