Old Master study: Brueghel

From time to time it’s instructive to do studies from the Old Masters. You don’t really know anything about a work of art until you’ve copied it.

The Blind Leading the Blind

Pieter Brughel the Elder painted The Parable of the Blind in tempera on canvas in 1568. The original hangs in The National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples (very pink – I’d love to go someday). My copy is 20″ x 28″, pastel on board.

Washed away

30 knot winds tonight with driving rain and a flood warning until mid-day tomorrow. We’re expecting 20′ waves and the shore roads are closed to traffic. This is a big, slow moving storm and the ground is still frozen – water is streaming down our dirt road to make a muddy delta on the highway. Almost all of our snow has melted away, leaving the brown and gray landscape that will stay with us until greening begins in April.

It’s a long time till April, so I’m posting pictures of the snow from my daily companion sketchbook. The landscape won’t look like that again until we come full circle around the sun.

Views I’m never going to paint

hydranga sept

This beautiful Hydranga grows in front of the office of a hotel on Rte. 3, about two feet from the busy highway on one side and the same distance from the roundabout on the other. All winter the plow trucks brush it by and dump sand and salt all over the little plot of grass it sits on. It never seems to be watered or cared for in the summer; they just mow the lawn around it and let it be.  No one prunes it or takes off the dead flower heads in the fall. Evidently hydrangaes love neglect.

I’ve admired this shrub for years and tried to draw it once or twice but I’ve failed miserably to bring across the sheer abundance of the blossoms, the fade from dark to bright on the individual flower heads as well as en masse and the strength of the branches underneath that carpet of foliage. It is now firmly in the category of “things I’m never going to paint”.

New Work – The Midway

smokeys greater shows early morning

Smokey’s Greater Shows, Walmart parking lot, Ellsworth Maine

From the Fryeburg Fair Chronicles:

Bud Gilmore, the show’s owner, explained that when Bud was four or five, his father Ronald had the “largest mare in the world” named Gene which weighed 3200 pounds. They lived on a farm in Bolyston, Massachusetts and showed the mare around rural New England and into Canada.

“Then shortly thereafter we built a hotdog and hamburger stand, and we traveled with that quite a few years. We had an old truck, and we carried the stand in that. We’d set it up, then my mother and father slept in the truck, and my brother and I slept on the ground. We did that until school started. Then we’d get boarded out, and they’d finish up fair season. Somewhere in the 1950s we built a french-fry stand to go with it, a couple of games, and bingo later on.”

About 1965 the Gilmores loaned some money to a fellow with a fair route, and when he couldn’t pay it back, they took over the route. They didn’t own any rides at the time; they took care of the bookings, sold tickets, and collected the rents. Then they started buying rides. Their first one in 1965 was a tilt-a-whirl; a brand new one; which cost $22,000. “Now a tilt-a-whirl; of course they’ve improved somewhat, basically the same ride, just a little easier to set up; is around $250,000,” he said. “My father died in 1970 when I was finishing college. We had seven rides then, and I just went out and started running the show and buying more and more rides. Until now I’m at the point I’ve got too many rides. Don’t need them all, but we’ve got about 50 rides now I guess.” What was it like being a young boy working the fair circuit? Gilmore made it sound like an adventure with story after story, but he worked hard, too. He helped in the family’s hotdog stand, hustled soda or popcorn in the grandstand, helped with his father’s games, and found other moneymaking jobs for neighboring concessionaires.

And on a rainy summer morning I found them all laid out and idle in the Walmart parking lot at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning. I wandered around for a while, trying to make little sketches and samples of the amazing chemical colors, but I gave up and moved to a vantage point farther away. It was just too private down amongst the machinery.  Campers and RVs were scattered around and people were wandering half dressed, brushing their teeth or drinking coffee – I felt as intrusive as I would have been in a stranger’s living room, and moved off to make my observations from a nearby hill.

New work

bar-harbor-summer-morning-behind-the-shopsThe title of this piece is: “Bar Harbor in the summer, mid-morning low tide behind the shops looking toward the Schoodic Peninsula”. I have a friend who is an editor – a gifted person who can make sense of the combined history of the CIA and FBI, or sugar beets, or C++, or potty training. She has been making suggestions for my titling experiment. SP, can you help with this one?

Bar Harbor won’t look like this for long. There was a bulldozer parked just behind me as I made the drawings and photos that resulted in this piece. Soon the “Ship Shop” will be knocked apart and put back together as something shiny and, if the current designer has his way, rather Tudor-ish. I have no idea why “half-timbered” would be one’s choice of motif for a Downeast Maine fishing community. For one thing, we have fog, rain, sleet and all manner of cold moisture for most of the year; if the stucco was really structural it would be crumbled on its foundations by now. Perhaps the new construction will be fallen in and worn out enough to be fodder for my drawings in another 50 years or so – perhaps I’ll live long enough to find out.