Friday, September 11, 2009


More island time

This weekend I'm heading to Islesboro to paint for a week, so I'm packing and figuring out what to bring, and wondering how much like fall it will really be (Pants? Sweaters?? Long johns???). Packing the art supplies is always great - seeing blank canvases and panels and wondering what I'm going to fill them with over the course of the week. I've been painting on wooden panels lately and really loving it - here is one from my island trip last week (this is the finished painting that I was just starting in the photos from the post-before-last):

I've added a lot of new work from 2009 to my painting website, both in the oils folder and the available work folder. Many thanks to those who purchased paintings recently - I've been tallying up and realized I've sold 18 so far this year. A successful season, all in all. Now I'm looking forward to a long quiet winter of working at home, reading, painting larger canvases again indoors (most of my summer work is outside, and smallish, meaning under 18" x 24"), half-heartedly selling books online, and continuing to renovate the attic for my painting studio. After one more island week, painting with friends. One of the highlights of my year, and a wonderful way to bookend the summer.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Culling books and potatoes

This morning I finished reading Ronald Blythe's new collection of essays, The Bookman's Tale (Canterbury Press 2009). The quote on the cover from a TLS review of his work reads: "...wonderfully crafted rural writing in which a true spirituality and keen observation holds hands with a sharp and kindly wit." Something to aspire to, in life and art. One of my favorite pieces in the book is entitled "The Bookshelf Cull" and I wish I could quote the entire thing. Bits must suffice. Many bits.

On the dangers of attempting to thin out: "Should you carry a dozen volumes from one shelf to another, you will most likely be carrying hundreds before you finish. Sequences will be thrown out; titles will have to be regrouped; subjects will demand respect." (p.42)

On deciding what to keep and what to pass along: "First, a large box for the chuck-outs, the space-makers. Then the mighty pause. What Christian hand could dispense with a 1901 history of the Quakers, spider and all? And might I not need four different editions of Emma?" (ibid)

On the embarrassment of lent books: "Long-borrowed volumes cry 'Thief!' They form a penitential pile, and will be returned to their own country." (ibid)

On the inherent difficulty of rearranging: "On and on I go, staggering up and down stairs, cuddling to me the treasures and the once-read and the ten-times-read, the gifts, the nice pick-ups, the inheritances..., the ceaselessly bought, the rarely abandoned - which is why the cardboard box is only a quarter full." (p.43)

Lovely bookishness aside, some real joys in this book are found in his use of language. His metaphors and turns of phrase shine on the pages, throughout:

"...the south wind in the poplars.... often rises to a roar and is sumptuous. It is as if the village is in full sail." (p.81)

"At five to eight exactly, the sun jumps into view like a smartly flicked coin." (p.92) (Wow!!! I wish I had written that! Instead, I come up with something such as, "The sun rose.")

"Outside, the rain-clouds race; inside, the papers strew the room. Half a shelf of books has given up all propriety and lies like abandoned ethics all over the study floor." (p.94).

I could go on and on. In fact I find I have. And I will continue to do so. Another set of joys within these essays is based on the inevitable cycles of rural life and season. And thus I happily read about Blythe blackberrying, and picking apples, and digging potatoes, as I do the very same things myself, this time of year. We picked six more quarts of blackberries yesterday, out of the mammoth patch in the woods nearby. And the last of the potatoes, Red Norland and Kennebec, came out of the garden over the weekend:

Digging potatoes reminds me of hunting for Easter eggs. We brought in the red and yellow onions as well, although I left in the ground the ones whose tops were still green enough to lead me to believe they will continue to plump up. The harvest is a satisfying sight, and I am thinking fondly of the winter soups and stews that these will become part of:

I also think longingly of clean dry root cellars of the past. While Ronald Blythe thinks of attics:

"My head is like an attic, full of things that might come in handy. You never know. People tell me how astonished they are at what it holds. They don't know that there is a cupboard full of questions." (p.111)

Saturday, September 05, 2009


One more week of summer

One of the finest weeks of the entire summer here in Maine happened to be this first week of September. Sunny and dry, near 80 degrees every day. I spent three days painting with a dear friend out on an island in Penobscot Bay, and to say it was heavenly would be an understatement. Wednesday was perhaps the best day - we packed a picnic and our painting supplies into a dinghy and rowed to a nearby island. We painted together, swam, ate lunch, beachcombed around the island, and rowed home when the afternoon came to a close.

We arrived when the high tide had just turned, so we were able to put the boat far up on the beach. After the first painting session and lunch, my friend got some sun while I circumnavigated the island, taking pictures and taking in the feeling of Maine at its best. I love painting the intertidal zones, they change the landscape so much with the high and low tides we have here:

My friend took a few pictures of me just starting a painting of the next island in the small chain we were on, as the tide continued to fall and the currents swirled around the rocks:

I had my guerrilla painting kit with me again - I like to travel light on trips, so I left my easel behind and just brought my palette loaded with paint, medium, brushes, a few canvases and panels, paint rags, trash bag, and dropcloth, all loaded into a basket. The basket then serves as something to prop my canvas against while I sit and paint:

The painting came out well, it retained some of the freshness of the day, which is usually all I can hope for. We rowed home, wind and tide thankfully with us all the way. A day of perfection and an appropriate send-off for summer. We store up days like this, like squirrels with acorns, because we know winter is on its way, you see. We need to remember that Maine is this, too. Not just the other. (The old joke around here goes: Maine has two seasons. Winter, and Construction.)

Oh, although I brought no books with me, my friend did have books at her house, but after painting all day I was too tired to do much of anything except jot down the day's events in my journal as my eyes threatened to close. Although during my visit I did read an essay about an artist I admire inordinately. And played many games of Bananagrams... What a week. How did I get so lucky.

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