A few years ago, I plopped down on the front lawn at my pal Berna’s house. I’d just handed in my six paintings to Castine Plein Air. These were done and framed in two and a half days, which is a brutal schedule but one which we itinerant painters are used to.
I’m not sure why I was still fired up to paint, but I picked up my brushes and started the little sketch above. It was late in the afternoon, and Berna and I each had a glass of very cold white wine and some chips. Since I was hot and sweaty and more than a little tired, it may have been more than one glass of wine.
A car pulled up, driven by my friend and fellow painter Michael Chesley Johnson, who was staying next door. Michael’s usually a pretty dapper fellow, but he was looking even dressier than usual.
“Where are you off to?” I asked him.
“Our opening,” he answered. “We’re supposed to be there right now.”
I threw my stuff down and ran to dress. I’ve never looked so bad at an opening, and I blame Michael. It’s all his fault.
What I look like after a typical day’s painting.
Castine will do its fifth plein air festival again on July 20-22. It’s one of my favorite events. It’s well-juried, and the artwork is excellent. Castine itself is an oasis of old-fashioned amiability. I’d call it Mayberry-by-the-sea, except it’s a lot smaller and doesn’t run to a traffic light. If you were thinking of visiting Maine this summer, you might want to add this festival to your itinerary.
That incomplete painting got thrown in the back of my car. “I’ll finish it when I get home,” I told Berna, but of course there was another event and more paintings, and I never got to it. That’s all Michael’s fault, too.
Then a Nor’easter blew into Castine. The tree in my painting, a supple young thing that should have weathered many more storms, suddenly was no more. I had no photos of it, because I’d had to leave in such a hurry. That, of course, was Michael’s fault.
I ran across that painting last week. It’s nothing important: just the rocks in Berna’s and Harry’s yard, incised with their house number, with a now-non-existent tree in the background. Since they still have the real rocks and the real house, they hardly need this painting, but memorizing what it looks like might help get them home at night.
So I finished it and I’ll mail it to them when it dries. And Michael will get no credit for that. That I will do all on my own.