Friday, August 17, 2007

Plein Air Painting in Acadia

Every chance I get I go painting. It's kind of like fishing. Sometimes I catch a good one and other times I have to throw it back (paint over it).

The colors on the coast of Maine are different than the Pacific NW. More subdued, weathered. The mountains are worn and rounded. Because of feldspar, Pink suffuses the granite, making the sand beaches a warm color, vermillion mixed with yellow ochre. The skies are horizon to horizon without any great mountain range for the sun to hide behind. Pink clouds in a Cerulean sky over a steel grey ocean. Long lines of horizon, islands and headlands.

The lack of wildlife is curious. I've seen only whitetail deer, heard an owl and see the scat of raccoons. Why there are no birds, not even a sparrow is beyond me. Of course there are ravens and seagulls, some terns and I've seen a turkey vulture but as much as I am outside there is a perplexing lack of wildlife.

I'm coming to terms with maritime scenery. I visited galleries in Nw Harbor and was enormously impressed with the quality and quantity of work. What seems to be the significant difference between the NW and here on the east coast of Maine is both the amount of artists there are working here and the sufistication of the patronage. Of course this is the domain of 'old east coast money', so it would go to follow that the market would develop accordingly.

I was greatly inspired by an artist named Farandon who lived from 1880's to 1964. He painted the coast of Maine. His style is representational in the vein of Edward Hopper but less urbane. He blocks in areas of color letting the underpainting become lines, less expressive brushwork, empasizing composition. I'm developing my spectrum of values better, creating new darks mixing french ultramarine blue with umber mixed and either alizarin for warm darks or hooker's green for cooler darks. I have achieved some progress with the temperature of colors which means I think I have resolved values sufficiently although it is always a struggle to coordinate them into a cohesive composition, something that is difficult to pull off in the short time one has, plein air painting.

Plein air painting is a performance. It is like a jazz player's spontaneous interpretation of the moment when a familiar tune is improvised but is recorded and becomes an artifact of time. I am reluctant to develop my plein air efforts because I feel they need to be a record of that moment. It is difficult to not modify that moment. I think it removes the plein air authenticity and changes the painting into a 'studio' piece. The challenge is to focus on the moment yet visualize a finished product executed in such a fashion to not only memorialize the moment but for the effort to look finished and complete, like a haiku or a chinese character that has meaning yet is a visual symbol of substance. It is difficult to leave the piece alone and frustrating to not 'get it right' in one sitting.

I have a couple pieces in a local gallery in Seal Harbor and hope to have more. It is good to have my work accepted and on display.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Daily Grind but fun!

As I was saying befor I was so rudely interrupted by the rain, we get up early, feed the horses, pick the poop up in the paddocks, wash the horses, wash their shoulders with alcohol to make sure they are clean and not sore, go eat our breakfast, harness for the first run at 9 and don't end until 8 or 9 at night when we have dinner. It makes for a long day.I've been driving Rex and Cracker. Rex is pretty high strung but is doing OK since I put a buck strap on him to even him up with Cracker and now Cracker has to work instead of letting Rex do all the work which makes Cracker kind of grumpy. I also drove a team of blacks, Tom and Jerry. They were incredibly slow and you had to stay on them to get them around the mountain in time for the next load. There are a number of routes but mine has been 3 trips around Day mountain per day and a sunset trip that goes to the top of the mountain as well as around the mountain which is a 4 mile trip. We all drive to the top of the mountain for the sunset trip because it is so popular. Altogether 6 teamsters make around 20 trips total.
We have 10 teams so none of the horses has to work all day. We rotate horses to keep them in shape and rest any horse that looks like it needs to rest.Some of the guys have brought their own teams but most of the horses are company horses. They work from May to October. Jim brings 3 of his own horses to keep them in shape for the pulling matches. He's a serious puller and does well. Tehre are alot of pulling contests in Maine so he's gone every weekend to play at the fairs. They are pretty serious about pulling around here and pay as much as $50,000 for a single pulling horse. All glory too! No purse at all!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seal Harbor, ME

Just down from the Wildwood stables is everything I need in the little community of Seal Harbor. Gallery, restaurant and all kinds of things to paint from boats to ocean, to islands in the sunset.

The town is really small but the best part is tourist pass it by. It's got a post office, gas station and a fine restaurant all lined up right next to each other. I introduced myself to the owner of the Centerpiece Gallery and Antiques, Penny Chau. She's a long time resident and has known the folks at the stables for quite a time. I left a couple paintings with her and hope to get a couple more before the season is over. I paint every chance I get and have done 10 or so plein air pieces and quite a few water colors. I'm getting used to the colors as well as painting boats and the ocean. The light seems to be softer, more diffuse. Not as much as Wisconsin where the humidity was so high but still a lot of moisture in the air. Sunrise and sunset seem to last a long time as the sun comes up over the ocean and this is the first place in the U.S. to get morning sun. Without any Cascade curtain or Rockies, the sunset is spectacular.

The work is pretty steady. We get up at 5 a.m. and bring the teams to the stables to get their morning oats. They get about 35 lbs of feed a day. Ooops its raining and I'm sittin outside so I'll sign off.