Working in the Winter Studio Toward a March Deadline

grisaille-winter-studio
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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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Diary of a Deer Isle Artist in Residence, Day Two

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Day Two as artist in residence is much like Day One. I paint all day listening mostly to Lou Reed. Songs for Drella, the homage he and John Cale wrote for Andy Warhol, strikes a  nerve.

He was a lot of things, what I remember most
He’d say, “I’ve got to bring home the bacon, someone’s got to bring home the roast.”

He’d get to the factory early
If you’d ask him he’d tell you straight out
It’s just work, the most important thing is work

I finally finish the painstaking detail of my National Gallery of Art painting. I hate it. There’s good stuff in it, but I’ll need to fix it. I’ll stick it on the wall and think about it.

Tired, I put the second painting on the wall and take a picture for Facebook.

“If it were me I’d move it a tad to the right,” writes my friend Ray Dinsmore. 

Vineeta Anand posts “Little by little…

Oscar Turner comments on Facebook. “Wednesday,” he writes. He’s still on Bainbridge Island, I thought. I call and agree to pick him up at 9 a.m. tomorrow. He will be the second artist in residence for January starting on Day Three.

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