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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Two From Maine

It's time to muse....

I read a quote by Thomas Hardy in Rosemary & Co.'s newsletter which really made me sit up straight:

"My weakness has always been to prefer the large intention of an unskillful artist to the trivial intention of an accomplished one:  in other words, I am more interested in the high ideas of a feeble executant than in the high execution of a feeble thinker."  - Thomas Hardy

Of course, I would rather be the one with the large intentions and with high execution, but fear at this point in the road I am neither.  I do, however, see that I am tending toward putting execution ahead of expression -- worrying about making it look just so and then it turns out rather heartless and banal.  I think it comes down to just letting go and trusting yourself to do your best work at the point where you find yourself in the journey.  Don't get in your own way is the best advice I can give myself.  Have courage!  Another aspect of plein air painting is that you really have to dig deep to say something that is not ordinary.  I mean you can look at dozens of paintings of landscapes and then one will pop out as capturing that which isn't readily seen, a different angle, an unusual expression that grabs you.  It takes a lot of effort, a lot of attention and a lot of intention.

Here are two recent ones from Maine.

Lobster is Our Business, 9x12, Oil
I think I lost the painting by focusing on the drawing too much.

Leaving Port Clyde, 6x6, Oil
I am happier with this one with its greater economy of brush strokes and masses.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Week at Nanatuck, Port Clyde, ME

I recently returned from a week at “Nanatuck,” the craftsman style cottage in Port Clyde, ME which houses artists seeking the Maine experience.  There were nine of us: Fran Mangino, Flo Parlangeli, Doreen St. John, Joanne Stramara, Kelli Mason Bowles, Karen LaValley, Edie Dean, Nora Sallows and myself.  We didn’t have to look far for subject matter, in fact, it was even right in our backyard.

Maine:  the rocky coast, the ice cold water far from the gulf stream, the almost unbearable brightness of light throwing sharp shadows, the hard winters followed by brilliant summers loaded with wild flowers – a special place that breeds a special kind of person – the Mainer ---as well as attracting artists from far and wide.

It was magical painting where so many other well known painters have captured the special character of Maine – the lobster industry, the yellow fields, the weathered cedar shake siding, the angular architecture and wild flower gardens.  We drank it in and we nine women painters produced an impressive body of work.  The living room was awash with paintings.

A highlight was a visit to the Farnsworth Museum and Olson House.  After viewing Andrew Wyeth paintings in the gallery with our tour guide, we headed over to Cushing for a private visit at the Olson House, the site of numerous of his paintings.   After seeing the house, I could understand the quoted sentiment below.  There was something so beautiful, spare and clean about the building and landscape.

“Wyeth expressively documented life on the isolated, saltwater farm in many of his works. He said, "In the portraits of that house, the windows are eyes or pieces of the soul almost. To me, each window is a different part of Christina's life." For him, Christina and the Olson House were symbols of New England and Maine. He once remarked, "I just couldn't stay away from there. I did other pictures while I knew them but I'd always seem to gravitate back to the house. ... It was Maine.’’’

The windows are eyes or pieces of the soul

Layers of peeling wallpaper in the parlor

Indeed,  he was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the property on the Georges River along with ancestors and members of the Olson clan.

Along with art and history, food is an important part of the Maine experience. Every- where you go you see lobster pots piled up in the yards and on the wharves and decks.  Of course, it is a major industry and all I can say is thank you Maine!

While out exploring with Flo on an overcast day, we came across Miller's Lobster Company a family-owned restaurant located in the fishing village of Spruce Head along mid-coast Maine.  Not easy to find on Eagle Quarry Road, but worth the effort for their fresh lobster roll and down-home ambiance.

Another fun outdoor place in Tenant's Harbor is Luke's where Flo, Kelli and I had steamers and some local craft beer.

The pièce de résistance ‎ however was Cafe Miranda in Portland where we had lunch after the museum visit.  Chef Kerry Altiero and Cafe Miranda have won numerous awards including ‘Maine Chef of the Year’ by DownEast Magazine.  It was recommended by our tour guide and I, in turn, recommend it highly.

Joanne, Sharon, Flo & Kelli

Our farewell dinner was at Port Clyde's Dip Net Restaurant owned by Linda Bean of LL Bean fame.  

Here are a few of my paintings

The Marshall Point Lighthouse and Keeper's House

Leaving Port Clyde (a view of Luke's)

House on the Hill at Lobster Pond Road

And to wrap it up, some memories of a wonderful time.

Sharon at the Lighthouse
Lobster traps everywhere

Flo and Karen

Doreen from Ohio. 
Karen & Edie from the Ohio contingent
 It was great to meet Doreen, Edie, Karen & Nora from Ohio.  Then we had two snowbirds, Flo and Fran and the Florida contingent: Sharon, Joanne & Kelli.
Our first communal dinner

Gorgeous flowers everywhere
Flo painting at the co-op

St. Georges River overlook from cemetery in Cushing
Port Clyde by N.C. Wyeth

One more shot:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

“Preserving History and Nature with The Brush”

SRQ Plein Air Semi Annual Show

“Preserving History and Nature with The Brush”

SRQ Semi-Annual Show was held on June 29 at the Renaissance School of Art in Sarasota.  I am happy to announce that I received a merit award for my painting "Cigar Factory."  This was painted as part of the preserve history project undertaken by SRQ Plein Air Painters to document the DeMarcay Hotel and the Roth Cigar Factory which are being demolished to make way for a high rise condo in downtown Sarasota.

The Roth Cigar Factory is a historic site in Sarasota, Florida. It is located at 30 Mira Mar Court. On March 22, 1984, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Thomas Reed Martin.

The works are currently display at Renaissance School of Art at 4063 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL until July 2nd.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Right Off the Easel

I have resolved to finish the many paintings around my studio.  Most of them have been started (and almost finished) en plein air.  Some need more work than others.  Some I just repaint because they are not working in their current state.  And some go into the "sanding" pile.

Here is one I started on May 23 at The Fishery in Placida with the Peace River Painters.  Actually it was my second one of the morning and as critique time was fast approaching, I only worked on it for 20 minutes or so.  I spent another three hours (at least) this afternoon.  I see a few potential tweaks in there, but am mostly satisfied.

Gumbo Limbo

Friday, May 27, 2016


The Keeper's House - Port S. Joe

I painted the historic Keeper's House for the Forbidden Coast Quickdraw.  We had two hours (10am-Noon) to complete our entry.  The day before I had scouted locations and took a lot of photos along Reid St. in the little shopping district a few blocks away from the competition site.  Nothing seems quite right, so I started looking at the Keeper's Houses and lighthouse in George Core Park.  When nothing grabs you by the collar and screams 'paint me,' then you can be in a little bit of an inspiration slump.  That was the case as I settled on a view of the restored house and lighthouse for my entry.

Here is the view of the lighthouse I chose to paint.  This photo was taken in the evening so the shadow pattern is very different from the one I painted below which was at 10:00 a.m.

Here is my entry to the Quickdraw.  I started off with ultramarine blue and black and a lot of medium made with Damar, Turp and a little Linseed Oil.  I then sketched in the objects with ultramarine blue using the same medium.  You are supposed to let it set for at least a half hour before continuing, but because of the time constraints, I cut it short and waited about 10-15 minutes before diving in.  The obvious problem is that the painting is too cool and it just didn't convey the feeling I wanted to convey.

Later I repainted much of the picture using warmer tones.  I lightened the sky and enhanced the warmth of the building and roof I think greatly improving the painting and creating a certain mood.

For more information about the Cape San Blas Lighthouse now in Port St. Joe, click HERE.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Joseph Melancon's Sketchbook Journal Workshop
May 25, 2016

I took the workshop at the Renaissance Art School in Sarasota in preparation for my trips to Maine and Italy later this summer.  I had purchased a brand new sketch book but it was still in its shrink wrap waiting....  I was afraid to mess it up.  So, I thought maybe this workshop would jump start me to be brave enough to make a mark in it.  

The big take away from today is that your journal is YOUR JOURNAL -- mistakes and all.  There really are NO mistakes -- just you recording what you see and feel.  So much better than a digital shot tossed off without really giving it much thought.  So, I am emboldened to put down my visual and written observations in my brand new journal, come what may.  

Joseph's Cotman Field Box is a little wonder with its own water reservoir, tiny sponge and water supply bottle.  What an example of compact utility.  (pictured below)

A few notes about Joseph's journals.  I liked the way he sometimes pasted tickets or other memorbilia in the journal.  Also the way he had tour guides or waiters, etc. autograph the book to further enhance the experience.  What a splendid way of remembering your travels.  I resolve to go forth and document!

All sketches by Joseph Melancon

The Cotman Field Box

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My painting from the Hisbiscus Festival May 15, 2016

THE FLOWER MART, 8x8, oil on panel -- $75.00 unframed