Painting in a boat on the riverAugust 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, marriage, relationships, romance, shopping, summer, travel, volunteerism | 5 Comments
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I have lived here just over five years, started writing my blog five years ago in early August. It is circumstantially strange, but the blog inevitably became an integral part of marriage. I suppose it is conceivable it will always be that way. None of us know how long this blog relationship may last, it is brand new territory for us all after all.
It’s funny, because I can go back and see what we were up to on or about this date back at the beginning of our marriage, and see more clearly how our lives and activities have evolved over this little bit of time. In 2006 on this date I was writing about the ice cream social fund raiser we had at our church the night before. Today I am writing about a little time we spent on the river last night and the Artists of The Oak Art Trail event of this past Saturday. Beautiful times, beautiful experiences, beautiful home.
Yesterday afternoon when my husband got home from work, on a spur of the moment we headed over our cottage and went out on the river. I grabbed a few tubes of oil paint, some brushes and palette knives, and a few gesso-prepped boards invarious sizes. He grabbed his tackle box and rods, and we rowed a little ways out into the river before he left the boat to slowly drift. I am not a plein aire painter particularly, although I do love painting outdoors. I am usually meticulous in my drawings and painting techniques, working in my studio where I can focus and study and paint with an eye toward fine details at times. But I have longed to be sitting in one end of a boat painting with my husband fishing in the other end. So many things have happened over the past five years that we never once, until yesterday, fulfilled that particular longing in our hearts.
The river was beautiful and peaceful. We drifted downstream slowly, toward a center island in the river. The shadow and light was perfect, with dapples of sunshine in the trees, on the grasses, and flowers. As we drifted toward the little island, a swan came out from behind it and was not at all disturbed by our presence. I created a tiny little painting — it is probably only about 2 1/2″ by 3″ or something. But, I had to mix paints quickly while sitting sideways in the boat, just a field paintbox propped against the side of the boat holding an impromptu palette, a small assortment of brushes and knives, a rag, etc. And the scenery was changing as we drifted, so I had to paint quickly.
This was the first painting I think I have ever done where I didn’t fret as I worked on it. I just mixed the paints and got to painting without a drawing or anything planned out … no opportunity to be meticulous in the least bit. It is a sweet little painting, a little token to commemorate the first of our little adventures in the boat doing somethings we both love — fishing for him, painting for me, and being together in the tranquility of our mostly private little piece of the world. Heaven.
I am into my fourth blissful day in a row this morning. We have plenty of good days in life, but they don’t always come one right after another like this. I write about the good and the best days, but there is no need to mention the lesser days of struggle, heartbreak, strife, or loss. Those are the days and times that give us strength and contrast. We all have them — you have them as well, I am certain. If you didn’t, your life would be stagnant and we all know stagnant waters are … well, they’re stagnant.
This river of life — my river, your river, the rivers of life and living that flow through and around us all — this river is best when it is moving. It can move slow or fast, but the transitions and bubbles, the white water, and the ripples all work together to create the stuff of life.
On Saturday our Art Trail event came off beautifully. I wish you could have been here … actually, some of you were. This was the fourth or fifth year of the art trail, but only the second year of the “loop” created by the art group I am a part of, Artists of The Oak. In the first couple of years of the trail, there were only three to six visitors total. Can you imagine how discouraging that was to any artists involved in it. You prepare works of art, get all set up and ready to greet the public, and believe it might be possible someone will see something you have created and actually want to pay some money and take it home with them. Then, to have three or four people show up over the course of several hours. Well, it is a heart breaking experience really.
Then last year at our urging the event was moved to the last Saturday in August (as opposed to early October) when there are plenty of vacationers around. We volunteered to have several artists come to our place and set up tents on our lawn so that the public could see more art and artists with less driving. Plus, there seems to be something very inherently lovely and inviting about this little piece of Earth. With our grand old willow tree and the fields bordering our lawn on two sides, and the river right across the road the setting is quite beautiful. The end of August is the best weather you could hope for an outdoor event of this kind, and with a few artists all together at once place we figured that even if no public showed up for the event at least we would all be together enjoying a beautiful summer day.
So, last year’s event saw an increase from three or four people to thirty-five to forty visitors … very encouraging.
This year we all pitched in on the costs for printing 2,000 full-color flyers about our “loop” in the Trail as well as 1,000 oversized postcards about our group. We started getting the flyers and postcards out three months in advance and all of the artists helped get those flyers distributed around the county. I wrote a press release that really told our story, and some of the papers in Western New York gave us some great coverage.
I think I mentioned last week that our regional arts council had dropped the ball on this event, leaving us and me in particular, with quite a lot of work to shoulder in making sure the event was executed well and continued to move upward rather than becoming stagnant. For me, there was a quite a lot of frustration in the process because I kept thinking there was going to be interest and activity and action and accomplishment on the part of the arts council … some care. However, that was not the case and as the date was coming into view the realization that we were pretty much on our own dawned more and more clearly.
Regardless of that frustration, the day of the event everything was in place and beautiful. The weather was perfect and the tents on the lawn looks inviting and festive. The accordion player who had generously agreed to come and play for an hour or so stayed on for most of the day. His electronic accordion is now cordless, so he was able to wander around playing as he strolled by the tents along with visitors.
We had a potter and four painters here at our place, two of the painters worked on on paintings live as the day progressed; the potter brought her wheel and threw some pottery as she had time to. We even had enjoyed a fly-by visit from two bald eagles, one flying so low in great big circles that we were able to clearly see his bald head. Our dear friend Roger helped my husband with set up the night before the event, and came back Saturday to continue pitching in and helping out wherever he could … he is that kind of guy. He manned the free helium balloon tent, blowing up balloons all day and giving them out to adults and children alike.
Our other dear friend, Larry, baked give different types of cookies and made several large air-pots filled with coffee (French Vanilla and Hazelnut), along with a big old jug of iced tea and another big old jug of lemonade. He brought his big baker’s display case and had a set up under one of the tents (which he brought), right beside of another tent (which he brought) that was set up with chairs borrowed from our church so that people could sit and enjoy the live music.
Larry gave away free cookies, coffee, iced tea and lemonade all day long to anyone who wanted something. He chatted with people and made them feel very warm and welcome. This was all done at his own personal expense and effort because he wanted to do something helpful and fun for the community. This is not a man with many extra pennies to rub together, but he gave of himself freely and generously with a heart full of love.
There was a young girl who came by and played classical, acoustic guitar for a while. We gave her gas money so she could afford the drive over, but other than that she played out of the goodness of her own heart. Larry sent her home with a gallon size ziploc bag stuffed full of cookies … good ol’ Larry.
Ours was only one of four locations staged by members of our group. There was another stop, Marti’s on Main in Albion, an art gallery started by Kim Martillotta-Muscarella–a member of our group. She hosted several artists at her place, plus the public was able to walk through the gallery and see many works of art on display by various members of our group. Arthur Barnes was on hand at his historic cobblestone building, and another artist was nearby at another historic building demonstrating his painting techniques.
Concurrent with our “loop” of the Art Trail was the portion of the trail that was organized and promoted by the arts council. On our loop, we had an estimated 150 to 200 visitors who came through. That was a tremendous increase from the three or four visitors in the first two years and that is because of our efforts, our organization, and the fact that we put quite a lot of care into what we were creating — we, the artists in Artists of The Oak. In speaking with a fellow who was on the other portion of the trail organized by the arts council … he had five visitors. So, that disparity clearly demonstrates the contrast in the effectiveness of our efforts as compared to those of the arts council.
The only reason I am pointing this out is that it is really important for people to realize that you can create a big difference by investing yourself in an activity and taking care of it yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it. I think the biggest difference between what we did and what the arts council did was that we cared and put ourselves into what we were doing, we truly cared about the end results. We didn’t just want to be able to say that we did it, we wanted the results of what we did to count for something and we wanted the event to be memorable for everyone concerned — memorable as a good thing, not memorable as a failure.
Next year we will do our Art Trail again but it is going to be our Art Trail, a distinctly separate event from the one that is put on by the arts council. They should continue to do their event and invest themselves into in what ever way and to whatever extent their mission statement dictates they should. I wish them success and good times.
As for Artists of The Oak … as wonderful as this year’s event was, next year’s will be even better and we will all invest ourselves in it even more than we did this year. I hope to see more of you as well!