Paintings, paintings everywhere!

The Amathus sarcophagus (5th century BC, Cyprian archaic period) was excavated by General Cesnola in Amathus, Cyprus and purchased from General Luigi Palma di Cesnola in 1874. Frankly, it’s absurd to talk about intellectual property rights for objects purchased from tomb robbers. 
I believe that our shared art heritage should be available to all (especially the parts that were plundered in the first place). The Metropolitan Museum of Art  recently announced that it has released 400,000 digital images of its collection into the public domain. While the Met has always had images online, the new database includes high-resolution views suitable for scholarly study.
Two misconceptions need to be cleared up. First, this is not the Met’s whole collection, which numbers far more than 400,000 items. Also, no online viewer can “let you see the pieces as you might if you visited the museum in New York City, in person,” as one breathless reviewer wrote. There is no substitute for a real walk around a museum.
George Caleb Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, c. 1845. It’s a lot more fun to see this in person and enter the inevitable debate about whether that’s a cat and if so, why it’s on a boat. But when it’s on the internet, it’s definitely a cat.
On the other hand, many of these objects can’t be viewed in the museum at all, since they’re not on display. That makes this online collection invaluable.
The Met is following a general trend in the art world to make access to artwork easier. The Farnsworth Art Museum bucks this trend, and I wish they’d stop. There is so much that can be learned from studying the technique of a master painter, and not all of us can go to Rockland to look at Andrew Wyeth’s preparatory sketches. (But if you want to, join me for my workshop in Belfast this summer.)
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, 1662-65, Johannes Vermeer. To choose one work to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the Met’s collection is impossible, so why not start here?
The Met allows dissemination of images for scholarly purposes. What does that mean? Essentially, it means anything that isn’t for commercial gain, like reprinting images on umbrellas, scarves, and coffee mugs—those rights they reserve for themselves alone.
You can view the Met’s collection here.

Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here.

Wine pairings

Manship Toasting the Angels, by Barry Faulkner, 1923. At the Farnsworth.

My favorite work in the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport, ME is Manship Toasting the Angels by Barry Faulkner. This 1923 wall screen shows angels coming down from heaven bearing wine. Two couples (Faulkner, his pal Paul Manship, and their wives) raise their glasses in anticipation; meanwhile, Adam and Eve party down in Eden. Note the solid trees-as-Swiss-chard, the traveling coupe, the smiling sun. The names of the great wine-producing regions are inscribed along the borders.

I don’t understand why the Farnsworth doesn’t sell a postcard of this screen; my purchases of it alone would catapult it to top-seller status.
Mankind living in close quarters can do amazing things, but inevitably fouls up the water supply. Until there were water-treatment plants, civilization rested on fermentation. Used responsibly—say, small beer for breakfast and no fortified wines until luncheon—alcoholic spirits are a wonderful boon to humanity. Wine truly is a gift from God.
School has been back in session for almost a week. My favorite sommelier and wine professional, Martha Hoag Schmidt, recently sent me some wine pairings that seem perfect for the busy household with school-age kids. 
“Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with gluten-free Cinnamon Chex. However, I could not find a wine that paired well with Cheetos.
“Pinot Noir and gluten-free cheese goldfish crackers are a classic, good for lunch and dinner.  Pinot is such a versatile grape.
“Classic Bordeaux-style blend and buttered toast are a great combination, but it just can’t stand up to peanut butter.  If you prefer your toast with peanut butter, switch to crisp Chardonnay. It works surprisingly well.
“Popsicles need a fruitier—perhaps rosé—sparkler.”
And there you have it. Since she is also the sommelier who introduced me to my favorite everyday red (in a screw-top bottle), I take her recommendations very seriously.

In addition to this fantastic screen, the Farnsworth is chock full of Wyeths and other Maine painters. We visit it during each of our Where the Sea Meets the Sky Workshops. If you haven’t but want to, know that October 2013—last session with openings in 2013—is selling out fast. Or, let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information, or email Lakewatch Manor!

Atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric enough for you?
Today was damp and drizzly—a perfect opportunity to consider atmospheric perspective. We did so at Glen Cove in Rockport, where on a clear day we can see islands in the far distance. Today was not a clear day; it became steadily less clear as we went on.
Matt’s view of the above scene. Yes, those are water droplets on his canvas.
Atmospheric (or aerial) perspective is the tendency of objects far away to have less contrast and chroma than objects nearby. In painting, we create the illusion of depth by depicting more distant objects as lighter and less-detailed than closer objects.
Pamela chose a long view of a boat at anchor. By the time she finished, the scene was monochromatic.
That’s not just a painterly convention. Solar radiation approaches the Earth in a direct beam, but is then scattered around in our atmosphere. That’s what gives us blue skies, pink sunsets and atmospheric perspective. On a clear day, there’s more of it bouncing around between you and that distant hill than between you and your coffee cup, so the distant hill looks bluer.
Nancy chose the same view, and experienced the same change in conditions.
Of course, when fog comes into play, it is water droplets that obscure that distant hill. However, the effect is the same. The easiest way to execute it is to just add some of the sky color—whether that’s blue, or grey, or violet—into the greens of the distant hills. The more distant the object, the more sky color should be added to it.
Sue chose the beach view.
At about 2 PM, the atmospherics had gotten a bit too thick to see much of anything at all, so we had a cup of hot tea and proceeded to the Farnsworth.  There we saw, among many fantastic paintings, Fitz Henry Lane’s Shipping in Down East Waters (1854) which is a luminous painting of boats in fog. Nothing like seeing how a master did it!
Sue hard at work.

And if these days weren’t enough, my intrepid students went out last night and painted the full moon over Chickawaukie Lake:
Matt’s view across Chickawaukie Lake.

Pamela’s view across Chickawaukie Lake showed the sinuous ripples that were there.
Matt’s second view across Chickawaukie Lake.
Nancy’s view across Chickawaukie Lake.

Pamela’s second view across Chickawaukie Lake.
The second of my Maine workshops started today. August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

Stretching our limits

Although the weather forecast was for rain, we were able to paint until 2 PM, at which time we quit and went to the Farnsworth Art Museum to see “Every Picture Tells a Story: N.C. Wyeth Illustrations from the Brandywine River Museum.” It started to rain just when we entered the museum.

I believe in a God who loves me and wants me to be happy. I do appreciate how obliging He has been with His weather.

My class has done such good work this week. Today, I gave each person an assignment designed to stretch their own particular skill set, and each one rose to the challenge.

A student practiced measurement and angles, using the rock formations and trees as his subject matter. A tough place to have to sit and draw, wasn’t it? (Tomorrow, I promise you, will be just as spectacular.)
Another student did a value sketch using monochrome pastel. She then followed this up with a color temperature study.
After giving a little drawing lesson, I set my sketchbook on a fence while doing my rounds. Came back to find it covered in sawdust. Apparently, some carpenter aunts were busy deconstructing the fence. 
This student did a greyscale marker value study before starting a painting of the birches. It helped her composition tremendously.

August and September are sold out for my workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME… and the other sessions are selling fast.  Join us in July and October, but please hurry! Check here for more information. 

This post is about food. And cooking. Seriously.

Dessert from my last painting workshop, in the Adirondacks. I have every reason to believe the meals at this workshop will be just as good!
Only six more days, and I’ll be in Maine teaching. I set out this morning to do my task-of-the-day, which was to determine which paintings go to Rockland with me and which ones get held in abeyance for Rye later this summer. Sadly—or not, depending on how you look at it—my painting storage is located next to my bedroom. It being the day after a busy weekend, I sat down on my bed for just a moment… and awoke, groggy, two hours later, having missed a hail-and-rain storm that had all Rochester chattering.
I’d also missed a phone call from Lakewatch Manor. I was half asleep when I returned it. It’s a pity, because they wanted to talk to me about food. They wanted my input, actually, which is silly—as if Degas had dialed me up and asked for advice on drawing dancers.
Those who know about my aversion to cooking will be surprised to learn that I’m terribly in tune with Lakewatch’s approach to the culinary arts. Their chefs believe in locally-sourced, organic, healthful produce, eggs and meats prepared with great care—and I believe in EATING exactly that. So it was a pity that I was only half awake for this conversation. I remember hearing phrases like “lobster bisque” and “rhubarb pie” and “hearty hors d’oeuvre,” all of which make me very happy to roll around in my memory.
The problem with mid-coast Maine, sadly, is that there are also too many great places to eat in addition to the Inn. Just a few: there’s S. Fernald’s Country Store in Damariscotta (which the Maine writer Van Reid introduced me to) with its fantastic deli. There’s Owl’s Head General Store, which was celebrating its Best Burger in Maine status when I was in Rockland last November. There are the Irish Egg Rolls at Billy’s Tavern, which I didn’t sample because I was busy having a fantastic burger there, too, but which I intend to sample next time around. They feature corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese fried into a wonton. There’s the Rockland Café, with its all-you-can-eat seafood.
Of course, there are a gazillion more upmarket restaurants, too, but I never go to these places, since I usually look like The Wreck of the Hesperus* after a long day in the sun painting.
At any rate, that’s why the Lakewatch Manor people allowed for an evening off to go prowling around Rockland. Not only are there the Farnsworth and a slew of other galleries in town, but there are countless opportunities to dine out.
I’m looking forward to it!

*Longfellow based that poem on the wreck of the Favorite, a ship from Wiscasset, which is just down the road a piece from Rockland.

Every day I do one task to prepare for my June workshop in Rockland, ME. Meanwhile, what are you doing to get ready for it? August and September are sold out for my workshop at Lakewatch Manor in Rockland, ME… and the other sessions are selling fast.  Join us in June, July and October, but please hurry! Check here for more information. 

Thoughts of Maine

Downtown Rockland, not exactly last week. (Rockland Main Street, Inc. website.)
A few people have asked me why I—a person with a decidedly urban personality—like Rockland, ME so much.
If we were in Rockland this evening, we could attend a lecture at the Farnsworth comparing Giotto’s “Life of Christ” and Leonardo’s “Last Supper.” Rockland is a town of 7,297 people, in a county of 39,736—and this is the off-season.  
To compare, I checked the schedule of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery. (Rochester has a population of 210,565, in a county of 744,344, and that’s the gallery of the well-regarded University of Rochester.) Tonight they are offering… well, nothing. But yesterday we could have done “Yoga at the MAG.”
Lyceums and Chautauqua assemblies were wonderful American 19th century phenomena, concentrated here in the Northeast and in the Midwest. In fact, the Chautauqua movement was founded just south of Buffalo in 1874, at the New York Chautauqua Assembly, which lives to this day as the Chautauqua Institute.
They served up a heady stew of evangelism, populism, education and entertainment. There was an assumption—now largely gone, alas—that the average man hungered for culture, education and entertainment. Today we watch reality TV instead, and most institutions honestly believe that nobody cares to think Big Thoughts anymore.
But back to Maine: the Farnsworth is a fantastic place, well worth a visit. But it’s just one of many fantastic places in this area, which is why I’m so anxious that you join me for one of my workshops. We’ll be painting at lighthouses, beside quiet coves, along rock-strewn beaches. We’ll be going to Monhegan to paint as well.
And if you ever doubt whether this teacher is worth her hire, let me tell you that I know where the bathrooms are.

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.