Ted and Pete as Muses

Ted and Pete have made quite a splash in their Cover debut on the American Art Collector Magazine this month, and I thought you would like to see some of their other inspirations as Muses.

Over the years, they each gave me the great gift of seeing the island of Martha’s Vineyard through their eyes. Both had DNA spread liberally across generations and rolling fields and they had an eager student of island history in my eager ears.

Ted and his wife Polly sent me wandering down many a sandy trail through brambles and over rocky rutted roads in pursuit of hidden landmarks and relics of island lore. After Polly left us, Ted rode shotgun on those adventures and navigated us to some seriously back-of-the-beyond treasures.

One such romp was to find the elusive Gay Head Lily. We ended up announcing ourselves in this lovely woman’s yard at the end of a long lane and out Ted, the celebrated head of the island garden club, waltzed to her dock along the pond to show me the flowers. Stunning. As I look back today, his hand seems far more delicate than those petals, but oh the wonders, that magician that he was, our Ted, could pull out of his hat.

Here’s a link to the original blog entry describing this painting…Click Here.

ted holding lily

ted on dock

Gay Head Lily

Another fine day found Ted and PG Harris and I bouncing along an old carriage path in my truck in search of The Brickyard. Ted thought it would be sorta fun to see it, and introduced me to PG whose family owned the property, and, after a couple hours of historical lecture on the area…off we three drove…I mean there we were in the middle of three glorious old fields surrounded by ancient stone walls and PG points to a small break in the stone and says, “Just drive over and through there and we’ll see.”
The Painter’s Notes give the rest of the story…click here… but suffice it to say, now that they are both floating somewhere high above that island…that adventure was one of my all time favorite memories.

Brick Yard Tea

Now, Peter Darling, well…he was just Pete. We called him the Admiral because he always had binoculars around his neck and was ever watchful from his deck. Not nothing, not no one, got past his old farm house on Greenhouse Lane without Pete knowin’ about it. Many a stranded sailor was rescued by the coast guard that Pete had hailed after spying their distress from his perch on top of those bluff steps. And every feather of the nesting osprey was monitored by their stalwart steward of a neighbor.

There is a tiny knoll in the long lane, right by his house, and I took to honking my horn with each passage so as to let oncoming traffic be wary, (and just between you and me…to keep the Admiral on his toes !). The very last time I heard from Pete, he had brought out a great big foghorn to his porch and answered my heralding call with his own. I really loved that.

grillmaster pete

These two views of Pete’s house give you an idea of the depth of beauty that surrounds the Darling’s farmhouse. His wife Della is there now and I’m eager to see her next week to give her a big hug and hear how life on the lane is faring this season. Della is a great fisherman and a lover of walks. In her travels, she has worn a path all along the perimeter of those old stone walls. I hear that some daisies grow there to welcome her in the late spring. She has earned them.



A couple of years ago…the year of the Apple Series, I spent the winter listening to the double trouble musings of Ted and Pete.
Pete was a tremendous trove of knowledge of Up Island lore and indeed history of all flavors. He loaned me a couple old tin coffee pots, the kind that were used over campfires by campers and travelers to cook up the early morning brew. The dear little one that made it into the Skillet Apple Pie painting was my favorite. Looking back, I should have blown some smoke out of that thing. Pete woulda loved that.

skillet apple pie

The core of this series, (written before the pun hit me, sorry), was the modeling session with Ted in the Magnuson’s Tiasquin Orchard…which all started with Chris’s suggestion…and the rest of that story is in these Painter’s Notes…click here.


Tiasquin Orchard

And the man himself…
The Muse

who sits in this chair across from my easel
and reminds me, every day,
that I am all the better
for knowing that twinkle
in his mishcievous
and loving eye.


Never trust a man,
who when left alone
in a room with a teacozy,
does’t try it on.

Billy Connolly

Tiasquin Orchard Newsflash…

Debbie reports that early Macintosh Apples are for sale today at the orchard…State Road, Martha’s Vineyard.

Tiasquin Orchard

This is exciting news since last year there was almost no apple crop due to early spring weather. I sure wish we could stop over and pick a few, they’re some of the best flavors on the island. The orchard is just a stone’s throw down the lane from where the Obama family will be staying this week and they are due to arrive this afternoon. Might want to leave a basket by the road for the secret service Debbie !


I just got off the phone with Ted, who modeled for this series of paintings a few years back, and he reports that the Chilmark Road Race runners had perfect weather for the annual run up Middle Road. This month is the busiest on the island and, though I often wish we could be there to share in the fun…I’m quite happy to be home enjoying some “quiet” summertime days.

All This and More

Here in the Pennsylvania studio I am catching up on chores and getting ready for another Follansbee drive by as he heads south to lead a workshop at Drew and Louise Langsner’s Country Workshops. You will know him by the spoon shavings that appear in his wake…and the ones that gather shortly thereafter under my sky chair.

Some new work is…in the works… and I’ll give you a sneak peak next time. Til then, take a big bite out of what’s left of the summer and say hi to the Magnuson’s for me if you stop by for some of their Macs !




Museums and Orchards…


A great article (click here to read) about the new Museum of Realist Art which is a project in the planning stages but gaining momentum towards the dream of a 2014 opening in East Boston. The founders, George Kougeas and Pamela Sienna, have been working hard to realize that dream and have been terrifically supportive of the artists they have already begun curating into the collection.

More than just offering a venue to showcase Realist art, they are building a dialogue amonst the artists though their support and promotion that is enhancing and enriching our community. I’m thrilled to be on their radar and doubly pleased to see that the Boston Globe included one of my new paintings…yes one which you saw here first only a few days ago…in the online article.   Camera Obscura

So, again…and again… many thanks to them.

And now… Orchards.

It’s time to unveil the anchor piece in the Apple Series paintings. Many of you were along for the ride when, this fall and winter, I was blogging as I slogged through the adventure of painting seven hundred fifty thousand apples. Ok, not literally but it sure felt like that at the end of each day. I have included those blog entries as the Painter’s Notes mostly because it reminds me that a little perserverance and a lot of whining can get you through even the toughtest of artistic challenges.

And now that it’s done and framed and ready to be put in the trailer… I am so glad that I chose to do it on a larger panel than originally planned. For me it’s all about Ted’s hand and that would have been completely lost in a smaller format.

Rumor has it that Debbie, the orchard owner, is planning to provide a little appley treat to accompany the painting at this sunday’s opening. Those planning to attend might want to arrive early to insure a taste of Tiasquin’s Finest.

For the rest of you… here is…

#16 – Tiasquin Orchard  34 x 60

Ok I can’t delay this any longer…it’s out to pack the trailer.

Be well…



We are welcoming 2012 here in the studio by painting apples.

Yes I’m still….painting….apples !

Try as I might, this final work – the seminal, keystone, massively fundamental focus of the apple themed series –  is just simply spanking my artistic self. And it’s all Chris’s fault. Back in 2010, when picking apples at the Tiasquin Orchard on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and visiting with it’s farmers, the Magnusens, my beloved gallery owner Mr. Morse had a vision. Wouldn’t it be sorta fun for someone to do a painting from the bottom of the hill looking up through the trees at a person picking apples ?

Simple idea, lovely idea…who better to do this painting than the woman whom Patricia Neal dubbed, “the artist who paints people without their heads “… Heather Neill.

OK she says and rounds up her favorite Vineyard model, Mr. Theodore Meinelt who happens to live just down the road from the orchard, and off we trot to pose among the heavily laden limbs.
Now viewing this photo you will see one of the biggest challenges I faced in composition. These are ancient trees and, like so many of the island specimens which are battered by ocean storms, they are small. Wonderful for picking, and probably pruned to their diminutive height for just that reason…but when you put a human next to them he ends up looking like a giant.

One other challenge was that, good for Debbie tough for me…it was a bumper crop. Thousands and thousands of apples. I knew that in order to do this idea justice, again Mr. Morse must be thanked, it would need to be a panel large enough to let the viewer have the same panoramic feel that originally inspired my muse. And I knew that my ridiculously high standards would not let me take a pass on rendering every one of those apples (forgive me) right down to their core.

I debated, fussed, dripped with procrastinating angst…(Pat has been driven to longer and longer walks with Finn as each stressful day of whining passed) … and finally decided to use the 60″ panel thereby committing to what I knew would be weeks of work.

I started out taking daily shots of the progress with the idea of sharing the journey with you all. But I was so frustrated with the slow pace and the overwhelming amount of detail that I bagged on that early on. But now, as I am nearing the end…she says oh so hopefully… I have decided to show you the abbreviated “process” shots. I’ve been putting detail shots up on facebook  as I complete small sections and now seem to have a small but dedicated group of followers with whom I have been teasingly withholding the ” big reveal” of seeing the whole finished work.

There was a great amount of artistic license in play in an effort to wrangle the tree and background, concept and balance, in the pursuit of the “essence” of the orchard. Here is one of the dozens of photos that I used as reference…the closest to the finished comp…

The initial sketch…

First pass…
 Some sky…

Needs to say more about the island… so how about a water view ?

Flash forward…weeks forward…to the first detail shots…

And  now…I’m off to the easel to finish this baby. Have about two square feet of apples, leaves and branches to tighten up and one long branch to snap into shape. Might be two days of work since I have squandered this morning writing this entry…and allowing the tylenol to take effect…since the steady hours of resting my pinky on the panel to work the tiny brushes is taking a toll on my own limbs.

But I’ll get back to you just as soon as it’s done. I promise you will be able to hear the huge sigh of relief in the furthermost corners of your own apple orchards.