Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Art Of The Deal: A Rant

Warning:  The following touches the third rail of the art business. 

Just the other day I was in need of the services of a lawyer.  Nothing major, mind you, just the run of the mill, everyday stuff that manslaughter sometimes on occasion you might need a lawyer for.  I stumbled upon this person on the internet and went over for the free initial consultation.  As I sat down in his plush leather chair beside his football field sized mahogany desk, I said, "Look, I know you want my business, right?  So before we go any farther, I want at least two more free consults, and I want you to drop your fee by ten percent." 

One thing I noticed right off-- Lawyers may have gone to college and learned some big words, but they know a lot of four letter ones, too.

So, as I was driving away after getting kicked out leaving his office, the engine in my car started making weird sounds.  I pulled in to the first mechanic I could find.  After he checked my engine thoroughly, he informed me I need new lifters (whatever they are) and the bill, plus labor would be at least seven hundred dollars.  "Listen," I said to the guy.  "I'll pay the price for the parts, but I know you work for yourself, so waddya say we drop your hourly rate by fifteen percent?"

It seems lawyers and mechanics know a lot of the same words.

So, anyway, I wanted to buy an expensive piece of jewelry as a Christmas gift for my beloved partner Ellen, so I limped my car over to a big department store.  Bullseye, or something, I think it was.  When the cashier was done ringing me up she said, "That's $26.52"  I looked at her and said, "Well, what will you take for it?  How about $19.50?" 

She just gave me one of those cashier-type blank stares and repeated, "That's $26.52"

"C'mon, " I whispered to her, "You know and I know that even at $19.50 you still make a profit.  So what do you say?  We got a deal?"

Who knew big retail department stores could issue restraining orders?

When I got home, I found an email from a potential customer who wanted to buy a couple of my paintings!  Except she wanted free shipping and a discount of 15%.  I can't say I was in the mood to accommodate her request.

Why is it perfectly normal to haggle with artists selling their product when you wouldn't do that to a lawyer or a doctor or a big department store?  The folks buying art are trying to get a deal, I understand that, but meanwhile us artists are trying to make enough money to buy either a new tube of paint-- or heating oil.

Were I to accept the deal the aforementioned customer proposed, I not only would have sold one painting for less than what I was asking, but literally thrown in the second one for free.  I am no business expert, but I know two things that don't last long in this world:  Dogs that chase cars, and businesses that give away their products for free.  But you would have gained a collector, I can hear you say.  Sure, and she would expect more discounts and freebies for the next painting she bought from me.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I want my customers to believe they got a great painting for a fair price, not that they got screwed for paying what I asked.

Look, I'm not blaming this customer.  She said she gets deals from other artists and galleries all the time.  So obviously the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the stars, but with ourselves.  We have conditioned our prospective customers to automatically assume we'll immediately negotiate our prices.  We brought this on, and my trying to singlehandedly stem the tide is a fools crusade.  We all feel that the term "starving artist" is pejorative, but it's also mostly true.  I just wish we hadn't gone the Monty Hall route long ago.  Our art should be the grand prize, not the game piece. 

After all, nobody wants to get zonked!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leo And Me

This falls under the category of "Who Knew?"  I came across a news article claiming that some art aficionado has found animals that Leonardo DaVinci hid in his painting Mona Lisa.  If you haven't heard of this story and want all the gory details, you can check out this link

The gist of this story is that an artist from New York by the name of Ron Piccirillo thinks that Leonardo painted a menagerie of animals leering over Mona's shoulder.  He's identified a lion, an ape and a buffalo in the background of the famous painting.  I personally didn't know that there are buffalo in France, where Leo painted this, but I'll admit I wasn't there in 1500-something when this was done, so how would I know?  Anyway, to see these creatures one has to turn the painting on it's side, as shown above.  Why wouldn't DaVinci have painted them right side up?  What-- you expect the obvious from a guy that wrote backwards?

Now, far be it from me to judge if Mr. Piccirillo is right or wrong on this matter, but I have a hunch that he thinks that if you play the painting backward, it will say, "Paul is dead..."  But anyway, you know what?  I have done the same thing in one of my paintings.

Below is a painting I did several years ago of an iconic lighthouse here in Maine called the Portland Head Light.  It's located in Cape Elizabeth in southern Maine.  I believe it's a state law that anyone who paints in Maine must do at least one painting of this lighthouse.  So, I've fulfilled my duty as a Maine citizen.  But I digress... 

I invite you to look at the rocks. 

I was quite surprised when the owner of this painting told me that she really got a kick out of how I painted a lion cub in the rocks.  I had no idea what she was talking about, so I went back and looked at a photo of this painting, and lo and behold-- out of the lights and shadows of the rocks there is what seems to be a lion cub lying down.  Look again-- his head is made up from the rocks in light, and his body is the shadow area.  See him?  Trust me when I tell you that I had no intention of putting that in there.  But here's the thing:  if I had known that the image was there, I would have painted it out.  Why?  Because every time I see a photo of this painting, I don't see the Portland Head Light, I see that damn lion cub!  Once you see it, you can't unsee it!  I've learned from this, and now I really go over my paintings to make sure I don't have any images in there that I don't mean for you to see.

So that's what grabbed me about the discovery about the Mona Lisa-- I wasn't the only one who has goofed like that.  I can't speak for Mr. DaVinci, but I really don't think he meant to do it either.  One other thing I thought of when I read about this "amazing breakthrough" in the Mona Lisa mystery--

I guess great minds think alike...


Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa's Little Helper

Hey Santa,

Kev here.  How's the Holidays treating you?  I don't have a doubt you and the elves are busier than, than-- well... Elves at Christmas!  I want to thank you for the gift you gave me last year.  With heating oil prices so high, that lump of coal sure came in handy!  If it's not too late, may I make a couple of suggestions for some wonderful gifts this year?

I know last year my letter to you was a little on the self-serving side.  It was full of gimme, gimme, gimme-- you know, give me the brushes that Sargent used, the paints that Rockwell used, the models that Vargas used.  Stuff like that.  But, Santa I've changed my tune.  This year my wish is for others to receive a great gift--


And may I add- preferably mine...

I'm sure that there are plenty of people who would love to have you slip a painting up their stocking this year.  And why not?  Art makes a great gift.  It's hand made, it's personal, and it leaves people feeling good just looking at it.  Yeah, even Koons' stuff.  I mean, wouldn't the sucker collector who actually paid money for basketballs in water have preferred you give it to him?  You don't have to be an elf to know I'm right about that one, right?

If you think about it, Santa, giving my paintings as gifts wouldn't even take up much room in the sleigh.  I don't paint that big, after all.  Hell, I'm not like the guy I saw on-line who painted this humongous painting-- I swear it was thirty feet tall and twenty feet wide.  Then he put a ten foot frame around it!  I think it was of a nude on a Victorian couch.  Anyway, my stuff would fit in your sack with no problem.  And look how happy the elves would be to lighten their load a little.  I'm not trying to put anybody out of work, mind you.  I'm sure the elves at the Chia Pet division would like a breather this year, don't you think?

So in closing Santa, I'm just saying to keep in mind that you can give non-elf made gifts too.  I mean, I always thought of myself as one of your elves in a way;  I make things that can be used as gifts, and that can be cherished for ever.  Or at least until the next garage sale.  So- Think Art! 

And think of us artists as Santa's little helpers!

See you in a couple weeks!

The best Good Boy ever,



Monday, December 5, 2011

Fun With Props

I like to think that on the whole, usually I am a very decisive person.  You know--most of the time I make up my mind relatively quickly, generally speaking.  When I make up my mind, I will almost always go with it, seven, maybe eight out of ten times- 'cause that's how I roll.

The painting at the top of the page is an example of that.

I have always liked wood piles.  Here in Maine, we burn wood for fuel, not fun.  I've split and stacked countless cords of wood.  Seeing a long pile of wood stacked beside someone's barn or garage always makes me think of the smell of a wood stove, the smoke gently wafting out of a brick chimney.  The bracing cold air of Winter.  Ice.  Snowdrifts.  Having my mailbox repeatedly crushed by some half-asleep plow driver hyped up on his 85th cup of coffee. 

But I digress...

What I like about woodpiles is the way the new split wood reflects sunlight.  New wood has a kind of golden glow about it.  I've long wanted to do a painting of a wood pile, but I never had just the right amount of inspiration.  To those of us who paint, wanting to is a long way from needing to paint a scene.  So anyway, last week I was out in my garage when I noticed what I thought was a neat sight with the way the sunlight coming through the window lit up the woodpile with a warm glow.  I also liked the way the cool light from the North window off-set the warm light.  That's it! I thought, I have to paint it.  You know, because I'm decisive like that.

I sketched the scene, really just thinking about the play of color temperatures, and light against dark, and then I set my drawing aside for a few days to finish up another project.  In the ensuing days, I thought about my sketch.  "What if I had a person doing something, instead of just showing sunlight on a woodpile?"...  "And what if he was, like, an old guy?"... "Yeah, with one of those old-man plaid shirt coat things and rubber boots?"  I was digging it.  Except I didn't have an old man on hand, nor an old man plaid shirt-jacket.  Thank goodness, I did have rubber boots.  I called my beautiful partner Ellen when she was out shopping for my Christmas gift at the recycling center, and asked her if she would stop at a yard sale or something and see if she could get an old plaid shirt.  As usual, she got just what I needed.

The next day, there I was, posing out in my garage.

Now, that was all well and good to get the drawing done,

But, I really wanted to capture that light.  I had to wait a few days until we got a sunny day, but when we did I hauled my gear back into the garage and set up.

By the way, for those who claim I have a stick up my ass-- here's your proof.

I din't have an old man to paint, but I did have me.  I kind of modeled the guy on an elderly gentleman who lives near me.  I kinda wish I went and asked him to pose, but he's ninety years old and I didn't think he would be up to it.  So, I whitened my hair, and made my ears big, and voila!  and old duff.  The rest of the way was just trying to get the colors right.  I even set up my old-man props in my studio for the final touches. 

I do enjoy doing stuff like this, it makes for a fun day at the office.  The best part about this painting is now I have an old man plaid jacket-shirt thing to go with my rubber boots!

I'll fit the part soon enough...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo Copy

I did the above painting as a commission, and since the recipient has no idea who I am, and is one of the rare few who doesn't read Maine-ly Painting, I thought it would be safe to post it.  To get this scene, I took a photo, projected it onto a blank masonite board, then carefefully traced the outline.  When it came time for the color, I used the photo as much as possible.

I'm totally kidding!

I actually went to this harbor and kayaked out to this boat at precisely the same time every day for a week and painted it from life using a small easel and palette I had set up on a bouy.

Fooled you again!

Okay, really, I did neither.  But this really is a portrait of a lobster boat converted into a pleasure craft, and my client wanted it to be seen in a harbor during fall.  Since the boat is currently up and out of the water for the winter, I had to use photos.  These are what she sent for me to use:


Next, I had to come up with a design for the painting.  I settled on a low-angle view of the boat because that's how I personally saw so many of these boats when I would paddle around Cundy's Harbor, Maine, where I lived for four years.  I felt I would be comfortable portraying it that way.

After I came up with an idea for the painting, I went back to my photo archives to see if I could get some usable reference shots of harbors and boats.  The viewpoint for almost all of my photos is from my kayak, or about three feet above sea-level.  I thought I could convert this one into my lobster boat:

Next came the harbor.  Again, I wanted something that was consistent with the perspective I was using for my painting.  This was actually taken at Oakhurst Island, right next door to Cundy's:

I simply changed the sun angle, and turned a beautiful spring day into fall.

Next came the reflections.  Remembering all I had observed while I sat and stared for hours at the boats moored out in the harbor, (and talked about in my last blog post) I faked it. 

So there's my painting, and I hope it makes a nice gift for someone. 

Now, I'm sure that if I actually was out and saw this boat in this setting in person, I'd notice a thousand things I could do differently.

But then it would be almost like copying a photo, wouldn't it?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Upon Reflection

I do my fair share of paintings that utilize water and reflections, and as a result I get people who confide to me that they can't paint water.  So I say to them, "I can't either-- that's why I use canvas!  Ha, Ha!"

People don't confide in me much anymore...

Currently, I'm working on a painting that has a composition that is heavy on water reflections.  I'll show it to you some day, but right now it's in the "Jesus, what the Hell is that?" stage.  But it has made me think of some principles (because we all know there are no rules in art) about painting water.

Generally speaking, water is noticed by us as either a wave or a reflection.  The choppier the wave, the less it will reflect, while a smooth body of water is like a mirror.  I'll pass on talking about waves, Stapleton Kearns did a good blog post on that one.   I'll talk about the smooth water and it's mirror-like reflection.  That's how I think of reflections in the water: mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflecting mirrors.  Sound complicated?  Well, it is.  I mean if it was easy to paint then everybody would do it.

One of the best painters of reflections in my opinion (which is how IMO looks spelled out) is Sarah Knock, a local Maine artist.  Reflections have a decidedly abstract quality about them, and Sarah gets that beautifully in her paintings.  I've picked up a lot by studying her treatment of water.  I highly recommend you check out her art.

One thing I notice when folks paint reflections is that they think it's just an upside down image of the top half of the painting.  You can do it that way, but the drawback is a very flat looking painting.  Water is a flat plane-- like a floor. As such, it's best to keep in mind it follows the same rules of perspective.  In the case of water, the object being reflected is not only spread out on the surface, but the reflection we see is from the perspective of the water, not the viewers perspective.  For example, let's say we are looking at a boat that's a little below eye level to us.  From our view we can see straight through the windows.  However, that's not what will show in the reflection, because the water is at a different angle than us.

I've asked the renowned and highly talented court room sketch artist M. Fablian to illustrate this principle:

Another thing to keep in mind is that a wave is a rounded mirror.  Thus (I love using the word "thus") it will reflect the image of whatever it's facing.

Another example of this from Mr. Fablian:

Light too will have the same effect on a rolling wave as it would a rolling field.  One side will be highlighted, the other in shadow.  By the way, since the reflected light looses some oomph as it travels from the water to our eye, it will always appear a touch darker:

Now here's were it can get crazy:  The rounded side of a wave will not only reflect the light and image it's facing, but also the reflection of the wave in front of it, which is reflecting the wave behind it.  Mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflecting mirrors...  Got it?  Here's that principle as demonstrated by Picasso:

Now let's see how some no-name hack of an Illustrator by the name of Tom Lovell pulled this off:

I'm kidding, of course!  Tom Lovell was a painting God in my honest opinion.  (IMHO for texters)  Geez, you'd think he set his easel up under-water to get this view.  All the elements I was talking about are apparent in this painting.

I tried this whole reflection thing with a couple of my paintings:

So there you have it-- a few thoughts on painting reflections in water.  To coin a phrase;

Water, water everywhere--

And all of it's tough to paint!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Take A Trip Without Leaving The Farm

Inspiration comes from the doggondest of places, don't it?  Some may search high and low for that perfect face to paint, or travel around the globe looking for awe inspiring vistas to immortalize on canvas. 


I stumble out of bed...

I didn't set out to do this on purpose, but I just realized that I've spent the past two years painting scenes from around my home and studio here in Pittston, Maine.  It's not much of a property, just four acres bordered by a little creek named the Eastern River.  It bends like a horse-shoe and our property is the inside part of the shoe.  Our home is a simple Cape Cod style home built in 1830, and sits on top of a ridge.  The open land around it slopes down to the river.  Simple.  But for some reason, it has provided me with scenes that I felt compelled to paint.  Let me give you a tour of what I'm talking about.

At the edge of the river is an old pump house that looks like a dog house with a nice cement foundation.  It once was used when the drinking water for the house came from the river.  This was the first thing I painted after we moved here.

I painted it in Winter:

And in the Summer:

Speaking of the river, I have depicted it in Spring:

And late on January afternoon:

It does have a tendency to flood in the early Spring, so I painted that:

There's a big old maple tree in my back yard.  This is my portrait of it from the living room window in Winter:

The shade of the tree stretches across our root cellar door in early Spring:

We have a porch that wraps around the front and side of the house.  This is it, looking out from the inside of the house:

And now we're looking up at the house from my studio, showing the back of my garage (because there's just not enough paintings of garages in the world) and the porch on a lovely Summer day:

And this would be the front of the house in Autumn:

I also had a good time drawing this with white pencil on black paper:

I haven't forgotten the interior.  This is my piano in the living room:

And why wouldn't I want to paint our dressers in the bedroom?

Turning around from the viewpoint I used in Mirror, Mirror, this is the top of the stairs as late day sun shines up the stairway: 

Quite a bit of inspiration, not to mention inventory!  Like I said, I didn't set out to do a series, it just happened.  Be forewarned, though: I'm sure there will be more to come.  Because after all,  that's what I do:

I work at home!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hurry Up And Wait

Several weeks ago as I was watching TV while eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal, eggs with a mug of bourbon, I happened to glance away from Natalie Morales (something I rarely do) and saw a beautiful sight;  the way the morning sun had back-lit the big old maple tree that looms over my back yard.  I loved the way the leaves glowed on one side of the tree while on the other were a cool veridian.  I thought the way the lavender of the trunk played off against the golden green glow of the grass was really cool.  I was transfixed.  Something that I had seen countless times before now begged to be painted.  So as soon as Ann Curry came on, I quickly turned off the TV, (something I often do) and raced down to the studio to grab a panel to commence work.

I'd love to tell you how I turned out a masterpiece as a result, but the sad truth is that after a few days of work on it, the weather turned against me.  For what seemed like a month the sun didn't shine in the morning, if it came out at all.  In the meantime, the leaves dropped off the limbs and covered the grass.  By the time the sun made it's return appearance, the shadows had changed position, and the leaves were gone, altering my whole design.  I needed to work on it from life because no photo was going to catch the nuance of color I wanted to convey.  (Trust me-- I took a ton of photos, and not one was worth anything).  So now my panel sits quietly on a shelf in my studio waiting for next fall. 

This is the steaming mess as I last left it-- a hodge-podge of underpainting colors.  But I'm positive that next year it'll look really good!

I hope...

Mark Twain once noted that experience means recognizing a mistake the second time you make it.  Undeterred by the vagaries of Nature, I stumbled upon another scene that got me all worked up to paint.  But instead of relying on morning light, I needed to have afternoon sun.  And not any old sun, but the last ten minutes of sun from a clear, cloudless sky.  Hey, that's not asking for much, right?  Here's a fun thing to try on your own:  pick any time of day and see how often the weather is exactly the same from one day to the next.  Spoiler Alert:  It's pretty damn rare.

Here's where the picture stands one full month later.

Hell, the moon has gone through another full cycle since I started.  Oh well, at least I got a lot farther along on this than the other one. 

This one has a good chance to be  finished, though.  After all, I am almost done, and I managed to get some local color notes on it when I had the chance.  The good thing is that next week the clocks change so I won't have to wait so long for the sun to set.  And many of the elements really won't change that much.  Dead leaves are dead leaves, right?  The pumpkins won't turn into carriages, or anything.  

Will They?

Gues I'll have to wait and see.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Good Doctor's Portrait

Geez, it seems like another lifetime ago when I last posted, but now that the nights are longer, it should be easier to find the time.  I wonder if I'll miss the sun.  I haven't had time to blog because I've been super busy working on a portrait commission of a new arrival in town.  He's a Doctor of Hematology by the name of Acula.  He bought an old mansion in the center of Pittston Village named Marston Manor.  The manor has seen better days since it was originally built back in the late nineteenth century, as today it's run-down and creaky with crooked shutters hanging askew next to broken windows.  He said he has plans on restoring it to it's former glory so that, as he put it in his wicked cool, vaguely European accent- "everyone will fit". 

The Doctor said he saw my work on-line, (so, that's a good reason to have a web site!) and asked me if I could paint his portrait.  I thought it was a wonderful gesture to ingratiate himself to his new neighbors.  I was expecting for him to hand me a photo to work from, but as he said he takes a lousy photo, he requested I do it from life.  The only rub was that I had to work on it at night because he's not available during the day.  Not a problem.  There's nothing on TV at night anyway since the Red Sox blew the season.  The manor is only a short walk across my lawn, so early one evening I grabbed my gear and headed over.

We set up that first night in what was once an elegant front parlor.  It has an amazing fireplace with an eight foot tall granite mantle topped by a huge beveled mirror.  The mirror was covered up to prevent any damage during construction.  The only light came from one naked bulb that hung down from the cracked, sagging ceiling in an area that apparently had a chandelier at one time.  Bad light, but hey-- you deal with it.  The Doctor has a remarkable face with intriguing features that I was certain would be fun to paint.  He's about sixty-five or so, although he says he looks younger than he really is.  He still has an amazingly thick head of jet-black hair swept-back from his intelligent looking forehead with just a touch of gray at his temples.  It's quite old fashioned, yet aristocratic.  To a follicle-challenged type like me, I was quite envious.  His face is long and lean with high, prominent cheek bones, and an elegant, aqualine nose.  His mouth is somewhat wide with bright white teeth, but what got me was his eyes.  I couldn't quite figure out what color they were.  At times they seemed blue, then gray, then maybe silver.  All I could do was stare and stare and stare.

I worked pretty hard that first session, so much so that I hardly realized the night had flown by.  The only thing I remember was hearing all kinds of strange noises coming from the cellar, but Acula said it was to be expected that animals would get into an old building like his.  After a couple of days my beautiful partner Ellen noticed how lethargic I had become.  More so than usual for me!  She pointed out that my complexion was looking rather pasty, and my lips looked almost blue.  I did feel extremely tired and it seemed I just couldn't get myself going during the day.  I blamed it on keeping late hours while I was working on the portrait.  That probably was the case, because after the second week, I was sleeping through the whole day.  After the sun was fully set, I would feel much better and be ready to get back at it.  I did become aware of strange little quirks in my home life.   After a couple of weeks, I noticed my dog Champ was acting rather oddly around me; snarling and growling when I'd get up for the night.  I wanted to ask Ellen if he did the same thing to her, but she was no where to be found.  Come to think of it, I couldn't remember when I had last seen her.  And damn, was I thirsty.  Acula said the thirst was to be expected.  I guess dusty old buildings can have an odd affect on you.

I thought the portrait was coming along alright--but damn, those eyes.  The good thing was that the Doctor was a very engaging man.  I discovered we both have an affinity for history.  Acula would regale me with lively and entertaining stories of centuries past, told in such a way as to make me almost believe he lived through them.  His stories almost kept me from noticing the noises coming from the basement.  The sounds of shuffling feet, low guttural grunts and squeals did disrupt my concentration from time to time.  I asked the Doctor if he was going to do anything about getting rid of whatever was down there, but he just gave me one of his slight, quixotic smiles and said he wasn't bothered by it at all.  I guess after a while, it didn't bother me either.

As I was walking to the Doctors during this past full moon I noticed our neighbors, Harry and Jean coming from the direction of the manor, looking like two ghosts glowing in the moon light.  I hadn't seen them since early spring when we celebrated Harry's eightieth birthday.  Jean is seventy-nine and used a wheelchair and oxygen pack, so as I remember, we kept the candles to a minimum! This night I noticed they were both running across a meadow toward a horse that was grazing there. The startled animal ran frantically away from them, but was soon cornered against a fence.  It reared up and slashed its hooves at Harry, who ducked and bobbed under them with lightning speed.  The horse's terrified baying and whinnying sounded like a woman's screams as Jean clawed at its stomach with her long, pointed finger nails.  Then both Harry and Jean jumped up on the horse and by savagely ripping and chewing it's neck brought it down in a shrieking heap of dirt, kicking legs and blood.  I thought the silver light sparkled beautifully on their gray hair and flashing teeth as the sounds of gnawing and slurping filled the air.  Eventually, the horse lay still.  Made me pretty damn hungry. 

The other night I was in the manor working on the painting, and I felt it just wasn't coming together.  The eyes...the eyes...  Something was gnawing at me, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was, so I decided to use my mirror trick.  If you've never tried it, looking at a painting through the reflection of a mirror really helps you see with new eyes what is wrong with the work.  In my studio I have a mirror on the opposite wall behind me for just that purpose, but I wasn't in my studio.  When Acula was in another room, I went over to the huge mirror that was covered up over the fireplace mantle.  I adjusted my easel to see the painting, then peeled back a corner of the covering to see the reflection.

All I saw was a blank canvas.

As I was puzzling over my blank painting, I heard footsteps come up behind me, but nothing showed in the mirror.  I turned around and saw  Dr. Acula standing beside the painting and gazing fondly at it.  "My young artist friend," he said in his silky voice,  "No need to fret so, you've done excellent work on my portrait.  It is exactly like me in every particular!  I've an idea," he continued, "We must have a grand showing of this masterpiece, and I am sure all of your neighbors will be delighted for you to join them!"  With that, he tipped his head back and started to laugh.  It started out as a low bass note that seemed to eminate from every room in the house, then changed pitch until it became a piercing whistle that stabbed my ears like ice picks.  Just when I thought I couldn't stand anymore, every door in the ancient house blew open.  Then I saw them as they shambled into the parlor.

They were all of my neighbors; Harry and Jean, George and Mary Ellen, Dan and Leyla, Vicky and Sue-- and others I didn't know that well.  Dozens of them.  Their clothes were torn, dirty and encrusted in dried blood.  Hair was matted and scraggly.  Even my beautiful Ellen was with them, one lone earing flashing a reflection from the light bulb swinging overhead.  She was holding Champs empty dog collar and his fur covered her torn black T-shirt.  But worst of all was that they were smiling.  It was the type of smile a starving man might have when he finally spies some food.  They slowly made their way across the room toward me.

"Yes," Dr. Acula continued, "Your friends would love for you to join them forever in the night."

"I'd be thrilled" I gushed, "But do you all think we could hold off until the 31st?  You know, we could even make it a party.  After all--

I love Halloween!"


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where The Turkeys Roam

This week marks the one year anniversary of Maine-ly Painting!  Hard to believe, but just 52 weeks ago I set out to write a blog that employed useful painting tips with deep insight into the world of art and artists.  Trust me, I'm gonna get around to doing that some time real soon, but for now, this is just one of my usual posts. 

For some, autumn is their favorite season.  The days are crisp and clear, with the heat and haze of summer in the rear-view mirror.  Here in Maine, as in the rest of New England, autumn also means beautiful fall foliage.  Except this year.  Last month hurricane Irene blew through dumping copious amounts of rain and gusty winds that just completely stressed out the trees.  What was a deep green canopy shriveled into a curled up brown and ochre smear.  It has all the color and brilliance of some old 1940's Orson Wells flick.  But I set out to paint it anyway.

Last week I set up in a lovely old cemetery in Dresden, Maine and painted the view.  I like cemeteries.  I enjoy reading the tombstones and trying to envision the life these folks once lived.  Young ladies with their date of death coinciding with the birthday of their last child tell a sad story.  There were also too many stones marking the resting place of an infant.  It was a hard life back in the day.  But there's also a large number of folks who lived well into their eighties and nineties.  It seems like if you made it through childhood, you had a great chance to live a long life.

Cemeteries were also set up on top of hills that at one time afforded a lovely, peaceful view, but now only overlook highways, shopping centers or condos.  But this particular cemetery still has a vestige of what once was.  It has some stately maples crowning it's crest and it overlooks some old farms that have been there for over one hundred years.

I've blathered about my painting technique on previous posts, so I'll spare you the particulars, but I wanted to show the light of early morning on the fields and farms.  That meant getting my butt up and out of the house early enough to be set up and record the sight.  I am not a fan of morning.  Years ago, when I was still punching the clock, I had jobs that required me to be on the job at three in the morning.  That's right-- three in the freaking morning!  I swore then that I wouldn't mind if I never saw another sun rise for the rest of my life.  I've gotten over it, but I'm still not a up-and-at-'em kind of guy.  Luckily for me, though, is that sunrise this time of year isn't nearly as early as in the middle of summer.

I had some visitors while I was working on site.  A lovely lady and her grand daughter take morning walks there and stopped by to chat.  The older lady asked me why I wanted to paint that view?  It was a matter of perspective; here I was intent on painting barns and fields, and all she saw was someones back yard.

I also had some turkeys saunter on up to check me out.  Apparently, they know a distant relative when they see one...

The fall colors never really did pop, as I had hoped, but there's always next year.  Another winter, spring and summer to get through, but also another year of Maine-ly Painting!