The Jordan Pond House Gives Me Fits



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.








Getting Phyllis Just Right


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


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



The Schoodic Peninsula on Day Thirteen


Day Thirteen of my artist-in-residency is a day off. I wake up with a vicious headache and skip Sunday morning pickleball. By midmorning I feel better so Dan and I decide to go to the Schoodic Peninsula, hike around a little bit. It’s the quiet side of Acadia National Park, the side we like.

Dan comes downstairs wearing his orange chamois shirt and his blue suspenders. All painting is based on blue and orange. I’m thinking I’m going to get some images I can use in a painting.

Mark Island Light in front of Cadillac Mountain.

I take some shots of Cadillac Mountain and, even better, a lighthouse in front of Cadillac Mountain. We go to Blueberry Hill and walk around a little bit. He suggests the waves against the rocks would be a good image. Maybe.

I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill.

Walking back to the car I see Dan against the dark brush: white hair, orange shirt, blue suspenders. Just go ahead of me, I say. He groans, knowing what I’m up to, but he complies.

We drive past a sign that says Schoodic Institute. We wonder what it is. We drive up, we’re surprised by the buildings: bunkhouses, laboratories, a dining hall, an auditorium, classrooms.

The Rockefeller Building at the Schoodic Institute.

I want to see this big building, I say. We drive up to it. I realize with a jolt I’ve been here before, back when it was a naval station.

The week before my sophomore year in college, I spent hiking Acadia National Park with my friends Ruth and Yoko and twins whose names I’ve forgotten. I flew from Cleveland to Portland. Ruth met me at the airport and told me we’d have to take the bus to our cabin in East Sullivan. A promised car had not materialized.

It took us a day and a half to get there from the airport, about 170 miles. We were thrown off the bus to Bangor because Ruth said “Fuck” to the driver and we spent the night in the bus station parking lot.

At the cabin we had very little food and very little money. A farmer gave us a huge squash, and we dig mussels and clams for dinner.

It was cold one night, so we turned on the heat. If one of the twins hadn’t wakened us moaning we probably would have died from a gas leak.

Without a car, we hitchhiked to Acadia National Park and hiked. One day we were picked up by sailors, who told us there was a party at the Winter Harbor Naval Security Group Activity.

It was probably the prospect of free food that appealed to us. We had party clothes. We put them in our backpacks and we hitchhiked to the Schoodic Peninsula. We hiked a few miles along the park road until we got close to the naval station. We went into a cedar swamp and changed our clothes, combed our hair and put on makeup.

We walked into a change-of-command party in the mansion, uninvited but very welcome. It was a big room, elegant, with flowers, champagne, officers in dress whites, a few wives who seemed very old to us and a lot of tasty food still left on the buffet table. We pounced on the food.

It was probably one of the most important days in some admiral’s life, but we didn’t care. We ate the food, drank the champagne and sassed the Navy brass. I sat on a highly decorated officer’s lap and asked him about his ribbons. He didn’t care either.

Oh to be young and firm and the only young women at a party in a remote naval station…


Day Eleven Brings a Teachable Moment or Two


Day Eleven is quiet, a gray day with a dusting of snow on the ground. Annie Taylor Gray drops by to pick up a sign Dan made for her Chamber of Commerce table at Winterfest.

I toy with the horse painting, darkening here, lightening there. I realize the bay horse is missing half his neck, so I paint it in.

I read an email from a friend in Washington. Donald Trump is being inaugurated. There was a huge demonstration in the streets. Protesters smashed windows and riot police used pepper spray on them, the story goes. “Donald Trump is president,” I say to Oscar.

“Well, here goes.”

Katy Helman sees the lights are on in the gallery and comes in to see how Oscar survived his first encounter with pickleball last night. She exclaims over his painting, a mélange of color and maritime images. “Oscar, you’re going wild.” He says it was time to do something different.

Katy goes over to the wall of paintings and slips into Teacher Mode. She looks at my Cadillac Mountain paintings – all five of them.


“Explain to me which ones you did and why,” she says. I tell her the first one was too stiff, so I tried to paint one in 30 minutes, then I did another, and another. She points to a figure in one of them and cautions me against making it too cartoony.

Day Eleven. Trite?

I point to a painting I made up of a man walking a dog in Acadia National Park. “This one I think is trite. I think it’s the red and blue,” I say. “I’m thinking about changing his shirt to white.”

Katy says no,  it’s right in the middle of the painting. “Maybe you could dull it with some orange.”

That triangular rock is trouble.

I point to the lighthouse painting. “I gotta get rid of this rock in the middle. Maybe make it smaller, lighten it.” Katy agrees.

She stands back. “You paint a lot with pink and green.”

“It’s because I love cerulean,” I say. “I mix it with the cadmiums a lot, red and yellow.”

We all have our favorites, she says.