Category Archives: inspiration

Progress

We have made significant progress. Because of the delays with weather we didn’t get to see all the places we wanted but its been an adventure. We left Rock Hall planning on two days of good weather. Once again, the weatherman lied to us. The marina we chose for the night was simple and out of the way. When we pulled in and said we wanted a slip for one night he said “you might want to check the weather.” I had glanced at it later in the day and it wasn’t looking as good as it had been, but I didn’t pursue it. I should have.

The weather had changed from the original forecast, our two day window shut after the first day. We spent 4 days at Smith’s Point Marina. It was at the mouth of the Potomac on the south side. We were 18 miles from the nearest grocery store. It was pleasant enough. The owner was very nice and lent us his car to get provisions. We met the folks on a neighboring boat and were invited for dinner and cocktails.

The delay caused us to skip going to Tangier Island, which we were very much looking forward to. We were just one day away from actually getting to the Intercoastal Waterway. From then we would be safe from rough water, kinda. Waves splashing up over the bow isn’t my idea of fun. I was ready for some calm enclosed water.

When the weather did clear we headed back out onto the Chesapeake. It was clear and calm and we made it to Portsmouth, Virginia. Going by the Naval Yard was impressive. We stayed at a marina a few miles before the entrance to the Dismal Swamp. It’s the slower route but more scenic. We went through locks and draw bridges and rafted up along other boats for the night at the North Carolina, Dismal Swamp Welcome Center. Locks were not as scary rey as I had thought they’d be

Continuing on we had to cross the Abelmarle Sound, which brought us to the Alligator River. We spent the night at a marina right off the mouth of the river. It had a great space for Tigger, nice showers and fried chicken! Several more boats pulled in after us. Several left in a group in the morning so there would just be the one bridge opening of the Alligator River Swing Bridge. At it’s mouth it was quite wide and a little challenging until we turned into another canal. It was remarkably quite and we didn’t see much wildlife. It was until we reached the Neuse River that things began to get crazy again. Waves and wind had started up. It was a rather nasty end of that trip at Oriental, North Carolina.

Oriental is a popular spot for people traveling the ICW. The town docks were free, so that was nice. It was also right on the road so we could walk to where we needed to go. We also knew bad weather was coming and we would be there for a couple of nights. When we woke up in the morning the road was under water. Once again we were stuck on the boat until the water receded. We met some of our fellow travelers. When the weather did clear the next day we were off. Again, several boats were leaving that day to continue the journey. This time the Neuse river was much more accommodating. Amazing how different a body of water can be from one day to the next.

Not wanting to get stuck again some place we didn’t want to be, we made our reservation early for the next marina. It was a good distance and the web site made it look very inviting. What a nightmare! How could a place named Swan Point Marina be so horrible? Holes in the dock, no power, no means to get to a restaurant, despite the mention of a concierge service on the web site. When the dock master did appear 3 hours later, Tim let him know our displeasure. The owner came to the marina (not down the dock) and said he knew nothing of the web site – yea, well bless your heart! No charge for the night but none was deserved.

The next day was very nice. Good weather, calm water and a lovely helpful marina in Southport. Since I had refused to get off the boat after initially walking Tigger when we first got to Swan Point, it was lovely to be in a safe place with good showers and a place for Tigger to run around. There were also several restaurants in walking distance. My nerves were once again starting to settle down. That is, all except for the time issue.

Think Small

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Opening weekend has now come and gone and it’s time to get back to some painting. It was great to see all of you who stopped by. Again, I cannot thank my family enough for all the help in getting ready. The landscaping that my brother Bob did is great and I am so thankful to him for bringing plants all the way from Seattle. Barbara (my sister-in-law) was very helpful in getting my gallery up to opening readiness, in all kinds of ways. Her pots look great in the gallery too! Jim and Debbie were great too, knowing Deb had the food thing under control was a real relief. Then there was grabbing nephew Tom the minute he came in the door and assigning him to fixing my stereo set up for music in the gallery, job well done Tom! Best of all though was the fun of laughter when the door closed and we were able to enjoy one another’s company. The gift of family is one that I never grow tired of receiving. As the new landscaping grows and blooms, year after year, it will always be a reminder of that gift.

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But, the work of painting must continue on. The concept of thinking small usually doesn’t appeal to me but after seeing small paintings by other artists, I’ve decided to do a few myself. I’ve started with watercolors, It’s also a fun way to get a start on exploring some local scenes. It’s also a nice way to continue painting while the gallery is open. With all the odds and ends still to complete before I really feel everything is in place it works well for me to work on small pieces. The smaller paintings will both be on regular watercolor paper and as notecards. I may even paint some postcards. There is such a wealth of new subject matter to delve into I can’t wait to get working on them.

Blizzards and Brainstorms

 

All settled in to my new home and with Phase 1 of construction complete, including my handiwork, I actually had time to paint a picture. Really, I feel like it was stolen time, since there is much work to do before I open my gallery, but the blizzard has given me a bit of a respite. My frantic desire to get everything accomplished and open in short order has been put on hold by Mother Nature.With the ground frozen under over a foot of snow, with more on it’s way this weekend, there will be no parking lot or pathway to my gallery for some time. I have come to be thankful for the break, and I took advantage of that time to paint the “Fish Houses”.

Even before moving here I had plenty I wanted to paint once I was settled into my studio, but that took some time to get to that point. Before I could even move into my house I needed to stay a local motel while the bulk of the remodeling was being done.  Although living on microwave food sharing a room with my dog wasn’t exactly akin to a night at the Ritz, there was a special perk. I was staying across the street from the ocean. Most mornings Tigger and I went for walks on the beach. Amid the chaos of construction, it was indeed a peaceful and enjoyable time. Not only that, it was also located by the “Fish Houses”. I took pictures of them regularly, being weathered and interesting, thinking I’d get around to painting them eventually. Well finally I did earlier this week.

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“Fish Houses”, oil, 16″ x 20″

Besides being interesting subjects for painting, they were also historic with the regular plaques one might see in a place so designated. With that, a little research was in order. It seems there were 16 of these “fish houses” in this general locale dating back to before 1806. They were used by the fisherman to store their gear and bait. The houses were passed on from generation to generation. But, as time passed and the commercial fishing moved elsewhere, people began turning some of them into summer cottages. That’s when the trouble started! Yup, it all wound up in court. People didn’t have deeds to the property so there were fights about who actually owned the land on which they were built. In the end they were all removed and only these two, the Mace and Dogget fish houses remained. They were refurbished in 1988 as historic places and the land around them preserved and landscaped as a small park. A little piece of history just waiting to be painted.

My other observation, the changes in colors of the landscape and buildings as the seasons and time of day changed, were rather dramatic as I scrolled through my pictures. Theses “Fish Houses” may just become my haystacks!

Pork Roll!

So often in my travels I marvel at the variety of landscapes across our country. Lush green fields, tropical palms, the vastness of the farm and ranch lands, the grandeur of the larger mountains and the graceful rhythm of rolling hills, it’s all beautiful. Today’s road trip however pointed out how quickly the landscape can change. The snow we traversed in Paradise while we visited Mount Rainier quickly turned into a rich yellow ochre and raw sienna colored series of hills, dotted with sage brush and other plants that fight for survival against the heat and dryness of the land east of the Cascade range. The temperature soared as we headed to the Yakima Valley and the Columbia River areas. A completely different landscape and temperature just down the road from Mt. Rainier National Park. Again, I was struck by a beauty that was unique to this area, and so different to the other side of the mountains.

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Besides stopping for breaks and picture taking along the way we were headed for The Lyle Hotel, in Lyle, Washington. That would be our launching point for the next day of touring along the Columbia River on the Oregon side. The little hotel was wonderful! I highly recommend it. It’s near the Columbia River and the food is outstanding. When we arrived we were greeted by Marianne, the owner and inn keeper. She was just a delightful person and we were all chatting as she showed us our rooms. Come to find out, Marianne was also from New Jersey. As so often happens with New Jersey refugees, the conversation turned to all things New Jersey. That in turn led to Pork Roll. Yes, for those of you who have never had occasion to have pork roll, it’s a local food, something like sausage and ham combined, it’s not really easy to describe. It’s served for breakfast cooked up like you would Canadian bacon. Mustard on it works best for me although, now that I live in New Hampshire it’s been a long time since I’ve had any.

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Morning came with much calmer skies. When we arrived in Lyle, the wind was really blowing. That’s pretty much the norm for the area which is why this area of the Columbia River is a mecca for wind surfers. Going over to the Oregon side gave me another state to add to my list of places to paint Main Streets. We traveled along the Scenic Highway section of Route 30 seeing beautiful vistas and waterfalls. Having seen the snow at the higher elevations it was clear where the water was coming from. I always love seeing things that were once upon a time Geography lessons and only understood from looking in a book. The geology of this place was also amazing. It was a full day of picture taking and I’m anxious to get back to my studio to start painting from them.

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With just a few more days to go, the coast was next on the checklist of places to see.

Now You See It – Now You Don’t

 

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We left Seattle in the morning and headed for Mount Rainier. It really is a stunning sight, seeing the snow capped peak dominate the landscape as you get closer to it. The combination of blue skies, wildflowers, greens of summer at the lower elevations and that massive dome of rock and snow was breathtaking. Mountains seem to have their own personalities, determined by the profile and the weather they generate, or otherwise effect. I would suspect that mountain climbers feel the same way but with different criteria for determining how they describe an given peak. As a painter, it’s important to get the features right, just as you would with a portrait. But with the peaks at high elevations there is the constantly changing light as clouds come and go with such frequency you’d swear that within the blink of an eye the whole landscape changed. Such was the case in Paradise, Washington where we spent the night. One minute a clear view and the next it’s gone, hiding behind a veil of clouds like a shy child.

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After a short hike at Patriarch of the Groves, after we entered Mount Rainier National Park, with it’s enormous Western Red Cedar trees and a picnic lunch we set off for Paradise. As we drove higher and higher the temperatures cooled and there was more and ore snow on the ground. The game of hide and seek with the clouds and the mountain tops had begun. While the day had started out somewhat overcast it had cleared for a while, but late afternoon brought on a mix of things, seemingly every few minutes. While enjoying our dinner in the dining room of the Paradise Inn we went from spectacular views all around the walls of windows, to thick white fog that made the mountains disappear, and back again to clear skies. My plan was to get up early and paint. There were wonderful spots right outside the building so I didn’t have to carry my gear very far. However, with the vanishing act the mountains played during dinner I was just keeping my fingers crossed there would be something to paint in the morning.

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When I first awoke, I looked out the window and saw clouds. I went back to bed, it still being quite early and wondered if it would be clearing. An hour later I got up, took another look and saw blue sky – with that I threw on my paint clothes and went work. Even with thermal and fleece it was a bit chilly. Standing still in the shade didn’t help either, but it’s about the best view, not your comfort level. When I had completed enough so that finishing in the studio could be easily done from memory, and or improved upon by lessons learned by years of painting, I started packing up my gear. Halfway though packing up I look back up at the peak, it seems the mountain was all done too as I watched a thin cloud slide over the vista I had just been painting. Seems time was up for my model as well.

No Horses Allowed

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Pike Place Market is probably one of Seattle’s best known destinations. With a maze of shops, a farmer’s market, wonderful crafts and street musicians its a very vibrant place. I was having great fun taking pictures for possible future paintings when one particular sign caught my eye, “Sanitary Public Market”. It’s not exactly the kind of name 5th Avenue marketing firms would come up with. This became a question for “the googles”. As it turns out, in 1910, Daniel Huntington had the market built across the street from Pike’s Place. One stipulation of his market was that there were no horses allowed in the market. Thus the name, I suppose it makes sense, in a turn of the 20th century kinda way.
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The history of Pike Place Market has it’s share of ups and downs. There were threats of tearing it down in the 1970’s. Thankfully, those who wanted to keep the market won that war and it lives on today. The concept of “Meet the Producer” which is why the market was established in 1906-1907, is still alive and well. What started out with eight farmers selling their produce has now become “home to more than 200 year-round commercial businesses; 190 craftspeople and approximately 100 farmers who rent table space by the day; 240 street performers and musicians; and more than 300 apartment units” (http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/visitor_info/market_history). I must admit though that it is the colors of the produce that I loved the best.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to put a plug in for my sister-in-law, who’s a potter and sells her work at the market. Her name is Barb Benning and she is there two days a week in the area known as “the bridge”. There are other artisans there as well, a very talented group I must say.

In Quest of….

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In a stranger than fiction kind of way, I’m early. Not just 5 minutes but an hour, so I’m sitting on a bench on the platform of Track 5 Back Bay train station, Boston, MA., starting today’s blog as I begin my latest quest. I will be traveling to Seattle to see my brother and his wife Barbara. I thought instead of flying, I’d take the train. As I started doing some research on train travel I saw that I could get off the train for a stay and then continue on when the train came back again the following day. That’s what got my wanderlust really going. Montana – a place I longed to see, was en-route and I could stop off there for a couple of days to paint and then continue on to Seattle. Perfect!
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In telling a friend about my trip, he referred to it as a quest. I’m rather partial to the word quest even though I’m not exactly sure what I’m questing. Maybe the perfect painting, maybe an adventure, or maybe me. My road trip to Colorado last Fall was a great experience. Doing things on your own for the first time can be intimidating, especially when the exuberance of youth has been replaced with the cautious nature of middle age, but I don’t think my age has caught up with me just yet. My grand ideas such as this one, tend to still raise eyebrows, secretly I rather enjoy that. Truly, it’s just a side benefit, but one that keeps me following my own path.

I was only alone on the platform briefly when more travelers came along. The wait turned out to be a fun and lively conversation between myself, a lady writer traveling the country from New Zealand and a well traveled gentleman going to Chicago. I was hoping for such conversations when I read about traveling by train and in fact that seems to be the way it works. Lunch will be served soon and I’m hoping for more of the same.
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Truth be told I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and likewise, what’s ahead of me. Packing can be a trying experience regardless, but with such uncertainty looming, it’s a little more so. I was less worried about what I’d wear and more concerned about my paint gear. Usually I save my large paint tubes for the studio and the smaller ones for travel, but that’s not travel across the country, that’s down the road a piece. I bought a proper wheeled suitcase type carrier made for painters, the question became what to actually put in it. When I bought it, my focus was on being able to fit my paint box in it, beyond that I figured it was easy. Easy until you start thinking of everything you could possibly need, before you reach Seattle. Laying it all out on the floor helped, and then I realized I was short on French Ultramarine Blue, that just wouldn’t do heading out to big sky country so one more trip into town before the final decisions on what to bring. When I realized it all wouldn’t fit, I started whittling down on things of lesser importance and colors I could mix myself. As I sit here watching the countryside go by I’m sure I’ve forgotten something critical, and equally certain I couldn’t lift the bag if anything else were added to it. I am please with myself that I have just a little bag for clothes, with a larger suitcase for them having been shipped out to Bob and Barbara’s house.

Tomorrow morning I will be in Chicago, I’m hoping to step outside the train station for a few pictures since I will have a few hours layover – any suggestions out there?