This is a painting of an old house up on the Front Ridge here in Littleton. There's quite a steep hill behind the house, but from in front, you can look out over the trees well into Canada. I did several drawings of this house over the summer at different times of days and in different weather conditions (On one particularly windy day, a gust came up from over the crest of the hill behind me and sent my drawing board tumbling through the yard.) and the painting ended up being a composite of my favorite parts of each drawing. I've always loved that Adirondack chair sitting on the porch facing a million dollar view, just waiting for someone to come along and enjoy it. Sometimes it feels like there's a ghost sitting in that chair, surveying the landscape down the hill and remembering when the house was in better shape.
(Private Collection) I realize that I haven't been very diligent about posting images here lately. It's not because I haven't been busy working; on the contrary, I've been too busy working to keep up with photographing everything and posting it here. This is one of three drawings that I did of an old potato house, which looks as though it hasn't been in use for quite some time, on a farm in Presque Isle back in August. I had to walk quite a way from my car, through potato fields and woods, to get to this building, at least two miles, probably more. I always enjoy finding these subjects this way, after a long walk into unknown territory, rather than simply driving up to something with my car and I like to think that, somehow, the experience of the journey there ends up in the final artwork.
(Private Collection) I made four or five trips up to the Keirstead's potato farm in Presque Isle back in July, where I roamed around their 1200 acres of fields and woods with my back pack full of pastels, making two or three pastel drawings on each trip. I then spent most of the month of August working on this large painting which is based on three different drawings from the same view, looking south with the twin peaks of Quoggy Jo mountain in the distance, beyond the city of Presque Isle. On the first day that I was up there drawing, there was a big barn over towards the left. In fact, the first drawing that I did was of that barn, from much closer. When I returned for the second time, the barn was gone. Apparently, it got taken down by one of the severe wind storms that we had up here this past summer.
I did a small pastel drawing of this subject on location while in Southwest Harbor back in late June. I recently did this bigger version here in my studio and I've recently begun a large painting based on the same subject.
(Private Collection) This pastel drawing was also done for the Paint Presque Isle event at the end of August (see previous post). Quoggy Joe is a twin peaked mountain in Aroostook State Park. There are trails to both the north and south peaks from the parking lot, as well a trail that runs across the top, connecting both peaks, I hiked up the north peak trail with pastel gear and made this drawing looking out north towards the city of Presque Isle with the road leading into the park visible in the lower right corner. It was a bit of a challenge hiking up with all of my gear, but it was certainly more difficult coming back down while trying to protect the drawing from getting scratched by the multitude of branches that line the trail on both sides.
(Private Collection) This was painted for the annual "Paint Presque Isle" event sponsored by the Aroostook Partners for the Arts. Artists create work in the city of Presque isle during the day and then the work is auctioned off in the evening to raise money for arts programs in local schools. I parked my car behind Maine Street, on the river side, and wandered around until I found this row of houses on Chapman Street, just behind the courthouse. At one point about half way throught the painting process, I gust of wind knocked my easel over and the painting landed face down in the gravel on the side of the road and I had to scrape the whole thing down and start over, which actually turned out to be a good thing as I think that having to repaint it improved the painting.
While on vacation on Mount Desert Island my wife and kids and I went to Sand Beach one afternoon. I brought my pastels along and spent the entire time drawing. I did a view looking out over the water, but I'm not really happy with it and probably won't post it here. I think it's just too "picture postcard" for my taste. But the dunes in back of the beach with the seaweed on the ground and heavy clouds moving in – this I like.
This drawing was done while on vacation in Southwest Harbor from a little bridge on the road that leads to the small town of Bernard on the quite side of the Mount Desert Island. To my left as I was working was a little inlet with boats visible in the distance but those types of postcard-like views really don't interest me at all. A woman actually pulled over and got out of her car and said that she had to see what I could possibly be drawing since I wasn't looking out towards the water at "that beautiful view". A policeman pulled up behind me at one point also, and parked right in front of that big pole on the left, obstructing my view for about 10 minutes. I was expecting him to get out and ask me questions about what I was doing, but he eventually just drove away. I'm no sure if he even realized that he was blocking my view.
This was done early one morning while on vacation in Southwest Harbor. I wandered down a road called "Cable Crossing" which led from the Seawall Road to the water. It looks like the place where the power cables go under water out to the Cranberry Islands. This was a view looking to my left back towards Southwest Harbor. There are broken mussel shells everywhere on the shore and they give an interesting iridescent shine that contrasts with the dark brown rocks along the seawall.
I hiked up Valley Peak mountain on Mount Desert Island with my painting gear to do this one. No small task, climbing a steep, rocky trail with a 40lb. backpack, a portable easel, a canvas, an 18" x 24" piece of masonite that I use for a palette and a folding table to rest the palette on. Top add to the fun, I gashed open my left leg on rugged shrub near the top and was bleeding all over the place while I painted this and was continually harassed by a hornet. Nonetheless, I found a nice view of The Narrows at the mouth of Sommes Sound out on a rocky ledge. The biggest challenge of all turned out to be getting the wet painting back down the mountain without smudging it too much.
(Private Collection) This was done from the Seawall picnic area near Southwest Harbor late one afternoon. I wandered around the rocks for quite a while with my heavy backpack full of pastels looking for an interesting composition before I found this rusty old camp grill which I immediately fell in love with.
(Private Collection) I painted this while in Southwest Harbor on the Seawall between Manset and Bass Harbor one morning as the fog was lifting. I believe that's the Cranberry Islands in the distance. I got quite a sunburn on my neck while working on this.
We spent the last week of June in Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island at an absolutely wonderful and lovely cottage owned by the Lesters. It's for rent and you can learn more about it here. I spent a lot of the time there working (I actually told my wife before we left that the thing I was most looking forward to about vacation was being able to work!), but did get to see some great sights and go hiking with my kids. I did this small painting on the first day that we were there, behind the kitchen of the cottage. My son was zipping up and down the dirt driveway just behind that big tree the entire time that I was working and I can still hear him making his motorcycle noises whenever I look at this.
(Private Collection) This is painting I did in May of Nancy and Dana Wright's house, right here in Littleton. Nancy was retiring from her position as teaching principal at the Wellington School (see below) and Dana had asked me to do a painting of the school for her. A little while later, the faculty of the school approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a painting of the school for Nancy. I explained that her husband had already asked me and that they should get together with him. A few days later they got back in touch with me and said that they decided they would like it if I did a painting of the house. They were worried about keeping it a surprise so I figured that the best time to work was while Nancy was at school. I checked with some of the staff to see if she ever goes home for lunch (Her house is just a couple of miles from the school.) and they assured me that she didn't. I went over to the house around noon on a day that the kids at school were performing the annual big play that they do in the spring, thinking that she had to be at school that day. I ran into a man working on their farm and let him know that I would be across the street painting and he also assured me that Nancy never came home during the school day. So I set up my easel and started to work and, sure enough, here comes Nancy driving right up to the house! I thought for certain that the surprise was ruined but it turned out that she was so used to seeing me all over town standing behind my easel, that she had no idea that I was doing a painting for her. She was even planning to buy it for her husband for Father's Day!
(Private Collection) This is a painting of the Wellington elementary school in Monticello. My son just finished first grade there and my daughter went there from pre-K through third grade before graduating to the Houlton Southside School last year. It's a wonderful little school and I spend a lot of time there, teaching art classes to the kids and volunteering for various things. A few years ago I painted a mural inside of Jack chopping down the beanstalk with the giant's feet coming down out of the ceiling. The school board threatened to close Wellington down this year but a large group of us parents, along with the Wellington staff, fought them and convinced them to keep the school open, at least for another year. My son's teacher, who was also the principal, retired this year and her husband asked me to paint a picture of the school. It was something that I'd always wanted to paint, anyway. The only difficulty was being able to get down there to work when the principal wasn't there, which was almost never. I went down on Mother's Day, figuring there was no way she'd be working that day and sure enough, she showed up to plant flowers out in front! Luckily, I'd brought my kids with me (giving my wife a couple of hours of peace and quiet) and they were riding their bikes around the parking lot so I had an excuse for being there. At least half a dozen of the people who saw the painting pointed to the area on the hillside above the door and said "There's Tom Good's house." which I find interesting because it looks like this:
I like that people can look at what are essentially abstract swirls of paint and see something that they recognize.
Of course, I finally have lots of time to work and now the weather forecast is calling for rain over the next five days. I drew this on Monday (before it started raining). It's done on Arches Cover that I painted a layer of acrylic medium on to. The paper has almost too smooth of a surface, and the acrylic medium gives it an interesting texture for the pastels to cling to and I like the way the brush strokes show through the drawing and prevent me from being too "descriptive".
I live in rural Maine and am surrounded by woods but I generally avoid this kind of subject because it's virtually impossible for me to stand in front of a bunch of trees with a box of pastels and not feel like I'm standing in the shadow of Wolf Kahn, whose work I have admired for many years. However, perhaps in striving to transcend the influence of the masters whose work we admire, it's better to take on similar subject matter, rather than avoiding it, and work through it until we find our own voice. I do know that as a subject, the woods, especially at this time of year when the snow is gone and the leaves haven't come in yet, provides a very alluring combination of deep, atmospheric space and gestural, linear elements that offer a wealth of possibilities to the artist. It also reminds me of my childhood, when I spent countless hours exploring the woods near my home in Massachusetts, all of which have been cut down to make room for suburban sprawl.
April was not a good month for making art. I had a 9 day trip to Disney World at the beginning of the month, caught bronchitis on the way back and spent a week in bed and then spent most of the past two weeks building and painting sets for the Houlton Children's Theatre's production this past weekend. Going out to draw on Sunday felt like drinking a big glass of ice water after spending a month in the desert.
Working from landscape motifs in the brutally cold weather of northern Maine presents a myriad of challenges. The strong, bitter, icy winds make setting an easel up outside almost impossible and I am usually forced to work quickly, standing with a sketchbook in one hand and a pencil or pastel stick in the other. Working without gloves on is very difficult, but sometime a necessity, but drawing with gloves on can force one to work more loosely, which isn't a bad thing. I've noticed that the colors are more apt to change, both throughout the course of a single day as well as from day to day. I think this is because all of the intense, saturated colors have been drained from the landscape and the many neutral grays and the white of the snow are more apt to appear different colors depending on the position of the sun. In the absence of the vivid greens of spring and summer, the sky takes on a greenish tint, having no stronger greens to compete with it. This painting is based on a view looking south on the Currier Road here in Littleton, where the big hills of Danforth and Orient, 50 or so miles away, are visible in the distance. I did a painting called "Mailbox" a few months ago looking back down this road from the opposite direction. I worked this out in my studio from about half a dozen pencil and pastel sketches that were done over the past few weeks, out in the freezing cold, clutching my drawing materials between purplish-blue, semi-numb fingertips.
I took my kids sledding about three weeks ago. We initially went to the big hill behind the Wellington School, which offered some great sledding. My son Damien talked me into going down with him on his sled and I reluctantly agreed. I enjoy sledding, but wasn't dressed for it. I had been out in my studio all day and was wearing my "painting" jeans, unlike my kids who had water-resistant winter coveralls on. So, of course, the sled turned around half way down the hill and we ended up crashing backwards into 18 inches of powdered snow and I ended up with quite a bit of it up under the back of my shirt and down the back of my jeans, giving me more than a bit of a chill. The kids wanted to continue sledding so I told them I was going to wait in the car and warm up. We left about 15 minutes later. I was ready to go home, but they wanted to check out the hill on the road to Russell Rock, which we had heard offered good sledding as well. I agreed to drive over and just have a look, but once we got there, they begged me to let them take a run down the sled trails. I conceded that they could take one quick run down while I turned the car around. As soon as I turned the car around, I found myself looking at this view. Having a sketch book and pencils on the passenger seat, I yelled out to the kids to sled as much as they wanted and then proceeded to draw. I finished this painting a couple of weeks ago, but had some difficulties photographing it.
(Private Collection) I spent all day a week ago this past Saturday working – finishing up another painting (I had intended to post it before this one, but the photos came out very grainy for some reason), doing some drawings out on the Currier Road for the painting that I'm working on now, and stretching and priming a canvas. At the end of the day I went for a much-needed run and saw this view on the way back home, on the corner of the Framingham Road and the Shaw Road. I hurried back to the studio and did a quick pastel sketch of the color scheme from memory and then I went back to the location the next day and did a pencil drawing to work out the composition and the structures of the buildings before heading back to the studio and doing this small (10 x 12) painting. I spent about an hour and a half mixing the colors but once I started painting, it came together very quickly. I wanted to avoid over-working the cloud shapes while maintaining a sense of their transparency and I found the solution was to just slap the paint on and push it around a little. The little pastel sketch that I had done the day before, although done very quickly (a minute or so) and very abstract, was quite effective and I wanted to maintain the same type of energy in this painting.
(Private Collection) I painted this view of the old Schools barn, across the field behind my studio, last Saturday, January 15th, which I just realized was the five year anniversary of the day that we moved into our house here in northern Maine. Coincidentally, the first art that I did after moving in was a pastel drawing of the same subject. I can see this barn out of the window over my kitchen sink (where I probably spend more time, washing dishes, than I'd care to...) and it amazes how different it looks every time I see it. At different times of the day and during different seasons of the year and depending on the ever-changing northern Maine weather, the sky and field take on a multitude of different color combinations. I had some paintings in the house yesterday, preparing them for an upcoming show, and my daughter asked me what I'm going to do when I run out of things to paint. I pointed out that many of my paintings are based on the same subjects and that I could quite easily spend my whole life painting any one of them.
This painting is based on some drawings that I did standing in the snow at the top of Ross Ridge, looking east over northern Littleton and on into New Brunswick. I haven't had heat in my studio for the past week and working in the cold has forced me to work at a much faster pace, more akin to when I'm actually working outside and have to capture the image before the light changes. Not that I enjoy working with frozen hands, but the process of working in the cold gives the work an urgency, causing me to focus on the essential and minimizing the temptation to overwork the painting and fill it with unnecessary descriptive information.
I am a full time artist, originally from Massachusetts, currently living in northern Maine. I work primarily in oils and pastel, and occasionally watercolor. I offer instruction in drawing and painting at my studio in a renovated potato house. Please feel free to view samples of my work (You can see a larger version of each picture if you click on it.) and leave a comment if you are so inclined. Be sure to click the "Older Posts" button at the bottom to see more work. I don't always have time to respond to comments, but if you wish to correspond with me, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org