The Maine Experience - Part 2

I have been travelling for weeks, teaching and painting in Maine and in Canada. I've had no real access to the Internet, so my idea of keeping up with my blog in real time has just been impossible. I apologize for such a delay in posting, and now plan to get caught up and post on a regular basis again. Thanks for being patient with my travels!

Here is part two of my painting trip to Stonington Maine. It includes good info about making the most of a painting trip and I hope you find it useful.

Pacing myself on any painting trip is important. I think there is a logical rhythm to it that if adhered to will make for a successful time. I used to go on painting trips and try to paint EVERYTHING. Then after a few days, I was exhausted and would find later that I could have done better if I had slowed down the pace and had spent the time to think more about my subject matter. In the book, A Sense of Place: The Artist And The American Land, by Alan Gussow, there are wonderful essays that explore the complex relationship between the artist and the landscape. I highly recommend this book as a way to understand how important it is to connect with whatever it is you are painting.

Here is a link.

For me on this trip to Deer Isle, I arrived late on a Monday night after an 8 hour drive. I had six full days to get work done. I had to talk to myself and resist the urge to jump out of bed that first morning and attempt to  try and paint everything and anything under the sun. I have learned to pay particular attention to spending some time just looking and thinking before diving into painting. Armed with a decent digital camera and a sketch book, I like to rise early and spend time photographing and making thumbnail drawings of what I am seeing. It is all part of becoming familiar with a place. Doing this, I get a sense in this particular case about how really big this harbor is and how many boats are always coming and going. I learn that the lobster boats head out about 4:30 A.M. and start returning to unload their catch around 11:30 A.M. This goes on all day until around 5 or 6 P.M. Lobster boats return and unload at 4 different docks. As the day goes on, it becomes a real dance. One boat comes in, while several others weave and bob while waiting their turn and so on. After they unload, the lobstermen head back to their mooring spot to tie up their boat and then come back in on their skiffs. It all becomes part of the big dance. On the docks, several men are helping to unload the catch. Here is a picture that I think will help get the point across about how dance-like this all is.

All the while, I am snapping picture after picture and making some quick drawings. I'm excited by all that I am seeing and I really can't wait to paint. All day long I have painted numerous ideas in my mind. Seeing a painting in your minds eye is half the battle and can produce some well executed paintings. I'm like a hunter/gatherer. I want to come home with some good paintings but I also want many more ideas for future paintings that can be worked on later on in the studio.

On this trip I had a weather forecast that called for an entire week of sunny weather. The tides were also in my favor and my trip was planned with the tide charts in mind. I want to paint the docks and the boats when the tide is at it's lowest or at least somewhere inbetween low and high tide. Painting at the highest tide would be of importance if my goal was to paint surf, but for this subject matter, painting it at high tide would not excite me. All week long, I had a low tide in the early morning and then again in the late afternoon or very early evening. It was picture perfect.

With that being said, let me reiterate a point here. I came home with many paintings. I came back with numerous drawings and a lot of photo references, but I mostly came back with IDEAS. Now I am looking forward to spending the time to paint a cohesive body of solid work from what I've done out there.

George Carpenter used to tell me that I should hold onto more of my outdoor work in order to make more and better work from them. Especially with the idea of going bigger. This is precisely what I am doing more and more of. I spend about half my week painting outside and the other half hunkered down in my studio.

Here are a few of the quick paintings I did on location. These images will give you an idea of the varied subject matter and the feel of Stonington Maine.