|Kurt Plinke, Artist and Naturalist
Between the Waters
life, Art and The Nature of things Between the Atlantic and the Chesapeake
I'm pretty sure that any artist has a favorite place to paint. Maybe two. Or three. I know I actually have four. But one seems, by default, to be my favorite place to paint.
My wife and I both agree that Chincoteague Island is probably our favorite place, and while we don't go there as often as we would like, it is almost always at the top of our list when we have a few days free. And while there, I have managed to get in a little painting, and have at least started a lot of paintings there. The problem I seem to have with Chincoteague is that there are so many simple things to do there, that I spend a lot of time not painting. So while Chincoteague may be my (our) favorite place, it probably isn't my favorite place to paint.
Another place I think may be a favorite place is a friend's farm, up near Henderson. I have been there many times, and have spent weeks in the snow, removing firewood from their logged-over field edges. Larry and Barb's farm, with it's cows, barns and fields is just about the most picturesque place to paint anywhere, as far as I am concerned. I could spend the rest of my life painting on their farm. Oddly, though, I have pretty much never finished a painting there. I've completed some sketches, a quick study, and lots of photographs, but no real plein air, paint-all-day kind of sessions. I love their place, and I love painting their place, but as far as spending time there painting, it just seems that I always have someplace else to be when I want to paint Barb's barns.
The place where I actually truly do most of my painting is my studio, a repurposed room in our old pre-revolutionary home on the Choptank River. I try to paint there every day, and usually, I manage to get at least three or four hours in. (I'm averaging, here. There are days in a row when I don't paint, for a variety of reasons.) Overall, this is the place where I almost always go to paint. In the winter, in the summer, this is where my palettes stay full of moist paint, and where the lighting is always just right. Music to listen to, dogs to pet, and a nearby refrigerator all keep me just distracted enough to stay interested. Truly, the studio is the best place to paint.
Except, I have another location where, through timing and circumstance, I seem to keep going back to.
I teach art at North Caroline High School.
Firstly, I have to say that I have the perfect job. Caroline County Public Schools are the best. Anybody tells you different, they need to rethink their position. The county values education, and the school board has their head screwed on straight. The administration almost always seems to consider teacher's needs as they balance students, parents and others as they organize an exceptional educational system in a low-income rural county. My school's administration is responsive to student's needs, as best they can, given state regulations. My supervisor (Susan) is top-notch. So the school system is awesome here, as far as I see it.
But beyond that, being a high school art teacher is an amazing way to spend a day. I get to listen to fascinating young people plan their lives, develop understandings of art and history, as I manage to keep myself a lot younger than I truly am, chronologically, just because I'm surrounded by young people. On top of that, I get to teach the best subject ever. I get to be a part of developing young artists minds. Awesome. I honestly can't wait to get to work every day. In fact, I almost always get to work at least forty five minutes early. Usually, I spend that time planning the day, grading papers, cleaning brushes or making a dent in my disorganized room.
Sometimes though, (actually fairly often) I come into the room and look out my broad expanse of windows at some of the most beautiful rural scenery you can imagine. And some of those times, when my grading is caught up, and my disorganization is at an acceptable level, I spend some time before school painting what I see out of those broad windows. I paint the old dairy farm across the field. I paint it in the spring, in the winter and in the fall. I paint the river, peeking through the trees across the road from the school. paint the fields, especially on mornings when there is a spectacular sunrise, or when the newly-plowed furrows are blanketed with fog. In fact, as I look back over the past few years, I realize that I have painted a lot of pieces of paper, very early in the morning, based upon what I see out the windows of my classroom.
Usually, these paintings are quick, merely sketches. I don't have time to complete a detailed, involved full-fledged painting. So most of these little studies will never be framed or showed to others. But I have really enjoyed my time, brush in hand, as I sit in a plastic school chair, with my brushes and travel palette, looking through the big eastward-facing windows of my classroom as I record what I see.
That's my favorite place to paint.
Kurt Plinke: About Life, Art and the Nature of Things on the Eastern Shore
I write about things I've noticed, places I've been, plans I've made and paintings I've finished or am thinking about.
See recent naturalist observations I have posted on iNaturalist: