"Painting is just getting one spot of color in relation to another spot of color - after you have covered acres of canvas you will know." - Charles Hawthorne (from Hawthorne on Painting)
Friday – Day 18
The workshop has ended, we all head home today. It was terrific; our man, Stan Moeller is a wonderful painter and a very articulate and patient teacher.
Wednesday was a free day to paint; I went early to Gull’s Cove and got a nice little painting done there. There was a slide show that Stan put together that evening as well as a critique of works done thus.
Thursday we had a model sit for us, little over three hours. We were set up in the lawn outside of Monhegan House. On Friday, another model and she, too, was tremendous. Natural curly flowing hair, beautiful face, very much Botticelli model, or DaVinci more so – classical.
We had dinner together, I stayed on or near budget and will pack tonight so that I am ready to vacate by 9am. The ferry for me (Boothbay) not until 2:45pm so I will walk through Cathedral Woods and out to Blackhead, then paint near the wharf for couple of hours. Looking forward to concluding this leg of the journey.
Tomorrow Rockland and Camden, a visit to Farnsworth Art Museum to see the Wyeth-Rockwell Kent exhibit, then Portland Head on Monday, beginning driving back to Chicago on Tuesday. It’s time.
"Light is the first thought of painters, and there is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tuesday – Day 15
We head up early to the lighthouse. I have been looking forward to this; it is a wonderful vantage point to see the entire town, and I suspect a great place to take in the sunset. Stan has made arrangements for the gear to come up in a small truck. I venture up the hill ahead of everyone and meet the gear and begin setting up, eager to start.
We all paint in a near vicinity; Stan does a "starting" demo on t'other side of the lighthouse and we watch. The strangest thing happens: someone, a tourist, comes 'round the building, says, "if any of you are set up painting over here, there is a seagull going after your paints." We all rush around and, indeed, a seagull has pulled all the paints out of Roderick's bag and has punctured the Indian Yellow; mercifully, it is in a plastic bag, but it is everywhere.
An hour later, I have stepped over to see how Cindy was progressing, and seemingly the same seagull has gotten into my bag, and is dragging away all of my paints in a plastic bag. I aggressively shoo it away, and discover that it has punctured my cadmium yellow, which is now everywhere, in its baggie. The clean up. No longer on friendly terms, I have a foe. It's every man or seagull for himself. Weirdest thing I have ever heard of; later that afternoon, I will hear a story that Monhegan artist, Kevin Beers, had relayed a similar story, seagull getting into his yellow. It's worth a study, I tell you, what is that all about?
Mid-afternoon the history center and art museum open for business and everyone has a break to view the many Monhegan artists on display. No Don Stone represented as you have to be a dead artist to be included. So they won't have his work for some time. It takes me only about half an hour to get through, but I still am excited to continue painting, and fired up seeing all this glorious artwork. I have decided to use tuneage today, and have my MP3 player and am listening to Peter Gabriel's "New Blood" which is perfect for top of the hill inspiration.
Later, people begin trailing back to town but I stay and begin another painting of the overlook, anticipating a sensational sunset. I get to a stopping place (I no longer can see anything as I am squinting directly into a vanishing sun), so decide to hike back to town the long way, by way of White Head, and Gull Rock. Wow!
Yesterday, we had ventured to Lobster Cove. There on the point sits the incredible Jamie Wyeth house, originally build by Rockwell Kent in the 20's, I believe. It's tough going, I have brought too much gear, including the wheel cart and the path is steep, full of rocks and crags. So I make several trips just to get gear out to the point, an exercise in frustration. It's extremely windy and I will be in direct sun all day. On goes the sunblock. Up goes the umbrella. Fifteen minutes later, still setting up, the umbrella and entire easel catches a gush and over it goes, spilling all of its contents, including canvas, into a pocket of trapped sea water. Well, this is fun. I re-set, no umbrella. All good, let's go. I decide to work big and loose. 16 x 20" and the subject is "Christmas Cove." I will learn later that there is a tremendous painting by Jay Hall Connaway of same. Again, I walk in the shadows of the greats.
Half way through the painting I walk back into town and up the hill for a sandwich. The legs and lungs certainly do get a workout. I will be lean and mean at the end of this adventure. We will have a critique of works thus far completed back at Monhegan Place and a bottle of beer from the Novelty next door is a must. We put up the works starting with first to last in order to view any sort of progression. I also am able to show the Gloucester "Highlander Sea." After the critique I am able to meet in the lobby Remak Ramsey, a TV and Film actor of note who also has a special fondness for Monhegan and spends the summer season here. He has an impressive art collection and has purchased artwork of Monhegan artists, including Jamie Wyeth and Rockwell Kent and donated them to museums so as to assure they are seen by an appreciative audience.
Tomorrow is a free paint day to do whatever we like. We will lose two of our group to home, Joanne and Elaine. Joanne and her husband have a place in the Caribbean near St Martin's and said to me, if ever in the area, stop in to paint. Deal. I was able to enjoy a few slices of pizza with the group night before and really a swell bunch of people. All in all, a very good day.
“The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” ― Robert Henri
Sunday – Day 13
Long day today. Up with the sunrise as I then walked up to Burnt Head and found a spectacular vista, the sun coming up, crashing surf and cliffs below. Took a few photos and back down the hill for cereal. I have discovered that I have a refrigerator in the room, so much easier to stay on budget, trying for $10 a day. Today I had half a French mini-loaf and some cheese for lunch; for dinner I suspect much the same and a can of soup. My paint shorts had a lot more room around the waist I noticed today as I hauled myself up the hill once more.
Started the workshop yesterday. It will be terrific. Led by painter-teacher Stan Moeller, who is really wonderful – clear, articulate, and willing to give a lot of attention to fellow painters. The group is small, several coming from Clinton, Maine.
We painted down near the wharf; Stan did a demo of the Island Inn. I tried a small painting of “Uncle Henry’s”. There are many several famous and somewhat iconic houses and structures to be painted, Henry’s being one. Also, Chadwick House; Triscott House; the Red House; the Sentinels; Jamie Wyeth’s House (built by Rockwell Kent); Kent House; the Vaughn Cottage; Fish Beach Cottage; certainly the Lightkeepers’ House, now the history museum; the Monhegan schoolhouse and library; and the wreck of the D.T. Sheridan on Lobster Cove. I haven’t enough time, nor canvases.
We took lunch and came back to the same location for another subject and painting. I did not paint well today, but I am trying to pay attention and don’t have the kind of focus I need to concentrate on my own painting. And that is okay by me. Joined the others for dinner at Monhegan House, where most them are staying - I am up the hill considerably - and I had a shrimp and seafood bisque for $10 which was terrific.
Today we spent virtually all day at Fish Beach which was awesome. I was able to do three paintings. One of the wharf across the rocks, one quick-sketch of the harbor and three schooners, and the last of the lobster traps at sunset and a picnic table at which a watercolorist was painting, so I included him. I painted better today, still tentative. See if I can break-out tomorrow.
End of day.
Friday – Day 11
I have arrived on Monhegan Island! I was close to getting out and kissing the ground, not because I was so thrilled to be here, which I was, but rather because the 90 minute ferry ride, indeed, took it out of me. Man with the stomach of steel, got a tad soft…and green. Felt my head spinning around. Never have I been sick at sea, but this gave me a run of it. Didn’t seem like a particularly rough crossing, and no one else really seemed to be struggling; I was fine for the first half, standing port and at the bow of the ship, holding firm with head held high, as though I were the prow figurehead itself. But two or three healthy swells and the joyride became a chore.
In any case, I had checked out of camp by 8am and driven to the Pier, picked up boarding passes and dropped all bags, then drove up the hill to my designated parking. I learned my lesson regarding luggage when I was in Greece in 2007 for five weeks with a production of “Lysistrata” and a whirlwind tour of the ancient amphitheaters. I found myself hauling around all of Greece no less than five bags – two of which, I am sure, never got unzipped. For that trip, I was very pleased to have checked out of the library a hardbound book on the history of Greece, three inches thick, which I never cracked. One of the fellow actors saw it in my bag and asked to borrow it for an afternoon, so it was not for naught. Think I even suggested he return it to the library in the States for me, but he demurred.
But I learned then: economize. Okay, five bags in Greece; for this trip to the East coast I am hauling no less than… six bags, plus a Trader Joe's bag filled with trail mix and canned goods. I think sometimes I truly went to college to get stupider. Common sense out the window; I mean a guy’s gotta have choices in painting hats and shoes, doesn’t he? Don’t judge me. But then I was wondering, love, should you have a convenient moment, if you wouldn’t mind help carrying some of this damned luggage up a hill?
Let’s talk parking. Boothbay Harbor is, apparently, notorious for limited parking, certainly not overnight. I will be gone eight days. I hadn’t considered what to do with the car. There’s a parking lot at the pier: $20 a day. It’s not in the budget. I am not about to blow almost $200 on parking, now I am in a jam. So, I had mentioned to my new painting buds at Boothbay Paint Out on Wednesday, maybe someone knows someone in this tight artist community can help me out. Someone mentions this gallery owner, that gallery owner, each has a couple of spaces. But wait, First Friday is coming up (the day I leave) they will need all available parking.
I am directed to an artist, Greg Lauderer, building his own home up on the hill. I call Greg, he says stop by anytime. I run over to meet him and we talk about painting for an hour in his driveway. He tells me where to park the car etc and not only do I have this problem solved, I have a new buddy. His is a real inspirational story, and he is building a beautiful home; his wife, Beth, is a flight attendant, flies out of Newark, and they have a system as to how she gets there as base from Boothbay.
I am on my way to Monhegan.
The Island is at once mystical, magical, challenging, and enchanting. And often fogged in. To try to give it more words at the risk of becoming loquacious I will not as many writers before me have graced the leaves with better and more gracious words.
I gather all bags to the side on the wharf and breathe. Then inquire with a driver where be the Hitchcock House, my lodgings. There are no cars allowed on Monhegan, only utility trucks and a few pedestrian golf carts, and not a lot of those. The island only just got electricity twenty-five years ago.
It’s a hill, a right, a left at the church, a steep hill, a left etc. I hump up three or four bags like pack mule. I am wearing long underwear – from the sleep in the tent night before – jeans, and two or three top layers. Sweating through all, thoroughly. When I arrive at the cottage, I shall don shorts and tee shirt. Nope, those are packed away in the bag yet to be claimed on the wharf. Down I descend. I meet my lovely proprietress, Barbara, who also has the Black Duck Emporium. She says, find Susan McDonough in a pickup truck with signage Monhegan Trucking, she will gather and deliver for $3 a bag. I find Susan. Susan delivers my bags – and me in tow – to the top of the hill. She drops some knowledge, see this person, paint here, stay clear of this person and that property, and whatever you do, have a helleva time.
I hope to see Susan again, sooner than later, but certainly with her truck on the day that I depart, the following Saturday.
I’m in! I change into shorts, tee shirt. Waste no time, I hike for an hour to the lighthouse by way of the tremendous cliffs – thanks to Susan for the scoop on the secret access to Trail #5. Yep, just outside my lodgings. I am walking in the shadows of Robert Henri, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Remak Ramsey, Zero Mostel and his son, Josh, and Edward Henry Potthast. Just try to stop me, just try.
I find the lighthouse, I descend into town, find the school, the library, and back to the wharf. I again attack the hill, and turn right from Hitchcock House towards Burnt Head, so as to pop in on master painter Don Stone. He is in. He is delightful. He is famous and he is inspiring. A painting group arrives at their appointed time, led by painter-teacher Tim Horn from San Francisco, interrupting by hours my audience with the master, but I have things to paint. I convey to Don that I shall see him again within the week.
Inspired I go to paint. I find what is known as Swim Beach and the Red House. Two hours later, I have a fun little impressionistic piece, 8 x 10”. This is going to be fun!
Day 5 - Saturday
It's a crime, it is a crime that one guy should have so much darned fun painting. I beat the sun up and head for the harbor. I am looking for boats. See many several in one particular yard, pull in and park. I ask a guy working on a boat about setting up paint shop and he tells me go to the office. I do so, first guy I see, as it happens, has his name on the marquee. Frank Rose, of Rose Yacht Yard. He's a good old boy, says, knock yourself out, another painter is in here all the time, and I really like his work. I tell him I'll be out of there within two hours or so, he says, take more time and get a good painting. Chicago, huh? A circuit judge was here last week from Chicago pulling his boat out of here.
I show him the painting from yesterday, he asks, Highlander Sea? Then starts dropping knowledge to me about specs and measurements, including how light it is, tells me it was built for speed. I mention the Adventure and off he goes, more specs, more history, I am impressed.
After I am painting a while, Ted Nugent walks up to me, sure looked like him anyway, he says, ""Whatcha paintin'?" I point, "that one." "Yeah, it's a great boat. Shrimp boat." A bit later, another crew member in the yard, a resemblance to Robert Shaw, comes up and asks, "Gonna make her pretty?" I say, kidding? she's gorgeous! Him: "well, she's old and tired but we try to keep her going." Me: "There's a lot of us like that walking around on this earth," which makes him laugh.
I decide that I will enwrap this lovely boat in a sunset as it appears the crew believes her to be in the twilight of her existence. Don't quite finish, it's a good sketch, but need to keep moving in order to get to Kennebunk by noonish. The traffic on this one-lane main road is getting backed up, it is the holiday weekend, and tourists will be in soon.
On the way out of town, I spy the gallery for Jeff Weaver, a very good painter, nice guy, does a lot of paintings of Gloucester including one that I see of the fabled paint factory. Even a few of Monhegan. It is nice to make his acquaintance. I will spend the Labor Day weekend with Jeff and Leigh Olson, and will blog the hightlights so as to prepare the way for Boothbay and Monhegan. Cheers
A professional actor for over twenty-five years, Jeffrey is an accomplished oil painter based in Chicago. In 2008, he established JB ArtWorks studio gallery.