Saturday, September 18, 2010


View of the Ed Johnson House where we are staying

Ed Johnson, a watercolorist, has a studio next to the house where he shows a nice collection of marine subjects.
Today is our last full day on Monhegan. We were up early painting from the porch and then Alex and I went over to Gull Cove.

When we cross the island we have most of our gear in a backpack. If my canvas is to big, I just carry it or bungee it on my backpack. I like the tray that fits on my easel, but you could buy a small plastic one that would fit in your back pack. I usually put my camera around my waist, backpack on my back, and then I rest my tray with a fully laid out palette on the top of my camera.

Diana and her painting gear ready to go
Day 6 (Notice tired eyes, but still smiling!!)

Take Trail #5 out to Gull Cove. It is a gorgeous view of Gull Rock, the Cove, and Whitehead. To get to the trail go past the grass at the top of Horn Hill follow the road until you see a sign for the Hitchcock house. Turn left at that sign and go a little ways down until you see some rocks laid at the beginning of the path and a tree limb that hangs over the path. On the limb it will say Trail #5. This trail is not too difficult with lovely grasses on either side.

Alex at the head of Trail #5 to Gull Cove

This is generally the way the trails look winding with tall grasses

These are the two views you will have when you get there.

Gull Rock from Gull Cove

Gull Cove

I am obsessed with Dogs and there was the cutest one cooling off

Later on another dog did some fetching in Gull Cove

After Gull Cove we headed into town because today was Lighthouse Day. The lighthouse was open from 11pm to 4pm. There is a really top notch museum, a wonderful art collection, and of course a tour to the top of the lighthouse. I met one woman who said as a child she did not use a flashlight, but just waited until the lighthouse made its rotation to find her way.

The current lighthouse was built in 1850. It is 48 feet tall and built to last of granite. In 2009 the lighthouse was completely restored. There were so many coats of paint they could not tell the steps had a lattice pattern until the scraping began.

Lighthouse Stairs

In 1995 solar power was installed and the lighthouse is still active. I was fascinated by all this as a ship built by my great grandfather was wrecked in Lobster Cove. The museum's curator kindly did a little research for me on the schooner "John Somes". It was built in Mt. Desert I am assuming by my great grandfather Thaddeus Shepley Somes who had a shipbuilding operation in Somesville at the Mill Pond. The article that Jennifer Pye copied for me was titled "Schooner Goes to Pieces" According to the article it went ashore on the southern end of Monhegan Island. It was a total loss. In another account, it told of the crew looking for land and traveling for seven to ten miles before reaching shore. The men rowed entirely around the islands of Monhegan and Manana (Mena). I first saw a picture of the wreck in a book about Samuel Triscott's photographs and paintings. In my early career I worked at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History and from what I can see there is a high level of professionalism in the Monhegan Museum!!

View from the Lighthouse Tower

After the lighthouse we painted on Fish beach. So much fun.....had to move twice for the tide coming in. Dinner at the Monhegan House. Really Yummy!!!!
One final dog..........Bubba is too cute!!!
Monhegan really pulls at my heart. It is beyond special. Today we looked up and saw a large bubble just floating high over our heads. It seemed miraculous just like Monhegan.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The Maine Landscape Guild 2010
Mary Walsh, Elaine Lisle, Diana Ansley, Alexandra Tyng, Nancy Bea Miller, Eliza Auth

Cold, Rainy, and Windy this morning.....

Down to the Business of Painting

Diane Tesler one of my favorite teachers has such great sayings. I have often thought of doing a lexicon of her sayings. One of them is to keep the paint on the business end of the brush. This is sometimes hard to remember in the moment of plein-air painting. We are often working very quickly to capture a light or just beat the looming storm. Yesterday, I settled behind a house already boarded up for the season. The next time I looked up the sun was gone, it was cold, and the day had ended. I had my camera, but the battery was dead. Admittedly I was tired, but when painting I think you have to be intelligent. There is great emotion in painting as you try to capture the feeling of a place, but keep in mind where you are and where you want to go with the painting. You cannot lapse into “licking” the canvas.

To fight this off, I often reread all my notes on painting over the years to get myself centered to paint. The MLGuilders thought carrying postcards of artist’s that inspire us would be helpful when we are waffling. This might be better than notes as we are all very visual!

It is a must to have all your equipment in working order. I usually carry extra bolts and screws to repair my easel when it loses one. A list of supplies helps one to remember what they should be bringing. This is my list from a plein-air workshop I run with Alexandra Tyng.


Plein-Air Painting Supplies

Diana’s Portable plein-air necessities

Backpack to store everything

silocoil jar for solvent (Extra Solvent in case of a spill)

brushes and palette knives in a lightweight plastic jar like a thin Skippy peanut butter container/I also have a small plastic tube that I Velcro to the leg of my easel for wet paint brushes

palette (wooden preferred) paper does not work well on a windy day and glass is too heavy

if you are climbing a mountain!

Plastic or wooden cutlery box- Buy or make a box and drill holes in the bottom. Then run wire through the holes and attach it to the triangular sections of the stanrite easel. Cover the bottom of the box with paper towels to wipe your brushes as you paint. Then use one slot to hold your brushes and medium. Take out two sections for cutlery to have a place for the silocoil jar and paper towels.

paints in a large Ziploc bag or sorted by color in small Ziploc bags (best thing I have done is this so you don’t spend minutes looking for a certain color)

paper towels- brawny or those blue shop towels

tall kitchen trash bag with handles so you can tie it to your easel

stanrite backpack easel SR 100 which will be bungeed to the backpack

2 Small thin bungee cords / Metal clips to clip backpack or camera to center of stanrite easel for weight when windy

Small sketchbook, Pencils, and Erasers

Canvas or panels-toned with a wash of burnt umber or raw sienna

Small level- this is great when you are on uneven ground

View Finder



Insect repellent

Water and Snacks

Camera and extra batteries!


We are off to paint on the other side of the island the sun has broken through for the moment. We took trail #4 off to Gull Cove we turned left when we came to the cliffs and went a little ways to Gull Cove. When you look to the right you can see Gull Rock and to the left is Gull cove and Whitehead. Both of them are stunning views.

View of Gull Cove

View of Gull Rock

My easel is all set up for the day. Note the tray that is wired to the Stanrite easel.

We had four artists over tonight for drinks which was lots of fun. Three of them were from New Hampshire and Maine. One of them was a long time resident of Monhegan and Port Clyde

News Flash ...........MLGuilder Nancy Bea Miller takes the prize at Monhegan night Bingo. Yes, it is true she has done it!! She returned with the coveted lime green lunch box decorated by the Monhegan students. This was a great event to raise money for the school and thanks Nancy Bea for being there!!!

Goodnight from Monhegan

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Today has been a full day of painting. I began at seven again working on the view to the right of the house. The light comes on the houses around 7:15 and then it crosses them and leaves them in shadow in about an hour and forty-five minutes! Not a very long time to work. This a dear little scene with the houses half in shadow and light and lots of angles.

At nine I stopped and headed to Lobster Cove. I thought I would show all the sights of this beautiful walk to the cove. As I came down Horn Hill, the electric company was working on the lines. This young lady was confident in her job.

At the Monhegan House the knitters were in full swing. Monhegan is full of artists, knitters, birders, hikers, and day trippers. The knitters have a full agenda. They begin with a superb breakfast at the Monhegan House. This is followed by a hike, knitting, yoga and then lunch. In the afternoon there is more knitting and I think they said more yoga. These women are having fun, laughing, learning and building memories.

This morning I spotted a truck hauling something in off the ferry. Later I saw that it was a new washing machine left smack in the middle of someone’s doorway on the porch. At the same house, they are getting ready for winter as well. A young man was hauling in about thirty bags of coal into a cellar. Stacked on the porch and lawn were new cords of wood.

Bikes and Trykes of Monhegan

The Trailing Yew is just up on the right which is quite popular and serves home style dinners.

There are a variety of dogs and a met two cute ones Bess and Riley. My camera was on the fritz so my apologies to Bess, but I had to put it in any way.

I met Donna Cundy who has two beautiful dogs Schooner and Scout and a cat Lola. They were getting groomed. Schooner has a Facebook page! He is a rough collie with a blue merle coat. I was wild about both of them as I am missing my border collie, Tucker. Scout is just eight months old and has an adorable face as you can see. Donna’s house came down to her from the English artist Samuel Triscott.


Scout and Schooner


This boat was keeping watch on the path to Lobster Cove.

Trap Day preparations are in full swing as I found two men painting buoys and stringing traps.

The red house with the picket fence is a favorite of mine complete with an anchor in they yard, roses, and a view of the lighthouse.

Just as you come in the cove, Jamie Wyeth’s house sits on a high rock bound shore. There were easels set up on the porch and movement in the house. So inspiring for us artists. Lobster Cove was just brimming with excitement.

There was a birder looking at Merlins which are a type of Peregrine Falcon. Knitters were there setting up a photo shot of their newly knitted sweaters. One woman was combing the beach for ocean tumbled sea glass. There were artist’s painting the wreck of the D. T. Sheridan. The Sheridan ran aground in 1948. I decided to paint Alex painting the D. T. Sheridan with other flotsam and jetsam from the Sheridan in the foreground. There were luscious grasses at the shoreline and even a green garter snake. I find it amazing to have such an interesting variety of people, architechture, animals, and boats on such a humble road.

Tonight is pouring on Monhegan and it is a lovely sound in the house.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MONHEGAN Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Winter winds almost seem to be whipping across the island. They have continued through the night with our doors rattling. I put a pillow in my door at 4:30am. The whistling wind blew through the window frames last night. We were up at 6:00am and painting by 7:00am. I had two sweaters, a windbreaker, gloves, and a fleece head bead and I needed every bit of it. Mary and I painted the cluster of houses just to the side of ours just as light was coming on the buildings. Alex did the view of Mannana and the shoreline just as light broke on the island. By nine the light had changed so we all headed in various directions for our next paintings of the lighthouse, the back porch, and marsh.

Wash in the Wind -This dog is everywhere!!

This is not really for the faint-hearted painter as we take advantage of the early morning light and late daylight when the shadows are long and the light golden. A blustery day can present many problems besides the cold. Easels get blown over and paintings sail away. Eleven to three seems to be our down time as the sun is directly above and does not tend to make interesting light. You have to be flexible when doing this as light, weather, and conditions change often. You have to have good light equipment as most times we are doing a hike before we paint.

Alex and Nancy Bea windblown from the Lighthouse

Speaking of conditions, when renting on an off island be careful where you go! This year our house is very nice, but not without surprises. We apparently share a bathroom with the owner!! He has not been here yet, but that could be interesting. You can’t flush toilet paper and we must either take our trash to the mainland or pay a fee. We were told we should not paint inside the house. This last request is a problem as many of us tone and block in the night before we paint. When renting be sure and ask many questions.

View from our Bathtub

Our Royal Blue Baby Tub

We do have a sweet, royal blue, baby claw foot tub that makes washing hair interesting. The water is the color of tea, but hot! This house is well stocked with spices, flour, sugar, and other condiments, but other years there was nothing. Wine and Beer are easy to find, but not spirits. This has become a problem and we are only day three! As far as shopping on Monhegan, there is a fine selection of cheeses, wine, fish, and vegetables. For the uninitiated, you should know that one must shop early in the day because quantities are limited.

Island life obviously has its drawbacks. One young man has posted a sign that he will only answer island questions at one dollar a pop. He is readying himself for the upcoming lobster season. It is nearing Trap Day when the islanders are free to begin lobstering off Monhegan. Many of the lobstermen are repairing their traps for the season. Boats named “Barbara Jean”, “Pandora”, and the “Alice B” are painting their traps, checking, and coiling up the lines. This celebration, which happens October 1st, is when everyone helps load and prepare the traps for the upcoming season. Apparently, if one lobsterman cannot attend then it is postponed until all can attend. Monhegan has a protected area where only Monhegan lobstermen may fish. It extends two miles from the shores of Monhegan to the north, east, and west. To the south they may fish three miles out to sea. Talk about having an interesting workplace!

Mary made a very fresh dinner of haddock tacos with salsa. We all feel exhausted from fighting the wind. I thought I had it under control and my painting and hat flew away today!! I tried to capture the wind in these to painting which still need much work!

These are the beginnings of my first two paintings