Monday, July 30, 2007

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part Five


Monhegan is BYOB island-wide, and they have wonderful wines in the tiny grocery. You can purchase a beer and walk around with it. One can hold a paintbrush in one hand, a wine glass in the other. In public! One day, I was doing just that, whilst moving vivid colours dreamily across the large canvas as I rendered a loose acrylic of the late afternoon setting sun over a cedar shingled structure. Long shadows. Butter yellow sky. As I took down my easel for the day, I heard applause from behind me. This made my senses jump back to a kind of reality. I turned around, and saw several smiling faces peering out windows of an Inn’s dining room! I curtsied deeply to them, then I realized I had a paintbrush in my mouth.

While there are a couple of places to dine indoors, serious seafood noshing is done outside, on the beach, at picnic tables at The Fish House:

Fellow workshop mate Mel Zeoli, a seascape painter who looks more like he belongs here than I certainly do, and his sunny wife Janice, are at the next picnic table enjoying a similar feast.

I’ve read that Monhegan has an excellent, ecologically protected lobstering program. Only the large are caught, the smaller ones can escape the ingeniously designed traps. Over-fishing is not permitted, and the economy relies on the availability of lobster year after year. As a result the price is appropriately dear. Regardless, I indulgently partook of the sweet, succulent free-range lobster every single day. (And thought of P’s step-daughter Ilse every time! Ilse lives in Bavaria and lives for lobster dinners brought in via FEDEX by her doting mate.)

The Fish House offers up lobster chowder, lobster salad, lobster sandwiches (aka “lobster rolls”), lobster stew (a heavenly concoction of lobster, fresh cream, butter and herbs), lobster ice cream (kidding) and lobster in the shell. And of course… Where there are tasty crustaceans to be had…

Pointing a jeweled, buttery finger, J. said quietly: “Pssst… hey Brandy… aren’t those the cats you like?”

I leapt out of my seat and gasped for joy as two cobby, thick-furred rascals came sauntering towards us and our crab and lobster feast. Going into “cat lure mode,” I spoke to them; “Goood kitties! Here my sweeties, meowwwrr! purrr purr…… such HANDSOME fellows… crazy cat-loving person here at your service…!” Crawling on my knees, waving shreds of lobster and encouraging them forth from the yard next to the Fish House, my camera clicking for you, dearest cat-loving portion of my readers.

Aren’t they SOLID? Crossed eyed! They let me pet them as they rolled on the sandy beach. My companions at the picnic table howled.

Happy face in the mist:

My trip was complete. I had painted many paintings, eaten lobster, done a whack of thinking. I had found the Siamese.

The sun set, I slept without Nightmares By The Sea, and made my way back to the mainland on the scary vessel. The island did not captivate me immediately, but after seriously pulling on the reigns, ceasing all expectations of myself, and slowing down my pace I am now irreversibly drawn to the place. Yes, I will go back again next year.


Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part Four


One day, I roamed the rocky crags of Lobster Cove and gloomy Christmas Cove:

Indulge me, please? To follow are my usual collection of artsy texture shots, via the point and shoot cam. These really help me explore the shapes and pigments I will use in my paintings.

Check out those skies…

A group of us painters, taken by a passing tourist. I am holding my pochade painting of the beached ship above.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part Three


I have utterly forgotten who my muses are. I look at the list, and am surprised. They are so very far away. Strange.

Maybe they are the cats, Bear and Zsa Zsa.

Off to paint “Burnt Head” today. My setup:

Looking down:

I chat with with sparkly Carol and her daughter, the intensely beautiful Cynthia. Cynthia who has no TV. J. shoots a video as I help Betty with her easel and then moon the camera unknowingly. I throw laughs over my shoulder to Dan, the kind cancer doctor with the white shepherd like mine. Dan, a long-time drawer, is here to exercise his right brain. We both race back up the cliff when J. alerts us to the tourist above walking a big white dog just like ours!

Some pochades: sorry, the colour is way off. (I only brought a small point and shoot. Camzilla stayed in Canada due to the weight of all the lenses, etc.)

Paint-wise, I have found my groove at last, and I shout it from the cliffs! The other artists laugh. They know.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part Two


Felt better the second day. Very happy, not as wound up. I could live here, yes. People think I do. Asking directions, or if they can take my photo – as if I was some local “character.” (I wish!) Photographed by a pleasant gal from San Francisco, there on a day workshop. Photographed by someone doing an article on Monhegan for a US magazine. It’s the flamingo-medusa hair, (no hairdryer here!), the pigment spattered gear, the wrinkled blue eyes, the streaks of green paint on my forehead that I do not notice.

This is the local newspaper: people leave notes, news, ads and announcements on this shed.

As I was crouched snapping the above photograph, I turned to see this: name on tag = BEAR:

…and along came this formidable creature:

Jovial artist Molly is nearby, who tells me the cat’s name is Zsa Zsa.

The pair merely tolerate one another…

Not Siamese, but local cats nonetheless. Very healthy, de-sexed, and happy as can be on the little island.

Painted in the graveyard today, in the rain. Dipping into my big brush sepia. Raindrops making blossoms on the sky.

That is my yellow umbrella. Yes, I “WOOOOOOOHHHED” a couple of unsuspecting tourists as they traipsed whistling past the graveyard. ;-)

Found watercolourist Lawrence Goldsmith’s grave today. His wife Linda decorated it with rocks and bits of sea glass from their travels. Tear.

That evening:

Talent night at the church: kids on violin, a lone boy doing a dance number to “Route 66”. A red haired cartoon kid told jokes. Lots of females doing folk songs and playing extinct instruments. I’ve heard the mermaids singing, or at least, the trio of chin singers doing something from Little Mermaid, followed by Monty Python. Goth Goth Goth, a parody on guitar. Slam poet from outta town, reads one about Kerouac and his being drunk and sober not mattering in the long run, his message still holds true.

Of course, there was also Sara, fifth in line. Sara, (friend of Rauschenberg, she was immortalized in a famous photo snapped at Studio 54 with Warhol and Bianca Jagger), who had knocked on my door at 7:20pm looking for costume help, and a spot near the church to get ready. Of course I obliged! I was delighted that she felt comfortable enough to tap at my door. I gave her makeup and scarves, for her rendition of a monologue/song as Edie from Gray Gardens. She was fabulous, dahling.

Sara helped me collect sea glass, and liked my graveyards. :-) Even better, she understood them. Pushed away the representational one of the lighthouse (that I did as a challenge to myself to see if I could still do realism, ha!) and pointed at the dark graves with a grin.

Here she is painting in the cemetery. We swapped paintings on the last day.

J. liked my graveyard pieces as well. Lots of praise today from someone who rarely gives it. But that is what makes her a great mentor.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part One

Notes from my Monhegan Journal - aka The Lande That The Internet Forgot


I went to coastal Maine, to paint with my mentor J. for a week. We met up on Monhegan Island, population 75.

I make a list in my journal of my muses for the trip. I do that for all my painting adventures, and certainly some of you dear readers have made the lists over time.

My goals: to paint, to think, to spend time by myself, Capture that North light. Three generations of Wyeths worked here. Experience the smell. Sound. Taste. Synesthesia... And to find the legendary lone Siamese cat of Monhegan Island.

It was a long drive through Ontario, upstate New York, New Hampshire and then Maine… took two days. I reached the the ocean at dusk. After fried clams and lobster salad at “The Harpoon”, and a nightmare-laden sleep at Port Clyde’s Seaside Inn B&B, (in “The Captain’s Room,”) I awoke to dogs barking and babies squalling in the heavy fog. When it lifted, a glorious light revealed the dock:

Trembling with cymophobic fear, I took a small WW2 boat over to Monhegan. One sits atop one’s bags on the prow, as the boat lurches out into the Atlantic. It was a thrilling, rollercoaster crossing. Dramamine was my saviour for twelve long nautical miles…

A lighthouse en route, where Tom Hanks was filmed as Forrest Gump:

I arrived, mad with salt air and grinning, kissing the ground (well, not really but almost.) Cute German exchange worker Stephano is very kind with my insanely heavy, canvas-filled luggage, and tells me to just wander to the inn anytime, he will take care of my stuff. So, I do just that and take some photos as I climb to the hilltop to see the view.

Electricity is a novelty, they only recently brought over a generator for the isle. There are no cars, no roads, no phones, no streetlights. I packed a Faraday flashlight, a Petzl Tikka headlamp, and a small scope for looking at the stars. A home:

A one room school, for the five students on the island.

Humble is the order of the day. Winding goat paths for roads. Mud. No hotel, but a couple of spartan Inns, most of which have communal bathrooms. You pass dudes in lounge pants brandishing toothbrushes in the hallway. Yet, there is art everywhere! This is the Gallery, prices range from $300 for a tiny sketch, to the tens of thousands.

Bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Everyone walks, except for those driving a couple of old, hulking trucks or golf carts used to haul things. Fuel for cooking (propane) is brought over by boat. There is Crab and Lobster. There is “Hot Fat”, a fish and chip stand. What is it here that is the main desideratum?

Innkeeper Holden greets me by name at the Monhegan House. It seems my reputation precedes me. (Thanks a lot, J.!) After the Day Tourists have caught the last boat back, all is quiet and strange and serene. I am oddly anxious. I pace the shore clutching my sketchbook and brush, wanting to do perfect, brilliant work immediately and failing miserably. J. tells me to chill and just let it happen naturally.

People wander down to Fish Beach to watch the sunset. I asked myself, What will this do to my brain? Will I be lonely?

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oakville Plein Air Paint Out

In August, I will join some of my favourite painters in the beautiful waterfront town of Oakville, Ontario for their inaugural Plein-Air Paint Out, co-sponsored by the Win Henstock Art Gallery and Plein-Air Canada. The dates coincide with the Oakville Jazz Festival! Having not worked on location in Oakville before, I am really looking forward to this event. The Gallery will host a juried art show and sale which will conclude the event on Saturday evening.