I met Brad Marshall years ago, when I was active in New York Plein Air Painters. We tried to hold a meet-and-greet in a Czech beer garden in Astoria, but we were washed out by a crashing thunderstorm. In those days, I lived in Rochester, had a crash-pad on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and spent too much time breaking traffic laws between those two places.
Brad and his wife, Kathy, are here to paint this week. Although they are both thoroughly-assimilated New Yorkers, Kathy actually comes from good French-Canadian Aroostook County stock. I know her as a woman who can sniff out a designer bargain in seconds, but she really does know this country well.
People from New York City and people from Maine are both intrepid, but in different ways. It takes nerve and knowledge to throw oneself across the platform into an overloaded subway car, or to suss out the best routes on the Manhattan Transit Authority’s 660 miles of track. It takes equal nerve to hike down a granite cliff or take your small boat out into that vast ocean. Each place has its own specialized footwear, however.
Yesterday I took Brad and Kathy to two favorite painting spots: Beauchamp Point and Rockport Harbor. I paint or linger in both places frequently. It was interesting to see them through the eyes of visitors.
People always talk to me when I’m painting. Yesterday, a number of them asked us how-to questions. Brad and I answered differently, because we do many things differently: sketching and composition, canvas toning, palette, solvent, brush care. There are fundamental rules to each medium, but how they’re followed can take many different forms. This is why, as a teacher, I try to explain why I do what I do. Understand the question, and you have a full range of possible answers.
We ate lunch at the harbor. It took a long time in arriving, something I no longer even notice. Yes, things move more slowly in Maine than in New York. This is, after all, Vacationland. What’s the hurry?
“Why would you want to be in the City when you can be here?” I asked Brad and Kathy, with all the enthusiasm of the recent convert.
“Pizza, the theatre, galleries, shopping, medical care, convenience…” they started.
“No granite canyons, no panhandlers on the subway, no smell of car exhaust or garbage, and no rats scampering along the streets in the early morning light,” I countered. There are many things I don’t miss about urban life.
I used to call New York “the center of the known world.” I no longer feel that way, but it’s nice to know it chugs along unchanged, and that my friends are still there whenever I want to go back to visit.