Two women painters you’ve never heard of

Drama of Fall, Constance Cochrane, c. 1940, depicts Monhegan Island.
Sandy Quang ran across two women painters this week. It’s sad how little documentation there is of their lives and work.
Helen Louise Moseley was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1883. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with Robert Henri, Hugh Breckenridge and John Christen Johansen. She regularly exhibited in the Midwest and Gloucester, MA. She died in 1928 in Boston.
Sailboats by Helen Louise Moseley.
Constance Cochrane’s life is better notated. She was born in 1882 at the US Navy Yard at Pensacola, Florida, where her father and grandfather were stationed. Motivated by her navy family, her work concentrated on the sea and shore.
Cochrane studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and with Elliott Daingerfield at his summer studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Rocky Ocean Scene, Constance Cochrane, undated.
Cochrane was a founding member of the Philadelphia Ten, a group of Philly-based women artists. In 1921 to 1930, she purchased a summer home at Monhegan, where she painted extensively. She died in 1962.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

The art of practice, the practice of art

Carol Thiel’s field sketch of Durand Lake, done last Wednesday evening. About 9X12, and about three hours from easel up to easel down. If you read yesterday’s blog entry, you know that I was amazed she could get any kind of a painting out of the scene.
This morning a young woman named Cherise Parris led worship at our church. She is the daughter of two accomplished and well-known Rochester musicians (Alvin and Debra Parris) and she’s been singing since she first drew breath. She has a powerhouse voice.
Cherise uses her voice like an extension of her own self, as a tool to express an idea. I’ve had voice lessons and I’ve sung in choirs, but I’ve never gotten past the point where I’m focused on creating a tone. On the rare occasion when I forget, I usually get a jab in the ribs and a sharp hissed “Mom!” Here’s the truth: I just don’t care enough about singing to actually practice.
There’s a meme based on Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: the Story of Success” that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make a craftsman. The number seems arbitrary to me, but there’s certainly truth to the idea that, as Thomas Edison is alleged to have said, “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.”
I got two pictures by email today from Carol Thiel. Carol took my workshop last October, and has since taken my classes when her work schedule permits. One painting was done before she started studying with me; one was done last Wednesday evening in my class.
A painting done by Carol Thiel last year at the Adirondack Plein Air festival, right before she took my workshop. A nice painting, but she has developed a more sophisticated palette and value structure over the past year.
“They were sitting near each other and I was struck by the difference,” she said. “Both were painted in approximately the same amount of time,” she added. “The Adirondack painting had different conditions—a very dull, cloudy day—but nowadays I would be able to see some other colors in the clouds, darken the darks, etc.”
I appreciate that Carol sees value in my instruction, but there are two parts to this. The first is good teaching, but the second is that she listens to and practices what she learns.
It takes a long time to get to the point where you use a paintbrush as an extension of yourself. I asked Sandy Quang today whether she is there yet. (She’s been studying with me on and off since she was sixteen; she’s 25 today.) “Half and half,” she answered. And I think that’s about right.
All of which reminds me of that old saw: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.”

If you want to take a workshop with me, join me 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! If you want to study in Rochester, drop me a line here.

“24 Reasons Everyone Should See Maine Before They Die” includes a lot of mid-coast Maine

Back in Rochester, I’m a bit dazed from an exceptionally long day of travel yesterday. I did find myself perking up tremendously from this: “24 Reasons Everyone Should See Maine Before They Die.” I’ve been to almost every one of these places, and they’re iconic and beautiful. Rather more surprising is how many of them are on my shortlist of places to paint on my workshop:

Owl’s Head Lighthouse

I painted this as a demo for my July workshop and framed it Monday before leaving Maine. How fine it looks in an elegant black frame:
Owl’s Head Light, 8X10, oil on canvas, by little ol’ me. Available.

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Every time I’m there, someone tells me about Forrest Gump, but I’m probably the last remaining American who hasn’t seen it. I’ve never painted the lighthouse, but the setting is one of my favorite spots to paint in mid-coast Maine.
Sunset at Marshall’s Point, 8X6, oil on canvas, by little ol’ me. Private collection.


Camden harbor is never boring, with its big fleet of wooden schooners moving in and out of the harbor. There are also gazillionaires’ yachts, which aren’t as lovely but are equally entertaining. But I probably love the old dinghies and modest dories as much as anything—certainly for painting.


Monhegan has more artists per square inch than any other place in Maine. Despite that, it’s still charming and still beautiful.
If I were in charge of this list, I’d ditch Freeport, because I’m not much of a shopper. I’d add in Eastport (with its ethereal ghostliness) and Castine (about which I’ll write tomorrow).
However, it’s pretty amazing that a sixth of the places they chose as iconic are on my Maine workshop itinerary, isn’t it?

Join us in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manorwhich is selling out fastor let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click herefor more information on my Maine workshops!


Painting on a porch overlooking Manana Island. It’s a tough life.
On the road with fruit smoothies in our bellies and egg sandwiches in hand (courtesy of the fantastic chef at Lakewatch Manor) we were queuing at the Monhegan ferry at 7 AM in a steady drizzle. Our plan was to paint from the deck of a private residence, but that plan changed when we met George, a multiple-generation islander who kindly drove down to the dock to fetch us and our painting gear.
Matt in touch with his inner pirate.
George offered the use of his porch, a roaring fire, his coffee-maker, his dining room, and a second-floor painting aerie.  How could anyone resist on a chilly, misty day?

Preparatory to painting.
It was a fantastic day, but all too soon the ferry’s inexorable schedule called us back. From Port Clyde, I was on the road to the 2013 Castine Plein Air Festival. It was hard saying goodbye to my students, but they all promise to be back next year.

George and I compared aprons.
Nancy was a veritable painting machine–three paintings in less than eight hours.
Nancy’s painting of daylilies and the sea.

Nancy’s painting of Manana Island.

Nancy’s second painting of daylilies.

Matt’s painting of Manana.

Pamela’s painting of Manana.

Pamela’s painting of rooftops.
We finishing up on a real high note! August and September are sold out, but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

How to recover from a fail

Pamela’s lovely painting of Camden harbor. Yes, the sheds across the harbor are completely cockamamie.
Nobody goes to a painting workshop expecting to do brilliant work, but my students have been painting at a high level. But into each life come a few tough painting days, and today was one of them.
Pamela’s sketch for the above. Her first try on canvas lost this lovely composition.
Camden is a busy harbor and one never knows where and when the boats will be moving. A commercial fishing dock, a fleet of wooden schooners, a mix of pleasure boats, and international luxury yachts all vie for space. It’s no surprise that painters find it a reach, but a reach is always better than the same old same-old.
So we used her viewfinder to grid the drawing and she was able to accurately move it to canvas.
I prefer to paint from floating piers, but that isn’t possible at Camden (or most other working harbors). Viewed from the landing, the curves of the hulls are constantly changing as the tide comes in and out. (They start out being devilishly difficult anyway, so it hardly seems fair.)
Sue painted half this dinghy before the owner moved it on her. A cell phone camera and a matching dock made for a nice save.
Each of my students came up against a difficult problem today. Pamela’s was the easiest to solve. She did a terrific drawing. In moving it to her canvas, she unconsciously changed the crop. It was a simple matter to wipe out that first draft, and then I showed her an easy way to make sure her drawing stayed in scale.
Matt’s buoy was symmetrical, yes, but static, no.
Matt’s was a problem of composition. He was drawn to the reflections under a buoy, but “knew” he shouldn’t center it on his canvas. However, the buoy itself is strongly symmetrical needed to be centered on the canvas. A few sketches later, it was apparent that the floating dock and background would give the composition energy.
Sue’s problem was more exasperating. To avoid the overwhelming clutter of the harbor, she concentrated on a single dinghy. Out of dozens there, what were the chances that someone would choose that one to take out? But choose it they did, after she was half finished. Her solution was to work partly from memory and partly from a photo on her cell phone along another patch of dock.
Nancy did a lovely sketch, transcribed it faithfully to her canvas, and blocked in her color successfully. Then she took a look at Pamela’s painting and pronounced her own effort “boring”. Hours later, she was still very unhappy. I liked her treatment of the boats; she emphatically didn’t. Perhaps restating the darks with heavier paint would help, I thought, but no.
Nancy’s lovely sketch.
Half an hour later, she was ready to scrape it out. She walked down the landing to scope out a different painting. “Well,” I reasoned, “if she’s going to wipe it out anyways, I might as well see if I can rescue it before she comes back.”
But Nancy didn’t like where the painting went. She pronounced it boring. (I loved the little boat with the lateen sail. Very Van Gogh. But she didn’t agree with me.)
Sometimes students resent their teachers painting on their canvases, but sometimes teachers paint on them because it’s the only way they can figure out what’s going wrong. The first thing I realized is that Nancy wasn’t using enough paint. I pushed some thicker paint against her boats, and immediately they were stronger and livelier—and I never changed a thing on them. (That lateen sail is my favorite part of her painting.)
Just a few things changed, and one can see the route to salvaging this painting. Still not perfect, but it is definitely doable.
When Nancy did her sketch, I imagine she saw the foreground water as having form. That didn’t transfer to her painterly version. So I lengthened the reflections of the background buildings, and built in patterns of ripples. I tied the floating dock to the water by using the same highlight color (a diffuse blue-violet). Lastly, I pointed up the buildings a bit and simplified the treeline.
I still see a lot more that could be done, but it’s well on the way to being salvaged.
When it’s all going wrong:
  • Step back and look at it from a distance;
  • When you’re nervous, you’re probably not using enough paint. That results in an anemic painting;
  • Restate your darks. It often happens that you hate your painting because you lost the overall value pattern that attracted you in the first place;
  • Take a break. Have some coffee. Flirt with the lobstermen. You will usually come back to your work in a far better frame of mind.

Tomorrow: Monhegan! We’re finishing up the workshop session strong! August and September are sold out, but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

I forecast a fantastic week ahead

Fitz Henry Lane, Owl’s Head, Penobscot Bay, Maine, 1862, 15.7 in. by 26 in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Read about it here. This is where it all starts.
This morning I saw a Facebook posting from one of July’s workshop students. It read, “On my way for a week of painting in beautiful Maine!” She’s excited; I’m excited too. I will be joined by artists from Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, Rochester, Vermont, and Maine. By week’s end, we will have forged new friendships and made some fantastic art.
The little harbor at Owl’s Head today.
We’ll have a reception this evening at beautiful Lakewatch Manor. Tomorrow we will set off to our first destination: Owl’s Head, with its iconic 1826 lighthouse and beautiful rocky promontories.  Fitz Henry Lane painted it in 1862, when the little community of Owl’s Head was raw but not new. It was “discovered” by Samuel de Champlain in 1605, but of course the Abenaki Indians had never really lost it in the first place.
There are still schooners sailing around Owl’s Head today. They come out of Camden, Rockland and Rockport harbors, and we’ll see them regularly. You can learn more about them here.
And how about this weather forecast?

Today: Sunny, with a high near 73. North wind around 5 mph becoming south in the afternoon.
Monday: Sunny, with a high near 71. Light and variable wind becoming south 5 to 10 mph in the morning.
Tuesday: Showers likely, mainly between 7am and 8am. Cloudy, with a high near 70. Northeast wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Wednesday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73.
Thursday: A 40 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 72.
Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 75.
Students painting on a shingle beach below the lighthouse.
A student does a value study preparatory to painting.
The second of my Maine workshops starts today. August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! I’m also starting a contact list for 2014. Interested? Let me know. Check here for more information.

Painting and politicians

Winston Churchill, The Goldfish Pond at Chartwell, 1932. I think any artist would be proud to have painted this.
When we were painting in Camden at my first workshop last month, an elderly gentleman asked Sandy if he could take her photo with her painting. “After all,” he said, “you could be the next Winston Churchill.”
One presumes he meant Winslow Homer, but I suppose he could have meant Churchill. Churchill was a fine amateur painter.
Winston Churchill, A View From Chartwell, 1938. Storm clouds may have been gathering over the Sudetenland, but Chartwell remained Churchill’s personal Garden of Eden.
Whether you feel that your soul is pleased by the conception of contemplation of harmonies, or that your mind is stimulated by the aspect of magnificent problems, or whether you are content to find fun in trying to observe and depict the jolly things you see, the vistas of possibility are limited only by the shortness of life. Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb,” wrote Churchill.
Of course, Churchill’s nemesis, Adolf Hitler, was also (famously) a painter. In Mein Kampf, he wrote about his rejection from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Later, he tinted and sold postcards of scenes of Vienna, and haunted Munich artists’ cafes in the vain hope that other artists might help forward his career. He was alleged to have told British ambassador Nevile Henderson, “I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.”
Adolf Hitler, Perchtoldsdorg Castle and Church.
Hitler had drafting ability and might have succeeded in his aspiration to become an architect, had he been able to muster up the academic credentials to get into school. But there is something excessively sentimental  about his painting. Combined with the rigidity of his drawing, his work is, indeed, very off-putting—and I don’t say that just because he was one of history’s great mass murderers.
Adolf Hitler, Alter Werderthor Wien
A third titan of WWII also took up painting, albeit after his tenure as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Seeing his friend Churchill at work may have influenced General Dwight D. Eisenhower to take up painting, or he may have been influenced by watching observing the artist Thomas E. Stephens paint Mamie’s portrait. Maybe he just had time on his hands after the war.
President Eisenhower at his easel.
Eisenhower wrote to Churchill in 1950: “I have a lot of fun since I took it up, in my somewhat miserable way, your hobby of painting. I have had no instruction, have no talent, and certainly have no justification for covering nice, white canvas with the kind of daubs that seem constantly to spring from my brushes. Nevertheless, I like it tremendously, and in fact, have produced two or three things that I like enough to keep.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Telegraph Cottage, 1949
Eisenhower’s self-assessment seems apt, but the question of talent is beside the point. Whatever the merits of their painting, Churchill, Hitler and Eisenhower are going to be remembered for their other achievements.
The painterly impulse isn’t completely unknown among modern politicians. A few months ago, a hacker revealed daubs by former president George W. Bush. (I wish he’d take one of my Maine workshops; he would really benefit from it.) But in a world where politicians seem more likely to go in for sexting and rent boys, painting seems like a quaint past-time.

Even though Rockland is just up Route 1 from Kennebunkport, I am kind of doubting George Bush will be in my class. But if you’re signed up for my July workshop in mid-coast Maine, you can find the supply lists here. There’s one more residential slot left; I’m dying to know who is going to fill it. August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Ontario Beach Park Jetty

Georges-Pierre Seurat, Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte, 1884-1886
I have young nephews visiting. It seemed on this blistering hot day that a day at Ontario Beach Park would be a good way to burn off some of their energy. They went swimming and I sat in the shade sketching.
As they strolled slowly along the boardwalk between the bathhouse and the jetty, my neighbors reminded me powerfully of Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte).
The boardwalk at Ontario Beach Park.
Seurat saw women with parasols; I saw a woman wearing a leopard-print micro-bikini, her hair dyed an impossible neon pink. Seurat depicted a pet monkey on a leash; we saw beach volleyball. Seurat’s Parisians were uniformly white; my fellow Rochesterians come from all corners of the globe.
Georges-Pierre Seurat, Une baignade à Asnières, 1884-1887. Today we swim in mixed company in far skimpier outfits, and then some of us amble over to Abbott’s for ice cream in the same outfits, or lack thereof.
But the most striking difference is that Americans display considerably more tattoos and less clothing than holiday-makers on the Île de la Jatte 130 years ago. It’s not just a question of too much flesh on display as too much flesh overall. There’s nothing erotic about it; in fact, it is almost the antithesis of eroticism.
If you’re signed up for my July workshop in mid-coast Maine, you can find the supply lists here. There’s one more residential slot left; I’m dying to know who is going to fill it. August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

Join me this Saturday for Wine and Watercolors in the garden

Saturday, July 20, 2013, 4:30pm until 7:30pm

Hollyhocks, by little ol’ me.

Summer is just bustin’ out all over, and it makes me want to paint!
Join me for an afternoon of laughter, stories, and painting some sweet little greeting-card-sized watercolors in Lakewatch Manor’s lovely gardens. (There will be an indoor studio option if weather threatens.) Our innkeepers will have—as they always do—lovely wine, flower essence iced tea, and delectable morsels, which will encourage painters of all skill levels.
Rumor has it that daylilies are edible, but I’d rather just do tiny watercolors of them, thanks.
LIMITED SPOTS require an advance reservation. $40 covers all supplies and refreshments. Bring a friend and you each pay $35.00. Call 207-593-0722 for reservation or questions.
The poppies and peonies will be finished, but there is always something in bloom in the northeast during the summer.
The next day is the first day of my July workshop in mid-coast Maine. There’s one more residential slot left in July; I’m dying to know who is going to fill it. August and September are sold out, but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.

Looking forward to next weekend in mid-coast Maine

Rockwell Kent, Late Afternoon, Monhegan Island, collection of Jamie and Phyllis Wyeth
It is a warm, sluggish summer day. My thoughts are already jumping ahead to this month’s Maine workshop. Our day trip to Monhegan Island was cancelled in June because of weather, so I’m doubly excited.
A chance word by a FB friend got me thinking about Rockwell Kent’s smashing paintings of Mañana from Monhegan—a view which we’ll be painting, exactly, since our site is next door to Kent’s former home. Looking at them is more bracing than a gin-and-tonic, sweeter than an ice cream cone!
Rockwell Kent,  Winter, Monhegan Island, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rockwell Kent, Monhegan (c.1948) 12″ x 16″ oil on board, Tom Veilleux Gallery
Rockwell Kent, Blackhead, Monhegan Island, Maine, private collection
Rockwell Kent, Toilers of the Sea, 1907, New Britain Museum of American Art
And one Hopper painting, for contrast:
Edward Hopper, Blackhead, Monhegan, Whitney Museum of American Art
If you’re signed up for my July workshop in mid-coast Maine, you can find the supply lists here. There’s one more residential slot left; I’m dying to know who is going to fill it. August and September are sold out , but there are openings in October! Check here for more information.