Paint Schoodic

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

More time to paint

We shove our painting into narrow windows of opportunity. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

Inlet, oil on canvasboard, 9X12, available at Carol L. Douglas Gallery, 394 Commercial Street, Rockport ME

I’m surrounded by land trust lands and very grateful for them. I hike in them and in some cases actively work to support them. (For example, see Cape Elizabeth’s Paint for Preservation.) In my area, the Coastal Mountains Land Trust is the big player. It owns land directly behind my house as well as the beautiful Beech Hill and Erickson Fields Preserves.

This month, someone has taken to dropping limbs and sticks onto a Beech Hill path. I have no idea why. This week, two downed saplings were hung in the trees. After joking about beavers—there aren’t any this high up—I returned to my regular musing on human folly.

The mysterious stick artist started with this. Now the path is completely blocked.

There is a human impulse to ‘decorate’ nature. We build cairns, or in the case of Erickson Fields, put up silly signs about fairies. It’s futile, and it diminishes the woodlands experience. The occasional sign keeping people from falling over a cliff is all that nature needs. It was designed by the Creator, and nothing humans can or will build will ever compare.

It goes without saying—I hope—that this includes lighting fires. We’ve had a very dry spring. The Memorial Day rains were too light to really help. My friend Sarah reports that her well ran dry this week. All it would take is one idiot to create a lot of damage, and we’ve got a lot of out-of-town visitors with more enthusiasm than sense right now.

I’ve been getting up at 5 to walk my dog because of the increase in traffic on the trails. Some mornings are like Grand Central Station up by Beech Nut, the historic folly at the top of Beech Hill.

Beaver Dam, 12X16, oil on canvasboard, available through Carol L. Douglas Gallery, 394 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME

That’s a pleasant time to be out and about, but it makes for a very long day. I write my blog and then try to fit in 2-3 hours of plein air painting. I’ve been amazed at how much I can get done in that short time. Yesterday I limned out a complicated picture of the docks at Port Clyde on a 14X18 canvas. There’s something liberating in knowing I can’t finish.

It helps to do those hours early, because it’s been hotter than a two-dollar pistol this week. We seldom get real heat in Maine. We don’t have air conditioning in our old farmhouse so we’re surrounded by the thrum of fans. It makes communication very interesting, since we can’t hear anything.

Paint pots. I'm far less efficient than a machine, but I know what colors I want in those kits.

The life of a working artist is mostly prosaic, just like any job. I come home and hoist up the walls of my open-air gallery at 394 Commercial Street. Then I concentrate on the back-room stuff involved in selling any product. Yesterday, I sat at my picnic table and filled 160 tiny pots of paint for next week’s boat workshop.

All that is like any other job. The difference is in those 2-3 hours of pure painting every morning. Every painter I know makes the same compromises in order to earn a living. Either we’re teaching or selling or working a second job (which may be homemaking or child care). We fantasize about a time when we can just paint, but I wonder if we’d paint any better if we had all the time in the world.

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