Friday, June 3, 2011

More Rockport reminiscences

I arrived in Rockport broke. Well. I had 60 dollars. I had a sweater a jacket and a pair of pants and a handful of cotton shirts. My car, a Ford Escort wagon given to me for free by a friend, had died on the street. I really had all I needed except for a decent easel. I had this little steel thing called a Tric-Trac. It might have been a display easel. It was pretty bad, but its two greatest problems were its height ( not enough) and it had nowhere to hold the palette.

I had a dreadful corduroy hat, a sort of fedora that I bought at a roadside flea market. It had enough brim to keep the sun out of my eyes, but it was dumb looking. I also had very long hair. I suppose I looked pretty rough to the locals when I showed up and no one knew who I was.

I set the easel up on the bend of Bearskin Neck and made a sunset picture looking up the harbor . I think this was the first of my Rockport paintings. It was 1983, sometime just before Christmas.The wind was raw and I didn't really have enough clothes to keep warm, but I was driven. The alternative would be to starve.

There was a woman who met at the shop, a redhead named Bonnie who discovered that the new kid in town was actually a STARVING artist. She brought me some plates of food, although I hardly knew her. Later we became good friends. But again womankind intervened to save me from starvation.

The average age was pretty high in Rockport and there weren't a lot of us in the 40 and under bracket. Out in the neighborhoods and suburbs there were lots of married couples in that age bracket, but on the neck and in the art community a more average age was probably mid-sixties. It had become too expensive to move to Rockport for a young artist and the place was thought of as geriatric. I didn't know that. I moved there from Minnesota and I had never seen it before.

AS I explored Rockport it all seemed so strangely familiar. I kept thinking "I know this place" It took me awhile to figure out that I knew it from children's books and some how to n
water color books I read in grade school. Lots of illustrators and writers had made Rockport their home over the wears. But the major culprit was Virginia Lee Burton who wrote Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel. The town where Mike and Mary Ann his elderly steam shovel built the new town hall was Rockport. The other source was Ted Kautzsky. who wrote a series of how to watercolor books that I studidied intently in grade school. Many of the pictures in the book were of Rockport street scenes.

More tomorrow. I have traveled far and must sleep. Tomorrow I teach a workshop.


Karla said...

That was one of my kids' favorite books. A twelve year old boy named Dickie actually came up with the idea of turning Mary Ann into the heating system as the author had written herself into a corner. Just a bit of trivia.

Rae said...

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was called Wendy's Private Life by Ruth Langland Holberg. When I bought it for my daughters I realized why Rockport had seemed so familiar to me. It is set there as are a great many of her books. I had been "down neck" in my imagination long before I actually set foot there. She also wrote "The Smugglers of Sandy Bay". I first when to Rockport around the same time you arrived there.

Philip Koch said...

OMG, Stape I hadn't thought of that children's book about the steamshovel. I LOVED that book! Thanks for awaking that cherished old memory.

One of the things that's so good about Stape's post on Rockport is the undeniable romance of recalled "old memory." I have an operating theory that in back of all good art is the adult artist reaching back to some especially powerful childhood memory (a good one or a bad one). I write on that theme from time to time in my own blog.

Stape has his Rockport experience (he moved there because so many of the painters he admired had spent time there I figure, It's funny- I sort of have the same reverence and excitement about all of New England. So many of the painters I feel closest to lived up there and made it the subject of their work. I spent a lot of time in New England, but ironically have never actually made my home there.

Had I not had children when I was in my early 20's maybe I'd have picked up and moved to Rockport, or Provincetown, or Bar Harbor too.

Mary Byrom said...

So nice to see these reminiscences, Stapleton. I totally agree with Philip about "old memory". I grew up in New England and all those wonderful places and artists were a part of my childhood. Of course I moved away in my twenties for a few years but I'd head back here as soon as I could... It is amazing what happens to you when come upon these remembered places. My family spent a summer vacation on the tip of South Harpswell, Maine one year and I went back for the first time last year. It was shocking- as soon as I saw the view of the islands sprinkled out across the bay I thought... I am home. That was a surprise! Philip, its never too thing I ever did was move back to Maine.

billspaintingmn said...
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Stapleton Kearns said...

The town hall inRockport does not have Mary Anin the cellar. I checked.I think I met Henry B.Swop.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think I might have known her.That name is familiar.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I bet you retire to New England. We'll leave the light on for you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary; I left and returned once too,

David Teter said...

Little late here (post Stape comments) but I have a Ted Kautzsky book, handed down to me from my mom or dad years ago, good to know this is where some of it was done. A gem of a book of watercolors.

And so much fun reading the stories too!.