The other reason is art. My first trip to Maine was a pilgrimage in 1981. At the end of college, realizing that my education as a painter was now in my own hands, I decided to see for myself what had drawn so many of my favorite American artists to Maine: Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, George Bellows, Fairfield Porter... I left Lynchburg, VA, my home, in September armed with a brand new Canon AE-1 that I was able to purchase after working all summer at Mead Paper Mill. It was both a glorious and frustrating trip. I took my easel and paint but found that I was too excited by the beauty of the place, and too restless to move on and see what lay around the next bend. The small towns along U.S. 1 were too inviting.
I didn't return to Maine until 1992. These are some of the small on-site studies I did then, in Arcadia National Park. They were painted on gessoed cardboard that I had stockpiled in great quantity from the dumpster at the paper mill - acidic as hell but essentially the same stuff used by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard. I can only hope that I shall be so deserving as they, and have conservators looking after my youthful indiscretions after I'm gone. To paint these I used my first home-made pochade box, a heavy plywood job with a bent coat hanger as a lid stay, an idea purloined from Jack Boul at American U. They were done in oils, the dimensions about 7" x 9."
In 2000, I taught a week-long painting workshop on Bailey Island for the Beverley Street Studio School, the school that I started in 1992 with Ron Boehmer, Dan Dempsey, Rosalie White and Ryan Russell, in Staunton, VA. These paintings are oil on gessoed Luan plywood, about 12" x 15."
Returning to Bailey Island in 2003, I joined up with Roanoke, VA, painter and friend Eric Fitzpatrick. We ferried out to Monhegan Island, my first time there, and spent two days hiking with easels and painting from the heights of the island. While walking, our paths crossed with a guy Eric thinks was Jamie Wyeth, long time resident of the island. Monhegan has been a magnet for so many artists, from Homer, to Hopper to Henri. Most of the artists I saw who live and paint images of the place today remind me of the street artists in Rome or Florence who just reproduce the same subject matter over and over for tourists to buy. But, away from the village the elemental power of the land is as strong as it ever was.
Some of the paintings from 2003, oil on panels, 16" x 16," and 15" x 12":
More to come...