The next adventure begins! After five and a half months in Washington DC with the Shakespeare Theater Company, I have commenced a four-week painting trip that started in Philadelphia two days ago and will encompass the Catskills, the Berkshires, the Hudson River Valley, the Adirondacks for a week, the Allegheny, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I will, for the most part, be tent-camping again and the Kia is over-stuffed once again with very important stuff, half of which I have no bloody idea where ‘tis nor why I really need it, nor why it came to Washington with me in the first place. Thank God I have those two milk crates in the backseat stacked one atop t'other that used to have kindling and firewood for camping and now are, well, pretty much empty. And that collection of some dozen over-sized art books that I put in a box in a closet in DC and took out of the closet the day I left DC five months later. Which art books are they, you ask? No idea. Let you know when I unpack them in Chicago. Oh, and a guitar. More on that later.
I shall do my darnedest not to get loquacious, but will try to go back and include experiences since leaving Chicago in January including the two productions in DC – Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS and WALLENSTEIN, based on Schiller and adapted freely by former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. DC is a tremendous city, oh, what a gem! and its rich resources of galleries, museums, architecture and people became for me an absolute treasure. I did what I could to be completely “present” and available as often as I could. It was, indeed, an expansive experience for me. I have met folks I hope to cherish for a lifetime.
But already I digress. I set up camp last night after leaving Philadelphia - was in Philly two days and two nights, and a quick day trip to the Michener Museum in Doylestown where I experienced the paintings of early 20th Century artists of New Hope/Bucks County, PA. Their work and effort is reminiscent of Robert Henri’s The Eight, Indiana’s T.C Steele and the Hoosier Group, and Frederick Edwin Church and the Hudson Valley painters. I woke at 5:30am this morning, ran down the hill some twenty minutes to Phoenicia, in the heart of the Catskills, looking for coffee. Apparently, nothing open that early so I ventured out looking for a spot. Found a bunch of potential spots, took ample photo references and pulled into a turn-out along the Stony Clove River. A little more than three hours later, not including yet another trip into Phoenicia for coffee and breakfast sliders at mid-morning, I had a nice sketch, fairly heavy impasto and palette knife.
Catherine is an extremely talented actress and Matt is a gifted musician, one of those bastards to whom you can hand any instrument and off he goes. For his band he plays bass, and they played one evening in a bar downtown so I was thrilled that we were able to go hear them. Terrific! I am traveling with my vintage 1967 Gibson Melody Maker electric guitar that I got when I was twelve. I took lessons then, at twelve years old. I own it. I do not play it. Very well. Yet. Why then Jeffrey, you might ask, are you traveling with it? To learn to play it. And how's that working out for you? Not very well. Yet. But it was a joy to hear it played by... well, someone who knows how to play it! And through an amp even. I don't own an amp. Ah, not true. While in DC I ordered a cigarette case amp, build into a pack of Marlboros and it's awesome. If only I could play it.
Catherine and I have done numerous productions together, sometimes directing each other, most often acting together. The list is long. She was my associate artistic director of Borealis Theater Company and the Fox Valley Shakespeare Festival, that I founded in 1990. She was integral during the heady years 1996-2001. I shuttered the company after fifteen years in 2005. So as I was showing some of my paintings to them just before hitting the road, Will was struck by one in particular. A plein air piece from the first workshop I took in 2010, day one on a farm in northeastern Indiana - a red barn and soybean field. He asked could he hold it and suggested to mom, I have to have this; she said, start saving the pennies. He simply stared at it for some fifteen minutes. It became an easy decision on my part. "Thanks showing me all of your artwork, Will, and putting me up for a couple of days (putting up with me, perhaps?). Tell you what, it's your's, it would be an honor for me that you have it."
Catherine sent me an email yesterday. Will had a friend over. They were looking at the painting.
Friend: "Who painted it?"
Will: "Name's Jeff Baumgartner. Heard of him?"
Friend: "um, nope"
Will: "Well, he's a famous painter, stayed with us couple of days. You'll probably see his name in the museum pretty soon."
It is, without doubt, the smartest painting I have ever gifted. That is one smart kid. Now, which museum is it that I will be in, I wonder? Hmm