It's a delight to be home, but I'm missing plein air painting. Why not do it here in Brooklyn? Well, I feel self-conscious. Will all the zillions of passers-by find me pretentious? Will they want to comment? Anyway I'm not feeling brave enough.
So I went back to work on a picture I started in June at Joe Perez's wonderful landscape class at the Salmagundi Club. I'm working from a photo I took in Bayeux, France a few years ago. Still some work to go.
When I was a kid we took trips to Port Jefferson, New York; as a theatre student I spent a summer there; and I've been there by boat before. One of the biggest, busiest harbors on Long Island, there are thousands of moored boats, frequent ferries, and freight traffic. A power plant looms over the town. But just around the bend there is an area marked on the nautical charts only as "spoil ground" (with no depths, buoys or other detail), sometimes called Mount Misery, that all the locals know as Pirate's Cove. Remains of an old sand quarry, there is rusting machinery, crumbled bits of dock and towering sand cliffs. It's completely different on a sunny weekend afternoon, when power boaters abound, with booze, boom boxes and boisterous kids. When they leave, Pirate's Cove/spoil ground morphs back into a strange and mysterious home to shellfish and seabirds.
This was the second time Maikel and I holed up in Hadley Harbor, just off Cape Cod, in bad weather. After sitting out a downpour the day before, we attempted to set sail, and were turned back by shockingly big waves and near gale-force gusts. Drenched in seawater, we returned to Hadley, which was looking pretty cozy by that point. I sketched this scene first though a porthole, staying warm and dry, then braved the elements with my paints. By the time I was wrapping up the wind was blowing some of the clouds away.
I'm learning to always carry a sketchbook, but sometimes I'm not quick enough, or possibly too self-conscious, to pull out the paints. . Lockeport, Nova Scotia has a superb lighthouse on a small island outside the mouth of its inner harbor. I sketched it twice. By the time I went back with paints, the fog had rolled in. The fishing boats were colorful even in the fog, but I definitely regret not painting the lighthouse.
Maikel and I arrived in the fog at Seal Cove, southernmost harbor on Grand Manan island in New Brunswick. Three days later we left, still in the fog. In the meanwhile, fog did its dance of seven veils for us. Distant hills revealed themselves rarely. Close-by houses came and went, and even our own boat sometimes disappeared. Sometimes the sun streams dazzlingly through the fog, leading to what locals call "fogburn". Painting in this changing, dreamy light was tricky and joyful. I prefer the fog-bound painting, done more quickly and once I already had gazed lovingly on the scene for many hours.
This harbor is essentially abandoned, as it is an old-fashioned drying harbor, not uncommon where the tidal range is more than 15 feet, as it is here. Boats could only go out at higher tides, and would moor so that when sitting on the mud they wouldn't tip over. The distant buildings are old herring smoking houses, mostly abandoned but some are now getting gentrified. The government built the town a new deep-water harbor with floating docks. Giant boats working the fish farms come and go at commuter hours, regardless of fog (they've got radar) and tide.
Maikel and I both love this little island with its tenacious evergreens. It's between Great Spruce and Little Spruce islands, right near Roque Island, the furthest north most sailors venture. By this far north in the Gulf of Maine, there are tides of about 12 feet, so sometimes this islet is connected to Great Spruce Island, and sometimes it's on its own.
I think there is a more developed version of this subject lurking in my brain, waiting for its time to emerge.
In Mistake Island Harbor off the coast of Maine. Really just a slot between a few small islands; by all rights there should be wild breakers here, but it's remarkably peaceful. A tribe of shy but curious seals came to see me while I was kayaking. First one and then another head would pop up then hurriedly dip back under. At one point I was surrounded by at least seven sets of watchful eyes. Not alone here, just a visitor of another species.