A farm down Maine, in oils

... An American Monet didn't have the bread - nor the talent

from Don Norris

Now I know what Monet felt when he found himself confined to his own garden, the victim of passing years. He and Renoir were, are, my heros. Unfortunately my life took an economic turn, and a valiant four years of trying to be the American Monet went down the drain with a need for reality.

The fact is that when we formed an altruistic art group in Melrose called The Atelier -- it was in the late seventies -- there were too many budding artists and not enough wealthy art afficionades to support all of us. Too many good artists -- and I suspect it's the same way today, a bad economic market and too many really good artists.

Melrose was fortunate to have an art council, so one summer I submitted an application for funding. I wanted to go trace the American Impressionists from the early part of the last century -- to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, to stay in the old inns they used, to find and paint scenes that made them, eventually, famous.

At least most of best of those members survived. I couldn't, not because I wasn't good enough or I didn't have the potential. I just didn't have the time to paint full time, nor the funds to support my family.

But I did get $200 from the arts council, to go painting in Vermont, to study the ways of the great American Impressionists. So I loaded my Volkswagen Kombi with supplies, a bedroll, a little portable stove, and off I went. The first night out I stayed in the old inn in Vermont where Emile Gruppe stayed; it was really basic, and about midnight someone burst into my room, turned on the light, and decided she was in the wrong place, and slammed the door on the way out. No working locks.

I probably got enough material for 50 paintings, for I was sketching and photographing, both, like mad -- in addition to painting. I think my forerunners missed this scene above -- it was on a little back road that ran along the Maine and New Hampshire border, way up north.

I'm sorry I didn't have the where-with-all to continue painting, even if I wasn't good enough to be a commercial succuss. About a hundred paintings have been stacked in closets -- were stacked, for I recently acceded to my two girls' wishes, and now the paintings are back in New Hampshire. On display, I hope.

As for the 15 or so local artists who formed and took part in the Atelier, some made it, some didn't. Wait till the next issue and I'll have some names and some interviews with what happened to those budding artists. It should make a good story.

April 3, 2009

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