Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crow on the roof

Another experiment with the zoom on the camera. I took this from inside the house, looking through the window and across the chicken yard. The manual says to set the camera on "continuous" to shoot something with this much zoom, since movement will affect the image. Then the BBS (best shot selector) will choose the best one and discard the others. I forgot to do that on this one, but it still seems pretty clear to me.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Wall of Ancestors

When I lived on Wilson St I decorated the hall with family pictures and have been thinking about doing it here for quite awhile. This hall has been empty ever since the show Thom and I did, because I took the painting that hung there down to use the frame. At one time recently I spent hours hanging the huge painting I did for the Machias Show of Demeter holding the baby over the fire there. Shortly it became evident that it had to come down. It stunk from being in the cellar for so long. Apparently that's not a good place to store paintings, but I really don't have any other space for them. If they all get destroyed by mold and mice, at least I won't have to worry about who will have to trash them after I'm dead.

Speaking of dead, I took the boxes of old pictures out of my bedroom closet, where I discovered the ceiling had fallen down. The boxes were covered with plaster, but nothing was ruined. As I cleaned the glass over the familiar faces, I recognized each one immediately. Many of them I never knew in person, but their frozen faces are very familiar to me..........Campbells, Picards, Littlefields, Edgerlys, St. Germains, Gratteaux. They have all become their pictures in the same way that "the poet has become his poems." (I forget who wrote that about Yeats after he died.) It's the only way I can think of them. I wonder if they liked the portraits that were taken of them, and if it ever occurred to them that their descendants would only see them in one, tw0-dimensional way. Probably they did, because they obviously took such care to look their best in front of the camera. On my wall of ancestors there are only beautiful babies, lovely women, and handsome men. These people never wear rumpled clothes or leave their hair uncombed. Their glasses are sparkling clean. Their skin is flawless. None of them smile, though considering their now-living progeny, they probably had ugly and missing teeth. Whatever faults they hid on picture-taking day died with them.

In the present day we carry our digital cameras and snap hundreds of many that, should they survive into posterity, no one will care to wade through them. There will be no one representational image for anybody to fix in their mind's eye. We will live on as a name only, like Phinneas Longfellow, clerk of courts, who signed my great-grandfather's naturalization papers April 26, 1866 just 48 miles away in Machias. I can make my own picture of Phinneas, which is actually probably as accurate a representation of him as the pictures on the wall are of my relatives.

Anyway, I like having all those portraits on the wall. They remind me of where I came from, and also where I am going.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Foggy Morning

During the summer the ferry goes from Eastport to Deer Island and back every hour. Another one goes to Campobello, and I often see them going by when I walk the dogs. Sometimes they pass each other, going in different directions. There's something very intriguing about them with cars and passengers lined up on their decks. It's not unique, I suppose, but it's something you don't see very often unless you are here, walking your dogs down Clark Street in the morning.

A couple of days ago the fog was very thick, but I could still see the ferry chugging along as usual. By the time I got the dogs home and got my camera, it had lifted somewhat, but I still was able to get some fairly good pictures. It never ceases to amaze me, this ocean. It is never the same, not even from one minute to the next. Every time you look at it you are seeing something you will never see again.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

4th of July Painting

Here's a watercolor I just finished of the crowd waiting for the 4th of July parade. Normally I don't work on a painting this long, but the subject matter demanded a lot of attention to detail. I had fun doing each figure. It's interesting to really study the body language of each person. By the time I finish a painting like this, I feel as if I know everybody in it. Faces are almost irrelevant in a picture like know them from their clothes, their hairstyle, their body build and gesture.

This is 20"x 9." I can't imagine finding a frame for it, if I wanted to frame it. Why do I never think of that when I start to paint? It would be one thing if the size had anything to do with the painting's content, but all I cared about here was that it be long and narrow. Usually my choice of size has to do with whatever piece of paper is handy and how big my backing board is. My application of masking tape to hold the paper on the board is totally arbitrary and usually isn't even straight. I seem to be constantly trying to prove that I am careless and flippant about my work in order to negate the preciousness other artists feel for their work. It is almost pathetic to me, how they value what they have done. The world is full of people who can paint a wonderful fact this town is full of them. There is nothing extroadinary about any of us.

Painting is an activity like riding a bicycle or reading a book or cooking a meal. The bike ride is enjoyed and then forgotten. Reading the book is a great experience, but when it's over it's relegated to the bookcase or the thrift shop. Cooking and eating is fun and pleasurable, but when it's over, it's over. A finished painting is the byproduct of the activity of the painter...........the residue left after the fun, the garbage after the meal.
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Mama's Boy

Fooling with the zoom on the camera............
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

House Plant

I don't know the name of this, but I got a cutting from Lisa's plant several years ago. It has really flourished and blooms like this for many weeks every year. The original plant died, and Lisa recently took a piece of this one to start anew. I keep it on the table in the dining room where I spend a lot of time, and it never fails to raise my spirits. I can't imagine anything more beautiful.......
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Engraving Workshop

Last week-end I took a workshop at the Tides Institute in wood engraving. I have always wanted to learn about it, so I signed up as soon as I heard about it. The instructor was somebody whose work I have always admired, Siri Beckman. She is well-known in her field and has been published in books about wood engraving, as well as illustrating several books. This is a picture of my little 3x4 block on the press bed waiting to be printed, then the finished product. I really enjoyed doing it and immediately went on line to order some supplies so I can keep on with it.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

If ever there was such a thing as an ugly flower, this has to be it. In the throes of death, the mother plant grows to obscene proportions and then dies. On the contrary this lily, which I forgot I had, has suddenly appeared where I expected another day lily. This is a flattering portrait of is really a pretty dull yellow, obviously related to the orange day lilies. They seem like poor relations to other, more beautiful lilies...........peasants demanding attention by virtue of their family ties...........but they are pretty in a more humble, unobtrusive way.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Watercolors from Cutler

I seem to be infatuated with rocks lately, and I must say in all honesty that I am doing a good job with them. These are from photos I took when I went Kayaking with Ann.
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Wednesday, July 07, 2010


I realized I didn't post this one.
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....and one more

Obviously I like to paint rocks.
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Garden Update

Here's how the garden looks today. Miracle of miracles, I have managed to keep it looking pretty good thus far. I usually start with a burst of enthusiasm that disappears with the blooming of the Lupine. This year, though, I've kept weeding it and even went so far as to cut the Lupine down once it had finished doing its thing and was sprawling all over the the ground like a pile of rubble. I've planted some things on the other side of the walk, too, which makes the whole thing look much bigger than before. I transplanted one Sedum out from under the unknown plant that is taking over for the bleeding heart's space and put it with its fellow Sedum on the other side of the garden. It has been so deprived of light that it looks like a stunted version of its brothers, but I expect big things from it now.

The wisdom of buying annuals each year is beginning to dawn on me. The perennials keep getting bigger and need more room every year. If I had counted on annuals to fill in spaces while the perennials were smaller, I wouldn't have to keep digging things up. I hope I remember that next year..........
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Monday, July 05, 2010

New Watercolor and the Kindle

This is from a photo I took when Thelma and I went to Schoodic Point. It was our last trip together, as it turned out. It's on a different kind of paper from what I'm used to and has a harder surface, but I liked it just the same. The other day at Sydney's I tried a watercolor on 300 lb paper and it looked awful. The paint soaked into the paper so much that it had none of the sparkle that I want in watercolor. Thanks to the fact that I have new supplies I now have some of my old favorite Arches 140 pound cold press. Diana gave me this new paper, for which I am very grateful. I'll certainly use it.

I have just ordered the second of my blog books.......a service available on a web site that prints personal books. This blog is so long that I am doing it by year, starting with my first entry in 2005. It is a real treat to see it in book form. Perhaps it's my age, but I like being able to hold a book, put it on a shelf, pass it around. There is something impermanent about the stuff on the computer, something that is not quite real. Even putting something on a disk to save it seems precarious. How long will the technology be around? What happens when it becomes too advanced to play the disk? It's not that I want it to last forever, but for as long as I or anyone else wants it, it will exist in a tangible form. You can hold it in your lap, turn its pages.

And speaking of holding books, amazingly I have become enthralled with the Kindle. Now you can download books from out of the air and read them on a little screen roughly the size of the page of a book. You can make the print bigger or smaller to suit you. You turn the page with the touch of a button....bookmark your place in the same way. If you don't know the meaning of a word in your book, you can look it up instantly in the included dictionary. In fact, if you don't feel like reading yourself, the Kindle will read to you. I want one of these marvelous machines because it is so hard for me to read books now that my eye condition is worse. Also, despite everything, I am fascinated by these computerized gadgets that drag things out of nowhere and put them at your fingertips. It's magic to those of us who can't understand one thing about the process. It is a total mystery.........
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Sunday, July 04, 2010

4th of July

Noisy and crowded as it is, I found myself still interested enough to go to the 4th of July parade. What impresses me is the work that goes into such a production. I like to think of all those people getting up this morning and getting ready for the big day. Last minute touches would be put on floats. Mounties and bag pipers would be making the trip from Canada. Fire engines and police cars and ambulances would be cleaned and polished, antique cars brought out of storage. Musical instruments would be tuned, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, and a host of clowns would pull on their hot costumes, load their pockets with candy to throw to the kids along the route. The Shriners would don their fez(es?) and line up their go-carts. The sailors from the ship would put on their sparkling white dress uniforms. Native Americans from Pleasant Point would get out their native costumes and drums. The winners of yesterday's beauty pageants would put on their gowns and tiaras. Members attending various high school reunions (including an Elvis impersonator) would climb up on the backs of trucks and sing songs from the 60's.

The town is decked out with flags and banners and cars line the streets all the way to my house. I walked downtown and stood waiting for almost an hour in front of the gallery. When the police cars' sirens starting blaring and crawled slowly around the corner by the Post Office, signaling the start of the parade, I have to admit I felt yet another stab of love and loyalty to this town. Even through the deafening applause for the sailors and the veterans, I remained uplifted and proud. Even if I don't share that zeal for the military, or the pride in our country, I feel the appropriateness of it on July 4th. I experience a period of suspended disbelief where I overlook the havoc we wreak around the globe, the greed that characterizes capitalism, and the incredible superiority we feel to the rest of the world.

Ceremony is a powerful tool. It's so easy to imagine how it can work people into a frenzy, be it slaughter and sacrifice in the name of religion or allegiance to the fuhrer. Logic, rational thinking, flies away in the face of a flying flag and the sound of a national anthem. We react like Pavlov's dogs. We have been conditioned as children, just as the dogs were. The pledge of allegiance, the Lords prayer.....we recite them as children long before we have any idea what they mean. By the time we understand the words we are saying, our brains are conditioned to salivate..........

Well, it's the way of the world. We are only human. And that is why I love the fourth of July in Eastport.
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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Champagne and the Moose Island Follies

I was swept up and taken to the Moose Island Follies by David and Thom. They had the best tickets there are.......front row, hors d'ouvres, champagne. This is a regular 4th of July event with community members singing, dancing, telling jokes, playing musical instruments. Eastport is full of extroadinarily talented people and the program was as riveting as any professional variety show. This is no typical amateur's night. I loved it and was grateful to have been spirited away from what would otherwise have been an evening watching "Dexter" on DVD.

Watching the performers reminded me of why I live in Eastport. There can't be another place on earth this wonderful.
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Ocean Kayaking

Ann and I went Kayaking yesterday in the bay around Cutler. I realized at once that I prefer the ocean to the river, and certainly to the lake. It's amazing how different the coast is from one place to another. The rock formations, the color of the seaweed and water, the horizon......all familiar but very unique. If I had been set down in that place without knowing where I was, I would know immediately that I was not in Eastport. The differences are far from subtle, and each has its own charm. Seeing Machias Bay (I think that's where we were) for the first time almost took my breath away. I couldn't take it all in and so regretted not having more memory on my camera to take more pictures. In some ways that allowed me to stay more in the moment take the whole thing in directly rather than through the camera lens. It's easy to lose some of the majesty of nature when you reduce it to a 2 x 3 inch rectangle.

The kayaking was quite different from when Toni and I went down the Pennemaquan Monday. I was using one of Ann's kayaks, which is a little narrower than mine and has a much bigger opening. It tipped from side to side easier than what I'm used to, and we were in much rougher water. It was exhilarating without feeling dangerous. I could look over and see Ann rising and falling with the water, her legs stretched out over the top of the kayak as if she were in a lounge chair, and there was no way to imagine that anything could go wrong. I loved it and was sorry to see it end.

But I had to rush to the horse farm.............
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