The Stonington Public Library: Summer Home for a Whole Bunch of Paintings

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Last winter (which ended a few days ago) the Stonington Public Library trustees asked me to be the summer artist. “Sure,” I said.

Of course I said ‘sure.’ I’d be following in the footsteps of Jill Hoy and Frederica Marshall, artists whose work I’ve admired on the library’s walls.

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The view out the Stonington Public Library window.

Stonington Public Library

The Stonington Public Library is also a lovely setting for paintings, a clean, well-lighted place that overlooks Stonington Harbor. On clear days the sunlight bounces off the sea and throws a radiance into the old building. On gloomy days, of which we have had many, the Stonington Public Library is a refuge from cold and loneliness, a place where the librarian never says “Shush.”

And despite its small size, the library has access to boatloads of information through its databases and interlibrary loans. The Stonington Public Library helped me and Dan research our book, Bar Harbor Babylon, true stories about billionaires behaving badly. You can borrow it from the library, or order it here.

But it took me a long time to realize that even a small library has a lot of wall space.

Does Size Matter?

I started putting my paintings up in the spring. One librarian begged me to hang a large, colorful painting on the big bare white wall in the bathroom. (Note: It’s the brand-new, handicapped-accessible public bathroom made possible in part by donations from Stephen King).

So I hung one of my biggest paintings, Settlement Quarry, on that wall.

It didn’t look that big.

I took all my available large paintings and hung them on the library walls. I put the painting of Scotts Island – where Robert McCloskey lived – in the children’s room. Right across from the librarian’s desk I hung one of my favorite watercolors, a mother and daughter climbing the steps of the Library of Congress.

Steps to Parnassus. Watercolor on 140-lb. paper. 6″ by 9.5″.

I stuck framed watercolors and small oils on the shelves. I framed more watercolors and brought them in. For a while it seemed I was constantly schlepping paintings to the library.  I started to worry. Could I hang enough paintings by the Fourth of July, when summer really comes to Downeast Maine?

One sunny, peaceful morning I was walking to the village and a fisherman caught my eye. He was slowly driving a skiff on a sheet of cobalt blue, heading out to the lobster boats in the distance. It was a transcendent moment. Or maybe just one hell of a commute. Or both. I took a bunch of photos with my trusty cell phone and resolved to paint that image. Big.

The Skiff

So I threw myself into that painting, getting to the studio at the crack of dawn and working furiously on it. Two days before I promised to have all the paintings in the library I painted the bottom edge of the canvas with a drying medium. I left the painting upside down on the easel. The next day I got to the studio and found the paint still wet on the bottom. No worries, I said to myself. I can paint upside down. Sometimes that’s better.

Well, it wasn’t. When I hung the painting right side up (and still a little wet) in the library’s big stairwell, I realized I’d painted an anatomically incorrect fisherman and a boat that wouldn’t last long on the water.

People didn’t seem to notice. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to fix that fisherman and that boat.

So I sneaked into the library one evening (I’m on the board of trustees and I have a key) and swiped my painting. I took it to my studio, where I worked on it to the point where I could sleep at night again.

I’ll unveil The Skiff 2.0 on Friday, July 5, at the Stonington Public Library with drinks and nibbles and about 40 other paintings. Please stop in and say hello!

Update

Here’s the new and improved Skiff, probably still a little damp:

Skiff. Oil on canvas, 36″ by 36″
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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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Holiday Pop-Up Market at DIAA

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Some brand-new cards along with old favorites of mine are on sale for a one-day only pop-up market at the  Deer Isle Artists Association from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, December 1 at the DIAA Gallery.

I’ve been wanting to paint a snow scene of Stonington for a long time, so this fall I buckled down and painted this watercolor of the town from the harbor.

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Stonington Winter, watercolor

I made cards of the painting, which are on sale at the pop-up market.

Cindy Bourque-Simonds, DIAA’s most tireless board member, runs the pop-up market by herself. “This is a different kind of a show for us, because many of our artists are trying something new and pricing them as affordable gifts,” she said for the official press release.

New Oil Paintings

For me, something new is an oil painting of the kayak launch at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine.

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Wooden Boat, oil on canvas

That, too, is on sale at the pop-up market, along with a small oil painting of my friend Leslie Anderson. We painted together last fall on the top of Kezar Mountain in Little Deer Isle.  As you can see I painted it loosely, which was quite fun.

Next on my agenda: I have some big — for me at least — wooden panels. They’re two feet by three feet, and I plan to finish them over the winter.

 

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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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