Although I haven’t had time in recent years, I was once a dedicated gardener. Gardening is a wonderful design medium that has the added satisfaction of keeping you fit.
As much as I like painting with flowers, I have never been that keen on painting pictures of flowers. However, I haven’t painted with my Plein Air Painters of Maine (PAPME) homies in several weeks. So when Peter Yesis called a paint-out at Hidden Gardens Nursery in Searsport, I decided to go. Having fought the garden painting fight a few times, I had no expectation of success. But I’m always game.
My pal Renee Lammers is currently obsessed with an abandoned house on Route 1. She humored my obsession with the shipyard this spring, so it seems only fair that I should humor hers. Friends talk each other out of bad ideas; after that, real friends pop open a beer and say, “Hey! Watch this!”
Since Captain Joseph Loomis Park’s old place has been quivering on its pins for as long as I can remember, I was fairly interested in painting it. In fact, it was my real motivation for rocketing around the back roads of Searsport in the first place.
I like my flowers to be unfocused blocks of color woven through the landscape, not individuated blossoms. The wilder they are, the better I like them. In this respect, Hidden Gardens was a gem, for its meadows are filled with wildflowers. Right now, this includes showy displays of lupines, dame’s rocket and Canadian anemones, with the occasional poppy, peony or other garden aristocrat thrown in.
Still, I didn’t do them justice. Around noon, I gave up the unequal struggle and tossed my canvas in the car. The sky was occasionally spitting raindrops, and Peter wisely left. Renee was deeply engaged in an excellent painting of a yellow climbing rose interspersed with magenta lupines.
I decided to try one more thing, a painting of a massive rosa rugosa against dark spruces. The spitting rain turned into a torrent. Sam came out from the garden shed with umbrellas for us, and that helped for a while. Eventually, my paint started to emulsify, which is always the danger when painting in the rain. I wiped my canvas out.
No abandoned house for us, sadly. We went our separate ways. By the time I got back to my studio, the sky was its usual stunning blue again.
Note: a certain yawl boat at Camden has been singing its siren song to me. I plan to paint it over the next few days. If you’re day-tripping at Camden Public Landing and see me, stop by and say hello.