An Artist's Perspective
The Acadia Artist-in-Residence program provides valuable time for an artist to work, the greatest gift one can give an artist. Opportunities for the artist to "give back" are a very important component of the experience. I have had the great good fortune to be an Acadia Artist in Residence in early fall, 2009, in August of 2010, and most recently in February of 2014.
During an artist residency, which can last a few weeks to a month, the Park provides me with a comfortable ex-Navy apartment and studio (if needed) in the SERC Campus on the Schoodic Peninsula. I am generally on my own, fixing meals and determining my own schedule, exploring, scouting, and working hard to make the most of the precious creative time. Because I am living within the park, I have the privilege of experiencing it on a 24/7 basis, seeing it in every light, at every time of day and night, in every weather, and in varying seasons.
Schoodic is beautiful -- even a brief afternoon drive-through visit is worth the trip. But the difference between a quick visit and my intense all-encompassing interaction with Schoodic is profound. I see changes in the sky, the water, the tide. I see wildlife since I sit still for hours at a time. I see the fugitive dew on morning spider webs, the shifting of shadows, and the aggressive eel hunting of blue herons. I observe. I record. I commune. Every time I work in Acadia, I come away with a renewed appreciation for the park and a peaceful hyper-awareness of the natural world. I also manage, sometimes contending with great challenges, to produce a grouping of paintings. One of these paintings is given, with immense gratitude, to the park.
Since I work exclusively from direct observation, never from photographs, I have to contend with every possible distraction and difficulty. I call these difficulties "plein airritations" -- wind (the worst), heat, cold, blazing sun, rain, changing light, changing shadows, changing tides, insects, curious on-lookers, noise, even animals. It is challenging to paint outdoors, but the rewards are great. There is a sense of immediacy and authenticity which results when working from the real world. I never get tired of painting in Acadia. There is a lifetime of inspiration in the park.
In return for the invaluable gift of time and accommodations, I am called upon to help teach classes or workshops. This has been a special and personally enriching part of my residencies. In my drawing classes with groups of students and my “Sketching by the Sea” sessions with the general public, I am able to share my love for art and nature. I encourage others to slow down, to observe, to record and appreciate nature with a depth not possible during a drive or even a hike. No amount of camera clicking can compare with the memorable experience of capturing a grouping of pine trees and rocky coast with pencil and paper.
If you are an artist, especially a plein air landscape painter, the Acadia Artist in Residence program is one which will inspire you and provide you with the best subject matter on the planet. If you are not an artist, and see someone at work at an easel or with a tripod, know that they are following their passion, working hard, in order to share their impressions of Acadia with you and generations of nature-lovers for years to come.