Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Will to Create Returns

Ghost Flower, watercolor, 14" x 11." $150 unframed.

The will to create returned this weekend after weeks of illness. It was fun to finally paint these Ghost Flower plants (also known as Indian Pipe--Monotropa uniflora is the botanical name). Herb and I first found this unusual plant during a walk in the Rachel Carson Forest preserve near our old home in Sandy Spring a number of years ago. In those days I didn't have a digital camera so the best photos I could take were not close-up enough to reveal all the details of this fascinating plant that has no chlorophyl, but feeds on mycorhizal fungi growing on the roots of other forest trees.

That first time I actually picked one specimen to sketch back at the house and discovered that the plants turn black shortly after being picked, so the specimen became useless. The plant is only about 5-6 inches high, so it's not easy to spot. Over the years we've looked for them in early summer when they bloom, but had never found them growing as profusely as the first time we discovered them.

This year after a very wet late spring, we went out to look for them again and there were hundreds of them emerging from the forest floor! I had a marvelous time taking photos. This particular clump was so fresh and lush it just begged to be painted. I'm now hot on the trail to find other related species to photograph & paint.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Obligatory Maine Lighthouse

Hendricks Head Lighthouse, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

On the last day of the workshop I was still very sick but decided to go out for one more painting. Lee had selected a location on the east side of Southport where there was a wonderful view of this lighthouse. A map identifies it as Hendricks Head on the Sheepscot River. The light had two baffles that you can see at right angles to the lantern.

How could one be in Maine without painting a lighthouse? We artists set up along a tiny beach with these great exposed rocks and tidal pools. I set up my easel so I could sit down by the edge of the road, as close to my car as possible since I had little energy to go far. Others ventured farther out on the rocks to get a better view.

By noon fleecy clouds were gathering in the sky and the incoming tide was starting to cover the rocks. At one point while Lee was giving me suggestions another student yelled, "Look out, your easel is floating away!" Sure enough, the water was starting to cover the rocks where he had his set up.

We had a quick lunch break and continued painting while the sky took on a more threatening look. By one-thirty we packed up and managed to get our gear in the cars as the first raindrops fell. The rainstorm eventually passed and the sky cleared but it was a little late for another painting. We left early the next morning for the long drive back home. I hope I'll have another opportunity to paint in Maine when I am my usually healthy self.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Boothbay Harbor Workshop

Barret's Park, Boothbay Harbor, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

On the first day of Lee's workshop in Boothbay Harbor we went to this beautiful park by the water. We started with a black and white value study in the morning. It was quite foggy in the distance, but clear and sunny with a nice breeze.

In the afternoon, we worked the same painting in color. It was fascinating to see how much more extreme the tides are in Maine than here on the Chesapeake Bay. There was a much as an eight to nine foot difference between high and ebb tide. This painting was begun shortly after high tide, and by four thirty about one-third more of the rock and beach were exposed. The rocks become sun-bleached only where the water doesn't reach them, while the parts that are submerged stay dark in color and grow orangish seaweed. My rocks came out too dark and reddish in this painting; they were lighter in reality.

I was feeling awful but being a die-hard, I just took aspirin and tried to ignore my throbbing head while I kept on painting. By the end of the day I was totally drained. I had brought out my paintings to show our innkeeper Mary, and forgot that I placed the B&W study on top of my car while I put away this one. I was so out of it, I forgot I had the painting on top of the car and drove off to the grocery store to find some fruit for dinner (all I could manage to eat). Another student found my B&W painting in the street and brought it back, all pock-marked from falling face down on the gravel.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Feverish in Monhegan

Landing on Monhegan Island, Maine

View of White Head from Burnt Head, watercolor, 10" x 14." Contact artist for price.

I felt chilly on the boat ride from Boothbay Harbor and was glad I'd brought my three-season LL Bean jacket. The fog was just lifting as we landed on Monhegan Island for what promised to be a beautiful, clear day. But even with the day warming, I still felt chilled to the bone, and very tired. After we checked into Monhegan House, our hotel for the night, I lay down for a bit. I must have dozed off; when my roomie Linda came by, an hour had elapsed. She said the room was stifling, yet I still felt cold and dazed, so it was likely I had a fever. What a time to get sick!

Determined to not lose the opportunity I'd so carefully planned, I went out with Linda to get some lunch and afterwards, forced myself to put on my backpack and hike up the hill to Burnt Head, the nearest of the famous headlands where artists have painted on Monhegan for over a century. I had zero energy, and had to stop to rest several times as the trail ascended.

The trail wound past a number of lovely cottages as it rose, and then some meadows dotted with wild flowers until it opened onto a rocky plateau with magnificent views of the headlands and the ocean far below. This is the highest point on the island and in coastal Maine. It's no wonder artists have painted it so often--it's spectacular!

I could see a couple of other artists way down on the rocky shore with their rigs, but I had no energy to even think about going down. I set up my stool and sat down to paint right there, concentrating only on getting as much as possible done. After about two hours, I had this sketch completed and my back ached horribly, so I lay down on a sun-warmed rock trying to absorb its warmth while Linda sketched. We headed back as the sun was getting lower on the horizon and I went right back to bed. Linda brought me some soup up to the room for dinner later and I slept feverishly the rest of the evening and night.

I felt not much better the next morning and it was quite foggy, so after breakfast I just walked around the village and took some photographs. I saw a couple of artists painting by the swimming beach: sombre, uninspired artworks. It seemed to me they were not getting the idea of the fog--pictorially speaking, fog makes objects lighter the farther away they are from you, not darker--that much I've learned. After a while I left them to their paintings and went back to sit on the porch of Monhegan House to watch the world go by until it was time to board the boat back to Boothbay Harbor.