Friday, July 12, 2013

Monhegan Island, 1976


Monhegan Island sits about ten miles from the mainland off Mid-Coast Maine and has attracted artists to its rugged and rustic charm since the late 19th Century. Among them, Henri, Bellows, Bogdonov, Hudson, Hopper, Kent, the Wyeths and Wengenroth to name just a few. Its attraction for artists seems to grow stronger by the year, as it somehow etches itself into our life’s blood and creative spirit.


I first visited Monhegan in May of 1976 with a group of artists from the Rockport Art Association. We decided to make the trip during the last week of what is called the “off Season”. We made reservations at the Trailing Yew for the week and met up in Port Clyde, where we spent the night to catch the “Laura B”, a mail boat/ferry, to Monhegan early the next morning. Perfect weather for the end of May and calm waters made the trip pleasant and uneventful. We spent our time chatting amongst ourselves and watching for signs of the island.



As you approach the island, the first landmark you can pick out is the lighthouse, sitting atop Lighthouse Hill. Its focal height is 178 feet.
It’s not your typical white lighthouse, but an unadorned, rough hewn gray granite. It lends it a rustic substantiality and was our first clue that there are no frills here. 

As the boat ties up at the dock you notice two things. The first thing you notice is, that this place really is different. You get the sense that you’ve stepped back in time. The other thing you notice is that many people have come down to the dock to see what the mail boat has brought to the island. Aside from us and the mail, it is the lifeline to the mainland bringing food, news and other supplies, which is still the case today.  

Waiting on the dock was a jeep, a battered old pickup, a horse and a couple of hand carts. These were there to help move supplies up the dirt road that led from the dock to the village. Some of the older members of our party availed themselves of the transportation and the rest of us gathered our gear and started up the hill and down the main road to the Trailing Yew at the opposite end of the village. More surprises were to come.

There was a quiet on Monhegan that I can’t quite put into words. You would have to experience it to understand. There are the natural sounds of course, the air, the rustling leaves, the surf all have their sounds, but those are the natural sounds- the “Sounds of Silence”. Then there were the man made sounds of fishing boats, even the electric generators were apparent, but they all seemed more hushed, more respectful of your thoughts than on the mainland.


In 1976, the island as a whole was not yet on the electric grid. Except for the generators, the island had no power. The Trailing Yew was no exception. There was power generated for the kitchen and dining room in the main house, but out in the bunkhouse called Sea Gull Cottage (actually an old captains house) where I stayed, the rooms were then and are still lit by kerosene lamps.

If memory serves me right, the total cost for the 5 days at the Trailing Yew was $90.00 and included breakfast, a sit down or box lunch and a dinner served family style. Today, it’s $140.00 per night including breakfast and dinner, taxes and gratuities, making it still very reasonable.

Aside from the group of artists I was with, there were maybe, four other visitors on the island that I was aware of. Being “off season” the Trailing Yew was the only place serving dinner, so even people staying at the Monhegan House ended up there for meals. The Island Inn had not yet opened for the season. 

After signing in, getting settled, and enjoying our first lunch on the island, we set off in different directions to explore the island. 
Our plan was that everyday we would paint or draw what attracted us and then after dinner we would have a group discussion and critique of each others work, which was fun and instructive. At this time all my work was done in graphite, I didn’t start working in watercolor until later that year. I carried my sketch book and camera with me and just wanted to wander around soaking up as much of the atmosphere as I could. 
 
What I found was,  in fact, there are two Monhegans. The back side of the island could not be more different from the harbor side. Wild rocky headlands plunging to the crashing surf below buttressing
and protecting the serenity and the quite of the village side.

In my next entry, I will post more black and white photos of Monhegan from ‘76 and some of my earlier attempts at watercolor. The documentation of my work at that time was very spotty, so I don’t have a record of many examples. See you next time and get out to Monhegan, if you can for an experience you will not forget or regret.




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Beauty of Rust and Decay on the BML Railroad

When I first moved to Maine in 1987, Belfast had an operating railroad. The Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad shared the waterfront with a small boatyard and several other small businesses. It had an engine house and a turntable, part of which is visible in the following image.

There was a cannery and a coal company, but by the time I got there the large chicken processing businesses that had dominated Belfast had already ceased operation. I used to love wandering around the waterfront and train yard looking for interesting shots and maybe future paintings. The following shot was taken in 1989. Notice the painted white X with the curved line or drip.
The BML, eventually ceased freight operations and for many years ran scenic tourist rides. Recently, Pat told me, what was left of the railroad and equipment was for sale, so I decided to go take some photos of what remained. What had been the dominant feature of the waterfront has been supplanted by a huge boatyard and yacht storage facility, but the remaining equipment is stored out at the station on Head of the Tide Rd. I found a wealth of decaying and neglected equipment and I took many shots. The following image is one, shot in 2013, just last week. Notice the curving white line near the left edge?
When I saw that white line in the recent photo, it struck a chord and I searched through my old slides and found the image of the red door above that had been taken in 1989. I enlarged the area in question 
and sure enough...it is the very same image taken 24 years apart. The ravages of time and whether have created a beautiful image of rust and decay. I'll leave it to you to decide if the rust and peeling paint is an improvement or not, but combined as a side by side diptych, I think it makes a beautiful image.

Thanks for reading and I'll try to be more active with my blogging in the future.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fog Bow on a Foggy July Morning in Castine

Fog Bow Wadsworth Cove, Castine. ME, 7/12/12

When I saw the morning fog from my bedroom window, I had a feeling it could be a good day. I dressed, grabbed my camera and headed out to Castine's Wadsworth Cove, popularly known as "the back shore". My feeling proved correct. The light and the fog were beautiful and I knew there was a potential for a "fog bow". A fog bow is a phenomenon that I first experienced last year in the very same spot.

What is a fog bow and what causes it? Here's a brief explanation from Wikipedia:
"fog bow is a similar phenomenon to a rainbow, however, as its name suggests, it appears as a bow in fog rather than rain. Because of the very small size of water droplets that cause fog—smaller than 0.05 millimeters (0.0020 in)—the fog bow has only very weak colors, with a red outer edge and bluish inner. In many cases when the droplets are very small, fog bows appear white, and are therefore sometimes called white rainbows. According to NASA: The fog bow's lack of colors is caused by the smaller water drops ... so small that the wavelength of light becomes important. Diffraction smears out colors that would be created by larger rainbow water drops."
Some of the other photos from this morning follow.
Fog Burning Off, Wadsworth Cove

Fog, Hatch Cove, Castine

Burning Off, Hatch Cove, Castine

Sun's Reflection, Hatch Cove, Castine

Rainbow Aura in Sun's Reflection, Hatch Cove, Castine

Swim Float, Wadsworth Cove, Castine

Morning Dew Web
When I got back to the house a sparklingly, dewed web caught my eye down by my garden. It was strung about 12 feet above the ground and was quite large in size. The tops of my bean poles can be seen on the right.

Here's a last look at today's phenomenal fog bow, also known as a "White Rainbow"
"White Rainbow"

Both last year and again today when I witnessed this beautiful sight there was someone on the beach that had not noticed it, until I pointed it out to them. The next time you see fog about to burn off, make sure you have the sun behind you and the fog in front of you and you just might get to see a white rainbow.







Friday, February 3, 2012

Influences and Inspirations part 1: Andrew Wyeth

Influences and Inspirations: Beginnings

Back in 1970 I was unsure of the direction of my work and experimented with abstraction, free form, gestural figure drawings, mono-printing, etc. At the time, I was involved in the day to day operation of a small retail, wholesale, and manufacturing business and could only work on my art in my spare time.
Some of my early gestural paintings hanging behind the bird sculptures of Wendy Seller, at the 91 Main St. Gallery in Rockport, MA

1970 was also the year the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston mounted a large Andrew Wyeth exhibition. I didn’t really know much about him or his work, having only seen reproductions of “Christina’s World” in books and magazines. That show changed that. I was was totally captivated by his work. I stood in front of many of the pieces nearly breathless. The drawings were astounding, the paintings amazing, and then I stood in front of “Snow Flurries” and my experience went into the spiritual or mystical realm. I was spellbound and speechless. I could barely pull myself away from that piece.
Andrew Wyeth “Snow Flurries”, Tempera, 37x48”, 1953, National Gallery of Art, Gift of Dr. Margaret I. Handy

I revisited some of the drawings and other works that had impressed me, but kept going back to “Snow Flurries.” Standing at a distance, the painting is a realistic tour de force, moving closer it is a sublime abstract painting that Rothko would envy. Until that time, I hadn’t realized how a work of art could move one so emotionally. Since that time I’ve experienced it again only rarely, in the presence of a Vermeer or visiting the Van Gogh Museum, for example.

When I got home, I picked up my sketch book and pencils and headed to the harbor, where I did the drawing that set me on the path I’ve been following ever since.

Block & Tackle, Graphite, 6x10 inches, 1970

For the next 6 years I did nothing but draw, whenever I could find the time away from my other business. I wanted to hone my skill with the pencil before moving on to paint. Once I started to paint, I found myself much more comfortable with watercolor than with oil and that is what I do to this day.

Some 27 years later, I was stopping for lunch on a photography outing to Tennents Harbor and Port Clyde. I had just finished lunch and as I walked outside I noticed an SUV with PA plates. I recognized the person sitting in the passenger seat as Andrew Wyeth himself. My heart skipped a beat. Should I go up to the window and introduce myself? I was torn. I thought people must come up to him all the time, and I decided I didn’t want to bother him, so I walked on by. As I passed by the car, I realized it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I shouldn’t pass up even if he was less than receptive. I walked back to the window and he opened it. I told him how much his work has meant to me and what an influence it was on my own work. He smiled and was most gracious. We chatted about art and people we knew in common, including Stow Wengenroth and the Beals, for about five minutes, until his driver returned. It was then that he introduced me to Helga.

In a future post I’ll tell you how I met Stow Wengenroth, the other major influence on my work.

Stow Wengenroth, "Lobsterman's Cove", Winter Harbor, ME, 1941, 12-9/16 x 16-5/8 in.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve Fireworks in Castine, ME

Happy New Year!!!
Just after midnight on New Year's Eve, after the clinking of glasses and well wishes all around, we were surprised by the loud boom of fireworks on the town dock. This is a video view of a portion of them taken from the window of our friend's house overlooking the dock. Thank you to whoever was responsible for the fireworks display. A great way to welcome the new year!

video

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Art Makes a Great Gift

Christmas and Holiday Small Works Shows
Five Current Shows featuring Gregory Dunham Watercolors

Shop locally and support the arts and small businesses
1. "Splendid Snow", Patricia Hutton Galleries, 47 West State Street, Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18901(215-348-1728). One of my several watercolors represented in this show is pictured below.

"Last Light" 4x7 inc watercolor, $600.00

2. "Holiday Invitational Small Works Show", Tarratine Gallery, 5 Main St., Castine, ME 04421

"Winter Shadows" 4x6 inch watercolor, $600.00

3. "Small Works 2011", Courthouse Gallery, 6 Court St., Ellsworth, ME, (207-667-6611)

"Low Tide, Bailey Island", 4x6 inch watercolor, $600.00

4. "Holiday Small Works", Woodstock Gallery, 6 Elm St., Woodstock, VT 05091 (802-457-2012)
"Split Rail, Fence, Pomfret, VT" 4x6 inch watercolor, $600.00

5. "Holiday Gala Show", Betts Gallery at the Belfast Framer, 96 Main St., Belfast, ME 04915, (207-338-6465)
"Beach Cliff Sardines", 2.5x3.75 inch watercolor, $450.00 (unusual in both size and subject mater for me)

All the galleries listed above have many more pieces of my work, I hope you can stop by one that is near you to view my work and the other artists and craftspeople on display. Art makes a great gift for someone you love or for yourself. One more piece available at the Tarratime Gallery in Castine is pictured below:
"A Victorian Cottage on Thanksgiving Day", 4x6 inch watercolor, $600.00

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Evolution or Reworking of a Painting

Here's a side by side, or I should say above and below comparison of my watercolor "The Straw Hat, Monhegan Island", as it has evolved over time.
"The Straw Hat, Monhegan" as it appeared in 2008

"The Straw Hat, Monhegan Island" as it appears today 2011, Watercolor 16x20 inches

I used to occasionally enjoy watching Emeril Lagasse's cooking show and I always liked his comment "let's kick it up a notch" and that's exactly what I decided to do with this painting from '08. I liked it well enough when I did it, but it was a little bland, needed a bit more spice to satisfy my palate. Where before, it was calm and still and as I said a little bland, today there is movement and maybe even a little drama. This is an example of how some of my paintings evolve and come to life over time with just a few simple changes. Another example of "kicking it up a notch" appears in a post below from Feb. 20th '11.