Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting on an Island in Maine

Last week, I and two other artists, Ellen Cooper and Alyce Grunt, were marooned (not really, but it was fun to pretend) on a small Island off the coast of Maine, We had our painting supplies, of course, and some food, and all the necessities.

It was a very small island. If you like lots of distractions, it probably wouldn't suit you. If you can't be without internet service, it would definitely not suit you. But if you like to paint, there's almost too much to do. Everywhere we turned, there was a painting waiting to be painted. As the light changed, or the weather, the possibilities multiplied. I've visited this special island many times over many years, and I've never been so constantly busy.

I've always liked painting both landscape and architecture, and when the two are combined I think the tension between natural and man-made forms makes an especially interesting painting. On a technical level, I am interested in how different brushes, and brush-marks, can be used to express these forms. Walls are straight yet a structure can feel organic; tree branches grow in curves and forks, yet the patterns are predictable. A rock and a tree trunk can be painted using almost the same color, but what makes them look like what they are?

Color makes a fascinating study. There are many colors in nature, but an artist can mix them with few colors on the palette--or many. I especially enjoyed painting the white buildings on the island, because the different facets of a white object are the best and purest indicators of the color of the direct light and the halftones at different times of the day. A photo will only approximate the colors you see in real life.

When we weren't painting, we cooked, read books, talked (a lot) and just hung out. We even went to the mainland and visited some galleries and the Farnsworth Art Museum. Being in Maine, even for a short time, gave us a break from the stresses of work and everyday life, and put us in touch with what is really important in life. Hopefully as we head into fall we can carry with us memory of our island trip to help us put things in perspective.

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