Day Eleven Brings a Teachable Moment or Two

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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.

Cartoony

“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.

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Day Eight, All About Pine Trees

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I check in with Facebook. My friend Alexis Adler posted this:

The first thing I see on Facebook on Day Eight

I feel like it’s my own personal Jean-Michel Basquiat Week.

I have to drive my neighbor Zoe Hansson to the nursing home on the morning of Day Eight. Then I have to go to book group.

Zoe has lost much of her sight and can’t drive. We go to the Island Nursing Home every Monday to visit her sister Luanne. Zoe walks with Luanne around the building, helps her eat, makes sure she’s cared for. Sometimes Zoe coaxes a smile from Luanne. Those are good days. Luanne has Alzheimer’s. “I have to be realistic,” says Zoe. I admire the hell out of Zoe.

She asks me if I’ve done my snowman painting yet. Zoe thinks I should paint a snowman. Why not? I think. I’ve painted dancing lobsters on a shingle before.

Zoe is in a good mood today. I’m just dropping her off at the nursing home and then she’s going to lunch with friends at 11. I ask who she’s going with. “Bunzy Sherman,” says Zoe. “How funny,” I say. “My book group is meeting right next to Bunzy’s studio.”

Bunzy is a potter. This island is lousy with artists: potters and painters and blacksmiths, jewelry makers, weavers, knitters. Half the women who come to book group today are artists. Me, Carolyn Walton, a painter, and Mary Howe, a book artist. All DIAA members. All PFAs – people from away. You’re a PFA if you weren’t born on the island. We all love the book, News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Everyone gives it a nine on a scale of one to 10.

I leave book group early to pick up Oscar. He brings two travel mugs, each filled with a half cup of coffee. 44 North is closed today because of the MLK holiday. There’s little traffic outside as the Post Office and library are closed. We work diligently for three hours, saying little.

I work on my lighthouse painting. I spent most of yesterday painstakingly painting three pine trees —  branches, needles, twigs – on the left of the lighthouse. Just before we left on Day Seven I quickly roughed in a fourth tree on the right of the lighthouse. I like the one on the right so much better than the three on the left. I spend much of Day Eight undoing what I did on Day Seven. I’m not sure I can salvage this painting.

Oscar gives me some sandpaper to lift up the Pepto-Bismol from my lobster trap painting. It’s on 300 lb. paper, which can take a beating. Gwendolyn Bragg, my former teacher at the Art League in Alexandria taught me that.

There’s a little light in the sky when we leave. “How would you paint that?” Oscar asks. “Cerulean, a little cadmium, some raw sienna,” I say. “The clouds I’d make cobalt blue and raw umber.”

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Day Six Confession

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On Day Six Oscar and I are only in the gallery from 9 to Noon.

I have a confession. I’m painting a lighthouse. I know it’s a cliché. But lighthouses weren’t a cliché until Edward Hopper discovered them.

Pemaquid Light by Edward Hopper

I had a college art professor, Joseph Masheck, who said, “There’s a reason things become cliches. It’s because they’re good and people like them.” (Or something like that.) Come to think of it, his lecture on Hopper stuck with me.

day six
Day Six progress. Or not.

I decide I’m done with one painting. The one on the right. I kind of hate it. I definitely hate the one on the left.

I’m struggling with painting Cadillac Mountain. Everything I do is boring, overworked or trite.

When Judith Felch was in yesterday, she said she traveled Europe as an art student and wondered about painting the mountains in Switzerland. Her teacher said mountain paintings have to have something in them to demonstrate their scale. Hmm.

We work quickly since we only have three hours. I kind of like the lighthouse painting. Oscar says it’s interesting. “Interesting” is high praise from Oscar.

 

I’m not sure I can come in on Sunday, I tell Oscar. I have company coming for dinner and pickleball and stuff to do. But I’ll let him know. He says he’s not sure if they’re going to play at the Church of the Morning After tomorrow. I say I’ll try to find out. But I don’t. He says it’s okay. He’ll just walk down to see if they’re there. Oscar can’t drive.

We decide we’re going to have a reception on our last day, Jan. 31. We could call it a closing opening. An artist friend tells me they’re called ‘closing receptions.’

We’ll have beer. And wine. And chocolate.

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