The Floating World

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Memorial Day is the official start of summer in Downeast Maine, though that doesn’t mean it’s warm. It was so cold on Friday the Stonington Farmers Market opened with only seven shivering vendors, including me with a fresh batch of frozen seafood pies.

Kim Kral and Bob Gillmor pitch a tent at the Stonington Farmers Market on Saturday.

Wind is the real enemy of the farmers market. Richard Lymburner, who sells plants early and garlic late, lost his tent in a cold blast. Sunset Acres (meat, cheese and greens) didn’t bother to put up a tent, nor did I; I shared with Bob Gillmor, aka Spoon Bob for the wooden spoons he makes. Even with rocks weighting down his tent we had to hang on to it when the wind gusted.

Still, the summer people came and bought a few things. You can tell they’re here because some of them walk down the middle of the street, gazing rapturously at the beauty of coastal Maine. That ticks off the sternmen, who drive even more aggressively than usual on the roads.

Sternmen are young men who make a lot of money working on fishing boats. They’re paid with a portion of the haul. Stonington is the biggest lobster port in Maine; last year, $65.3 million worth of lobster was yanked out of the sea. That’s $343,000 per boat.

The sternmen drive their skiffs the way they drive on the roads. I love to watch them zip across the harbor, leaving a long white wake. One cloudless blue day I noticed one orange skiff breezing into Fish Pier. Since I’m a sucker for blue and orange, I took some pictures and then made a painting.

Driving Home

I called it Driving Home and posted it on Facebook. That prompted a response from my sister who lives in San Francisco:

I’m wanting more orange in the back. Love the reflection of the boat and the wake.

So I replied:

Thanks PK. You raise an interesting point about the orange. I was thinking of a burst of orange against the blue but I could have put some orange elsewhere, perhaps as dots or mixed with blue to make shadows. If I’d put orange in the back it would have brought the background forward and flattened the picture, though I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The Japanese, you know.

That inspired another suggestion:

What if you put a bit more brown on the roof to ground the background a bit. I don’t know about art, so I’m not sure f it would flatten out the picture. But I do feel that the top left is floating away a bit. I like the pier too!!

So I went to the Deer Isle Artists Association, where the painting hangs next to one by my friend Carolyn Walton. I decided the roof was floating away. But I also decided it didn’t matter.

 

Eight of my paintings are now hanging at the DIAA gallery on Main Street in Deer Isle Village. They’ll be there until June 8 as part of the Make A Detour show. My notecards and postcards are there too. Stop by this Thursday morning (June 1) or Saturday afternoon (June 3) and say hi. I’ll be there peddling art.

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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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Looking for Signs of Spring on Deer Isle

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It’s easy to get obsessed with signs of spring, since there are so few of them here on Deer Isle this year.

It’s May 6, and I’m still wearing wool socks while my friends in metro Washington, D.C., torment me with Facebook images of cherry blossoms and azaleas along with complaints of 90 degree weather.

The Portland Press Herald tries to put a positive spin on the weather forecast:

Enjoy the sun today; we won’t see it for a while

That’s for sure.

Two nice days lie ahead, sandwiched between damp weather patterns.

By ‘damp weather patterns’ they mean several weeks of cold, overcast, rainy, foggy, dreary weather.

You don’t need the news media to forecast the weather here in Stonington. Here’s how to do it, per one of our neighbors:

Today you can’t see the stone. 
Here’s Stonington Harbor on a typical spring day in 2017.

Signs of Spring

Here on Deer Isle the grass did get green, and the occasional crocus and daffodil peek out along the stone walls.

In between rain showers I’ve been outside looking up to find the ultimate signs of spring: those lovely green leaves. I found wonderful things, and I’ve been having a blast posting them on Instagram.

I went a little crazy with the filter on this one:

Buds

This one is from the tree on Pres du Port’s front lawn.

Buds and moss

It was so encouraging to see this tree starting to leaf out a few days ago:

The blue sky didn’t last long

These guys have a little longer to go.

From Dunham Point Road

I took all these photos with my cellphone and altered them with Instagram filters. I think they show that art is as much about seeing as it is about what you do with what you see.

I haven’t abandoned my paintbrushes, though. I’m working on a Stonington streetscape right now for the May 26 ‘Make a Detour’ exhibition at the Deer Isle Artist Association. Hope to see you there!

 

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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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Deer Isle in Four Seasons

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Spring is easily the dreariest of the four seasons in coastal Maine — raw, cold, wet, overcast. It snowed yesterday, which at least gave the plow banks a fresher appearance.

Spring is also the season to plan for the summer tourists, who arrive in droves from July 4 to Labor Day. I decided to make a batch of notecards to sell to our visitors. Deer Isle in four seasons seemed a good idea, especially since I had paintings of each season.

Unfortunately, I’d sold two of the paintings and one was too big for notecard size. So over the past two days I repainted the big one and the two I sold (I figured I’m allowed to do that), all in notecard size.

The painting above shows a gardener (real) and a cat (fictional) on the Oceanville peninsula on Deer Isle. When spring finally does come to Maine, the wildflowers, especially the lupines, are so abundant they almost make up for April.

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

For summer I chose the Deer Isle Bridge from Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick, Maine.  A fellow artist once said to me, “You can sell those bridge paintings all day long.” (Meow. It was just after I’d sold one.) The bridge itself is quite steep so the sailboats on Eggemoggin Reach can sail under it.  More than a few drivers are terrified to drive over the bridge, and it isn’t unusual to see a car stopped on the mainland side of it as the driver realizes he or she has to go over that thing. The driver will then proceed very, very slowly, hugging the center line.

The daily traffic count over the bridge is 123. So to all my Washington, D.C., friends who post pictures of their lovely spring flowers when they aren’t stuck in traffic, I say, “Take that.”

The view from Caterpillar Hill actually deserves the adjective ‘awesome.’ From it you can see the site of the worst American naval disaster until Pearl Harbor, the Penobscot Expedition. Paul Revere was court-martialed for it, but that’s another story.

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

For autumn I already had a little painting of Dan hiking through Scott’s Landing, which is Island Heritage Trust property. It used to be the old ferry landing. Then the bridge was built in 1939 and changed the island — not for the better, say some. Scott’s Landing is great for collecting beach glass and watching birds, usually sassy crows, hungry seagulls,sanguine ducks and the occasional cormorant. The poor cormorants are getting eaten by eagles as the fishery declines.

On the Hard, notecard, 5.5″ by 4″.

For winter I chose a painting of a lobster boat on the hard. Stonington, one of two towns on Deer Isle, is the top port for lobster landings in Maine. Last year fishermen hauled 17.4 million pounds of lobster from the sea. Lobster fishermen make a good living, and many of them take their boats out of the water in the winter and go to Florida.

Three paintings in two days, however small, is a lot for me. Fortunately my wonderful sister Christen Miller sent me a new paintbrush (among other things) for my birthday. It was the perfect size for what I was doing. I’ve had painting instructors who told me it doesn’t really matter what brush you use. To them I say, “Wrong!”

And to the summer tourists eager to spend money on memories of Deer Isle, I say, $20 for all four seasons.

 

 

 

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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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A Little Story About Brownie the Cat

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Brownie our cat recently fractured a bone in her paw, bringing our household casualty rate to 75 percent. Dan has a wicked cold and Mack our other cat has dermatitis on his belly.

Brownie on an unhappy visit to Dr. Megan.

Brownie and Mack are two of my favorite subjects to paint.

Mack, displeased at our late arrival home for dinner.

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.

Brownie and Gracie. Watercolor and gouache on 140-lb. paper. 9″ by 12″. Private collection.

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.

Mack demanding 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.

Porch Kitty. Watercolor and gouache on 140-lb. paper. 12″ by 12″. Private collection.

And this one.

Moving Day. Watercolor on 140-lb. paper. 9″ by 12 “. Private collection.

And, for the record, her paw is healing nicely.

 

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Oscar and I Hold a Closing Opening Party

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Our Closing Opening started with the salmon. My sister Christen, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, sent Dan and me a honking big smoked salmon for Christmas. We didn’t think we could eat it all before it went bad.

So one day Oscar Turner and I were toiling away at the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery when Hub White stopped by. We joked about how many artists have drawn or painted the Church of the Morning After. We should have an exhibit here and invite the musicians to play at the reception, we joked.

Hell, Oscar and I should have our own closing opening on our last day, we said. We could serve that salmon.

So Oscar and I asked Cindy Bourque-Simonds if we could have a party. We promised up and down to clean the gallery and to get it ready for the ART matters 2 session the next day. Cindy said yes. She’d even bring brownies.

On our last day as artists in residence, Oscar and I cleaned after I finished my painting of Mom and the champion yellow birch. We left our paintings up on the wall.

Most if not all the work Oscar and I finished by our closing opening.

We took some of our stuff home and packed some of it away in the closet. So sad to end our artist-in-residency.

Still, there’d be a party.

We had sent out invitations.

We counted plastic glasses, napkins, paper plates and plastic cutlery hidden away in the DIAA cupboard. Oscar and Diana brought tablecloths, flowers, wine and more hors d’oeuvres.

Dan made little lobster pizzas (we’re hoping to introduce them in grocery stores this summer). I made salmon hors d’oeuvres. Lots of them.

In the end Oscar and I were grateful and happy so many people came out on such a wintry night. Though sometimes I think Deer Isle year-rounders in winter will go anywhere that’s warm, light and contains another mammal or two.

You can go to a party on Deer Isle and not one person will ask you where you work — unlike, say, Washington, D.C. Of course everyone already knows what everyone else does here. Don’t have an affair unless you want everyone to know about it.

Our guests included artists– Buzz Masters, Sarah Doremus, Peter Beerits; Rebecca Daugherty, Deborah Lothrop (aka Blossom’s mom), Maureen Farr, Judy Rader, Katy Helman and Cindy Bourque-Simonds – as well as a surveyor, three innkeepers, a jam-maker, a physiologist, teachers, a salesman, a Maine guide and novelist.

Spoonmaker Bob Gillmor came all the way from Blue Hill. Leave it to Bob to tell us about Gallery Punch. It’s a concoction of vodka, whiskey, champagne and something else designed to get art patrons drunk so they’ll buy expensive paintings.

No Gallery Punch. Just wine, beer, seafood and chocolate.

We weren’t selling our paintings, but perhaps we would have if we’d known about Gallery Punch.

Diane Horton took our photo. With a real camera, too.

Oscar had a blast. “What a great night,” he said.

Plus the salmon was all eaten.

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Painting the Champion Yellow Birch

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I began painting the champion yellow birch on my second-to-last day as artist-at work in the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery in January.

The Champion Yellow Birch

I had vowed to do a painting in oil in the DIAA gallery because I can’t do it at home, at least in the winter. The fumes concentrate in our gas dryer and our gas stove, making our clothes and food stink — something to which Dan strongly objects. Imagine that.

I brought some canvases, paint, oil brushes, miscellaneous solvents and an easel to the gallery in early january. For three weeks they taunted me. Finally on Day 22 I took the plunge.

I had an image in mind. In the fall of 2016 I took my mom, visiting from Cape Cod, to the Yellow Birch Farm on the Reach Road in Deer Isle. It’s an amazing place, owned by Missy Greene and Eric Ziner. It has goats, vegetables, Missy’s amazing ceramics and Eric’s wonderful metal sculptures.  I met Missy at the Stonington Farmers Market, where she kindly offered to sell our frozen clam chowder pies from their farmstand.

But I digress. Mom and I ran into Eric at the farm, and he told us how to find the champion birch tree in the woods. It’s actually a former champion; Eric said they delisted it because people were taking too many pieces from it.  So we found the tree in all its autumn glory. I took a few photos of Mom admiring the champion yellow birch and tucked them into my subconscious.

When I got out my oil paints, I knew I wanted to attack it with bold outlines of black paint. That approach worked with a painting I did in Florence a few years ago.

Florentine Trapeze Artist

Anatomically she’s a little off, but I like it anyway.

Oil is a very different medium than watercolor. It seems to take a lot more time to finish an oil painting (and definitely more time to clean the brushes), but less time to master the medium.

I’m not sure if I want to leave The Champion Yellow Birch the way it is, or work on it some more this summer when I can paint outside. Stay tuned.

 

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Getting Phyllis Just Right

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Sometimes paintings magically work the first time I put them down.  More often I have to try and try again. In the case of Phyllis, I painted about a dozen versions before I got it right.

Phyllis started out as an image of a kid walking on Cadillac Mountain. I painted it at home, before my artist-in-residency at the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery.

Walking Cadillac Mountain

I liked it well enough, but it wasn’t quite what I was getting at. The vegetation seemed a little overworked, the figure was a little stiff, the feeling it elicited wasn’t exactly awe at Cadillac’s majesty and all that.

I tried painting three adults at the edge of the painting.

Three on a Mountain

Nope, that didn’t do it for me either. I liked the image of the woman, but again the vegetation looked overworked.

So I shifted gears and painted a panoramic view of Frenchman Bay from Cadillac Mountain. All of these paintings were adapted from a couple dozen photos I took with my cell phone.

Cadillac Mountain Panorama

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the painting glowed (thank you, quinacridone gold).

I decided to leave it alone and go back to my images of people on Cadillac Mountain. I set my timer on my cell phone and finished in 30 minutes.

Phyllis on Cadillac Mountain

Cindy Bourque-Simonds, who manages the DIAA’s exhibits, dropped in with her dog. “Who’s that?” she asked, pointing to the woman I’d made up on the top of the mountain.

“Phyllis,” I said.

Phyllis looked cartoony and the mountain looked too pink in some places, too muddy in others. I tried again.

Phyllis Again

Better.

Then I thought I’d combine the Cadillac Mountain Panorama with Phyllis.

Version No. 1:

Phyllis on Cadillac Mountain

Version No. 2. I didn’t even finish Phyllis. I knew what I had to do.

Cadillac Mountain, Unfinished Phyllis

Final Version. Finally.

Cadillac Mountain, Finally Phyllis

 

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