Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Maine Workshop (Part II)

(Read Part I here.)

I spend a lot of time preparing for my workshops. Ask anyone who has taken one from me. I give my students hefty handouts loaded with information, and I try to tune in to their needs as artists and help them in any way I can while we're together. I spend months preparing for my classes, and, in the case of my Maine workshop, I plan not only the art lessons, but also transportation, lodging, meals, tours, and leisure activities. If I could control the weather, I'd do that, too!

So when the day finally arrives that I pull up to Primrose Cottage, hop out of my van, unlock the door and walk inside, ready to welcome my guests, I breathe a sigh of relief. The hard part is all done - now I get to enjoy a week filled with painting, friendship, beauty, and laughter.

The first evening is always a time to get to know each other a bit. My mom and I cook a nice homemade meal, then we all go for a walk on Crescent Beach.

It's so beautiful that it's hard to believe it's real.

Our days are filled with painting at the cottage and day trips to sights around the area. Evenings are spent painting, reading, walking on the beach or making a quick trip to town for a treat...

One of our favorite day trips this year was to Merryspring Nature Center in Camden. We were the only visitors that day, so we were able to spend an entire morning sitting quietly and painting, each of us entirely engrossed in the our own little world of flowers, grass and sky.

Can you find the three artists? (Click to enlarge)

That's me sketching irises. Watch for a step-by-step tutorial coming soon!

My mother, a non-sketcher, had no problem filling the hours of waiting while the group and I drew and painted. She read...



Saundra making her famous potato salad

and did yoga!

I couldn't begin to do this workshop without her.

She's almost 84 years old and more energetic and spry than most women half her age. She has a great sense of humor and kept us all laughing during the hours of riding around in my van during the week. One of the students said, "No offense to you, Leslie, but your mother is my favorite!" They all want her to adopt them. :) But she's mine...all mine! I am, however, happy to share her.

One evening we all had lobster for dinner, fresh from Penobscot Bay...

It was a new experience for some of the ladies...

"Eeek! What do I do with it?!"

One of my favorite places to share with my students is the Vesper Hill Children's Chapel in Rockport. Tucked away on a wooded peninsula, it's a little gem of a spot with a tiny outdoor chapel and perennial gardens lovingly tended by volunteers. The hilltop chapel has beautiful views out over the bay.

The flowers were spectacular this year...

Are you familiar with Andrew Wyeth's painting, Christina's World? The house in the famous painting is now part of the Farnsworth Museum, and visiting it was one of my favorite experiences during our week in Maine.

The house has recently been renovated, so it doesn't have the weather-beaten look that it used to have, but after a few Maine winters, it will look like a Wyeth painting again.

The interiors are spare, much as they were when Christina and her brother Alvaro lived there.

The bedrooms are worn and unadorned.

Most hold only a simple chair and, on the wall, a print of an Andrew Wyeth painting of that room.

Walking through those silent rooms was something akin to a spiritual experience for me. Wyeth's technical skill and artistic vision are a marvel, and his artwork stirs something inside me. Being in that place that held such importance to him was moving and inspiring.

The views from the Olsen house are expansive and include fields of wildflowers, a neighboring farm, and the sparkling waters of Penobscot Bay.

Walking through a meadow, down the hill from the house, we came upon an old cemetery.

There, within sight of Christina's house, stands a simple black headstone marking the grave of  Andrew Wyeth, world-renowned painter.

Just steps away is Christina's grave.

Several of us sketched the view of fields and house that Wyeth chose for "Christina's World".

It was a perfect setting for making memorable sketches.

On the last day of the workshop, we finally made a visit to Camden Hills State Park, home of Mt. Battie. I had waited all week for the perfect time to drive the ladies to the top of the mountain. On a clear day the views from the top are breathtaking.

Click to enlarge photo

It can be overwhelming to sketch a view that expansive, but we found that the distance between us and the subject helped to eliminate much of the detail, making it easier to draw and paint the scene.

We were the only artists sketching on Mt. Battie that day. Everyone else spent their time furiously snapping away with their cameras. A cursory glance, the press of a button, then back to the car they went. We artists sat and stayed. And looked, and studied, and really saw that view. And the impressions we recorded will stay in our minds for a long, long time.

It was a wonderful week for all of us, life-changing for some. We made new friends...

and learned more about ourselves.

We reveled in extraordinary beauty and grew more comfortable with our ability to capture it on paper.

We relaxed...

and were so very grateful for this chance that we all had to be together in this extraordinary place.


  1. Sigh. Is there a prettier place? Both your photography and your word pictures are beautiful.

    I love Andrew Wyeth. Wind From The Sea is one of my favorites. I enjoyed seeing a glimpse inside the Olson house.

    1. It's one of my favorites, too, along with "Her Room".

    2. Do you have a favorite book about Wyeth and his paintings? I've been wanting to look for one.

  2. I always enjoy your trips to Maine, Leslie. There is so much to see and do there. I'm heading up for a quick trip soon, so this post makes me anticipate what I will find. Thanks for sharing.


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