Sunday, December 26, 2010


When you get your Artistic License in Maine, you are required by law to paint two things; The Portland Head Light, and Monhegan.  Now, Monhegan Island should be well known to any artist out there, and if the island isn't known, the paintings made by countless artists of it should be.  It has attracted painters to it's rocky head lands for one hundred thirty years.  Artists as diverse as Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, and Robert Henri painted there, along with countless other professionals and amateurs.

Monhegan is about forty miles away from me as the sea gull flies, but to get there I need to travel for about an hour down winding coastline roads to get to Port Clyde (the summer home of the Wyeth's) then another ride of about an hour on the mail boat to get to the island which lies ten miles out to sea.  If you go, be prepared to walk when you get there, for the only vehicles on the island are old trucks owned by the local lobstermen.  No other cars are allowed.  As you walk the unpaved roads and trails, be extra careful of where you step because artists cover that speck of rock like ants on a picnic blanket.

I had studied many paintings of the place before I went, and I enjoyed seeing the sights made famous by the paintings of so many;  Gull Rock, Manana Island, Christmas Cove, Burnt Head and Cathedral Woods.  I recognised every single spot on that island because I had seen them all in paint.  Of course the reason this island has been painted so much is because it is drop-dead spectacular.  This is a painting that came out of my trip.  It's of Monhegan Harbor with Manana island in the background:

I also painted a picture of Black Head.  (Every square foot of that island has a name.  Along with the ones I've already mentioned are Swim Beach, Fish Beach, and Pulpit Rock.)  I was hiking up and down the massive cliffs on the east side when I saw this view:

I may not have painted this as a plein air, but I did do it in one go.  Does that count?  Yeah... I know it doesn't.  Anyway, I was looking at paintings recently when I saw the works of J. Perry Wilson.  I admit I had never heard of that gentleman before, but I discovered he was an excellent plein air painter.  I invite you to click this link and see for yourself.  What struck me was that he loved Monhegan too, and had made countless trips out there to paint.  Here's one that really hit a chord with me:

Look familiar?  What tickled me was that I did my painting with no idea this one, made in the 1930's, existed.  Mine is oil on canvas board 12X16.  Wilson's is oil on canvas board 12X16. 

So, I invite you out to Monhegan Island, Maine to paint.  Enjoy the serenity, the grandeur, and the fact that there is no painting you can make that hasn't been done.


Karla said...

These are all beautiful paintings. I especially like your take on the East side.

Kay said...

I have a book on Monhegan and the idea of visiting Maine someday and seeing this island. Wonderful Paintings..plein air is plain old hard to do sometimes..I get bug bit and have to paint too fast!!! lucky you to be so close to such a neat area.

martinealison said...

Beautiful paintings ... The Maine is a lovely area...
I like how you paint it with your own feeling...

Susan Roux said...

I just signed up to go with a group for a week in June. I've been there only once and stayed two nights. I couldn't believe how inspiring it was. I painted there and then painted many other's from my studio.

All paintings from there have already been done??? Ah, maybe I can find a little rock somebody missed... Or build my own fairy house and destroy it after I paint it. Hum, you've got me thinking.