Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Occupational Hazards

After waiting all winter long for a spring that failed to arrive, summer came to Maine last week.  I love June.  The days are at their longest, the spring flowers are blooming, and whatever heat there is hasn't worn out it's welcome like it would in August.  A perfect month.  So to celebrate, I loaded up my paint gear and headed out of the confines of my studio to paint me a picture out doors.  My first attempt was at Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport, Maine for their charity auction.  I wasn't thrilled with it, so I did another painting for them on the next day.  Here are some cows for them--

A spot of glare on that one, sorry...  But it put me in the mood to keep on going.  So, yesterday I took my gear for a ride, and stumbled upon a blueberry field.

I thought this scene had potential, so I set up in a ditch along the dusty dirt road, and started in.  I could have just as easily turned around and painted this--

But I felt the other view had more interest.  I like rock walls.  I look at them in awe as a memorial to the farmers who cleared the primeval forest over two hundred years ago, then found out that Maine soil is infested with rocks.  So having no other use for them, they partitioned off their fields with these rocks.  Undoubtedly back breaking, labor intensive efforts that now are lost to the forest that grew back when the farmers gave up.  So I think it's cool when I get a chance to actually see them out in the open.

Here's my initial underpainting of the scene--

What you don't see are the spiders.  Apparently, spiders dig plein air painters.  Those guys were crawling all over me all day.  There I'd be, staring out at the field, when I'd see a spider hanging down from the bill of my cap, dangling in front of my eyes.  But I didn't mind so much.  The wind was gentle, and blowing just hard enough to keep the black flies and mosquitoes away.  So if a spider wanted to visit, so what?  The sun was shining, and the only sound was the wind in the trees and the crowing of a distant rooster.  I even had a more welcome visitor wander by--

So really, why complain?  After I packed up to leave, I decided to go into the field behind me.  In the middle of the blueberry field is a small cemetery, and I wanted to check it out.

I was so intent on seeing the graves I walked right into the bee-hives that the farmers used to pollinate the fields--

You can't see them, but trust me, they were swarming.  Now, I'm not allergic to bees, nor am I especially afraid of them.  They are just bugs, and like most creatures, they just want to be left alone.  However, to bees, it seems like walking in their midst isn't leaving them alone.  It reminded me of when I was a teenager, and my dad had me pulling stumps in the back yard.  The stumps were old and rotten, and they came up easy.  Just a couple swings from my pick-axe did the trick.  I wasn't prepared for what happened next.  I planted my pick into a stump, and instantly felt stinging pain strike me all over.  The air was filled with the sound of violent buzzing.  I had hit a nest of yellow-jackets!  I dropped my pick and ran as fast as I could to the house, half blind from insects crawling on my face.  I had about two-dozen stings on me.  And it all took place in about fifteen seconds.

Let's just leave it that I didn't go to the cemetery, shall we?  Okay, I'll admit it--- I ran away like a school girl...

I'm going to do some more work on my painting in the studio.  Finish up the rock wall, add some foliage to the foreground, tweak some colors here and there-- you know, stuff that I can do from memory.  And the best part? 

No spiders... no bees...



leigh said...

did you put that bit about the spiders in there for me? Painting looks great! I'm always amazed by your neck of the woods.

MCGuilmet said...

When I was seven or eight years old, I was building a fort in a wooded gulley with other neighbor kids. Moving one old log, I either stepped directly into or dislodged a yellow jacket nest. I was never quite sure exactly how I disturbed them because I never saw the nest, but as you say, within seconds they had swarmed up my pants legs and under my shirt. I had stings all over my body. There is nothing exactly quite like the sting of a yellow jacket. Just reading your post with the words yellow jacket gave me a slight adrenalin surge.