I had to do errands Downeast this fall and made time to stake out a painting spot on the wharf in Corea. The tide here runs 10′ or more, so timing my visits for the same time of day (for the light) and tide was complicated but worth every minute staring at the fine print in the almanac. I hope to get here when there’s snow on the ground some day.
Corea Wharf, Low Tide, 24 x 36, oil on panel
I need to do a follow up post on waffle beds in the garden, possibly another on the new hive of bees, and I still haven’t planted out the spinach. On the other hand, my studio time has been very productive (and the spinach seeds can wait another few days).
Seawall, Low Tide Afternoon, 24 x 36 oil on panel
The title of this post drew you right in, didn’t it? My apologies. This isn’t a post about delicious breakfast treats served with maple syrup, it’s even better than that. This is a revolution in gardening technique and it begins with a rebellion against the most popular home gardening trope of the century – raised beds.
There are various theories on the origin of the raised bed in the American landscape, but most point to a series of very popular television shows that promoted them for their orderly appearance and ease of management. Digging over rectangular coffin-sized sections of the garden and segregating them into different plant varieties has advantages, but most of these examples were produced under ideal conditions with superior soil and abundant irrigation. Those of us with very little or very poor soil and irregular rainfall had less favorable results. In the long haul, root action forces salts to the elevated surface and the resulting crust sheds water down the sides of the bed. I don’t water or irrigate and rainfall is rarely gentle or consistent enough to work through the top layers – especially when it breaks a drought and the soil is very dry.
In this sense, it’s very much like I’m gardening in a desert – a desert of my own making! Waffle beds have been used for centuries in gardens all over the world to address just this problem. Instead of building up, and exposing more soil to air and sun (good for plants and bad for dirt) the waffle bed sinks the level of productive soil below a surrounding dike of poor soil, conserving water and nutrients as well as providing a wind break.
I’m planning on spending the day building my first waffles (well, after the dump run, visiting with my mother, getting the groceries in. . .) and will post Part Two of this saga shortly. Meanwhile, here’s a drawing from Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, courtesy of Amarillo Tableland, who posted this in 2011 and has an excellent series on seasonal results.
From Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands
On day last October I meandered down the coast and finally settled on a view across the harbor to the Town of Stonington in the late day sun. It was cool and clear and I managed to dodge the group of photographers with HUGE lenses who were also hunting for the perfect light; that trophy view of little white structures gamely climbing the hill above the ocean.
Many thanks to the Stonington Free Library for providing shelter and a place to check my email. The librarian was endlessly patient with folks who couldn’t remember the last name of the author (Wilder) or the title of that series about Merlin (which turned out to be the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart). It was a wonderful day.
Little White Town I, Stonington, 18″ x 36″, oil on panel
I spent a lovely week on Great Spruce Head Island a few years back and have sketchbooks, drawings, and photos that I’ve been working on ever since. The color swatches alone are enough to bring up detailed memories of the morning light on Penobscot Bay and thunderstorms on hot afternoons under the spruce trees. This is a study of the rock that ends Double Beaches like a punctuation mark, 12 x 16, oil on panel:
This site has been very, very good to me. . .something about the stacked layers of rocks and water going straight out to the horizon that is visually compelling. Right now in late June and just past the longest day it’s like a desert down there on the rocks, but I took a long hike along the shore on Mother’s Day when the snow still extended down to the water’s edge and made the start to this painting.
By popular request, here are some details. . . the far reaches are under water at high tide and are covered in rockweed and barnacles, turning them a lovely warm sepia color even in the dead of winter.
Detail of the rotten snow along the tide line:
And finally, the drawing stage from the site. This is Ivory Black oil on a tinted board.
Last summer I was able to spend a week painting on Great Spruce Head Island. This is a small piece based on studies and photos of a rock at the end of the Double Beaches: 12″ x 16″, oil on panel.
Two weeks ago I posted a new work-in-progress and then the site went down for a few days and I never posted the finished piece. Here it is with additional detail and the final glaze in Ivory Black.
If I’d given more thought to the process of changing from pastels to oils after all this time I would have started with studies – small pieces with discrete subject matter as exercises – rather than full on painting subjects. This is the first drawing, in brush and ivory black, for a series of still life studies featuring grapes and the occasional red plum. I think they will be very educational.
I had a week off in June and decided to make the switch from pastels to oil paints. It has been a steep learning curve, no matter that I painted for a decade before we had a baby and I decided to use a less toxic medium.
I’m working from sketches and photos from last winter of this site in Acadia National Park, 18″ x 24″, oil on board.
Pastel on board, 6 x 18″, Light Snow on the Bass Harbor Rd.