Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Harbor House 24 x 30" Available at Roan & Black Gallery
When you are painting an image of a place you well know, the process, as with Harbor House, often seems effortless. I'd been planning to paint this structure for some time. It seemed a beacon from the past, the Cape Cod I knew as a child, strongly standing ground out in East Orleans. It is at the end of Tonset Road near a landing with a small turn about. A spot I drove to with my plein air painter friend, Lori McCall, last Fall while scouting painting locations. We stepped down the few stairs to the harbor waters, taking in the bright dingy's tossed against the deep marsh grasses and watched as a fisherman headed out through the narrows, and decided it would do nicely. After a few hours of struggling with the transition of painting in the out-of-doors, I needed to regroup. I took the few steps back up the landing and in so doing looked directly at this house. It was then that its quietly familiar standings and weathered grey shingles grabbed my shoulders from a place back in time, and I, quite startled, felt the immediate and strong need to paint it. However, the good light would soon be lost and I was leaving the Cape the next day so I took several photographs, jotted a few notes and made a small sketch. And there it stayed, like those memories, on the shelf of patiently waiting.

Fast forward to two weeks ago when, here in my Florida studio, deep into the painting process, I opened a drawer and there it was - starring at me.  I knew it was time. I pulled up a clean canvas and dove in. Almost immediately my Cape experiences began to pour from my brushes. I remembered all those vacations as a child where six of us would squeeze into a two bedroom cottage and spill out in the early morning air to walk by the Mill Pond as our parents packed up for another day at Nauset Beach. I remembered we would pull ourselves up onto similar porch chairs with the traditional blue and white stripes and how the mix of stone and sand felt beneath my tanned, bare feet. 

Several hours went by when, feeling I was close to completion, I pealed it off my easel and hung it on my studio wall to "cure"- giving it the necessary time for the thick paint to set and me time to stand back and see what it needed. That next morning I noticed it held a strong presence and, after a few small changes/additions, I knew it was ready.
Concurrently, I just signed on with a new gallery, Roan & Black in Saugatuck, Michigan. Roan & Black is owned by two, very passionate and savvy guys who completely transformed an old mechanics garage into a successful gallery. It is a bold, fresh contemporary space located in a beach town known for its commitment to the arts. Saugatuck, a small city on Kalamazoo Lake just around the bend from where the Kalamazoo River meets the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, is similar to the Cape with its boating culture, stunningly broad beaches, vast dunes and fields of billowing beach grasses. It is also at the center of "The Art Coast of Michigan."

So it dawned on me, while looking at Harbor House and thinking about how I had just shipped several paintings up, that maybe this one would also work in my first group show with R&B called "STRUCTURE" opening this Saturday, April 19th. The response I received after emailing the image was a resounding, "YES!" and three days later the painting left my studio for the 1,158 mile journey to Saugatuck.

I quietly left the UPS Store thinking about how quickly this painting went from a place in my heart, to the canvas and now on to Saugatuck. It was then that I heard the last line of Casablanca. You know, when Bogart says, while walking into the dense fog, "Louie…I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And realized how wonderful it is to be able to send a part of ourselves out into the world.


A collection of six artists working 
in oil, paper, clay and mixed media 
and how structures inspire their work

SAT, APRIL 19th, 6:30- 9PM

Roan & Black Contemporary Gallery
3315 Blue Star Hwy, Saugatuck, MI

© 2014 christine sullivan

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