It’s a little painful to read my friends’ Facebook posts about cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C., when I’m swathed in wool and hearing the wind howl outside. Mother Nature is not nice to Downeast Maine in the spring. We don’t even have crocuses yet. All we have is some buds and ducks exchanging amorous looks.
Since the rain and cold have kept me indoors, though, I’ve cleaned out my studio. And I found a lot of old watercolors. Way too many old watercolors.
This one, Blue Cherries, shows the cherry blossoms at Hains Point in Washington, D.C. Dan and I used to play golf there early on weekend mornings pretty much year round. During cherry blossom time we’d drive around the point for our own private cherry blossom viewing. It wasn’t at all crowded, which, if you know Washington, is saying a mouthful.
Cherry Blossom Time
The Senate Garden also offered a few uncrowded moments on Capitol Hill , at least when the protesters were taking a break. (I shouldn’t make fun; I often joined the protests myself.) The Lower Garden is far enough from the Capitol that the paramilitary doesn’t patrol it much either. There’s nothing like the sight of a semi-automatic weapon to jolt one out of one’s cherry blossom reverie.
Anyway, I painted these two ladies blissfully contemplating cherry blossoms in the Senate Lower Garden. I like to think they had a nice trip to the nation’s capital.
So … since they’re just a painful reminder that moving to Maine meant giving up spring, I decided to sell them for $100 apiece. I can’t even guarantee they’ll have a mat. But shoot me an email, [email protected], and let me know if you’re interested.
In one way or another, I’ve been working for two years on this painting of an interior courtyard at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
By Day Nineteen at the DIAA Gallery I finally finished it. I may do it over, but, like my lobster trap painting, the details are so exhausting I probably don’t have it in me.
The painting is based on a bunch of photos I took while wandering the National Gallery of Art during my lunch hour. My office was 10 minutes away from the NGA, and I often took solace there during the winter of 2014-15. My boss was abusing me at work, and he had ordered my colleagues not to talk to me. I was just trying to survive until I could sell my house and move to Maine.
The image of the shadowy guard in the background is what the painting is about. He reminds me of me back then, a marginalized presence looking at an aspiration (even if the aspiration was to kill a goose rather than sell a house).
Judith Felch, the DIAA’s treasurer, came in to the gallery one day while Oscar and I were painting, and she mentioned she was taking her grandchildren to Washington, D.C. Judith graciously listened as I rattled off my rules for survival for tourists with children in Washington, D.C.
Prepare for security. You can enter few public buildings in Washington without going through a metal detector. And don’t be alarmed by the paramilitary surrounding the Capitol. They probably won’t shoot you.
Have a plan for a place to rest. The National Mall is not friendly to pedestrians, so break up your day with a meal or a snack. The café at the Sculpture Garden, the courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art are good places for lunch. The Botanical Garden is a good place to rest after the Air and Space Museum.
(Here, by the way, is what the National Gallery is featuring:
I was born in New York City, grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, returned to New York City as a Barnard undergrad and did some time in corporate America in Chicago while wasting much of my youth at Wrigley Field. Then I fled to New Hampshire where I started a journalism career, which took me to the Massachusetts Statehouse (yes, I have great stories about it) and then to Washington, D.C., as an Associated Press reporter.
I was not cut out for Versailles on the Potomac, and it would be an understatement to say Arlington, Va., never felt like home. I left AP to work for a labor union, which at least gave me more time to paint. In 2015, my husband Dan and I moved to a former stonecutters’ boardinghouse in Stonington, Maine.
While working as a reporter, I had very little free time. Watercolor suited because it was portable and quick. For a long time I practiced endless still life paintings of household objects. So boring.
During the oughts I got turned on to John Yardley, an English watercolorist who does lots of light-infused street scenes.
It was just around then that cell phone cameras got to be quite good. I started taking pictures of scenes in downtown Washington, D.C., feeling predatory but shameless as I followed an orange coat or a white shirtsleeve until it caught the light just right.
Sometimes it took hundreds of cellphone images and lots of sketches before I could extrapolate a painting from them.
Sometimes I’d snap a photo and immediately see a painting, like this one. I was walking in front of the Capitol on my way to work, and just after this bicyclist passed me I whipped out my cellphone to capture him.
I found I love to paint people in streetscapes and landscapes and all kinds of scapes. I like to paint animals, too. (Dan says that’s all I should do.)
Painting people and animals means knowing how to draw.
I spent a lot of time in Washington sitting still – for hours on the Metro as it lurched toward the station or in rooms listening to people prattle on sententiously.
I used that time to practice drawing people. I’d look for someone on the Metro wearing earbuds (they rarely move except to the music) or I’d draw a politician in a hearing room. Sometimes I’d draw from C-Span images. (You’d be amazed at how much reporting comes off television monitors.)
Another place I found ideal for sketching people is the racetrack. Race fans sit very very still while they pore over the racing form, oblivious to me as I observe and record them. Saratoga is a wonderful place to paint, filled with color and motion, stock still subjects and plenty of filtered light.
I also like to paint on Cape Cod, where my parents live. The light on Cape Cod, as Edward Hopper noted, is luminous.
So now my home is in Maine, where my hero Winslow Homer lived, though I’m on Deer Isle and he was farther south. Every other person on this beautiful island is an artist or a fisherman. I found a lot of things to paint. I also joined the Deer Isle Artists Association last year and learned a lot about making and selling art in the Deer Isle gallery.
I’m taking the next step with this website. With the help of my husband (thank you, Sweetiepie) I’ve posted images of a decades’ worth of my best paintings. Most are for sale, though some are already sold. I’m open to doing commissions (I even paint signs and I’m real good at lobsters) and I’m open to negotiations. Just email me at [email protected]gmail.com or call at 207-348-3129. I’m on Instagram and Facebook as well.