Friday, July 25, 2014

Castine Plein Air Festival - Day 1

No, I'm not painting "edgier" for this event - this is the view from my car window.

After teaching a plein air painting workshop on Wednesday, I dashed home, wolfed down lunch, threw my art gear in the car, and pointed the car toward Castine, Maine, for the Second Annual Castine P\lein Air Festival. I participated in the festival last year, but it was only a one-day event; this year, the organizers decided to expand the event to three days, so I was eager to get in some good painting time.

Castine could be the little town that time forgot. Could be, that is, except for the Maine Maritime Academy. Dominating the waterfront is the State of Maine, the Academy's training vessel. The MMA also occupies several buildings in the core of town, creating an anchor for the town's ongoing prosperity. Although school is now out for the summer, I am one of over 40 artists who have descended upon this working waterfront town like a flock of seagulls. We will be everywhere this week, perched on the docks, in front of historic homes, and at oceanside vistas. You can't miss us. Just look for the easels, the opened tailgates and the occasional umbrella.

I've been given lodging in a large house with six other artists and a couple of spouses. The owners have graciously vacated to their guest house next door, leaving us in charge of a truly wonderful "summer cottage." Other artists are from Maine, New York and Pennsylvania. One of the spouses has volunteered to cook dinners for us. Life doesn't get any better.

The evening of my arrival was gorgeous, but hot and muggy. The forecast called for a cold front to blow through with possibly damaging hail and wind. But after dinner and a listen to the big band concert at the waterfront, there was still little sign of a storm. It wasn't long, though, before the clouds rushed in, and I was thinking of Dorothy in Kansas. But the storm arrived like a lamb - just steady rain in the night without any fuss.

Morning for me came at 4:30. Too early to paint, but I went over the maps. The rain had stopped, and the weather seemed promising. But it wasn't to be - by 7:30, our check-in time for getting our canvases stamped, it was pouring rain. I picked up my goodie bag, got my ten 9x12 panels stamped, and then drove down to the waterfront to check the radar. By 8 or so, the rain petered out, the sky lightened, and things were good enough to set up.

But about half into the painting, the clouds broke again, and the rain was torrential. I'd positioned myself beneath a large deck umbrella, but to do so I was forced to straddle a picnic bench with my tripod. I moved in a little closer to keep the rain, which was cascading off the umbrella, off my back. By the time I finished, my shoes and pants were soaked.

I went back to the house to dry off. I suddenly discovered a strange purple stain on my pants, both front and back. That was odd, because the umbrella I had painted under was yellow. I hadn't used any purple paint. Where'd it come from? Then I remembered: My Gore-Tex raincoat had a purple lining. I'd never gotten the coat so wet before. Was it possible? Sure enough, when I tested the coat by rubbing the lining with a damp paper towel, the paper towel came away purple. How weird - using water-soluble dye in a raincoat?

It was only 10 a.m., but with the rain continuing, I decided to eat lunch. Back home, I met two other artists who'd had the same idea. I suppose the others were out with umbrellas and raincoats that didn't run in the rain.

Once I'd washed out the pants and dried them - we have a clothes dryer available to us - the rain seemed to have stopped. So, I headed out again and drove slowly down Perkins Street to look at houses and found a beautiful cottage with a view and an empty flagpole. I set up and began to paint, and sure enough, the rain began again. This second painting encountered a lot of intermittent drizzle. The lady who owned the house across the street from me came out to say hello, and since it was her mother who owned the house I was painting, she offered to raise the flag. "Don't you think it'd look better with a flag?" she asked. Sure, I said, and it did improve things a bit.

After that painting, the sun actually began to break out. I took a break myself and treated myself to an ice cream at the docks. I stopped in Lucky Hill Gallery to visit my painting friends Dan Graziano and Kristin Blanck. Re-energized by the walk and ice cream, I decided it was time to set up again.

This time, I set up right on Main Street, aiming to paint a historic building. And it didn't rain.

I'll post more photos later, but I made the mistake of taking a Chromebook with me on this trip rather than a regular laptop. Working in the "Cloud" isn't all it's made out to be. And the contortions one has to go through to get images from the camera to the Cloud to my blog - well, I still haven't figured it out completely. (And I'm about as computer-literate as they come; computer technology was my living for many years.) I might rant about that in a future blog post.

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