Around the time of the Bicentennial, there was a fad of quaint Colonial business names. You’d have the perfectly reasonable “Baxter’s Candy” suddenly reinventing itself as “Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe.” I bought my first reciprocating saw with the intention of editing out those extraneous letters.
That was replaced by “The Shops at…” Pittsfield, MA has a strip mall called “The Shops at Unkamet Brook.” There’s a marshy ditch running along one side of the parking lot. Sadly that is the brook, and it is contaminated with PCBs.
Clearly, retailers have more romance in their souls than do I. If I paint two birch trees on a collapsing weir, I’m likely to call it “Two Birch Trees on a Collapsing Weir.” No “Morning Promise” or “Last Call of the Wood Thrush” for me.
I’ve been looking at those two birch trees for a while now, uncertain about how to approach them. Looking head on eliminated the tree line behind the Mill Pond. Sideways was boring. The ¾ view required me to stand on a one-lane bridge. Mercifully, traffic is light this time of year.
The subject is more suitable to John Constable than to me. I’m struggling to figure out a way to make it my own. Before I move to a larger canvas, or even decide if it’s worth pursuing, I needed to spend several hours sketching it out in pencil and paint. I’m not overwhelmed with the results, but I know more than I did the day before. Most importantly: I’m cropping in too close for the viewer to understand what he or she is seeing.
Even a warm day starts to feel chilly with a February onshore breeze. By 3:30 I was ready to quit struggling with the weir. If I could use my car as a buffer from the wind, I could paint a quick dusk painting across Mill Cove. Alas, I’d forgotten to bring a small board. First task today, then: reorganize my field kit. It’s a mess.
I was minutes from home when I got a text suggesting a walk. My friend and I leashed my elderly dog and headed up Rockport’s Beech Hill. This bald hilltop is essentially a giant blueberry barren from which one can see Penobscot Bay and Lake Chickawaukee laid out at one’s feet. By the time we reached the bottom again, it was fully dark and hard to find our footing. But it is a rare gift when one can spend all of the first day of February outdoors in comfort.