Friday, July 19, 2019

Horseneck Beach in Winter

      Along the south coast of Massachusetts in the small town of Westport, there is a beach.  It’s a beauty.  Located along the western edge of Buzzards Bay and facing south, the two mile stretch of sandy windswept beach is a great spot to catch come rays, dip in the Atlantic and bird watch.  In season, there are more than birds to watch as bikini clad beauties walk, run and play alongside their tanned volleyball toting guys.

detail #1

     I like visiting Horseneck in winter and early spring.  The sun is lower, the color deeper, and the shadows are longer.  In the soft light the sounds of the ocean gently lapping against the shore with a rhythm the seems to match each breath I take.  Swoosh, ahhh, swishh ahhh, swoosh ahhh and each step I take falls into the same quiet song.  In the distance a gull screeches’ a call that echoes along the sand.  The dune are covered with long dead vegetation dancing with every sort blow of the wind.

     I love the soft variations of gray on an
detail #2
overcast morning.  It is sort of counter to everything else I paint.  So, I left my vivid colors alone for a bit, and stayed with the almost muted hues on one winter morning.  There is nothing else along the beach, just me, my sketchbooks and my thoughts.  I tuned in to the dance of light and the cold brisk wind.  My pencil captured the basic value shifts and my heart held to the moment.  To me, this is a soulful painting.


    
detail #3
 My friend, Rene’,  who passed away far to soon, loved this place.  This image reminds me of her overflowing heart, her smile, and her eternal optimism.  An intimate group of friends, stood one spring day, our feet in the ocean, to wish her farewell and pray.



     We printed her name in the sand and waited as the never ending tide washed away our work and the wind dispersed the remnants of her physical self leaving us with our memories and our shared love.

Horseneck Beach in Winter

    The timelessness of the ocean and Horseneck Beach in the winter feed my soul and for a time chose my colors and moved my brush.




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Road Home, Braga Bridge

Braga with Red Ship (detail)
   
     Uncle Ray is in his mid-seventies now.  He is aging well, and I imagine I might just look a bit like him as I get older.  My wife said when she met him, she could see where I got my sense of humor from.  When I was a boy, he was good to me.  He and my Aunt Hazel both were both very good to me and my sister when we really needed someone to be very good to us.

Braga with Red Ship (detail)
Braga with Red Ship (detail)
                (This blog looks to be a little longer than most of my blog posts, but stay with me, I think its worth it.)

   
     Uncle Ray told me a story when we were together last summer.  As kids, my sister and I used to spend parts of every summer with them, running with our cousins around the beaches and fields of Maine.  Those days linked me to the young fellas in those Stephen King stories I read starting in high school, then for the rest of my life.  Although I never faced down a vampire or searched for a dark tower, there have been days I felt like I faced down real evil, but I will leave those stories alone here.  My blog Hydelands addresses those darker tales.  Here I talk about my paintings, and right now, Uncle Ray’s tale and bridges.





Southside (deail)
     All my life I have looked at the nearly iconic Braga Bridge.  It is iconic to me at least.  I have drawn and painted it half a dozen times.  Recently one of them, Braga with Red Ship, has been loaned 
to the Massachusetts State House for display and also used as a cover illustration for one of their publications.  Two others featured here, South Side and Green Braga, are for me symbolic of my life.  I always return home.  The image of the Braga is as much home for me as the tree with my late brothers initials carved into it, or the shoreline under the bridge that I fished from with my uncles.
Southside (detail)
So, Uncle Ray, he painted that bridge, not like I did, but he painted it, with a four inch bristle brush.
“So, I was nineteen, maybe twenty, and I needed a job.  Had my son and my little girl was on the way.  We dint know she was a girl yet, no sono-things back then. So, I was workin’ at Frito-Lay with your father, but I hated it.  I wanted outside work.  I finished high school. I wanted a good job.  So a guy I knew told me the bridge crew was hiring.  I walked across the city.  None of us had cars yet.  We were bus folk for a few more years yet.  So I walked down to the

Southside (detail)
construction site.  It was huge to a country boy from Maine.  The cranes, welders, big trucks and what looked like a thousand young guys.  I asked around and found some guy, turned out to be one of the bosses.  I told him I was looking for a job.  He asked what could I do.  I told him ‘anything you want.’  He asked me if I was afraid of heights, and I said no, even though I had no idea if I was or not.  I had never been higher than a third floor.  ‘Follow me,’ he said and turned away.

     "We walked along the edge of the bridge, and yeah it was pretty high up, then we started climbing.  He led me all the way to the top, and now that was high.  And I didn’t shit myself or nothin’.  He turned around saw me just out of reach from his shadow and said  to me, ‘kid, ya got ya self a job.  Be here at seven-thirty tomorrow, and he walked away, leaving me to find my own way down.  That was a good job.  We worked from bos’n chairs hangin’ over the side, and on a good day we could see halfway around the world.”  His smile was huge with the memory.  “I was able to get my license and a car.  That’s how I came to be a painter for the last fifty-five years.”




     Now, I’d like to say it was his story that inspired my paintings.  It would fit.  It would be nice, but no. it was the other way around.  I gave him a print, the original sold years before, of The South Side, and that inspired his little story to me.  And you know, like so many other things my uncle and aunt did for me, that story came to me at just the right time.

     Uncle Ray filled some of the gaps in my life that my own father could not, and he said to me when I was able to thank him for it.  “Why do you think we had you up here every summer?”




     Bridges do awesome things.  They cross rivers and bays, valleys and streams.  And every now and then, they bridge time and take you home again.




Monday, April 29, 2019

Tucked In


     Provincetown Massachusetts the first landing spot of the Pilgrims.  They stay briefly before heading to Plymouth.  These days a very different type of pilgrimage takes place.  This small town has become a tourist mecca.  At one time it was a grand fishing village. My indoctrination to P-town was as a crewman on a 95 foot Coast guard cutter.  I would roam the galleries while my crewmates roamed the pubs and discos of the late 1970’s.  Whale watch boats ran cruises and ferry boats ran to Boston and Plymouth while we waited for a call to search for or tow in a fishing vessel in distress.  On one occasion, we executed a dramatic rescue that changed the way I saw myself, and from that new perspective, how I saw the world and how I fit into it.  A little heavy for this blog, but I mention it here to show the powerful connection I feel for this storied seaside town.


  
                                         Tucked In

    
 Most of the fisherman have moved on.  There are a few left, but it is the throngs of tourists that give the town its life now.  In the harbor there are hundreds of boats moored and waiting for the next cruise or sail.  The colors in the sky, the light changes constantly as the day evolves from morning to noon, then noon to dusk.  The deep blues shift deeper and then more red, to violet, to rose then fire red, it is an amazing transformation.  


     I walked along the sandy shore on one afternoon.  I was filled with a day of consuming fresh art and fried clams, French fries and a stuffie or two.  If you don’t know what a stuffie is, I feel pity for you, and will leave it at that.  The day was slipping away.  Down along the shoreline, several boats were beached for the day.  It was over. They were tucked in as the sailors had gone home.  On nights like this one, when the world gets quiet, I can hear the hissing of the sun as it tucks itself behind the horizon afforded by the ocean.  It is the sound of magenta.


     The evening follows, and the muse has been fed.


                                          



Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Drawn to Music Project

I wrote this text in 2015 as part of a booklet describing the project.  I wanted to share those thoughts.  I have worked on several new series since, but this first one is still close to my heart.  My studio is one flight down, no longer just steps away from the stage, but the muse is still strong, as are the beat, the guitars, and those powerful vocals!


The Venue


Along the industrial waterfront of Fall River, under the span of the now blue Braga Bridge, which provides a delightful rhythm of its own, one finds a beautiful green park.  At the southern edge of Heritage Park, there is a carousel.  The former merry-go-round from the defunct local amusement park spins memories and new fantasies as it twirls to the music of the calliope at its center.  Just beyond, the Battleship Massachusetts, a museum to World War II, floats on the river as if guarding the city, protecting it from ignorance and naiveté.   On special days, the song of a single trumpet can be heard echoing off the steel beams and granite walls.  There is a train museum, a working pier with a ferry to Block Island, and a freighter that makes regular trips to Portugal, what many residents would call the old country.  The ship’s whistles and horns add to the song of the waterfront.  It is a diverse mixture of sound that blends like a natural symphony.



Across the road, near the train tracks, the ones that sustain traffic to and from the state pier and cargo ships, are old factory buildings built of brick or granite.  The first, and smaller, houses a pub that features live music and tasty food.  It is a popular spot on weekend nights.  I am inspired by the sounds that sneak out of the opened doors, and by the people, dressed for date night, making their way over the cobblestone street toward the front door.  That door is emblazoned with the words, “No Colors Allowed.”


Behind the pub building stands a three-story granite factory building.  It is here that I have spent eighteen months creating my artwork.  From January until August of 2014, I have focused on the music inside.  Walking in, I step up the forty-two stairs to the third floor.  The stone walls are pleasantly painted in neutral colors.  The area is clean, not much like the factory it once was, but like a place where art is created and performed.  On show nights, I arrive in early
evening.  As I climb the stairs, the music of the sound check gets louder and clearer.  First the bass, the drums if there are any, guitars, and keys. I love the sound of the old Hammond as it kicks in, and finally the vocals.  I walk through the doorway and the sound is complete.  More times than not, a smile is drawn across my face.   I greet the staff and the volunteers of the Narrows Center for the Arts.  It is the home for up to ten studio artists in five working studios, and most importantly for the purposes of this project, home to hundreds of musical performances each year from which to be inspired and create ten oil paintings in eight months.  I am a slow and thoughtful painter.  This project required commitment and drive for me to complete.  This is my workplace and my muse.  The performers and the patrons who come into my studio before or after the shows are as much a part of this work as the paint, the brush, or my own hand.  The idea of this project was to show how performance art can influence visual art, and I am grateful for the experience.





The Performers

I had no idea about the range of musicians that would step though that doorway and onto the stage just a few dozen feet from my easel.  There were nights that it took extreme effort to remain an artist and not a fan boy.  When Carl Palmer, drummer for the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer came into the studio and began a wide-ranging discussion about art and painting, my heart beat like the sticks on his snare drum.  I have been a fan since I was sixteen or so.  There were others of note.  Dave Davies, of the Kinks, Dr. John, Leon Russell, The Zombies, Jefferson Airplane, Members of Little Feet, Live, and so
many more.  Some were up and coming performers, Seth Glier, Shamika Copeland, Samantha Fish, and many more.  On some level it is the last group that I found the deepest inspiration from.  The local folks who opened the shows, Mark T, Small, Rebecca Corriea, the many whose names slipped by in the shadows between the flood lights and the headliners.  Their names may have flitted by, but their impact remains.  I sat in the darkness of my studio with a dim lamp shedding a soft glow on the drawing table and drew with a soft pencil or a black marker and captured the gesture of the performance.  While I often found myself whistling and cheering with the audience for the headliners, (sorry Carl no sketches of you), it was the performers I did not know who allowed me to respond and create from their work.  They don’t even know how profoundly they influenced me, but they did.  As for the headliners, yes, they were important as well.  The sketches were cruder and less evolved, yet the impact of the songs in my head remained long after the echoes died out.





The Music

Ahh, the music.  It starts with folk and Americana, moves with a quick step to Rock and sometimes Jazz, and even a bit of Country.  There are solos and harmonies.  Sometimes the tunes are familiar and quite often they are new discoveries.  I love it when I discover something new.  Royal Southern Brotherhood came in with legendary family names and did not disappoint me with a group of songs that added to the legacies of at least two musical families.  I play the songs regularly.  Chuck Cannon, a man I had never
heard of, opened with a collection of songs that reminded me of Johnny Cash and so much more.  His deep haunting voice flowed over the rhythm and strum of his guitar.  Shamika Copeland is a powerhouse vocalist, reminding me of Etta James.  Her voice was like a great trumpet blast.



I love discovering new work and that’s my motivation with this series of paintings.  My intent is that they come across like a song heard for the first time.  It is no longer important who they were at the start.  What is important is how they are
received and translated.  The colors vibrate like notes on a scale.  The values are like a bass drum, beating the time and full of guidance.  My strokes of paint, like improvised flares during a solo.  Like the music and performances that inspired this work, it is more important now that that I am finished.  Like the songs on an album, this collection now belongs to those who are moved by it.  The Drawn to Music Project will continue at a slower pace.  I don’t think I could ever let go of this particular muse.  For now, this album is complete.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Return


     Let me flash back to 1981. It was mid-summer, hot humid and I was 20 years old.  I was a crewman on a Coast Guard small boat training for search and rescue.  There was a helicopter over head.  I remember thinking that it didn’t seem far enough overhead.   Seaspray was buffeting about cooling us off and the downward prop wash from the chopper seemed to cause a minor maelstrom around our 41ft rescue boat.  It was loud. It was exciting and yes it was memorable.  I looked over us toward the source of all that incredible power and energy and watched the crewman on the helicopter send down the rescue basket.  I wondered what he saw.  That though was quickly buried as training continued.  And as has often happened for me, buried was not forgotten
   

The Return


    More than 3 decades later, I found myself on a foot bridge on the coast of southern Maine watching day trippers returning after a day at sea.  I stood above the calm water inhaling the salty air, listening to the seabirds calling to each other from across the channel and remembering those times spent training under the helicopter.  The thought, buried, or filed away back in 1981, came to the fore of my mind.  My persistent muse doing her job.  I thought, this is the view I wondered about.  Although there is no adventure to the view, the perspective was a new one to me, and because of the whispered memories, inspiring as well.


     I watched as the boat disturbed the placid deep blue water, creating ripples that worked toward the shore.  Two men in wet gear stood in the pilot house area, the decks had already been cleaned.  It was the end of a long work day.  The interplay of color called to my creative side, and marked a place upon my memories in the same way my experience with the helicopter rescue training had.


     It amazes me how memory is linked.  Side by side unrelated events join each other and spark my creativity.  


The Return is my poem for both the journey of that small day tripper and the journey of my memories across the decades.






Friday, March 29, 2019

Reflecting on All That I Know

     Some few years ago my wife and I began taking day trips around New England.  We decided to travel to destinations within a three hour car ride.  I find driving relaxing, and, well she enjoys the company, me.  One of our go to spots is Rockport Massachusetts. 

It is a small artistic seaport community about an hour north of Boston located on a jutting out bit of land that creates a picturesque harbor for both pleasure craft and working lobster boats.  There is also a fleet of rental kyaks that shove off from a dock just east of Rockport’s most famous icons, Motif #1, a deep red boathouse that has been the subject of artist’s and photographer’s work for years beyond memory.

     I chose not to paint it.  I looked south to the mixed fleet of vessels that filled the harbor and the old colonial buildings in the distance behind them.  What caught my fullest
attention were the reflections and the movement of the waters surface as it moved and shaped those reflections.  Color upon color shimmered and danced to music I could not hear.  But I felt it, and out came my pencil.  A few quickly drawn lines and some scribbles, a few short notes and a trip to the studio begat the drawing.  This was the foundation.


      There is not an attempt to create a portrait of these reflections or their source.  This was an effort to dig deep into my knowledge, limited or not, of color.  I stressed high intensity and unnatural color, some might say crayon box of colors, and fit them together in a way that feels both calm and satisfying.          The reflections act as a metaphor for my understanding of color and how it works.  The motif, Rockport Harbor and the working boat also a metaphor, serve to remind me of the work and beauty of my journey as an artist.
The passionate red of the vessel in the lower right, welcomes a viewer into the story, the vertical lines, telephone posts, radio antenna, play a rhythm to an hypersonic song. 



     The swirls of current and dots of color dance around the reflections and the thoughts as I consider the lessons and advice that led to years of continued searching and discovery.  

     I find comfort in those lessons and in those thoughts as I sit on a weathered old dock, reflecting on all that I know. 

 Taylespun Studio Store


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Morning Light, Wharfside


                        "Red sky in morning, sailor take warning."
  
     I heard that old rhyme so many years ago, it sits with me like a prayer told after confession. 




     It’s just a part of me. 

     2/3 of my life have passed since my time in the U.S. Coast Guard, and my memories of that time, while fading, are as much of who I am as the old rhymes and prayers of my boyhood.  We don’t have to think about breathing, it just happens, and time slips aside, revealing times and faces lost behind the mists of priorities, deadlines, and trauma.  Sometimes, I remember an emotion or a sensation, not quite as powerful as a full on emotion.  I embrace my memories as well as those feelings.  They are whispers of my muse, gentle, prodding, sometimes downright inspiring. 
When it happens, I get quiet.  My breathing slows.  My eyes loose focus and I am seeing on another more clear level of awareness.  I get that feeling when I am looking at a masterwork at a museum, a newly discovered painting in a random gallery with a forgotten name, or when I see and image that needs to become one of my paintings.  Morning Light, Wharfside is inspired by just such a moment.




detail
        Walking along a wharf in Provincetown, Ma, I had such a sensation, bringing me back to my nineteenth year on this earth.  I was a seaman on a Coast Guard cutter, the Cape Horn to be specific, 95322 painted in black on her gleaming white hull. 
     
     Yes, I painted those numbers, and the name on her stern as well.  I stood watch many times during my two years serving on her crew.  Daytimes, evenings, late nights and early mornings, and after all those years, I know I am still a bit of a night hawk.  I prefer the night to mornings.  I function better in every way.  In fact I hate mornings.  Back then, as that nineteen year old, and for a few more years, my favorite time of day was sunrise.  Not the sunrise you see when you get out of bed early enough to see it, but the sunrise you see after a night, awake, aware, and active.  That sunrise would link two days together, and fill the new one with hope.  I never felt as though a red sky was necessarily a warning, I loved the mood of the red or really, magenta color.  It filled me with hope for the new day.
detail


     Some thirty-five years later, standing on the shoreline that gave a great view of the wharf in Provincetown, on a hot afternoon, I felt that shift in time, a sidestep into old emotion.  The magenta to red, the first rays of sunshine reflecting from the building, the people waving behind them, and the light flickering along the water surface.  They are all symbolic to me.  As I painted this piece, I felt every bit the older, wiser man I had become, looking back, connecting with the young man discovering hope in the early light, and I realized that his hope was not misplaced.