Salvaging a fail (v. 2) and then messing up again

Rising Tide at Wadsworth Cove, 16X12, oil on canvas. Available; please contact Lakewatch Manor for details.

Saturday dawned fair and bright in lovely Castine, ME. I had a plan for my painting; I knew that low tide was at 9:21 AM; I had croissants and fresh local blueberries for breakfast. By 7:30, I was at my location and ready to roll out something brilliant.
Wadsworth Cove at low tide.
The organizers had promised me a clearing sky, and that’s where I faced my first decision: horizon above the midpoint or below it? If the sky stayed as it was, a low horizon would mean a fantastic painting; if the sky cleared, that would produce something less satisfying.
Wadsworth Cove at Low Tide, 12X16, oil on canvas. Finished, but I wasn’t happy with it. It’s now in a private collection, and the new owner insists she likes it better than my final painting. She might be right, since the final painting is still available.
I bet on a clear sky and put the horizon above the midpoint. The day resulted in a succession of fantastic skies. (They may not have been a focal point on my canvas, but I’ve learned to simply enjoy the beauty God plays out for me.)
When you’re not happy with your composition, use all the tools at your disposal to make it better: greyscale drawings and viewfinders are both helpful.
I based my composition on the serpentine channel that cuts across Wadsworth Cove at low tide. Three hours in, I realized that the s-curve wasn’t carrying its weight and the boat was simply badly placed, being too low, too angled, and too far to the right. It was, however, too late to complete another painting of this size before the tide rose and filled the cove. It wasn’t, however, too late to do the painting in pieces.
I looked up at one point to realize my paper towel roll had unwound itself in the steady breeze.
So I flung my first sketch on the ground and reframed the composition. Having made careful sketches and taken my decisions on lighting earlier in the day, I could take my time and not race the rising tide.  I painted from the mid-point forward, ignoring the horizon and landmass to the right until I’d captured the sand itself. The result—if I may say so myself—is a successful treatment of a difficult subject: a real-time record of a moving tide.
I finished this painting when the tide was high. And, no, I didn’t use a photo to do so; I worked from my prior oil sketch, here thrown on the ground. (The new owner knows to wait until it dries to take the bugs out of the paint.)
However, after nine days on the road, my poor Prius was a complete mess. I tend to melt down when my stuff is in a shambles, and I was fighting this problem all day. I couldn’t find the tools I needed. At one point, I couldn’t even find my paints.  Still, I would normally expect to be able to finish two 12X16 paintings in eight hours, and I did so, even though one of them wouldn’t be shown. I was done in ample time to deliver my selection to the Maine Maritime Academy by 4:30.
Me, buckle under pressure? Not even when my glasses fall into my palette or I lose my paints! But afterwards… oh, boy!
At which point, I started to fall apart. I sent a pilot hole through the front of the frame. Worse, I couldn’t find my generic price list (which I carry to protect myself from my own absent-mindedness) and mis-priced my work. It didn’t sell because I’d marked it way high, and that was in spite of it being a good, strong painting.
Dear Readers know I’m awfully protective of my delightful little Prius. I hated seeing it like this; worse, I couldn’t find anything in it.
Oh, well; these things happen. No sense worrying about it. But while an error in pricing work is no big deal, if I made a similar error driving, it could have disastrous consequences. For this reason, I’ve decided that my next trip (in a mere two weeks!) can’t be quite such a pressure-cooker. I am not going to blog live when on the road. Journalists reprise their greatest hits when they’re traveling; that’s what I plan to do, too.
In its tailored little black frame: Rising Tide at Wadsworth Cove, 16X12, oil on canvas. Available; please contact Lakewatch Manor for details.
Join us in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!


Castine from Fort George, 1856, by Fitz Henry Lane.
 It always helps to have seen a place you’re planning to paint, so I took a run up to Castine today in anticipation of next Saturday’s 2013 Castine Plein Air Festival. I packed both oils and watercolors, figuring I’d do a bunch of test sketches. At the last minute I emailed my only contact in town. I suggested we get together for coffee, not really expecting she’d check her mail.
That, my friends, is not a boat, but a ship. A retired navy man told me today that a ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship.

I am familiar with West Brooksville (which is across the mouth of the Penobscot River), so I figured I’d have some idea of the lay of the land. Turns out I was wrong.
Many of the picturesque towns of the Maine coast are strung like pearls along US 1. That is their main business street, with small side streets leading down to coves or harbors. The architecture runs from iconic drawn-out Maine farmhouses to Greek Revival Capes to Federal to Victorian to Foursquare, arranged organically around a harbor or river mouth. I can usually navigate them fairly quickly. That isn’t to say they reveal their treasures instantly, but that I have a method for finding good views.
A breathtakingly beautiful private garden in Castine. My green thumb was itching.
Castine isn’t on Route 1, and its streets are laid out in a grid. Greek Revival mansions march down its slope in imposing rows. It looks like a smaller, well-maintained version of Eastport (which is one of the most atmospheric places in all of Maine). One arrives in Eastport along a causeway from the mainland; one arrives in Castine via a narrow spit of land between two coves. Both places feel as if they never grew into the entire space allotted to them.
Iconic Maine.
I drove to the public dock and along the waterfront streets and rapidly realized that Castine wasn’t going to give up its treasures very easily to an outsider. Feeling a little daunted, I parked in front of the museum, intending to ask the staff for help, when my phone rang. It was my contact. “I never check my email during the day,” she said.
We had coffee and she offered to take me for a ride around the town. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide—she walks about five miles a day and has a great eye for the picturesque. I came home with 20 sites in mind that would each yield a fantastic painting, and a new friend!
I will not be painting this for next Saturday’s 2013 Castine Plein Air Festival, because the tide won’t be right, but I will paint it sometime soon.
Castine predates Plymouth Colony by seven years; its first European settlement is dated to 1613. It is ringed by historic sites, having been fought over by the French, Dutch, English, and Americans. I asked my friend’s husband why Castine was so important. “It’s a deep-water port,” he answered. I suppose that also explains why it puts me in mind of Eastport.

The second of my Maine workshops starts Sunday. If you’re signed up for it, you can find the supply lists here. (If you’re not, you’d better make arrangements super-fast!) August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

Amazing what you find if you clean your room.

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 
It’s Memorial Day. I’m not up to anything particularly deep about the meaning or execution of art. Instead, I’m giving you Steve Ditko being deep about the meaning of art and heroism: selected panels from “The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes,” Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. Script by  D.C. Glanzman, Penciled by Steve Ditko, Inked by Steve Ditko.
You want to read the whole thing? I recommend you hunt down the comic book, since it’s still under copyright. But, pretty much, you can see where he’s going with this.
From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

In 1968, clothing was a better indication of social status than it is today. But oddly enough, as the elite has become more nihilistic in America, their clothing has gotten rattier. Coincidence?

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

I don’t think I paint women in bondage because I’m celebrating their nature, but rather I’m celebrating their ability to endure. But he has a point here:

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

 And I’m just happy to see this type of cultural critic lampooned. He never changes.

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

Ditko comes perilously close to the idea that there is a spiritual battle being fought all around us, one we cannot see unless we have “spiritual eyes.” I suppose that is a kind of superpower.

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

This makes me want to stick to landscape painting.

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 

 This was definitely the 20th century battle of viewpoints:

From The Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes, Blue Beetle, Vol. 1, No. 5, November 1968, Charlton Comics Group, Derby Connecticut. 
Speaking of heroes, I’ve been thinking all day about ArmyPfc. Dwane A. Covert Jr. of Tonawanda, NY, killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom on November 3, 2007.
We are involved in an endless war that seems to have few casualties, so it’s easy to forget the ones our nation has suffered. But a moment to remember the men and women who have fallen in the quest to keep us safe does not come amiss.
August and September are sold out for my workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME.  Join us in June, July and October, but please hurry! Check here for more information.

I’m honored to have been selected to participate in the 2013 Castine Plein Air Festival

The first year I did Rye’s Painters on Location, I painted a lovely, long, low sailboat from a spot overlooking Mamaroneck Harbor. Living as I do in the Great Lakes basin, I’ve drawn and painted boats frequently enough. What I had overlooked was the tide, which confused me with constant angle changes.
My last painting for Rye’s Painters on Location. Mamaroneck Harbor, 18X24, oil on canvas. 
Mercifully, the boat’s owner was among the bidders that night and I escaped with my pride intact. The last few years I painted in that event, I worked in the same harbor, but from floating docks. This was much easier from a drafting standpoint but tough on the legs after two days.
Penobscot view, February 2013. Not Castine proper but close enough. How much more beautiful this will be come summer!
Such are the vicissitudes of painting in a plein air event. You can think you understand the subject, but still be confused at the point when your brush hits the canvas.
Last February, I took my family on an odd little pilgrimage up Castine way, looking for the West Brooksville childhood home of one of my chums. It was unutterably beautiful in February; imagine how lovely it will be in July!
Off-roading in Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park, in my little Prius. Take that, you 4-wheel-drive vehicles!
Every inch of the coast of Maine is simply beautiful. One would be hard-pressed to come up with a favorite stretch of rock-bound coastline. And even within particular regions, there are so many choices! What will I paint? My pal recommended Our Lady of Holy Hope on Perkins Street, or sunrise at the Tidal Pool, or the Main Square. Any other suggestions?
At any rate, come watch me paint in Castine on July 27, and be sure to say hi when you see me. Or take my Maine painting workshops in the Rockland area—once a month through the summer months (check herefor more info, or email me).