"Great Head in March, Acadia National Park"
When I arrived at the summit of Great Head in Acadia National Park, on the morning of March 4th, there were two things that run through my head. First, I had not painted here since my residency with the park in August 2006 and second, this was a real opportunity for me because I had never painted Great Head in the Winter. The trails were all icy but easy to maneuver. That is until you made the calculated decision to hike off them and closer to the water's edge. Then it got rougher and icier and the level of the hike moved from moderate to difficult and slow going. But I found the kid inside me when sliding down on my bottom, down the large snow-covered rocks and sometimes hopping from one dried hulking rock to another to get to the flat rock at the base of the cliff. I was in anticipation of the glacial Great Head views Thomas Cole and William Stanley Haseltine painted between the 1840's and 1850's. This head has a huge overhanging rock mass over a cave-like form that seems to tilt forward as if defying the power of the North Atlantic ocean in Frenchman's Bay. But to get there you have to not be standing on the summit or stay solely on the trail that loops around. You have to get down closer to the water's edge and go around huge truck-size boulders and ledges to finally get this view. On this day, when I came around the last boulder that was obstructing my view, thinking I might never see it, suddenly there it was! And it nearly took my breath away! It was just as I remember it but with a lot more. Today there was ice floes and huge icicles hanging down from the roof of the outside of the cave and sides of the face of the edifice. It was not a Frederic Church with a rogue wave-sized comber completely consuming the mouth of the cave, but it more like a Haseltine of serene and subtle facets of tone and color as in his watercolors. And as the tide come in the surf got more dramatic on this bright eye-aching day. It was difficult to find even a flat rock to set up an tripod and French Resistance easel on the sloping ledge that sported the best views. The wind was coming out of the west at my back and too strong and dangerous to attach an umbrella. So I kept in mind to balance the amount of light that was falling on my palette with my painting surface, tilting and moving it side to side until they matched. So much of the painting can be altered if these two surfaces are not the same. It causes an added stress to the eyes making it more difficult to read color and value tones.
In this painting I included my 4 basic colors of Zinc White, Yellow Ochre, Lamp Black/Ivory Black and Cadmium Red along with a generous amount of Black Oil wax medium. This batch is my winter mixture. It is thinner and does not gel up like the summer batches that are thicker and resists melting in the hot sun. Then I added smaller amounts of Ultramarine Blue, Qinacrodone Magenta, Cadmium yellow medium and Viridian Green because I just started seeing so much shimmering color in the rock on this bright day. After I set my colors out on my clean palette, I remembered after painting this subject 4 times before, that the light and cast shadows dramatically change the appearance of the head in the course of two hours. So I quickly laid in the underpainting so that I would have toned color to build upon. I used a technique of puzzle-piecing and building surfaces upon surfaces that the black oil wax medium affords me. All great paintings are created less out of a sense of growing shapes that are mixed into each other and more of building an effect upon existing passages of color. Most of what I built upon other colors were the shadow shapes upon the under-painted colors in the sunlight. The islands in the far distance were beautifully violet-blue with accents of browns and green halation accents that created a glow in the distance and acted as a tension color to set off the field of warm ochre color in the headland. So much of Acadia rock formations are completely complementary in shape but also color with water and islands that surround them. It is no wonder that Acadia National Park is often said to be amongst America's Most Beautiful Islands.
In this painting, I went with a slightly afternoon lighting and chose to gradate the sky to a darker and brighter blue upon the top of the cliff. The sky near the horizon was a beautiful warm teal and much lighter in value. The water was rough with whitecaps and a rich green sea water with violet-green reflections danced just below the headland's base which became a perfect opposite of the pinkish orange rock above. This made the lighter blue accents glow with light. I also included a dark ocean current shape to emphasize the cold waters of winter as having the same strength as the timeless glacial rock. You can't expect wispy values to represent water against such a powerful rock. It would be like a skinny, spindly, and anemic fighter going up against a hulking muscular athlete. The battle would be over before it started because they don't seem to belong in the same ring together. It is always better to match the water's values with the strength of the coastal rock with at least a strong reflection if not deep valued water. This adds to the drama of the match between the very different and dynamic nature of water vs rock.
"Hurricane Surf at Great Head" a watercolor 20 x 26 inches painted in 1999 by Michael E. Vermette.
One of my goals is to come out here when there is a storm and waves as high as ten feet or more as with hurricane Gurt in 1999. I painted a watercolor of Great Head in plein air the week that hurricane hit the Acadia shore. The waves were so huge that day and dangerously powerful that you felt like you could never take your eyes off the sea. It was the same day two tourist were swept out to sea to their deaths at Schoodic Point; backs to the waves, trying to get a picture of themselves against that drama. There is no doubt that you have to be careful with the sea and never take your eyes off it. And rogue waves like this one you really can't see coming. They simply rise higher and higher until they envelop you and carry you out to sea.
I started painting this study at 11:30 am and finished around 2:00 PM. I had to stop because the painting had completely changed and I needed to get back. I knew I had a significant ledge to climb out of, so I just assessed the terrain and slowly worked my way up with pack on my back and wet paint carrier over my shoulder. I had my Sorrels boots on, my snowsuit and ski pants underneath. Moving was not easy with all those layers, but it felt good to be actually hiking again. Once I finally arrived atop the ridge where the trail ran I found it a lot easier going and back-tracked on the broken foot path up the head land where I originally hike out from.
Laughter and Fun on the Great Head Road on the way to Great Head. Karry Maldanado on the left,
Michael E. Vermette in the center and Alison Dibble to the right. photo taken by Kay Carter whom
also went on the paint-out.
I was mindful the whole time that if I fell or injured myself, it would be hours before anyone would be able to come to my rescue. So, just as it was important to keep a respectful attitude toward this wild places that I paint like this one, I also know that I am never completely alone. The spirit is with me guiding me back and through to paint another day. This painting was a very satisfying and motivating experience. Great Head trail was a great paint-out that I shared with my Plein Air Connection Friends, Kay Carter, Karry Maldanado, and Alison Dibble. Although we all go our separate ways to paint throughout the day, we always rejoin the group after and discuss our paintings over a cup of hot tea, laughter and the enjoyment of each other's company in mutual respect. And that to me is as satisfying as the painting process itself.
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THE PLEIN AIR CONNECTION NEWSLETTER March 7th, 2014
"Great Head In Early March" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette.
On Tuesday morning on March 4th at 7 am, I stood in my doorway and called Kay Carter, one of our Plein Air Connect group painters to see if she thought it would be a good idea to try to paint at Great Head at Acadia National Park or cancel. The weather reports did not look good with temperatures predicted to rise only in the teens. I could tell that neither one of us wanted to cancel although it would not have taken too much coaxing. Besides, we had just came back from painting on Monhegan Island and felt we could paint anywhere after surviving those conditions. So needless to say we both decided to give it a try. We met up with Karry Maldanado at the parking lot in front of the old Aubachon Hardware store by 8:00 am and stopped at the Dunkin Donuts parking lot in Ellsworth to meet up with Alison Dibble and Peter Yesis and his family. In fact the more we purposed to go, the better the conditions got that day with the temperatures eventually rising to 27 degrees. We were off by 9:00 am and drove on Route 3 through Bar Harbor veering right at the Fork In The Road restaurant down through Ellsworth, taking a short-cut that continued on Route 3 toward Bar Harbor. We drove through downtown Bar Harbor passing the Abbe Museum on the right and took a right out of Bar Harbor. We then took a left onto Schooner Head Road passing snowy Champlain Mountain (about 1058 ft elevation on our right). We traveled 2.5 miles where there was an intersection for Schooner Head Overlook on our left, The cut-off to the Park Loop road to our right and straight ahead our destination, the road to Great Head parking area. It was closed and unplowed, but there was enough room for us to park the truck. Peter went with his family to Sand Beach parking lot and we didn't meet up with him for the rest of the day. The four of us discussed going to Sand Beach instead, because the road was closed and we weren't sure that the extra distance to hike with our gear was doable. But really we had our heart set on Great Head and so we wouldn't be denied.
Great Head Road was closed but had a well-worn path for travelers.
So we parked the truck and the four of us made up our minds to suit up into our snowsuits and packs, hiking another 0.43 mile on Schooner Head Road to the trailhead in the Great Head parking area. We were very pleased to find the going excellent due to others who had been their before us breaking trail. Although icy and slippery we never really sunk down into the snow above our soles. It was a moderate hike and a huge contrast to sinking footfalls on Monhegan Island. When we reached the Great Head trail Parking lot we were in high spirits. Sometimes the trail turned rocky with sections completely flooded in ice flow so that you had to hike around them off trail. This made it challenging for me even though we didn't need snowshoes. A smarter man would have brought ice grippers even though the elevation didn't change much. The trail forms a 1.4-mile loop, with a cutoff trail for people looking for a shorter hike. Kay Carter, Alison and Karry all decided to paint at the cove to the left just off the Great Head Trail with a great view of Schooner Head and the back side of Great Head.
"Along The Trail To Great Head", an oil on panel 9 x 12 inches by Kay Carter. courtesy of Kay Carter Fine Art.
I decided to hike on my own to the summit via the loop trail that rewarded me with stunning views of Frenchman Bay and nearby islands in the distance. The highest point of Great Head, this cliff actually seems to tilt defiantly towards the ocean rising 145 feet above sea level. The summit is marked with a cedar post sign near the ruins of the 1900s tea house. The tea house, once known as Satterlee’s Tea House or Satterlee’s Tower, is now a pile of rubble and was mostly covered in snow.
The summit at Great Head, marked with a trail marker, has a great view of Frenchman's Bay and surrounding islands.
Great Head, Acadia National Park, March 4th, 2014.
But once there I was rewarded with an absolutely spectacular view. It seems so redundant for me to hear myself say time and time again that I like a challenge when I paint, but Great Head was certainly that and more. The big surprise, was the huge icicles hanging down over the hallow of the cliff and ice flows along the face of it. The sun was a constant warming element, mostly psychological more than anything else, with a cloudless sky. The seas became dramatic at high tide than calmed a bit later in the day as it began to cloud over. I felt the danger of this place which curiously made it exciting at the same time. It was just me and the spirit out there against the constant wind at my back that would freeze my fingers and challenge my warmest winter gear. But I made it through to the afternoon and ended by 2:30 PM. I didn't think that was bad at all, seeing as though our group had started out by 10:10 am.
Sand Beach by day's end, March 4th, 2014.
On the trail back I noticed the other painters had finished their paintings in the cove near the trail and had headed back as well. When I finally arrived back to where the truck was parked at the gate, Karry was waiting for me and informed me that the others had hiked to Sand Beach. So I drove the truck to Sand Beach and we joined our group there taking photos of the other views, much too late to capture in a painting. We vowed to come back in a few weeks. We walked the full length of the beach and back before we had enough. The sun was now setting through the fog and it was getting colder. Then we all got into the car and went to Geddy's restaurant on 19 Main Street in Bar Harbor to have a veggie burger, soup, salad and tea. Then we had a small group sharing of our work as we had brought our paintings right into the pub. This time the waiter recognized us from before and we were treated to a larger table in the back room reserved for a larger party. They simply spoiled us as we discussed our painting adventures, laughed a lot and shared ideas for future paint-outs.
We decided that our next Plein Air Connection Paint Out will be at Abol Bridge in Baxter State Park on March 18th. The next Plein Air Connection book discussion meeting will be in Waterville on March 22nd (in between drop-off and pick up times of the Maine Open Juried Art Show 2014 at the Waterville library) at Colby College Art Museum. We hope many of our southern friends will be able to attend. More information will follow next week. Sometimes when things don't appear doable we simply must take a step in faith in order that possibilities can open up for us.
Have an amazing week of painting everyone, filled with small faithful steps,
Michael E. Vermette
The Plein Air Connection
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"Squeaker Cove in February, Monhegan Island" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette
After painting a spectacular sunrise at Gull Rock's Ravine that morning, I returned to my apartment at the Shining Sails by 10 am and rested in the living room chair for a 20-minute power nap. It was easy to do with the gas fireplace present and tired muscles from hefting a pack for mile-long treks in the snow. I had a bite to eat with Troy Sands, a professional photographer friend of mine, who worked with me throughout the day. Rather than capture multiple images we decided to narrow our focus and set our sites on capturing the beautifully colored Squeaker Cove.
Some of the places that I hike to, that happen to be my favorite sites, can be dangerous. So I'm glad to have the company of another artist. There is always a cost that is exacted upon the artist to acquire such amazing views. So it is true with capturing pictures of Squeaker Cove. We took the Cathedral Woods Trail to get to the Cove. In the woods the snow was not so deep, only a few inches. The trees were so dense it held much of the snow in their thick branches that would occasionally fall like snowballs through the forest and hit the floor with a muffled thump. Beams of light would break through as the day became brighter giving it a mystical quality. So most of our hiking to our site was deceptively easy until we got out to the coast and the deep snow returned.
The current and surf can be so strong at this time of year that it is pointless to swim back to shore if you happen to get swept out by a rogue wave. The cove is notorious for its ship wreaks such as the Saint Christopher painted by the modern expressionist Joseph De Martini. There were other wreaks at other places on the island such as at Lobster Point with the D.T. Sheridan tug boat out of Portland, Maine and the wreck of the Creesta and other pleasure craft. Monhegan has had its share of ship wreaks. Although not by any dangerous reefs. Islands such as this one are notorious for their fogs and stormy seas that have cast many ships upon its rocky shore.
Squeaker Cove has this feeling of dangerous beauty about it. There is essentially every rock color on the island represented in this cove of black mica, felspar, green granite and reddish iron ore, all shimmering and ever-changing in the bright sun light of the day. The waves are trapped into this cove causing a forceful reversing tide that dances endlessly to and fro like a waltz. The waves lap and reach up the rock then back down to the sea as new ones crash ashore displaying a marvellous forceful spray. Painters can spend so much time trying to capture this dramatic dance of waves, foam and surf that little time is actually left rendering the rocky coast that hems it in. These are deep waters at this side of the island and in the winter months the sea is even more marvelously darkened.
Michael E. Vermette painting at Squeaker Cove in February, photographed by Troy Sands.
I viewed this site as a unique challenge of solidity vs movement, dark vs light and warm vs cool colors. The cliffs are huge and the hulking slabs and round rocks converge down into the cove. Some of them so large you can use them as platforms to paint upon. But most of them too pitched in angle to make it possible. For this painting I was fortunate to find a place to set up on a huge flat rock with an even larger rock at my back. When I painted this same subject in the Fall there was two young girls who sat above me at this same place and so I was inspired to explore the view for myself. The sun was high in the sky and melting the snow on the warm rocks, many of them too wet to sit upon. I worked my way over carefully until I reached my site. Up above the cove, where I had just come from, there were many huge crevasses filled in and leveled with wind-drifted snow appearing deceptively safe when in fact with one false step, one could take you down above your knee before you ever found rock to secure yourself. This is what the locals warn you about and how many unaware artists can break a leg or twist an ankle. So needless to say, the hike in was slow and treacherous going. So I found this view about a half hour after arriving there.
When I feel the exhilaration of views like these I am baffled at how a painter could come here to only paint in the safety of the village. Although I agree that there are plenty of beautiful compositions in the village, it seems a little like paying a $100.00 ticket to get into Disneyland and to only sit at the first park bench one come to. Then then after a time, leave. To never go on any rides, adventures, or explore what the park has to offer, and to say I've been to Disneyland would be a little ridiculous. But people do this with Monhegan Island all the time. Some painters have never even seen the headlands; never mind ever getting close enough to experience its amazing beauty for themselves. For me, I want to experience all the island has to offer and paint its unique beauty that has enough subjects to last three life times.
Close up of Michael E. Vermette painting at Squeaker Cove in February, photo by Troy Sands.
In this painting I wanted to create a dark stormy ocean that was also deceptively bright with a very soft horizon line. the mighty surf battering away at the rocks reached heights of over 14 feet with seas at 8 to 10 that day, The tops of the waves were hard-edged as with the rocks always blending in and graded in value as they would curl at the bottom and build the closer they reached to the coastline. It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch and study from direct observation, a difficulty that most artists would want to avoid but a unique challenge with all that movement against solid stillness. But incredibly, even these flat rock shapes changed in color as the light moved across the seascape in a two-hour span, giving you multiple color choices. For this seascape was alive with color!
I use palette knife to create the sharpness of the edges of these rocks and soften edges using colored lines and sometimes my finger. The impasto appearance works well representing rocks and hard edges of the waves. Besides, you can make no finer a line than with the edge of a palette knife. James Fitzgerald, one of my favorite artists, applied paint with homemade palette knives he made himself, using thin veneer. I've held these tools in my hand and found them to be excellent. In the end the tool is never framed with the painting, just the paint and the substrate. But for me using palette knives create an honesty in the clarity of color and shapes rendered.
Although there was about 18 inches of snow on the coast, I didn't decide to paint great masses of snow. I wanted to include only a hint of snow to increase the range of value and color in the painting as an accent. I also used unusual colors in the shadows that were juxtaposed complements to the color of the predominant compliment. This is to amp up the reflected light in the shadow and to liven up those dead shadow areas that tend to be too plain.
I would highly recommend painting here in the winter. This place and subject made me feel more alive and energized than when I arrived there. The power of the subject almost paints itself. It has an incredible hold on me and so I keep coming back to it like a favorite haunt no matter what the season. And isn't that what true painting is all about.
The snow-filled Coast above Squeaker Cove in February, photo taken by Michael E. Vermette.
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THE PLEIN AIR CONNECTION NEWSLETTER March 1st, 2014
"Winter Surf at Washer Women, Monhegan Island" an oil on solid oak gypsum panel 8 x 10 inches by Michael E. Vermette
We began our discussion of the Letter of Criticism of Robert Henri's book, "The Art Spirit" on page 159, by discussing how paintings are ruined in the process of their making by the critical comments and judgements of others. Sometimes we value the judgements of juries and the advice about marketing much more than they are worth. The real attainment in painting is of a state of being as an artist, a high functioning, an extra ordinary moment of revealed possibilities of greater existence. It is a "state of being" where we make clearest discoveries in our technical research and personal vision. It is our main goal as artists is to be ready in a heightened expectation that will evoke flight into this higher state of being. In all great painting, living in this timeless creative zone is the thing that inspires living. The object is never to simply make art to sell or win awards, but to live in this creative state to gain the greater life of the moment and to have an effect on the spirit, mind and body which is lasting. If we are to be considered a painter, than a pure freedom must exist at the time of our painting. Robert Henri puts it best this way:
Things being as they are, the life of an artist is a battle wherein great economy must be exercised. The kind of economy which will result in moments of the purest freedom in spite of the world's exactions. - Robert Henri, The Art Spirit p.162.
If we have the sense of our images in our state of creating, we will always have the will and desire for creating it. If we paint with the idea to sell or please the Judges we lose our desire for creating, We must be willing to paint like a "fiend' as Henri describes it, when the idea of a painting possesses us. We must use that ability over and over again until it develops into an important truth. It isn't so much as a process of holding on to truths by way of compositional formulas, hints or tricks, but a matter of saying something that is an important truth as if discovering a revelation. It is harder to be simple than it is to be complex. We long for that day when we see a dark purple on the dark February waters on Monhegan Island and dare to paint it with that freedom totally unashamed of its originality, even though that decision may not be the popular or acceptable style of the day.
We discussed how there truly needs to come a time in plein air painting process when we must come to the point where we have what we want to know from the landscape. Where the subject is no longer needed and you turn your back from the subject to focus on the painting. Since all great artwork that is worth while has to be memory work, it is also true that if you don't do this the work will never get below the surface. How sad it is when an artist's vision is clouded by the judgements and comments of another. How awful it is to not recognize the miracle on the canvas , panel or page when it happens because someone else has shamed you out of seeing it. There is no greater adventure than to be present to the painting while exclaiming the wonders of your own time. We need to give ourselves plenty of paint room on our canvases without a worry about originality, and set ourselves as free as we can so that originality will happen for us. It is so important to watch your work closely and make sure that it is your voice that comes from within that speaks through your art work and not the voice of an outside educated person.
We all agreed that there is weakness in a person when they pretend to know more than you know or in stating less than you know. This is why we should never be ashamed to share our work or even keep our bad stuff. Not only did we do it but it is our history that is worth studying. We should study our technique that must be solid, positive, flexible and not fall into a formula. It must support our ideas and adapt to new inventions that express that idea and no other, thus narrowing our focus. It must be valuable to you and worth the effort of expression because it comes from your understanding of life and the thing you greatly desire to say. The group thought that the following statement by Robert Henri summed up everything we shared today in the group discussion. And since we couldn't have said it better we will quote Robert Henri from page 177-172:
I think you can have a wonderful time. It is really a wonderful time I am wishing you. Art is after all, only a trace - like a footprint which shows one has walked bravely and in great happiness. Those who live in full play of their faculties become master economists, they understand the relative value of things. Freedom can only be obtained through an understanding of basic order. Basic order is underlying all life. it is not to be found in the institutions men have made. Those who have lived and grown at least to some degree in the spirit of freedom are our creative artists. They have a wonderful time. They keep the world going. They must leave their trace in some way, paint, stone, machinery, whatever. The importance of what they do is greater than anyone estimates at the time. In fact in a commercial world there are thousands of lives wasted doing things not worth doing. Human spirit is sacrificed. More and more things are produced without a will in the creation, and are consumed or "used" without a will in the consumption or the using. These things are dead. They pass, masquerading as important while they are before us, but they pass utterly. There is nothing so important as art in the world, nothing so constructive, so life sustaining. I would like you to go to your work with a consciousness that it is more important than any other thing you might do. It may have no great commercial value, but it has an inestimable and lasting life value. People are often so affected by outside opinion that they go to their most important work half-hearted or half ashamed.
"What's the use of it if you are not making money out of it?" is a too common question. To what distinction an artist's labors are raised the moment he does happen to make money out of them! Very false values. I say this and I know as well as any the difficulties of making sufficient money and the necessity of making it in order to live and go on.
Go to your work because it is the most important living to you. Make great things - as great as you are. Work always as if you were a master, expect from yourself a masterpiece.
It's a wrong idea that a master is a finished person. Masters are very faulty, they haven't learned everything and they know it. Finished persons are very common - people who are closed up, quite satisfied that there is little or nothing more to learn. A small boy can be a master. I have met masters now and again, some in studios, others anywhere, working on a railroad, running a boat, playing a game, selling things. Masters of such as they had. They are wonderful people to meet. Have you never felt yourself "in the presence" when with a carpenter or a gardener? When they are the right kind they do not say " I an only a carpenter or a gardener, therefore not much can be expected from me." They say or they seem to say, "I am a Carpenter!" "I am a Gardener!" These are masters, what more could anyone be!
I like your work and have only to ask you to go on your own interesting way with all the courage you can muster.
-Robert Henri, The Art Spirit P177-172.
The next Plein Air discussion meeting will be at Colby College on March 22nd. Many of us are coming down to enter our artwork into the Maine Open Juried Art Show in Waterville at the Waterville Public Library between 9:30 - 11 am on 77 Elm street. There is a jurying process that takes about three hours. So we will have our meeting at Colby College's Museum of Art to view the Lunder Collection. We hope to get a room for our discussion of The Letter of Criticism on page 180 to The Letter of Criticism on page 200 of Robert Henri's book, "The Art Spirit." We will also tour the exhibit as a group and view a Robert Henri Portrait that is on display there amongst other beautiful works. Then we will go to lunch on campus after which we will go back to the library to see if our works were accepted into the show. We hope to meet up with many of our southern fellow artists who live in that region. It should be lots of fun!
We will also meet next Tuesday March 4th at the old Aubauchon's parking lot at 8:30 to car-pool to Mount Desert Island for our weekly paint-out. We plan on painting Great Head which is basically located between Schooner Head and Sand Beach. There will be a bit of a hike involved. So please bring appropriate clothing and foot wear and a lunch. The high temperatures are predicted to be 19 degrees. We will be stopping to meet artists at Dunkin Donuts in Ellsworth by 9:00 am and after the paint-out we will go to a restaurant and share a meal together and a supportive critique. We hope all who might be able to make it can come to this adventure.
May you muster up your courage this week and be the master you know you can be,
Michael E. Vermette
Coordinator of the Plein Air Connection
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"Sunrise at Gull Rock's Ravine, Monhegan Island" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette.
This is one of my favorite views on Monhegan Island. It never gets old and it is very difficult to capture at sunrise in February. The night before, I kept waking up every hour to check my watch just so that wouldn't sleep through the sunrise. I would wake up several times before I finally got up, dressed, and hiked out. On the morning of February 20th, my birthday, I joined another artist and
photographer friend, Troy Sands, for a bite to eat at 4:30 am. By 5:15 we were on our way under head lamp with our packs loaded down as we walked through the snowy village to acquire an early morning's picture at Gull Rock Ravine. We took a short-cut trail that brought us to the back side of Burnt Head and by turning right on coastal trail 1-A , we immediately saw Gull Rock on our left as we made our approach just after 5:30 am. By then we didn't need a head lamp anymore and could see that although the temperature was in the teens there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a great sunrise that day. One that you could only wish for. I got set up in Gull Rock's ravine near a care size boulder after walking and gazing out over the seascape for the best view. Somehow standing next to this huge 7 foot granite rock gave me sense of warmth and perspective. Besides what I really wanted was the viewer to see Whitehead through the ravine in the distance while feeling cold as though standing in the shadowy foreground of the painting. I wanted the viewer's eye to be immediately propelled into the distant headland that was bathed in warm light, thus giving a sense of hope in the newness of the day. I waited for the most opportune moment when the shadow line hit the left ledge of the ravine before painting it. Shadow lines add to a curious sense of movement that I have always admired and have included in my paintings.
Michael E. Vermette painting in Gull Rock's ravine in the reflected light of the shadow of Gull Rock at sunrise, Troy Sands photographer.
Shadow lines can also be used as effective tools to lead the viewer into the painting toward the center of interest. I spent a lot of time getting Whitehead to seem to illuminate by adding "hallations marks" or double complementary colors that are juxtaposed to each other, such as Blue vs. orange and reddish maroon vs viridian green. This makes the headland glow and appear as though the painting has a light of its own. In this case I was not simply copying the light but creating it with color in the painting. Monet used this same technique in his multiple haystack series, particularly in the shadows. It is also a great technique to soften edges giving the greater illusion of the headland appearing farther away. I did not use this technique everywhere because there are some places where I wanted to create the absence of light and an absolute hard edge to emphasis a back-lit silhouette such as the top of Gull Rock to the left of the painting. I put a lot of color in the snow in the foreground and for the most part wanted the viewer to feel the reflected light on the snow of Gull Rock at the upper left of the painting. As with most great paintings that almost paint themselves from the spiritual power of the seascape, I finished two hours latter and headed back to the village to recouperate and go out again for another study. That day I became 56 years old and I couldn't think of a better place or moment to start my birthday paintout.
Michael E. Vermette
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Winters Headlands, Monhegan Island
an oil on Gypsum Gessoed panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette
On Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 I arrived on Monhegan Island with my Plein Air Connection friends by 10:30 am. After quickly unpacking, I headed out with my fellow artist photographer Troy Sands to White Head. I was encouraged to see what the the amount of snow was on the headlands after viewing the great amount of new fallen snow on Manana. As the coördinator of the Plein Air Connection painting group, I had been planned this trip for about a year and a half. My original idea was to coördinate a group of artists to come to Monhegan and who would have an opportunity to paint views similar to what inspired me. Four years ago in February, I painted this view of the headlands. There was no snow on the island then and it began to snow almost immediately upon starting to paint. Back then I would just go over by myself. But today no one can rent rooms in the winter on the island unless you are a fisherman. I use to rent a room at the Hitchcock House or the Tribbler Cottage on the island. In this arrangement I had to put together at least six painters who would be willing to pay forward, without a refund, the total cost for rent for at least three apartments at the Shining Sails before the owner, John Murdock, would even consider it. So needless to say, coordinating a trip like this is not an easy task out of season.
So It is an understatement to say that I was chomping at the bit to get one more opportunity to paint the headlands with snow on them in February. My friend Troy took the lead and I showed him where to go. I walked in his footsteps as he broke trail with snow 18 to 20 inches deep in the open areas. The going was rough and slow as we both were carrying heavy packs that held our art equipment. We were wearing snow suits and were both sweating bullets When we finally reached Whitehead's summit. Once there we were met with a cold driving wind that made us glad that we were dressed warm. Troy is a panorama photographer and so was completely amazed at seeing the view of Burnt Head and Gull Rock from Whitehead. So I left him to his work as I continued down the 1-A trail down to a my favorite view of Little Whitehead and Black Head from Whitehead. I too was fully amazed at the amount of snow that was on these headlands. Subjects like these can give you a sort of second wind. I found my site almost completely out of the cold wind when i traveled eastward down trail 1-A. This headland view had a hauntingly stoic look with its limited color palette and high contrast of dark and light values.
On the cliffs you really had to be careful to dig in with your feet down now and then down to the grass or rock, or else the sheer standing in one place at any length of time would cause ice to form and you could slip and lose your balance. I wore my sorrel boots that I use when snowshoeing. When you are setting up in these conditions everything takes more time and is simply more difficult. I had to tighten my tripod, but other than that and painting on a sloping hill, my French Resistance paint box went up without any problems. I positioned myself in the most level spot that I could create for myself. But I still would slip now and then making me kick into the snow for a better grip as a horse stomping the ground with its hoof.
I decided to use the Andres Zorn palette because the day became more and more moody and overcast. I used Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Ivory Black and a little Ultramarine Blue that I suspect Zorn also used in the skies of his landscape oils. The snow on the headlands reflected a brighter white tone than the white sea-foam that continually ungulated and reached up the craggy coast. the other delightful thing that I noticed is that the small dense trees all had icicles hanging on them like ornaments on a Christmas tree.
Many people don't realize that the highly prized gypsum panels that I use allows my paint to stick on the surface like water to a sponge. My Black oil wax medium also adds some extra tack. It is my belief that preparing archival surfaces and mediums not only create paintings that will withstand the test of time, but they also aid to brighten color and improve adhesion. These methods and materials have already stood the test of time in masterworks such as in Rembrandt's paintings and those of Rubens. When my panel get a little wet with snow or rain, it's actually no problem. This method helps you to paint on a wet surface. There is no acrylic gessoed surface that can do that. The Black Oil Wax medium that I use I mix up to 50% to my oils to add a semi-transparent luster to them, increase the color, and increase the tack of the paint to the substrate.
I paint making an effort to eliminate as many of the usual distractions as I can. This is so that when I am on the location, I can concentrate better the process of painting. The same is true about my Guerilla Wet Paint carrier. It works well to protect my panels to the point that I never allow myself to feel like I "Have" the painting until it's in the box. Only then will I break down, clean my palette and palette knives and fold away my easel.
I like many things that the new fallen snow and the dark dramatic seas and sky create in a painting. These skies were unexpected and dark like rocks in the sky. There was a terrific amount of snow that contrasted the dark rocks in value. For the foreground I tried to create weight as with the clouds in the sky. For the whole weekend of painting, this picture was the most fulfilling, partially because of a longing and because of the power in value and limited color. This picture was one of my favorite. But being in this place for such a time as this was even more spectacular that I can ever imagine.
Michael E. Vermette
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THE PLEIN AIR CONNECTION NEWSLETTER February 24th, 2014
"Wintery Headlands, Monhegan Island" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette
Once again I would like to welcome all of our new members who have joined this newsletter since I've been away on Monhegan Island. This is what we did.
The plein Air connection went to Monhegan Island for their first outdoor painting trip of the year between Wednesday February 19th and Friday February 21st, 2014. The artists who went over were Kay Carter, Linda Stearns, Becky Whight, Nora West, Troy Sands, myself and guest artist Renee Lammers. Most of us were oil painters except for Linda who worked in pastels and Troy who created beautiful digital photographs.
Becky and I stayed at Kay's house the night before to get an early start on the day. We shared a wonderful soup and salad after we participated in the quaker style of prayer of pausing in silence for one minute in thankfulness. We liked this so much we decided to do if for all the meals we took together for the weekend. It helped to bring a focus to our day. Linda and Troy met us at Kay's house where we packed food and equipment and ventured out in two vehicles early that next morning by 6:30 am.
It had snowed a few inches of powder that night before and the moon was out signifying that the day would clear or at least there would be good visibility. I awoke that Wednesday morning with a start as the snow plow blade dropped plowing the driveway. Kay Carter's husband Daryle shoveled and I cleaned off Becky's vehicle with a broom he provided. Then I stood to wait for Troy to arrive at the end of the driveway so he would know where the drive way was. It was pretty cold that morning so when I went in I put on my polypropylene layers and advised the others to do the same. It would warm up later on throughout the day but we were glad to be wearing the right clothing. I was excited about Troy coming along because not only was this his first trip to Monhegan Island but he might capture photos documenting our adventure. Troy is a professional photographer who carries expensive lenses, filters and works on the computer to enhance his images.
Deck hand shoveling off the deck of the Laura B.
We arrived at Port Clyde by 8:30 and had all of our gear on the dock and loaded into the Elizabeth Ann by 9 am. They were shoveling off the snow from the deck of another boat they have called the Laura-B when we all arrived. The Laura B is a decommissioned world war II mine sweeping boat. Becky and Renee met us at Port Clyde traveling in separate cars and we were able to all park for free right at the Port Clyde parking lot because there wasn't many cars there and plenty of available spaces. Everything was a lot more relaxed and laid back than it usually is during the peak tourist season. There was no captain introduction on how to put on a life jacket safely and instructions on treating the trails with respect; only the polite and friendly amazement from the crew that we would go out there in the first place as painters. The Elizabeth Ann had become a mail boat that would only be scheduled for one trip to Monhegan that day and we felt excited to be on it. They were all so professional and helped us aboard not even taking our tickets until after we disembarked onto Monhegan Island. This calmed the nervous concerns of those who had not traveled to the island before and who faced an hour-long excursion.
But the seas were not bad at all. The waves never reached higher than four feet at 14 second intervals and most of us didn't need to take a sea-sickness pill. The visibility was excellent and sun out and we could see our destination almost immediately looming out over the horizon like a sugar-coated whale-shaped rock rising out of the ocean. We were simply amazed at the amount of snow present on Manna as we entered the harbor exactly and hour after we departed Port Clyde. We knew then that this weekend would be very special and that we would be able to capture beautifully unique landscapes. There were four truckers there including ours who took all of our 30 plus pieces of equipment and luggage directly to the Shining Sails cottage where our apartments were located.
Winter snow on Manana as we arrived at Monhegan Harbor.
On the dock while we were waiting for the crew to unload our gear we met Susan Gilbert and Alison Hill, two prominent Monhegan artists who welcomed us. Susan had a very successful show of many of her exquisite oil and watercolor landscapes last summer at the Island Inn and Alison is presently showing her beautiful paintings with me and another artist at the Elizabeth Moss Gallery. It was very encouraging to be welcomed by such friendly painters.
Michael E. Vermette painting on Whitehead, photo taken by Troy Sands.
All of us were chomping at the bit to get started and paint for the afternoon. We arrived by 10:30 and Renee was the first to start painting just outside the cottage a fantastic view of the snowy road leading the eye into the village. The other women ventured out to Lobster Cove an did fantastic compositions of the snowy coast and surf. Troy and I were more ambitious and hiked out to Whitehead. The snow was very deep and we broke trail with snow rising just below our knees at 18 to 20 inches at nearly every foot-fall. But it was worth the slow-going hike and all the sweat because the views were simply stunning. This was what we came for, and I'll never forget Troy's face as he saw the view of Gull Rock from Whitehead for the first time. He kept saying, "This is amazing Mike, This is Amazing!" and it was. He photographed until after sunset making his way down to Gull Pond and back up Whitehead where he took over 85 photos! I returned earlier to discover that the group had been invited by Sarah Gilbert to her house for wine, tea, cheese, crackers and warm conversation. It had begun to lightly rain in the afternoon and all of us had completed one painting. We had a great visit as we viewed many of her paintings on the wall of her beautiful home that had commanding views of the harbor. We learned the goings-on of this rich island life she lives and we all felt so privileged to have been invited.
It started to get dark and so we headed back to prepare a meal for the group. Linda made a very tasty shrimp pasta and Troy and I made the salad. Kay made homemade bread and Nora made tasty finger size raspberry cheese cake tarts. We observed a moment of silence to thank the Creator as we all enjoyed our meal together. We were all very hungry from all the hiking we did. Troy and I were very sore from carrying packs in our shoulders and legs. We would average about 10 miles each day although it didn't seem that far to get to any site.
After supper we were treated with a feast for the eye as each of us shared our works and processes. Renee handed out her cards that described the fascinating process of painting on cooper and I shared about the gypsum gessoed panels that I used, both highly prized substrates to paint on. In fact I was pleased to find just about every substrate represented that also included canvas, linen and pastel paper. We had the suppers and group critiques in the apartment that Troy and I occupied because it had a larger table and a gas fireplace in the living room where we put up paintings one and two at a time. It was a long successful day and so we were satisfied just to see what everyone accomplished. All of us got off to a great start. Kay Carter got out her Robert Henri book of "The Art Spirit" and read passages from the book that we discussed in our last connect sharing. We particularly discussed the section of the book where Henri is quoted to have said,
" There is no order in the seclusion of the world's good for the minority, and the battle for this proves the complete disorganization of minds who institute it. War is impossible without institutionalism, and institutionalism is the most destructive agent to peace or beauty. When the poet, the painter, the scientist, the inventor, the laboring man, the philosopher, see the need of working together for the welfare of the race, a beautiful order will be the result and war will be as impossible as peace is today." - Robert Henri P.145 in The Art Spirit book.
We talked briefly about each going our separate ways the next day to paint at different locations on the island and headed in to get some much-needed sleep in our cozy victorian style apartments.
"Early Morning Wintery View from Gull Rock, Monhegan" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette.
The next day Troy and I left to capture the sunrise at Gull Rock by 5:30 am. We were the first of the group to actually get out and paint. As with the group, we knew this day would be our best chance to create at least two paintings. The trail was hard going, but we took out time and just keep pressing on until we got out to Gull Rock Ravine, just in time to witness the very bright sunrise. I positioned myself near a large rock and painted mostly in the shadow of Gull rock until the sun rose high enough to show on the rock ledge to the left of my painting composition.
Michael E. Vermette painting at Gull Rock ravine, photo taken by Troy Sands.
By the time we returned to the cottage by 9:30 am we were totally exhausted breaking trail. By then the other painters were out in the village and up on Lighthouse Hill painting the lighthouse and James Fitzgerald's dory. Kay Carter broke her own trail out to Burnt Head to paint a beautiful view of Whitehead all by her self. Way to go Kay! In the meantime, Troy and I ate the rest of our salad left over from the night before and rested for about a half hour. Then we suited up in warmer layers and hiked out to Squeaker Cove through the Cathedral Woods which was like walking through a peaceful old growth forest. The snow was not as deep there but when we got out to Squeaker Cove we had to take it slow because the snow leveled off the deep crevasses between the car-sized boulders. A few time we would sink way down above our knees and could see how one could easily break a leg or ankle. But we quickly adjusted to the danger and negotiated the terrain carefully. We both captured awesome views of the afternoon light upon colorful snowy sea cove.
"Wintery Squeaker Cove, Monhegan Island" an oil on gypsum panel 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette
There is a lot of excellent color found in the rocks at this place. It is simply magical with the myriad array of countering tones that sandwich in the greenish-blue surf and foam. I personally appreciated the movement of the undulating current that fills the cove and then draws back out to the sea. It's an action that repeated all day no matter how high or low the tide. This was shaping up to be a great day as we both finished and got back to the village early by 2:30 PM; which was great because we had time to go to another site on the island.
Michael E. Vermette painting at Squeaker Cove, photo by Troy Sands.
We never ran into the women painting anywhere and really had no idea where they were working. So we made sandwiches and ate a late lunch at our apartment. We rested and went back out to try to capture the sunset at Lobster Point near Lobster Cove. The skies by then were starting to cloud over and the wind really started to pick up. Our plan was to be all set up 4 PM so that we would be there about an hour before it happened. We did meet Renee who was capturing images at Fish Beach with her camera. We also ran into islanders on their way back to the village as we were going out on Lobster Cove trail. We soon discovered what they were viewing as we witnessed the high tide surf exploding upon the rocks. This was very exciting to witness and energized us as artists. The wave action was so incredible it brought out a physical shout out of us both. There is nothing like the surf on Monhegan in the winter time. I was particularly struck by how dark and powerfully the 7 to 10 foot large the waves were. The skies got darker and darker as time went by and I quickly established my painting within an hour. But after about 2 hours the sun even more shrouded behind the thick clouds like the softness of a moon, giving everything a silvery glow. It was a completely different painting and thrilling to witness. As it got darker it became more imposible to paint, so we packed up and set off for the village.
"Silvery Winter Sunset, Monhegan Island" an oil on gypsum gessoed board by Michael E. Vermette
We were both amazed at how quickly we were creating our images as if the spirit in the seascape was almost rendering itself in our pictures. Troy was like a child in a candy store and I was not much older. He took every possible angle of the exploding surf that would crash ashore time and time again. We both dressed with thinner clothing and started to get chilled by the wind that we were facing the whole time. I loved how the powerful darkened green waves contrasted the iron ore rust color of the rocks, especially when wet. I was so impressed with watching Troy work I photographed him several times. He was so engaged in his work as I'm sure the others were on the island, that he reminded me of the Ashcan painters of the Henri school who use to paint below the high tide line.
Troy Sands photographing Lobster Point a Sunset, photo by Michael E. Vermette.
Earlier in the day on our way out to Squeaker Cover we meet Susan Gilbert on Black Head road doing a very dynamic vertical painting of Cathedral Woods. We invited her to our group critique that night and she agreed to come. So when we got back from Lobster Cove we had to quickly take care of our images and paintings and make room at the table for dinner. Everyone was back and were excited about their accomplishments. We all sort of descended upon the apartment as Troy and I were finishing up on making the salad once more. This time I helped Troy make a huge salad that was more than enough. We even chopped up apple to add to the many other ingredients. Becky made an excellent spicy soup that had some heat and it tasted so delicious many of us has two bowls. For dessert Renee surprised us with gourmet cup cakes and she even had carrot cake ones which were my favorite. That day I turned 56 and I thought that it was great to have a piece of my favorite cake after having such a perfect painting day on Monhegan. The group all wished me a happy birthday and soon after, Susan showed up to join our critique. It was a better critique than the night before and at time intense and mentally challenging, especially after such a taxing day of painting. Susan Gilbert brought three dramatic watercolors of crashing surf. She made a lot of helpful comments sharing that by adding a light reddish alizarin tint to the water in the distance to push the waves back in space was a very helpful hint. She said that she learned the hint from Don Stone who taught her that by doing so it pushed the waves back in space.. Renee talked about creating rhythm and flow in the water. I got a chance to also share the concept of using "Halation" lines in between colors to soften edges. I read about it in the book, Painting With A Fresh Eye by Alfred C. Chadbourne. He painted a lot of expressive Maine landscapes and coastal works along with his painter friend and another artist I like Rex Brandt. Both of these artists became interested in the works of pop artist and expressive painter Wayne Thiebaud who did roller-coaster perspectives of the streets of San Francisco and Brilliant color. Chadbourne attempts to have the painting create its own light rather than imitating light. The theory might have originated from the paintings of Monet's haystack series who discovered that luminous shadows can be created by juxtapositioning opposite colors.
There were many styles, theories, and ways of working that will I'm sure give us food for thought in the months to come. It was one of the best critiques I attended in a long time. When we concluded it was around 10 PM and it started to rain soon after. In fact it never really stopped raining off and on until we left the island the next day.
The final day of our adventure was a real wash out and none of us got any painting done. It was time to pack up and make the journey home. Thankfully the huge waves and whitecaps on seas that were present the day before were gone. Most of us got up later and were all packed up to leave by 9:30 am. We took a final group photo in our apartment. It was during the waiting around between photos that we got into a great conversation about the painting reproduction of an oil that was hanging over our couch. I looked at it all weekend. It was of an older women hauling what looked like a Yule log on a sled in the winter time. Painted by Giovanni Segantini and printed from the Saganiti Museum in St. Mortiz, we all admired how compositionally right the painting was. I just loved the figure in the landscape anyway, but this painting had a special hashing line texture that I couldn't keep my eyes off of. Besides, I think we all could identify with the women hauling and trekking through the snow field as we all did that weekend.
Giovanni Segantini, Segantini Museum St. Mortiz 1890-/98.
I love our plain air connection group. We've been planning this trip for two years and finally we got the chance to paint out on Monhegan Island, some of us for the first time. We don't have a leader, just coordinators who assisted all of us to do what we love to do most; paint plein air. When I look over at Becky White painting at Schoodic point in the rain this winter, braced and all leaned over into the wind with determination, I'm moved with that kind of spirit and dedication. Remember just a year ago Becky, you hardly even painted on location, but look at you now. Your paintings are so alive and you have found the courage to approach three galleries that you now show your work in. When I see Kay Carter dressed up in a light weight snow suit painting in sub-zero winds last year at Schoodic Point with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye; I'm encouraged and want to keep painting even though my fingers are bone numbing frozen. You and your husband Daryle are among the most generous people I've known and Kay that care shows up in your work. It makes me want to be that kind of person. When painting with Nora West at the Mica Cave on Monhegan Island last summer, whom actually believed we were going to lower her down in a cave to do a painting; It still brings a smile on my face today, you are not only funny but one of the best communicators I have ever known when striking up conversations with complete strangers. And who could ever forget Linda's Stearns' composition of Lobster Cove this weekend. That painting surprised us all and went beyond our expectations of how wonderful a painting could be if composed like a quilt or collage. And Troy Sands, you got me when you actually ventured below sea level to lay down behind a rock at eye level to capture an unusual view at Gull Rock. You reminded me of George Bellows because you dared to go below the high tide line just to get the shot, never mind that you got a little wet. You just kept shouting, "This is awesome Mike! This is Awesome!" Yes, Troy, Mohegan Island is awesome but so are all of you in this group. If I didn't mention you it's not because I don't admire you; it's because there wouldn't be enough pages to write every inspiring story. But this is why I attend the Plein Air Connection group meetings and participate in the paint-outs. I can't wait to see what will happen next to each and every one of you. I want to paint with you all no matter if I completely agree with your painting style, what materials you decide to use or what particular philosophy you hold to be true. I want to see you all succeed as you host gallery shows and sell your paintings a images that connect with people who need to own your art as much as you needed to make it. You are all great artists whom I paint with, whom I encourage; build up and edify. You welcomed everyone to our humble group and enrich the lives of many, including mine. And for that I feel privileged and blessed to known you all. We have something special going on here. We are the Plein Air Connection painting group and it continues to be enough for me. Thank you all for this wonderful weekend. You are what made it great and all worth while. Lets keep this up!
From left to right: Troy Sands, Michael Vermette, Nora West, Kay Carter, Linda Stearns, and Becky Whight, photographed by Troy Sands.
The paint-out this Tuesday is postponed to next week. We will have high winds and below 20 degree weather. We will schedule it for next Tuesday and go to Acadia National Park's Great Head. I hope to see those who can attend at the Bangor Art Society meeting tonight at 6PM on the second floor of the Bangor Public library. The artists from School Street Picture Framing will give us I'm sure an excellent presentation. Also We will be displaying our ceramic plates and platters we painted on at the Creative Arts Center in Brewer, Maine.
The Plein Air connect group book discussion meeting is rescheduled for next Saturday at 10 am and will go til noon at the Holy Grounds Coffee shop at Grace Church 1404 broadway, Bangor, Me 04468.
May you all paint this week with a fresh eyes,
Michael E. Vermette
Coordinator of the Plein Air Connection
If you have enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to share it with others. Comments are always welcomed. To join this newsletter go to www.michael.vermette.com and join my newsletter which is free of charge.
The Plein AIR CONNECTION NEWSLETTER February 10th, 2014
"Monhegan Fisherman Rowing" a watercolor 19 x 24 1/4 inches by Michael E. Vermette
First of all, I'd like to welcome all of our new watercolor artists who have recently joined this newsletter. The Plein Air Connection is a connect group of artists who believe that drawing and painting on location is a spiritual practice of faith. It is the act of co-laboring with a Great Creator that is at the heart of making beautiful paintings that will not only impact on our world but also produce positive change. We believe that this kind of painting attitude creates its own market, not the market creating the work. So the journey to become a skilled painter is found in identifying with what the Creator has prepared on location as a subject idea, then studying the art of painting outdoors on location to capture the true essence of color, light, shade, and shape to bring about that concept. Many artists have painted studies and sketches on location and used them for references for larger studio works, a tradition that has been passed down from the great painters such as Frederick Church, John Constable, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Marsden Hartley, James Fitzgerald, and many painters today. It is considered an important discipline for figurative Painters to master as well. The newsletter also serves to tell you about shows, exhibitions and events that will be coming up this year. So, as the coördinator of the Plein Air Connection and the vice president of the Bangor Art Society, there will be a meeting tonight, February 11th, along with an opening reception and awards ceremony for the participating artists who are members of the Society. This opening reception is located on the third floor of the Bangor Public Library and will be between 6PM and 7 PM. The event is free and all are welcome to take part. I hope to see all those who can make it tonight.
Plein Air painter Becky Whight and I were the only ones who attended the Plein Air Connection discussion meeting last Saturday February 8th at the Holy Grounds Cafe at Grace Church, 1404 Broadway in Bangor. I would have liked to get a few more point of views from artists on this wonderful section in "The Art Spirit" book by Robert Henri p. 143 "My People" to p. 159 "Letter of Criticism". Henri talked about "His People" and his love for the "dignity of life" found in his subjects as seen individually. We agreed with the following quote:
"This thing I call dignity in a human being is inevitably the result of an established order in the universe. Everything that is beautiful is orderly, and there can be no order unless things are in their right relation to each other." Robert Henri p. 144 in The Art Spirit Book.
He went on to further clarify his statement by pointing out that everywhere he found that moment of order in nature, clearly understood in a painting, he found noblility. He found nobility in his Irish peasant paintings in the language of their facial expressions, the North American Indian in gesture, and all children having this sense of nobility by naturally being impulsive. I could relate to this dignity found in the figure in the landscape with those who have become my people over the years. I believe the order that Henri is eluding to is the moment when the figure is so worn by the landscape that there is a visual rightness in the way he stands on the boat, hauls a lobster trap or as in the painting above, rows a boat in Monhegan's Harbor.
Henri points out that the pursuit of this "rightness in order" in painting comes easily to the artist who is free to disconnected from institutionalize thinking. He relates the "institutional" as an organization that smothers greatness in an artist. That we ironically destroy what we love in an artist and reverencing what we destroy. He mentions Rodin, Whitman and Millet to show how unpuritan their lives were by not restricting their desire and response to nature. This reminds me of my own views of painting being a form of worship. Something that goes way beyond technique, but a language that gets clearer to me the older I get. Painting to me is co-creating with the Creator as it were in Spirit and in Truth. That means engaging in a painting process fully aware and without limitations through the Spirit, Soul and Body. I believe all of us are spirit, soul and body. But the exciting thing we artists can enter into is allowing out spiritual thoughts and emotions to affect our physical expression on the canvas or paper at any given moment. Painters need to feel free to respond through a physical and emotional release in a painting so that our canvases can have in right relationship with nature and the universe. Henri points out how dangerous institutional systems can be, (in his time it was the academy that certified artists of his time) to the artist because they promote separating artistic spirit from the body and soul of the artist, when in reality its more a holistic package. He is saying, that if we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience our subjects physically and emotionally then we will keep ourselves from a physical release that is only natural and traditionally came easy to all the great artists of the past.
Our techniques and language of painterly marks for their own sake can be of no value if we aren't free to express the infinite moods of our humanity. Henri even went as far as to suggest that we should be looking at our subjects in the hope of finding in them the dignity of life, humor, kindness, and having the power to save the human race. He states that even war is impossible when the poet, painter, the scientist, the inventor, the laboring man, and the philosopher all see the need to work together for the welfare of the race.
" a beautiful order will be the result and war will be as impossible as peace is today." - Robert Henri p. 145 The Art Spirit.
We talked about the role of the teacher of art and how we can instruct with goals to two different types of students. A student who always modifies to bring about success or the student who is free to believe in and is compelled to take risks to succeed or absolutely fail. The latter students goes on to become a great painter because he or she is willing to risk it all, even failure to get the results that they are passionate about. Teachers of art should teach in such a way to show what students want to know. We should teach in a way that aids the student to dig deeper beyond the surface of the subject. We should teach students to establish the substructure in a painting carefully and then not to destroy or kill the painting by feeling compelled to add "detail" or to "finish" the painting, thus weakening the substructure. Henri recommends that we should teach our students that we do not make art to make a living, but we make art to experience a rich way of living a life. Because human progress has always depended upon solutions through spirit in art and science, art study should not be exclusively directed toward commercial ends or even awards.
We ended our discussion this week with a resolve to allow our spirit inside, our thoughts and emotions to cause a physical and emotional response in our expression through paint. Lets let every line, tone, value, color and even brush pressure be directed by our emotions so that even the techniques we use dissolve into a sincerity that connects with greatness as with the masters of the past.
Our next Plein Air Connect book discussion is Saturday, February 22nd at Grace Church, 1404 Broadway, Bangor from 10 to noon. the topics we will be discussing is "Letter of Criticism p. 159 to "Letter of Criticism P. 180. We would like to thank you JoAnn Arsenault for the wonderful pasta dish she made us and the very delightful Valentine treats made by the women from the "Women's Cup of Joy" group who so graciously invited us to join them in their luncheon feast. The Plein Air paint-outs on Tuesdays and discussion group meeting are free and all are welcomed to come and participate.
May you find your subject everywhere you look this week and gain the courage to be the "Rebel" to capture it,
Michael E. Vermette
Coordinator of the Plein Air Connection
If you have enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to share it with others. Comments are always welcomed. To join this newsletter go to www.michael.vermette.com and join my newsletter which is free.
Area Below Water: Photoencaustics
Thursday, February 6th
from 5-7 pm
February 6 - March 29
Area Below Water No. 23
11" x 14"
Area Below Water No. 30
16" x 20"
Area Below Water No. 25
14" x 11"
Coastal Plein Air
Thursday, February 6
from 5 - 7 pm
February 6 - March 29
Behind the Parsonage
18" x 24"
Oil on canvas board
30" x 40"
Oil on canvas
Ocean at New Harbor
30" x 36"
Oil on canvas
24" x 36"
Oil on canvas
Boats of Castine, ME
18" x 24"
Oil on linen
View of Cadillac Mountain from Schoodic Point
16" x 22"
Oil on canvas
Six Mile Falls, Kendaskeag Stream
14" x 22"
Oil on canvas
Elizabeth Moss Galleries
251 US Route 1
Falmouth, ME 04101
Hours: Tues - Sat, 10-5
The Plein Air Connection Newsletter February 3rd, 2014
"February Tidal Pools at Schoodic Point" an oil on board 12 x 16 inches by Michael E. Vermette
We had a much brighter day painting at Schoodic Point last Tuesday than we did the Tuesday before in the cold rain. The wind was blowing out of the west and it was intolerably cold to paint in it. So all of us found shelter tucked behind trees or the ledges along the eastern side of the Point. The surf was up and seemingly going out, so we got great wave action upon our arrival. The artists who attended were Karry Maldanado, Alison Dibble, Kay Carter, Teddi-Jann Covell and myself. After we finished painting at about 2 PM we ate at a local pub in Winter Harbor to get a bit to eat and look at our paintings with fresh eyes. Then later that evening we all attended the Bangor Art Society meeting at the Brewer Arts Center where we painted images on pottery plates or cups with our fellow society members. It was a long and wonderful day but we were all fully engaged in the art life.
"Schoodic Point" an oil on panel 11 x 14 inches by Kay Carter
Alison Dibble has invited us join the PAPME Norther Chapter of the Plain Air Painters of Maine tomorrow to paint at Blue Hill February the 11th. The following is the information for those who would like to attend:
DATE: Tuesday, Feb,4
LOCATION: Brooklin, ME
We have a wonderful invitation from Alison Dibble in Brooklin to join her and the painters of the Plein Air Connection from Bangor for a day of painting. Here is Alison's invitation:
Tradewinds has a large and busy parking lot, and I suggest rendezvous at the south end -- toward Rite Aid. From there we'll go just a few miles where about 3-4 cars can park at the roadside, and we can paint the Levesque Boathouse. Then we'd come to my house at lunchtime (bring your sandwiches, and I can have some hot beverages on hand), and go back out for another few hours, weather permitting, at a different site. We could come back to my place for the re-cap, or get coffee, some baked goods and so forth at Sandy's Provisions, a nice coffee, sandwiches, wine, and cheese store in Brooklin where we could sit together to look at paintings. If we finish up by 3:30 or so, the painters would be back in Bangor by 5 pm..
We also have information on The Castine Plein Air Festival 2014. We hope you will all be able to take part this year. The following is the information:
The Plein Air Connection meeting is rescheduled for this Saturday February 8th at the Holy Grounds Coffee Shop at Grace Church 1404 Broadway, Bangor, Maine. We will discuss "My People" on p. 143 to "Letter of Criticism" p. 159 in Robert Henri's The Art Spirit book. Joann Arsenault will be making us her special Chicken Gnocchi Soup! In the last meeting Kay Carter made us a terrific Corn Chowder with homemade bread. Thanks Kay it was delicious! Please feel free to bring art books with reproductions and paintings that you would like comments from the group. We will be meeting from 10 am to 12 noon.
The Bangor Art Society Member's show opening reception will be from 6 PM to 7 PM at the Bangor Public Library. Many of our Plein Air Connection group members have art exhibited in this fine show. There will be awards and a reception so it promises to be a fun night!
Hope to see you soon and stay caught up in the art life,
Michael E. Vermette
Coordinator of the Plein Air Connection Comment on or Share this Article →