I moved to Maine thinking I would be able to paint. Well, my “canvas” has been the house and the barn more than canvas, paper, and panel. But my focus has been on “infinity,” and in particular, the infinity of God’s goodness. Last night, seeing the multitudinous stars before the moon made an appearance, prompted me to write this blog.
So let’s move to the color blue. Jill and I were at Schoodic Point, where the waves were sending up vertical fountains of up to 20 feet or more, and she said “there are infinite blues.” What prompted that observation was the “trim” colors we were studying for the house. As I mentioned in a recent post, the lobsterman who grew up in the house had chosen a grey blue color that I have been seeing on the ocean, somewhere between the rocky shore and the horizon. Philip and I chose a more cerulean hue for the two single French doors that had been added downstairs to the front hall. That’s when we discovered there were at least three blues in that part of the house: the front door exterior was a deep almost midnight blue, the stair risers were another blue…so already we have four blues working together.
But the exterior of the house is white (very very Maine) with black shutters and door trim. However, repaint is advisable. Starting with the worst area, I began scraping and sanding the barn door, which at present is an overhead garage door with windows. The paint just flaked and peeled off, so a lot of bare, somewhat scabrous wood was left. Why go to black again, the artist instinct said. So we narrowed our paint choices to something called “Poseidon,” which won over blues that had a fair amount of green with titles like “Moon Bay” and “Tower Bridge.” You can get small cans to paint a big enough area to see if it works, but this blue looked right, so I came home with a gallon of the most expensive paint I’d ever bought.
I couldn’t paint right away, of course, because priming seemed requisite. When I paint a canvas, I always start with a “ground”– what I want to “show through,” as a foundation. In this case, I had been painting the new barn stairs and flooring an iron oxide red, and saw no reason to wash the brush out, so the white sealer and primer came out in pink tints. Over the black and grey weathered wood, it looked like with a bit of graffiti, it would have been something you might see on a railroad car or in a New York gallery. Ah, but on a cold and nippy morning, I began applying the “blue.” Oddly, it looked very familiar. I couldn’t get it out of my consciousness that I really had known this blue since childhood.
Now, you have to realize that the context is the down east Maine coast. Ever changing skies and sea, with, as Jill says, “infinite blues.” And not only constantly changing, but varied beyond description. Blue-gray-purple clouds funneling from Cadillac Mountain over the harbors and bays, sometimes forming a cloud wall a mile or two out on the ocean, always moving. And suddenly, a strip of cerulean, bold across the sky (I think I can find a photo of this). The Prospect Harbor lighthouse almost disappears in a grey mist, while the boats enjoy a royal blue haven in the foreground.
But, hold, where have I seen this blue, that the brush is happily applying to this plug ugly garage type door? I tell Jill excitedly, “this is the blue when there were adds for “Dutch Boy” paint when I was little (as archetypal as the little girl with the umbrella on the cylindrical salt container designed by someone we met years ago–or the elderly lady we met who was the “Gerber baby” on millions of baby food jars for decades–who still has those recognizable features).” And simultaneously with that recollection, I remembered the two breakfast nook blue wooden “settles” in my grandparent’s neo colonial home in New York state (right out of “Raggedy Ann and Andy”) . How very interesting, I thought. Then it really struck me exactly where I had seen that precise color. It was, again, before I was 5 years old, in the federal style house where my dad’s ceramic professor at Alfred University used to serve us brownies and milk in blue glasses. Her Duncan Phyfe furniture (the real thing, from Massachusetts), and the iconic “classical” Franklin stove cheerily blazing away on a floor of wide woodplanks painted that blue.
Now the trick will be to find a ladder to take down the shutters and repaint them, and the other doors, and maybe even the porch floor. As an artist, I am unsure as to the outcome, as the black trim did work well with the dark roof…a nice study in black and white. However, Jill said,”let’s give the house a little pizzazz,” so here we go. I can’t wait to get back to canvas and paper in one of the two studios that are evolving here–the barn for large work and the beautiful upstairs room with two Edward Hopper Victorian windows for watercolors–with both feet on the ground. While I used to sail and enjoy climbing ladders, I have become a flatlander and a landlubber to boot. But an artist goes for broke, in more ways than one.
It all has to do with infinity, rainbows, and it is, as they say, ” All Good!”