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.

art-matters-katy-helman
Sink or Swim by Katy Helman.
art-matters-carole-ann-fer
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:

artmatters4

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.

island-light-mail-boat
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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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.

island-light-mail-boat
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.

island-light-gray-day
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.

island-light-sardine-factory
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.

island-light-lobster-shack
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.

island-light-bait-dock
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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Essence of Island Life, the Last DIAA Show for 2018

essence-of-island-life-smalls-cove
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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.

essence-of-island-life-naskeag-point
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.

essence-of-island-life-powder-island
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.

essence-of-island-life-smalls-cove
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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Small Works Show at DIAA

small-works-ames-pond-4
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The popular Small Works exhibit begins at the Deer Isle Artist Association on August 28 at 10 am and runs for two weeks.

I have seven small paintings in the show, including four oil paintings of Ames Pond, two watercolors of Brooksville, Maine, and one watercolor of Ossipee Mountain in New Hampshire.

Ames Pond, much loved in Stonington, proves you don’t need to go to Giverny to paint water lilies. Ames Pond used to be a meadow until it was dammed to make ice. For many years, people on Deer Isle cut ice from Ames Pond for their own use, and to ship to the West Indies for trade.

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Ames Pond I. Oil on canvas.

Around 1932, a Deer Islander planted pink waterlilies in the pond, and they proliferated. The beavers love to eat their roots.

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Ames Pond II. Oil on canvas.

Between 9 am and 2 pm in summer, the pink waterliles, as well as the wild white and yellow ones, open to the sun.

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Ames Pond III. Oil on canvas.

I spent many hours as a young adult in front of Monet’s water lilies. I just loved them. Then after a while I got sick of them.  Perhaps I saw them on too many NPR tote bags, or at least thought I did.

small-works-ames-pond-4
Ames Pond IV. Oil on canvas.

But then, as a painter living in Maine, I found it  difficult NOT to paint Ames Pond. And I also found it nearly impossible NOT to take a page from Old Claude.

Other Small Works Paintings

Every Tuesday morning this summer you’ll find me selling prints, cards and paintings at the Brooksville Farmers Market.

I’ve wanted to paint Buck’s Market, a wonderful old general store near the market, since I first laid eyes on it. Many, many photographs later, I finally came up with images I could use for a watercolor:

small-works-bucks-market
Buck’s Market. Watercolor.

Brooksville people ask me if I have any paintings of Cape Rosier, a lovely wild peninsula in Brooksville. As a result, I do– at the Small Works show.

small-works-cape-rosier
Cape Rosier. Watercolor.

Finally, just to mix things up, I finished a long-unfinished watercolor of Ossipee Mountain for the Small Works show.  It was certainly a relief to paint snow after all that sunlight and greenery!

Ossipee Mountain. Watercolor.

 

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Small Works Show at the Deer Isle Artists Association

small-works-bucks-market

The popular Small Works exhibit begins at the Deer Isle Artist Association on August 28 at 10 am and runs for two weeks.

I have seven small paintings in the show, including four oil paintings of Ames Pond, two watercolors of Brooksville, Maine, and one watercolor of Ossipee Mountain in New Hampshire.

Ames Pond, much loved in Stonington, proves you don’t need to go to Giverny to paint water lilies. Ames Pond used to be a meadow until it was dammed to make ice. For many years, people on Deer Isle cut ice from Ames Pond for their own use, and to ship to the West Indies for trade.

small-works-ames-pond
Ames Pond I. Oil on canvas.

Around 1932, a Deer Islander planted pink waterlilies in the pond, and they proliferated. The beavers love to eat their roots.

small-works-ames-pond-2
Ames Pond II. Oil on canvas.

Between 9 am and 2 pm in summer, the pink waterliles, as well as the wild white and yellow ones, open to the sun.

small-works-ames-pond-3
Ames Pond III. Oil on canvas.

I spent many hours as a young adult in front of Monet’s water lilies. I just loved them. Then after a while I got sick of them.  Perhaps I saw them on too many NPR tote bags, or at least thought I did.

small-works-ames-pond-4
Ames Pond IV. Oil on canvas.

But then, as a painter living in Maine, I found it  difficult NOT to paint Ames Pond. And I also found it nearly impossible NOT to take a page from Old Claude.

Other Small Works Paintings

Every Tuesday morning this summer you’ll find me selling prints, cards and paintings at the Brooksville Farmers Market.

I’ve wanted to paint Buck’s Market, a wonderful old general store near the market, since I first laid eyes on it. Many, many photographs later, I finally came up with images I could use for a watercolor:

small-works-bucks-market
Buck’s Market. Watercolor.

Brooksville people ask me if I have any paintings of Cape Rosier, a lovely wild peninsula in Brooksville. As a result, I do– at the Small Works show.

small-works-cape-rosier
Cape Rosier. Watercolor.

Finally, just to mix things up, I finished a long-unfinished watercolor of Ossipee Mountain for the Small Works show.  It was certainly a relief to paint snow after all that sunlight and greenery!

Ossipee Mountain. Watercolor.

 

Engagement of Poetry at DIAA

engagement-of-poetry-dories
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I didn’t expect to be in the Deer Isle Artists Association  latest exhibit, Engagement of Poetry, but someone dropped out. So when asked if I’d participate, of course I said yes.

Since I’ve had such a busy summer, I only had time to submit three watercolors. I ended up with three very different ones.

Engagement of Poetry

The first, Brooksville Morning, came about because I go to the Brooksville Farmers Market every Tuesday to sell prints, cards and original artwork. I drive past this farm to get there, and I love how it looks in the fog. (There’s been a lot of fog this summer.)

We had to come up with statements about what inspired our work for the Exhibit of Poetry show. Here’s what I wrote for Brooksville Morning:

Fog reveals the loveliness of the earth on a summer morning.

engagement-of-poetry-brooksville-morning
Brooksville Morning, watercolor. Shown at ‘Engagement of Poetry’ exhibit.

The second painting, Dories, came about because I love these old boats. They’re tied up on a rocky little beach in Stonington.

Back in the day, farmers built dories like this in summer and used them to fish for lobster in the summer. Today, their owner uses them to seine for bait.

engagement-of-poetry-dories
Dories, watercolor. Shown in Engagement of Poetry at DIAA.

Here’s what I wrote for Engagement of Poetry:

The wisdom of old boats, the enchantment of the sea.

That ‘enchantment’ business may sound sappy, but it’s true. Stonington has for a long time had some of the best sailors and fishermen in the world, and it isn’t because they hate the sea.

Finally, here’s an image that started out as a sketch for another painting.  I made it up; it has part Stonington, part Cape Rosier in Brooksville and part Eggemoggin Reach in Deer Isle.

engagement-of-poetry-clouds
Clouds, watercolor. Shown in Engagement of Poetry.

Above the limpid sea, clouds are never still.

So come on down to the DIAA at 15 Main St. in Deer Isle. The artists’ reception is Sunday, Aug. 19, from 3-5 pm. We’ll also be at DIS Friday on Friday, Aug. 17, with cookies, lemonade and used art books for sale (in addition to the art).

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Engagement of Poetry at DIAA

engagement-of-poetry-dories

I didn’t expect to be in the Deer Isle Artists Association  latest exhibit, Engagement of Poetry, but someone dropped out. So when asked if I’d participate, of course I said yes.

Since I’ve had such a busy summer, I only had time to submit three watercolors. I ended up with three very different ones.

Engagement of Poetry

The first, Brooksville Morning, came about because I go to the Brooksville Farmers Market every Tuesday to sell prints, cards and original artwork. I drive past this farm to get there, and I love how it looks in the fog. (There’s been a lot of fog this summer.)

We had to come up with statements about what inspired our work for the Exhibit of Poetry show. Here’s what I wrote for Brooksville Morning:

Fog reveals the loveliness of the earth on a summer morning.

engagement-of-poetry-brooksville-morning
Brooksville Morning, watercolor. Shown at ‘Engagement of Poetry’ exhibit. 

The second painting, Dories, came about because I love these old boats. They’re tied up on a rocky little beach in Stonington.

Back in the day, farmers built dories like this in summer and used them to fish for lobster in the summer. Today, their owner uses them to seine for bait.

engagement-of-poetry-dories
Dories, watercolor. Shown in Engagement of Poetry at DIAA.

Here’s what I wrote for Engagement of Poetry:

The wisdom of old boats, the enchantment of the sea.

That ‘enchantment’ business may sound sappy, but it’s true. Stonington has for a long time had some of the best sailors and fishermen in the world, and it isn’t because they hate the sea.

Finally, here’s an image that started out as a sketch for another painting.  I made it up; it has part Stonington, part Cape Rosier in Brooksville and part Eggemoggin Reach in Deer Isle.

engagement-of-poetry-clouds
Clouds, watercolor. Shown in Engagement of Poetry.

Above the limpid sea, clouds are never still.

 

 

 

DIAA’s 12 by 12 (By 12) Show Starts

12-by-12-Farmers-Market

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.

12-by-12-Cape-Rosier
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!

DIS Friday in Stonington at the Island Agency

deer-isle-morning-island-agency

I’ll be selling new watercolor paintings, some oldies but goodies, prints, notecards and postcards at the Island Agency in Stonington on Friday, July 6. It’s DIS Friday (Deer Isle-Stonington for the uninitiated), which goes from 5-7 pm in downtown Stonington.

Wine and hors d’oeuvres are inseparable from art, so I’ll have those on hand, too!

Here’s one of my favorite new paintings I’ll bring along:

deer-isle-morning-island-agency
Deer Isle Morning

It’s a scene from just past the causeway across from Scott’s Landing.

I’ll also bring along a couple of watercolors with more somber palettes. This one, for example, also shows a scene from the causeway, but in November.

november-sunset
November Sunset, watercolor, 12″ by 16″.

It reflected my mood at the time. I believe our furnace had just gone on the fritz.

Changing Seasons, Changing Palette

I’ve noticed, though, that my paintings get darker and more muted in the winter, and brighter and sunnier in the summer.

For example, here’s a watercolor I did of the forest floor at the Island Heritage Trust’s Tennis Reservation.

tennis-reservation
Tennis, watercolor 12″ by 16″

I painted Tennis in April, when it’s cold and raw and overcast every single day. Or at least it seems like that.

But then comes summer and my palette gets a lot brighter — especially when the lupines come out.

lupine-madness-smaller
Lupine Madness, watercolor, 11.5″ by 11.5″

Tomorrow at the Island Agency I’ll be selling matted prints of Lupine Madness, Deer Isle Morningand other paintings of Deer Isle for $20. I’ll also have prints of some paintings of interiors — which usually means cats.

window-kitty
Window Kitty

Inventory isn’t my strong suit (I’m an artist, after all), but I will have some notecards and postcards for sale as well. And all the paintings shown here are available as small (4.5″ by 6.5″ in 8″ by 10″ mats) for $20.

So please stop by the Island Agency tomorrow and check out my artwork.

Shape of Waters at the Deer Isle Artists Association

shape-of-waters-44-north
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The Shape of Waters exhibit has already started at the Deer Isle Artists Association  in Deer Isle Village. I have five paintings in the show, all of which depict some kind of work.

Why Work?

When I left journalism to work for a labor union, I thought I should decorate my office with an image of an American worker. So I went to the National Gallery of Art, thinking the gift shop would have a poster, print or even a notecard  depicting someone at work.

I was hoping for a nice big WPA poster,

shape-of-waters-forging

but I would have settled for a print of an Ashcan School painting — McSorley’s Bar, for example.

shape-of-waters-mcsorleys-bar
McSorley’s Bar by John Sloan.

By the time I’d spent an hour looking through the merchandise, I would have been happy to find a notecard with Millet’s The Gleaners on it.

shape-of-waters-gleaner
Jean-Francois Millet, The Gleaners

I couldn’t find one single reproduction of a painting, print or sculpture that showed an American working. I’d soon learn how invisible the working class is in the United States, but that’s a whole other story.

Since moving to Deer Isle I’ve started to paint people at work. Usually I’ll spot them in a certain light or against a certain backdrop and I’ll ask them if I can take their picture. I take a bunch, then sometimes I go back and study the setting a little more. That’s what I did when I spotted Danielle washing windows at Inn on the Harbor.

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Danielle

The painting now hangs against the yellow wall in the Inn on the Harbor lobby.

Since then I’ve done more, including Kim at 44 North. That painting — 44 North — is now in the Shape of Waters show.

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44 North

I also have a painting of Dan collecting beach glass at Scott’s Landing, which is work to him, in the Shape of Waters show. Others show a painter caulking a windowsill, a shipyard worker scraping a boat, and the Stonington town cat — yes, that would be Dundee) supervising the town.

So come by and see the Shape of Waters show. There’s a reception from 3-5 pm on Sunday, July 8, at the gallery, where you can meet all the artists.

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