For the past 4 years I’ve been traveling to paint Maine and stay with the Nanatuck Painters. For a couple of months each summer, my dear friend and talented painter, Mary Erickson leases a large house in Port Clyde, within an easy walk down to the Marshall Point Lighthouse. Each year she invites professional artists to come and paint, laugh, eat lobster, and drink wine. Pretty much in that order. It’s kind of like a family reunion without the feuding. Nailed over the front porch is a large wooden sign. Carved in the wood in large white letters is the word Nanatuck. Mary began inviting the locals and stray artists to come for wine and cheese on Friday afternoons. After a couple of summers, the locals gave this benevolent occupation of artists the name Nanatuck Painters.
Last year, Bob Bahr, a writer for the Plein Air Magazine, came and stayed with us for a week. We painted together a few times, swapped stories on the front porch, and bought lobster fresh off the boat for dinner.
Bob ended up writing a wonderful article for Plein Air magazine on Mary and the “Nanatuck Painters”. Much of the camaraderie between artists stems from her generosity and willingness to share. All egos are left on the doorstep.
The gathering is laid back. The only rules are dinner at 8 and each artist has to make dinner one night a week for the group. Food you bring or buy is communal property. If not, store it in your room. Except for personal necessities, everyone shares; food, talent, tips, paint supplies and experiences.
Sometimes a few of us will paint together or go off on our own. Often we meet up for lunch somewhere. A favorite spot is the Slipway in Thomaston. Informal group painting expeditions are discussed and we might plan a day trip somewhere along the coast or to Monhegan Island. Last year, half a dozen of us went to Schoodic Point in Acadia Park.
Some places to paint are a lot closer. The sun rises around 5 a.m and sets after 8 p.m. I like to catch the sunrise a few minutes from the Nantuck house at Drift Inn beach. I rise early, make a Sumatra coffee in my french press cup, go paint while sipping my coffee, enjoying the peace. Then I go back to the house, eat breakfast, yak with the late risers and plan where to explore the rest of the day. Below is an oil study I made one morning. I started around 5:30 and took this photo about 7:30 a.m. Another sublime morning at the “office.”
Plans often change. I might be heading somewhere and something will catch my eye like this scene of a lobster pound in Tenants Harbor that I painted a couple of years ago.
A small study I painted at Sand beach in Acadia Park. It was a hot day and the beach was pretty crowded. The first couple of times I went to Maine, I was overwhelmed by the majestic scenery. I created pressure in myself by running around trying to paint everything. Now, I take it easy. Paint, eat, explore, treasure hunt, make friends with people who own boats like Tony and Joan. I know the plumber, the postmaster, the UPS driver, ran into Jamie Wyeth a few times and sold a painting to one of our highest U.S. government figures.
The people in Maine are lovely. The scenery is inspiring and rejuvenating and the food is fresh. The article about the Nanatuck Painters is on newsstands in the March 2016 issue of Plein Air magazine. Come on up to Maine and join us this summer. Coffee is on me.