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.
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.