Issue: 32


Need Inspiration?                  

                                        by Bill Hudson  


Anyone who has seriously devoted himself to painting or photography has forever changed the way he sees the world. That person sees the many colors in even the most common objects. He studies forms, compositions, edges, lines, shadows, reflections, textures, and aerial perspective. He carefully defines the sources of light and vanishing points. He realizes how nature, people, and objects can radically change any scene instantaneously. If he is a painter, he thinks how his mental composition can be rendered in pigments and how the pigments should be applied to his canvas or paper. With a degree of mastering his media and developing his own style he searches for subject matter that inspires him.


That is why I was so much looking forward to our recent trip to the coast of Maine for the entire month of September. My wife Ellie and I had been there before, but only for a few hurried days years ago. This time with my sister Kathy and close friend Kermit, we rented three homes for a week each as we began our trek in Portland and worked our way north to Lubec and finally to Campobello, Canada. Several members of my family joined us for a week while we stayed in Blue Hill which was our coastal mid-point. These included my brother Ernie and his wife Diana, my son Will, his wife Kendall, and their daughter Kaila, and my youngest daughter Sarah.


As an artist, my primary goal was to get thousands of photographs to use as reference material for future paintings. The goal of the others was to see and experience this beautiful piece of our planet as it changed into its fall colors. Maine exceeded everyone's expectations.


On our first day in Portland, we visited the Portland Head Lighthouse, the oldest in Maine. Construction began in 1787 at the direction of George Washington. Portland Head is now only one of 57 active lighthouses in Maine. The lighthouses are impressive reminders of just how historically rich, yet undeveloped, the coast of Maine is. The final lighthouse that we visited was the West Quoddy Head Light sitting on the eastern most point of land in the United States.


The entire population of Maine is only 1.3 million and nearly a quarter of those people live in the greater Portland area. For a maritime artist that translates to 3,500 miles of tidal coastline with hundreds of coves, islands, harbors, and historic fishing communities. It just doesn't get better unless you're in a boat among the thousands of multi-colored lobster buoys sometimes floating only a few feet apart.


As we drove from town to village to hamlet, we began to notice wonderful trends. Homes, barns, and buildings are old, but well maintained. The construction is often New England style "post and beam." We saw no new housing tracts. And there are no billboards because they're illegal. Home sites appear to have been cleared from heavily wooded forests. Many open fields are covered with low-bush blueberries whose foliage becomes a bright purple in September. Everywhere there is history. Coastal towns grew to support the fish industry which includes herring, sardines, lobster, clams, and scallops. Work and pay were plentiful and drew people from their farms to work in herring smoke houses. Because of the  constant fires maintained in the smoke houses, many of the harbor buildings were destroyed by fire and rebuilt multiple times. In    addition to fishing facilities, nearly every town has several artist studios and galleries. Even on country roads, many people have signs in their front yard advertising a part of their house as a gallery.


Maine has 5,900 licensed lobster harvesters who, with one or two assistants, can fish as many as 800 traps year round. Each harvester must register his unique buoy markings with the state. To me, these buoys are the symbol of the state. Everywhere one drives, the sparse population proudly exhibits the bright-colored buoys that signify generations of a family pursuing hard, honest work at sea.


I spent most early mornings in fishing harbors to take pictures of lobstermen getting in their skiffs and paddling or motoring out to their moored lobster boats. I was often on wharfs talking with the watermen. I discovered that most of these wharfs are privately owned, but nearly all of the lobstermen are friendly to tourists like myself. However, they are understandably cautious with competing fishermen and other professionals who can affect their way of life.


On one occasion I was on a large wharf in New Harbor that I assumed was publically owned when I saw a local fisherman working on his boat. I asked him if it was OK to take his picture. He brusquely responded, "If you're a politician, I'll just flatten you right here!" I assured him I was only an artist. He then told me that he, his Dad, and brother had built the dock I was standing on and they'd lobstered all their lives. He introduced himself as "Waino" and  invited me into one of his sheds where he maintained his "Wall of Fame" which held pictures of deceased fishermen who he had been close to. Waino graciously spent over an hour explaining Maine's regulations for keeping only lobsters whose carapace measures 3.25" to 5.0". Anything larger than 5.0 inches is breeding stock and is released. Also any lobsterman who brings in a legal size female with visible eggs must cut a notch in her tail and release her, thereby protecting her for life as a breeder. Waino said that the size restrictions together with capping the current number of licensed harvesters has done a good job of maintaining the lobster population.


On another morning I spoke with 63-year old Brian Cates in Cutler along the northern coast. Brian's 48-foot Newfoundland model boat (which has a wider beam than those made in Maine) was named "Legacy", but also had the name of his 5 grandchildren written on the cabin bridge. Brian told me his two sons were still out fishing that day and for many like himself fishing has stayed in the family for generations. He also told me how he had once taken a big chance and named his first boat after his wife. But he named it before he had asked her to marry him. "Turned out OK," he said.


I really looked forward to every morning, every photograph, of harbors, boats, traps, buoys, wharfs, nets, and historically old lobster ports. But something very unique to Maine is the huge variation in tides. At Maine's northern border sits Lubec near the  mouth of the Bay of Fundy. The tide swing in Lubec is 28 feet. The Bay of Fundy has the largest tide range in the world and measures 48 feet. Because of these variations, I often returned to the same locations multiple times to photographically record the compositional variations. Boats once floating near roadsides at high tide were resting on mudflats six hours later. Low tides bring out the clammers with their rakes and baskets. And along with lobster, we did eat our share of clams.


After early mornings alone in harbors with my camera I'd join my family who were always ready for a hike in the woods. Maine is blessed with near infinite woods and ample trails. From our doorstep to the foot of any trail was always within a 5-minute drive. Also, all three of our rented houses sat on the waterfront. So fishing contests between Kermit, Will, Kendall, and Sarah occurred daily.


My wife Ellie and I were in love with Maine and decided to take some of it back to California with  us. So we stopped in a few places to buy an old lobster trap and some original hand-hewn wooden buoys. I thought they may be attention-getters in my booth at art shows. There are many antique stores along the coast and we stopped at one along Route 1 that had several wooden buoys hanging from the front porch along with many other items. Unfortunately the store was closed and there was a sign in front saying "Stealing is Not Allowed." Now, you would never see that in California; everything including the sign would be gone. Well, Ellie called the owner and she met us at the store within a half hour. Turns out the owner is a trusting, friendly Maine native named Patty Scudder who had once left Maine to marry, move to California, raise 4 children, and teach for 30 years at Ocean View High School, which coincidentally, is just three miles from our house.


When we returned home, I went through my nearly 5,000 pictures and am overjoyed with the number that I believe will contribute to quality paintings. Ellie and I have already talked about a return trip. That was endorsed by everyone who joined us. Maine has been an inspiration to all of us, but to each in a different way.

One closing recommendation. Our week in Blue Hill was the highlight of the entire trip. This was largely due to our house which we rented from Jean Paul and Melinda Reach-Lecomte through Vacation Rentals By Owner (ref VRBO Property #455862). The house is a near-perfect condition circa 1820, spacious New England structure, with a large, modern kitchen, and beautiful furniture and art in every room. These include five bedrooms, each with a separate full bathroom. The waterfront house sits on Main Street next door to the Jud Hartmann Gallery at 79 Main Street. This was the best gallery that I entered in Maine. Mr. Hartmann is a talented sculptor who found a successful niche doing exactly what he loves ... documenting the American Indian of New England. He continues to produce a series of limited edition bronze sculptures entitled "The Woodland Tribes of the Northeast."


Thank You

I want to thank all of you who commented on my last Newsletter, "Greenbackville ... small town, big Influence."Seems that many of you had a similar childhood and now have lifelong memories that still reflect in your art and interests.

I particularly want to thank:

Dan Furlong ... retired Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (ref

Gary Stewart and Margo Kutner ... who forwarded the Newsletter to the Historian of the National Park Services Northeast Office who in turn contacted me with some great reference material.

Gayle Stahl ... my cousin who still proudly speaks in Tidewater English and who proof read the Newsletter to make sure my memories weren't too embellished. 




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