Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Maine Experience - Part One

I am suddenly jolted awake by a cacophony of strange whirring sounds all around me. I fly out of bed and glance at the clock. It is 4:30 A.M. I run over to a large picture window and pull up the blind so I can see what the heck is happening. I see lights, hundreds of them. In the dark, they appear to be hovering in mid-air.

It's not what your thinking. I am in Maine and what I am experiencing first-hand is not an encounter with strange beings from another planet but the Lobstermen of Deer Isle, Stonington, heading out from the harbor for another day on the water. It's a really big harbor and from my apartment for the week I have a view that overlooks a big portion of it. I have two large picture windows, one that is a view looking southeast and one that faces more west. I am here on a painting trip and these are views that will serve me extremely well for the next 7 days. Fully awake now, I sit and I watch as the hundreds of lights move about on the dark water. Eventually they become tiny specks far out on the horizon. The engine sounds that were filling up the air are now a quiet murmur barely audible from such a great distance.

My adventure here to paint in Maine for the week was planned months ago. With a full schedule of teaching plein air workshops and most of my evenings being taken up with doing home dialysis for my wife Pam, it was agreed that I would go somewhere and get some serious painting time in by myself. I needed to recharge my batteries. Pam would schedule getting dialysis at her center and I would concentrate on painting the boats and harbor. Nx Stage home dialysis has a high burn out rate and we are both determined to keep that from happening.

Just trying to make this trip a go, was an experience all by itself. Hurricane Irene was scheduled to arrive in New England on the day I was supposed to leave for Maine! It was odd, Pam and I were working to pack me for a painting trip while at the same time preparing ourselves for what was being forecast as the worst hurricane to strike New England since the one in 1938 that came storming up the East Coast with a forward speed of more than 50 miles per hour and struck as a category 3 hurricane. This was a bit daunting, but since hurricanes are unpredictable, we kept with the plan. I knew I would not be driving up on Sunday, the day of the storm and I was able to make arrangements to get to Maine on Monday or Tuesday and stay the extra one or two days in order to make it a full week.

On the morning of Irene blowing into Connecticut, we lost power very early in the day. Irene was coming to us as a tropical storm and so far we had not seen much wind yet, but apparently enough of it so that all of Woodstock pretty much lost power early that morning. Since I had spent a great deal of time preparing for a hurricane, I now spent the morning making paintings panels for the trip and thinking about Maine.

 I like to use 359 linen from Wind River Arts and Gator Board which I buy from a local source in Connecticut called Artgrafix. I have been using a fabric adhesive from United Manufacturers Supply for more than 15 years and I love the ease at which I can prepare panels. I simply cut the gator board with a good sharp utility knife to the size panels I want and then apply glue to each panel making circular motions as it comes from the squeeze bottle.

Then I make a scrubbing motion with a worn number 10 bristle brush that I have cut down in length a bit because this makes the brush a bit stiffer and helps to move the glue around. I pay particular attention to making sure the glue gets out to the edges. Then I take my linen and I apply it to the board. I use an old wooden ruler to press down on the panel to make sure it has no ridges or bumps etc. Before I do any gluing, I cut the linen from a roll and cut each piece a bit larger in size then what it will be in the end. I give each one about a quarter of an inch extra on all sides. After I am sure the linen is attached properly to the board with the glue, I turn the panel over and cut off the little bit of excess with the utility knife. It is important to do this step before the glue dries. If you wait till after it dries, you may find a ripple on the edges of the panels. I place the freshly glued panels on a flat surface and lay a flat board over them. I put a five pound weight on top. I can make a dozen panels and just keep laying one on top of the other along with the board and the weight on top of the stack. I always make sure I have extra blades for the utility knife and I change them often. This is 'key' to making panels with ease.

Early the next morning after Irene came through, Pam was on the phone with the dialysis center making sure that they were on generator power so she could get dialysis. The center had also been concerned that they were in an area prone to flooding and had informed us before the storm that if they did flood, Pam would need to get dialysis at a different center. To avoid any problems, we had a generator all set and ready to go at our house. On that Monday morning, Pam got the okay at the center. They were operating on generator power and could dialyze her with no problems. Pam jumped out of bed and told me to get myself to Maine!

My week in Stonington was fantastic to say the least. I had glorious weather all week long and the tides were working in my favor. Low tide was at 5:21 A.M. that first morning and so I had a low tide to work with for my morning light and also a low tide for the late afternoon light. When I paint around the docks, I really don't want to be doing it at high tide. There is no satisfaction in that for me.

On my next blog, which will be posted very soon, I will include some paintings I did on that trip and I'll write more about my week in Deer Isle Maine and my thought process of how to make the most out of a painting trip like this.

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