Paint Schoodic

Join us in Acadia National Park in August. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Schoodic, full of surprises


Like the porpoises gamboling in Frenchman Bay, we had fish for dinner. Ours was a curry.

Norris Island from Frazer Point, by Diane Leifheit
In Maine, you can see a long way. The building across the channel at Frazer Point is clear enough to count the windows, but it’s 750 feet away. The little channel to the west, which appears to be inconsequential, is more than 600 feet across. Mark Island, where the Winter Harbor light sits, is more than 3000 feet across the Mount Desert Narrows of Frenchman’s Bay. The little islands that play peek-a-boo as you drive the ring road may be nearly a mile offshore.

All this plays havoc with your sense of perspective. You know intellectually that buildings must have it, but you don’t actually see it. As I wrote last week about boats, the farther away an object is, the more horizontal our gaze is as we look at it. Our measly 5 or 6 feet in height is nothing compared to the great distances involved.

This photo of the Winter Harbor Lighthouse shows how, at long distances, the rules of two-point perspective become irrelevant. Courtesy lighthousefriends.com
Just as a far boat’s waterline is completely flat, so too is a building’s roofline. It may be thirty feet above the foundation, but when the building is 3000 feet away, that’s effectively nothing. Everything is effectively at eye level at that distance. That makes the vanishing rays of two-point perspective meaningless.

I’m at Schoodic Institute teaching my annual Sea & Sky workshop and that’s lesson number one for this morning. Lesson two is going to be to stop bustling around and appreciate the deep coolness of the spruces and the ocean breeze. “What a treat to be there,” my friend Barbara told me yesterday. She’s suffering in a heat wave in upstate New York. I’m sorry about that, friend.

Just because it didn't work is no reason to stop trying.
My last student, Diane Leifheit, arrived just as I was doing a demo in pastel. She had driven across the former Province of Lower Canada from Morristown Plein Air. That’s too much driving for overnight, so she stopped at the Herbert Grand Hotel in Kingfield, ME, population 970. I can’t think of a single reason to go to Kingfield, but I might do so just to see this odd, old, antique gem. The lights went out twice during Diane’s stay. I might pay extra for that.

Diane ate a sandwich, set up her easel, and knocked off a lovely little pastel that perfectly captured the mood of the place. We were at Parrsboro together earlier this summer and will be doing Adirondack Plein Air together next week, but she always seems much perkier than me.

They aren't Derwent pencils, but I think they'll work just fine.
Still under the influence of Yupo vellum, I’ve been encouraging Becky Bense to take a walk on the wild side. Her answer was to use seaweed and snail shells as brushes. There were a few live snails in her bucket. They objected to the color and crawled off. The goal is not as frivolous as it seems; it’s to get the same controlled energy in her field painting as in her amazing studio paintings.

I sometimes use Derwent watercolor pencils for drawing under oils, a technique I cribbed from my old friend Kristin Zimmermann. Linda Delorey bought Tombow watercolor brush pens instead. After my first surprise I read the label and realized they will work just fine.

The tide came in. Off in the distance, porpoises were cutting their unique arcs toward Winter Harbor and their dinner. It was time for us to go, too, but our haddock was curried, and delicious.

No comments: