Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Berkshires Gold

Goldenrod. Oil on canvas, 20x20

Yesterday, I traveled to Albany, N.Y., to meet the other Carrie Jacobson. She was delightful, smart, charming, funny, caring. We met at a Japanese restaurant, had a delicious dinner and a lovely hour and a half of conversation. The impetus for my journey, in addition to meeting her, was to deliver a painting she'd bought, a large abstract, probably the best one I've ever done.

This Carrie Jacobson really came into my life because her email address is very close to mine - mine has a "b" between "carrie" and "jacobson," and hers doesn't. She has patiently and carefully forwarded misaddressed email to me over the years, including a number of quite intimate letters mis-sent after my mother's death.

She recently bought a house, and so now has room for art. My painting is her first purchase, and I am truly honored.

I've thought for a while now about how buying art changes your life. I believe that it does.

When you buy art, you make a decision that changes your environment. And if the work is good, it really does change things. More than giving you just something to look at, it gives you something to contemplate, something that takes you somewhere, something that whispers of possibility or hope or faith.

If the art is good, it grows with you, and continues to take you places. No matter what's happening in your life, right there on the wall is a space of peace or beauty or excitement - whatever the content is, whatever appeals to you, whatever you've bought, and hung and lived with, it engages and transports you - and I am truly honored.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Mountain of Waves

Hurricane Swells III
Oil on canvas, 8x24

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Here's another painting from Sunday. The waves were honestly this big, this muscled, this powerful. I'm curious to know how much of the beach vanished in the pounding. I'll go back this week and see.

In the meantime, I have a fun day ahead, I think! I am going to Albany to meet and deliver a painting to... Carrie Jacobson.

My email address has a "b" between "carrie" and "jacobson." It's carriebjacobson@gmail.com. If you miss the "b" - and believe me, people do, even people who are related to me - the email goes to a lovely Carrie Jacobson, who lives in Buffalo, N.Y.

This Carrie Jacobson is a sweet woman. For years now, she has been forwarding email to me. It will suffice to say that while most of this is just run of the mill stuff, some of it - involving my mother and her death - has been intensely personal. Carrie has sent it all along, patiently, kindly, consistently.

She has just bought a house, her first, and decided that she'd like a painting by me to decorate her walls. So she bought one, a large abstract that I love! I am delivering it to her today, along with another one that is a gift. Think of it, two Carrie Jacobsons in one place. How thrilling!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Waves!

Hurricane Swells II
Oil on canvas, 16x20,

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Big Swells, Waterford Beach
Oil on canvas, 16x20

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Today was one a real glory day, the kind that makes me just rejoice to be alive and breathing and painting and living in a world that's so spectacular and beautiful and exciting.

The sky spread out, as blue as could be today, the sun beamed clear and bright and clean, and huge, HUGE waves swelled and moved and crashed on Misquamicut Beach.

At 7 in the morning, people were out in droves. There were almost no parking places. People were excited - like me! - and down at the beach with cameras, and friends, and cups of coffee, watching the marvel that is the Atlantic Ocean, on a clear day, with a hurricane off the coast.

Peter counted more than 60 surfers off the end of the jetty at Weekapaug. They were delirious with happiness. It was a blast to watch them, even the ones who weren't so great. But the ones who were great, wow. I've never seen anything like it, not in person, at any rate. They'd get up on the steep, moving side of one of these waves and take off, speeding up and turning like they were skiing. Then, some of them could even get on what seemed to be the very top of the wave, and stay there, speeding along, making it look like they were just standing.

I felt like the paint took me today. I made three paintings in the morning, and one yesterday - I have a little work to do on two of them, still, but these two are ready to be shown. I'm sunburned and windburned, I'm tired - but I'm happy to be alive today.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Poodle. Oil on canvas, 12x12.

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

I don't know if all this is coming from painting in fog all week, but I'm finding myself increasingly interested in the less-is-more concept, at least as it pertains to paint on the canvas.

I began this poodle fully intending to fill the canvas with white and blue and pink and green, and all the colors that one can bring to bear on the coat of a white poodle - but I got this far and fell in love. I think this painting is finished, though there's still the ghost of a chance that I could be persuaded otherwise.

In some ways, this unfinished quality that so tantalizes me has been a quiet undertone of my work since my painting trip to Wisdom, Montana. On that trip, I began leaving the lower edge of some of my paintings unfinished.

Initially, I did that because I just wasn't that interested in what was at the very front of the scene, and thought I would just add some interesting stuff there later. When "later" came, I realized that I like that unfinished edge. It speaks to me of possibility, of the fact of paint on canvas, and raises the question of what is possible - and what someone else might do with that empty space.

Then, on my trip to Arizona, on a day when I'd painted three or four paintings, I started one more, and honestly, left it unfinished because I was just plain exhausted. I took a million pictures of the scene, and vowed to finish the piece when I got home.

Well, I looked at it last week, and honestly, I think it's finished. I might add a little more paint in a few places, but the partial quality of it really intrigues me.

Ditto this poodle.

I'd love to hear what any of you think.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Storm Warning

Before the Storm
Oil on canvas, 16x20

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

There's a big storm blowing our way, though you'd never know it right now. Torrential rain is coming from one direction, we're told, and torrential wind from the other. Waves are supposed to be 15 feet high on Sunday, and if I can figure out a way to paint them without being blown away, I will.

Sometimes, I think, I need a really big storm. I need something to come in, something bigger than me, something bigger than what is and what has been, something strong enough to blow everything away. There will be destruction and debris, but then, clear air and bright sun and the sense of a new beginning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Mini Dachshund. Oil on canvas, 12x12

I've fallen behind in my 12x12 canine project for Sandy at Center Framing and Art in West Hartford. It's a really cool idea, I think - I make 12 12x12 paintings of dogs, as wild and free as I want, and she hangs them in the front window of the gallery. Luscious!

I finished this dachshund today, and I'm pretty happy with it. I love the colors, and the snotty look in this little guy's eye, as though he knows he's the king of the world, and it's about time you knew it, too.

I just spoke with Chris Rose, who runs the Lighthouse Gallery in Groton, and he's invited me to show there in March. Exciting! It's my favorite gallery around here, comfortable and intimate and welcoming. Chris does a great job with it. Right now, he's showing paintings by Sunil Howlader, and they are stunning, a bright mix of abstract backgrounds with realism overlaid. I'm thinking of trying an all-animal show, if Chris would agree.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Out of the Fog

Edge of the World
Oil on canvas, 10x30


No fog this morning, so I headed out to Old Lyme, to the boat ramp, one of my favorite views around. I hadn't made it over there this summer, and as I drove, I felt like I was going to meet an old friend.

I love the way this inlet opens up to Long Island Sound. The juncture seems like the best of all crossroads - as though I'd found the very place where the sky and the ocean meet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Haven't the Foggiest

Reservoir Fog
Oil on canvas, 6x12

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

Every morning for a while now, I've gotten up early, taken the dogs out and looked for fog in the back field. Every day, it's been there, and so I've packed up and hit the road, determined to learn to paint fog.
Today, I stopped at the Groton Reservoir, a mile or so from our house. The morning was silent and windless. A skim of pollen spread on the water along the far shore. Otherwise, nothing disturbed the surface.

Fog lay thick along the trees. It seemed to outline their tops, and then, farther away, to gather near the ground.

Fog really is a cloud at ground level. This kind of humid-day summer fog comes when the land cools at night. Condensation is produced by the difference in temperature between the air and the cooler ground, and this condensation is what makes the fog.

All of this makes me think of my father, who, when we were kids and would ask him something, would often say, "I haven't the foggiest."

As I was standing there painting and thinking, I heard a couple heading toward the little parking lot. They'd been out walking, and they were talking, the sound carrying clearly in the still air.

Well, the wife was talking, and loudly, and with a Brooklyn accent, about the military-industrial complex. It's been a long time since I've heard that phrase.

Here is a really cool photograph I found while I was researching fog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Fog

Two Boats
Oil on stretched canvas, 11x14

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

At 7 this morning, the day was oppressive. I stood on Pequot Avenue, watched waves swell and ebb on the silvery river, and I sweated.

And all of New London, it seemed, ran by me.

Is there another town on the face of the earth where early morning exercise is so commonplace? For every three cars that passed me, two exercisers passed. Runners, walkers, bikers, even a Rollerblader passed me. People walked dogs, walked with friends, rode with spouses. Many stopped to talk.

Oddly, it seemed, all these exercisers passed me once, but didn't double back. I guess one thing about New London is that there are many good, circular routes. Cuts down on the boredom, I guess.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fogged In

Sunday Morning, 7 a.m. 
Oil on canvas, 6x12

I spent a lovely evening on Saturday in the outdoor garden cafe of the Hygienic, on Bank Street in New London.

A group called Drunken Boat, which includes my brother, Rand Cooper, was reading/performing, and so I went. The show had its ups and downs, but Rand's reading - an article about my parents and their love of New London restaurants - delighted me.

But I went with trepidation, suspecting (correctly, it turned out) that I'd see people I knew from when I was in high school.

It's taken me a while to begin to understand these fears. Partly - and oh, so superficially - I'm old and fat and gray-haired, and embarrassed by all of that. In my imagination, my peers are as slender and strong and vital as they were when we were 17.

On a deeper level, I've come to understand that I don't really like the person that I was in high school. In fact, when I was in high school, I didn't really like the person that I was. So now, I really don't want to be reminded of that person. I don't want to be thought of as that person, by people who only knew me as that person, and I really don't want to somehow be sucked into being that person again - as I might be, interacting with people who only knew me as that person.

A friend brought up an interesting idea. She said that the only way we can be sure that these old friends don't think of us as we were is to dive in, do the scary and off-putting thing, make the new connections and show them the people we are now.

And, as it almost always turns out, seeing my old friends and acquaintances last night was really, truly fun. I had a great time, and enjoyed walking on shared ground.

So this morning, painting in New London, on streets I haunted as a teenager, I felt a sort of peace, a reconciliation with my past, an appreciation for who I was then and who I am now, a lifting of the morning's fog.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Close Call

Two Trees. Oil on stretched canvas, 20x20

I drove deep into Preston today, hoping to paint sunflower fields I'd seen on an earlier trip, but the sunflowers had already bloomed and drooped. Fooey! (And look at all the "o"s in those sentences.)

This hill is just past those fields, and when you're standing on the road, looking up, it seems that the stone wall and corn beyond are balanced on the very rim of the world. As I was painting, a man pulled up and told me that to him, the scene looks exactly like one of Microsoft's screen savers. I know the one.

The clouds billowed and piled up, up, up into the sky, and for a while, I thought it would rain. I painted quickly - but then the storm seemed to spin away, the clouds thinned and the humid day came back to itself.

As I drove home, I was not even a mile down the road when I saw that the pavement was wet. It had stormed, all right - but not on me.

Sometimes, I remember to be grateful for the small things.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Harpswell Neck. Oil on canvas, 12x36.

I had the great good fortune, at the Sun Journal in Maine, to have Carol Coultas as my boss. At the time, Carol was the managing editor of the paper. Later, she took the unusual but completely understandable step of leaving management to become a business reporter. Recently, she left the Sun Journal all together, after working there for more than 20 years, to become the editor of MaineBiz, a business publication based in Portland. This is an interesting woman!

I saw her about a year ago, and she told me that a neighbor had died and left her, among other things, a bunch of frames. And she wanted to give them to me! Yippee!

So on this visit, I got to see Carol, and Kathryn Skelton, a friend and former reporter, in Portland last week, before Carol left for a vacation in Canada with her parents. She gave me directions to her house, and I arrived there one morning last week, woke her 18-year-old son, collected the frames and set out to explore Harpswell, where Carol lives.

It is just amazingly beautiful! It's a spit of land that sticks out into Casco Bay, in the Gulf of Maine. At the end of Harpswell, you can see some islands - I know Orr's Island and Bailey Island are close to Harpswell, but no one I spoke with as I painted could tell me exactly what I was painting.

I had a lovely morning, taking in beautiful Harpswell, and painting in the sun and the wind. I had a delicious scallop dinner, too. What day wouldn't be great with something like that in the middle? So thanks to Carol, for the frames and for the impetus to visit Harpswell.

All that said, though, I've worked on this painting here at home, but I'm still not thrilled with it. I think it's too symmetrical - and I didn't achieve the sense of scale that I was trying for. But I have the painting, and plenty of pictures, and so I can - and will - have another go at it.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day of Day Lillies

Day of Day Lilies
Oil on canvas, 18x36,

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

This visit to Maine brought me back to the land, and it also brought me back to my friends.

I worked as the regional editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. My main office was in Norway, and I ran reporters in Rumford and Farmington, as well. I had a far-flung and very hard-working crew that really knew the territory, and understood what made news in their towns.

I got to be friends with all of them, but especially, of course, with the folks and freelancers in the Norway office. And this trip, I got to see almost all of them, as well as my former boss, and another of my former reporters with whom I share a birthday and a continuing friendship.

These reunions brought me back to myself in ways I hadn't expected. They unwrapped parts of me that I'd treasured and stored and forgotten, and I rejoice in these gifts and the people who brought them back to me, or, I guess, brought me back to them.

I made this painting during a wonderful day spent with Mary Ann Guilford, the office manager in Norway. We visited DeerWood Farm and Gardens, and met Beverly and Brian Hendricks, the owners, who were happy to let us paint there.

It's an amazing and gorgeous place, a landscape painted with flowers. Mary Ann and I spent hours there, painting and photographing and chatting with Beverly. I'd hoped to get back and paint there again, but I never made it.

I've fooled with this painting over and over in Photoshop, and still can't manage to transmit it with the depth and brilliance of color it has. It's hanging right now in the Denmark Arts Center, in Denmark, Maine, so if you're in Maine, and you're interested in seeing or buying it, take a drive! The DAC is open weekends, or by appointment - check out the center's website.

If this painting doesn't sell in Maine, it will be at the Wallkill River School Gallery in Montgomery, N.Y., for the month of September. I have a show there with the talented painter, George Hayes; the opening reception is 5-7 p.m. on Sept. 12, auspicious, as it is my late mother's birthday.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home Away from Home

Breezy Hill. Oil on canvas, 20x20
please contact me for price and shipping/delivery info

I loved living in Maine, and I loved being back in Maine this past week. And while the coast of Maine is wonderful, it's inland Maine that calls to me.

It's a tough place to live. Jobs are few, and pay is low. Stuff is surprisingly expensive, and shopkeepers surprisingly surly. Everything is far from everything else. My uncle says it takes two and a half hours to get anywhere - and while that might be an exaggeration, I'd put the stress on "might."

Still, there's a raw, strong beauty in western Maine that pulls hard on my heart. The wind blows in big gusts down from the mountains. The shadows of the forests spill easily onto the fields - and before you know it, nature takes over, all but erasing man's work. Deep in the woods, far beyond houses or roads, stone walls mark long-gone clearings, fields grown over ages ago.

Something in all this resonates in me. Something in the wildness, the far-flung distances, the houses that need work or that shine with it. Something in the dusty towns, the cottage industries, the pot-holed roads. Something in the abundant black-eyed susans, the quiet forest floors, the blue pine trees ripped ragged by the wind - Something hard and strong and beautiful.

It was good to be back in Maine. It felt like going home.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Oil on stretched canvas, 16x20

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

In college, I took a wonderful class on Robert Frost, with Guy Rotella, a teacher whose insights and mentoring changed me, my outlook and in the end, changed my life, too. I thought of him, and of Frost as I painted this, and when I was able to get on line, here at the Center Lovell Inn (there's not a lot of wi-fi in western Maine), I found the lines that had pulsed inside my head:

These are the closing lines of the Frost poem, "Birches":

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Talkin' Bout My Generation

Oil on stretched canvas, 12x16

Call me at 860-442-0246 or email me
if you are interested in buying this painting

I'm struck, as I always am, in snowy parts of New England, by how the old houses are so close to the road. It makes sense, really, considering horses and carriages and mountains, and mountains of snow - but what a sign of how our lives have changed!

These days, no one would build a rural house whose front stood 10 feet from the edge of the asphalt.

The house I painted here is newer, and sits in a ways from Route 93. But I was painting on the edge of the road, only feet from a gorgeous, huge, antique farmhouse. It was at the top of a hill so steep and long that the van shifted into low to climb it.

I think of that house on that hill in the winter, 200 years ago, and I think that our ancestors were far tougher and far braver than we are.


Moon Dance. Oil on canvas panel, 8x10. Sold

One night last winter, when the moon cast amazing blue shadows on the snow, I began to get the idea of trying to paint at night. But how? If there's too much light - like a lamp - I wouldn't be able to see those shadows or the moonlight. Without that lamp, though, how could I see the colors or the canvas, to paint?

I think a miner's headlamp might work, and I'm going to try that - but the other night, my last night at the lake house, I woke at 4 a.m., and found that the moon was full, bright, and about to sink over the edge of the mountain.

I set up my easel behind the van, opened the back door of the van, and painted in the wan light from inside the van. When day broke, I found I had to make some adjustments (for starters, it helps if you put the yellow that you want to use on the palette, instead of the yellow you don't want to use - believe me, they look the same in low light!)

So this is an interesting painting. Successful? Maybe. Maybe not. A first step, for sure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where is the Quiet?

Along the Ridge. Oil on canvas, 16x20. Sold.

My friend Joyce White met me at the Denmark Arts Center today, to catch up and see my paintings. It was a joyo to spend time with Joyce. She was a freelancer at the Sun Journal when I was the bureau chief there. She'd retired from a job in Massachusetts somewhere, and was here working on the second part of her life - and she was interested in everything.

She had a keen insight into my paintings. She liked them - liked them a lot - and also noticed that, for the most part, they are not quiet. And they aren't. They are boisterous, energetic, even loud paintings - and that's fine. But I like the idea of making some quiet, serene paintings - and so we shall see. It's hard for me to restrain myself - and mostly, I don't want to. But I'd like to make some quiet paintings to round out my portfolio. And I have some ideas.

Back Roads of Maine

Fryeburg Farm. Oil on canvas, 16x20, sold

Everyone has their favorite roads, and they all ask if I'd like to know. Sure! I'm always looking for a native's favorite views.

My aunt and uncle sent me on Route 113, from Denmark to Fryeburg and beyond. There are some lovely farms and farmhouses along this road, for sure, but they were not as plentiful as I'd hoped. Still, I found this one, and with a good place to pull off. It was great to be in the mountains again, too.

I wonder about what makes someone love a particular road. For me, I know, it is sometimes the road itself - the driving, really. Some roads are just fun to drive, and that's that. But I think that more often, there is one view on a road that makes that road special. I could hunt all day and not see that one sight. Sometimes, I think, you just have to see it with yourown eyes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Opening in Maine!

Here are some images from the opening reception for my show at the Denmark Arts Center.

My paintings - I was able to hang just about 50 pieces - look just wonderful in this old building, with all its wood and warm surfaces. The light is great - partly from the windows, partly from some very serious track lighting. And the building just seems to welcome my colors and frames and the kind of paintings I make.

About 35 people attended the opening over its two-hour span. They were all strangers to me - when they arrived. I feel that when they left, we were friends. What a group of kind, enthusiastic, welcoming people!

I sold two paintings, too. Well, one was bought by my aunt and uncle, and we're still arguing about that (I think it should be a gift). The other was a real sale, and made me very happy. It's one of my paintings of the Kinney Azalea Garden, and it is going to a very good home.

In the Thick of It

Two paintings of fog. Top, "Mist," oil on canvas, 9x12, sold. Bottom, "6:15 This Morning," oil on canvas, 8x10, sold

The mornings I've been here, I've awakened to a white world outside the screens of the lake house.

A deep fog has fallen over the mountain across the lake both mornings, blurring the outlines of the trees, and erasing the presence of the mountain behind them.

It's hard to paint fog - or at least, it's hard for me. I'm sure there's some shortcut to painting fog. All I know is that I've been experimenting, finding some stuff that works and some that doesn't. The painting at the top is the one I like better. I made the painting first - and it was a good painting of a deep, shadowed, piney forest. Then I scraped the paint off, and went back over the ghost image with some bluish-white paint.

It's incredibly liberating to scrape off what you've just painted - and know that that's part of the process.

So painters, is there a known way to paint fog in plein air? I'd love to know!

Good to be Back

The Lake House. Oil on canvas, 6x12. Sold

I brought canvases and matching frames with me, so I can make paintings and then hang them in the Denmark Arts Center. I've made a big sign - Fresh Paintings! Get 'em while they're wet! and I told everyone at the opening to come on back - that there would be new paintings to see.

I'm enjoying painting here. Looking at the landscapes, being in the landscapes, brings me back to the years when we lived here. Sure, there were tough times, tough enough so that, in the end, we moved away. But this is a beautiful place, wild and, for the most part, unspoiled. It's wonderful to be back here, and even more wonderful to be painting here.

At the Lake House

View From the Lake House, oil on canvas, 12x16, sold.

I'm in Bridgton, Maine, at the moment, sitting in the laundromat, the one place in town with a wi-fi connection. Actually, a little cafe on Main Street has a connection, but it was closing to cater a dinner, and couldn't help me - but a nice woman in the cafe alerted me to the laundromat, and the women here said no problem - they didn't care that I didn't have dirty clothes!

I'm staying at the lake house owned by my aunt and uncle. Their house, a farmhouse built in 1863, sits in fields at the top of a big hill. The lake house is at the bottom, on Moose Pond. It's a lovely little cabin, with wood floors and wood ceilings, and a giant screened porch that overlooks a ferny slope which runs down to the lake.

At night, it's absolutely quiet there, except for the haunting calls of the loons. There are no traffic noises, no people noises, nothing. There's no television in the cabin, and there's not a phone, though my cell phone works from two places in the house, if there are no clouds.

It's a joy to have such a calm and serene place to stay. It's a little like heaven.