Monday, September 13, 2010

Road Trip/Sketchbook Journal: DownEast (Part 5)

The Schoodic Peninsula is a satellite location of Acadia located on the mainland, and there are some major renovations underway to locate more educational facilities for the park services there. There's always a bewildering range of interpretive offerings available every day: from Ranger-led guided walks, night sky viewing trips, scavenger hunts, guided tours from cruises to campfires. I had the opportunity to crash one of the public presentations for the current artist-in-residence, which is a fabulous gig offered in most major National Parks. The program hosts visiting artists by putting them up for 2-4 weeks in exchange for conducting workshops and donating artwork. This one was called "Sketching by the Seaside" and was situated by yet another quaint, idyllic spot that was just begging for a bunch of artists to set up shop. And as it turned out, over thirty attendees showed up to listen and participate, about an average turn-out for these sort of events.

Central Pennsylvania pastel artist Dee Henry - she documented her residency at her blog here - gave a hard-boiled breakdown of her work. As both an artist and a teacher, she gave a well-rounded presentation emphasizing her technique of working "plein air" or in plein English, "doing my art outside," and had a stack of samples for the show & tell. Her own pieces were wonderful, intimate panels that she termed "slices of life" - averaging 5x7 or 8x10. It was nice to be able to see both completed works alongside work-in-progress, even though we didn't actually get to watch a hands-on demonstration, but given the rather windy conditions the practical logistics of plein air dictated another approach. She also gave a crash-course in preliminary sketching with tips on compositional devices and framing the visual elements for a landscape to find a center of interest and arrive at a thumbnail sketch/ value study. The group then dispersed to attempt their own individual roughs in 30-minutes, with an additional 60 set aside for refining, during which Henry walked around sharing tips and offering advice and encouragement. Armed with trusty Sharpie and ballpoint pen I assumed the outsider view and doodled more of a meta-commentary on the scene. Granted, cartoonists don't have to deal with anywhere near as complicated of an artistic overhead as far as tools of the trade go, and I confess to being more drawn to the people participating, as the behavior of this particular species as they interacted with the environment is a perspective that's often far more interesting (and amusing).

Visual artists have long been an important aspect in the promotion and preservation of parks, playing a historical role in the shaping public perception and appreciation of wilderness and nature as a national and cultural resource. Acadia definitely has attracted many a creative adventurer seeking inspiration: from the Hudson River School painters to the "father of the park" George B. Dorr's influence, images of Acadia publicized and attracted patrons and the people to participate and support in the conservation of this and other natural splendors across America. 

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