If I Were A Painter . . .

I’ve penned some love letters to Cape Cod on these pages, but it has been a while since last I did. Yes, I’m in love with The Cape. My wife Sandy seconds that emotion. The enormous expanses of undeveloped oceanside shorelines; the humungous, otherworldly sand dunes that run for miles within the peninsula’s far reaches; the I-never-would-have-expected-them-to-be-there woods and forests that pepper the landscape . . . Cape Cod has natural beauty up the grand wazoo. And, that being what we most favor about The Cape, Sandy and I spend lots of time poking around the great outdoors during our Cape vacations. But we also like to emerge from the wilderness and do other types of things that ring our bells. For example, we get big bangs from some of the old village sections of certain Cape towns, such as those in Provincetown, Wellfleet and Orleans. They are cute and charming. We wander on their streets, investigate their stores and stuff our faces at dinnertime in their restaurants.

Last October, in Orleans, we took in a cool event one Saturday morning. The Addison Art Gallery, one of Cape Cod’s best, organized it. Two or more times each year AAG selects an outdoors Cape area to be immortalized and invites a bunch of the artists it represents to find views that spark them in said area, set up their easels and paint away. In October, Addison chose Orleans’ villagey heart, in which it is located, as the locale. The artists were instructed to paint and complete their masterpieces between 8 AM and noon, and then to bring the canvases to AAG where they would be framed and hung on the walls and offered for sale that evening at an artsy gathering to which the public was invited.

Maryalice Eizenberg.
Maryalice Eizenberg.

Sandy and I, who haven’t lifted a paint brush since grade school, like to watch good artists at work. So who knows why we got a real late start and didn’t arrive at the five or so square block painting zone until 11 AM. By that time most of the artists had finished their jobs and were packing up or already gone. Luckily we got to see two painters who were still going at it. On a sidewalk near AAG, Maryalice Eizenberg, hooded to shield herself from our friend the Sun, was staring down a big, old, yellow Victorian house across the street. She sweetly translated what she saw, in colors deeper than those 80 feet away. We chatted with her for a couple of minutes as she worked. “Have you seen what Paul Schulenburg is painting?” she asked us. No, we hadn’t. “Take a look. You won’t believe what his subject is.” And she pointed to where we’d find him, hidden from view from her own spot, but only half a block away.

Paul Schulenburg.
Paul Schulenburg.

Now, Paul Schulenburg is an artist whose oils I have seen at AAG over the years. He’s really good. His paintings have a stillness, a sense of completeness, à la Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Sandy and I followed Maryalice’s finger and came upon him. He and his easel were positioned between two houses, and he was zeroing in on a small section of one of the houses, a large and mostly white-shingled affair. But it wasn’t the house so much that he was interested in. What had caught his eye, and had become the focal point of his painting, was a bright green garden hose. Its color contrasted just-so with the less brilliant green of the side lawn, and had plenty to say to the house’s white shingles and red bricks. “Man, this guy is something else,” I more or less thought to myself. “A hose? Yup, and he is doing it proud.”

For reasons unknown, that October day floated to the top of my porous memory bank last week, and it got me thinking. Were there any aspects of my house’s exterior or grounds worth putting down on canvas? I decided to take a look. I would use my best impersonation of Paul Schulenburg’s painterly eye.

Sandy’s and my abode rests in the middle of a typical suburban block near Philadelphia. The house is modest and is surrounded by more shrubs and trees than I enjoy taking care of. All of it looks nice, but ain’t exactly a head-turner. I mean, Better Homes And Gardens Magazine has no plans to contact me anytime soon for a photo shoot. That, however, wasn’t the point. My mission was to pay attention to the details, to notice boffo alignments of objects, neato color contrasts, whatever, that were waiting to be discovered.

IMG_0821IMG_0799IMG_0805My house? Man, I’m glad to be living within it, but, take it from me, its exterior front and sides are vanilla. Tons of bricks and stones with almost nothing quirky or asymmetrical going on. I gazed artistically at one of the few ornamentations, a tangle of gas meter and pipes near the front door, and wondered if it would make for a decent painting. Well, maybe, but  . . . eh. I then walked around back and gave the grounds there a once-over, starting with the shed. How about its doors? Their designs seemed kind of sharp. Or did they? Nah, the scene lacked pop. A blooming Rose Of Sharon in the backyard, however, definitely did pop. How many floral scenes have been painted over the years, though? Maybe 20 billion. The world didn’t need this one.

IMG_0841All was not in vain. Because attached to the rear of the house is a great-looking deck that I figured would hold out hope. Hope morphed into certainty when I spotted something on one of the deck’s supporting posts. It was a knot, golden and aglow, in the wood. That’s what I would paint if I were a painter, I decided. It was a natural, a star waiting to be born. I walked around the knot, snapping photos, checking out various vantage points. And came to think that one perspective gave the best results for my imagined painting. In that vista you see the crazy quilt formed by part of the deck’s underside and the stairs leading up. You see a bit of slate patio and brick surface of the house. The scene’s palette is muted, all wan greys and browns, except for the golden medallion that you can’t take your eyes off of.

But I did take my eyes off the knot in a bit. And then I folded up my fantasy easel and went inside. It’s good to learn things, and I came away from all of this with an insight that never had occurred to me before: A painter in search of something to paint is little different than a writer (moi?) trying to come up with a story idea. And exactly the same is true for dance choreographers, photographers, film makers, chemists, astrophysicists, chefs, you name it, all on the prowl for projects that will make them buzz. The wellsprings of creativity are thick and bubbling, though not always easily tapped.

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(Cape Cod photos by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin. The others by yours truly. If you click on any photo, a larger image will open)

27 thoughts on “If I Were A Painter . . .

  1. Still the Lucky Few August 2, 2016 / 1:54 am

    We are all trying to ‘see’ the right view, find the right word, all perfectionists in our own right. For me, the whole purpose is to be creative—the process, not the product is what’s important, although it’s great if that turns out too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce August 2, 2016 / 8:09 am

    Love your Cape stories! So many creative people everywhere. I will be sure to check out your knot!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pleafman August 2, 2016 / 3:23 pm

    Neil….my wife and I have been threatening to take a driving tour to the Cape and other parts of New England….your blog has made our trip a definite for next year. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger August 2, 2016 / 4:19 pm

      Go! But, if you want to avoid hordes of fellow visitors, go in the off-season.


      • pleafman August 2, 2016 / 4:25 pm

        We try to do all our traveling in the off season. We traveled to Eastern Europe this past January and, while cold, we didn’t have to deal with throngs of tourists….it was one of our favorite trips…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. andrewcferguson August 2, 2016 / 4:14 pm

    I’ve always fancied seeing New England, and you’ve made that desire stronger. The visual arts thing always fascinates me – I consider myself far more aural than visual, but sometimes as you say a single visual detail is quite arresting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger August 2, 2016 / 4:34 pm

      New England is quite great. I went to college in Vermont, which is a green, green, beautiful state. And I’ve always wanted to spend time in Maine, which is really large and forested. You can’t go wrong in New England.


      • lindamclaren August 7, 2016 / 1:13 am

        I spent a month in Vermont the fall before last at the Vermont Artists Studios. Great experience. You should check it out. Inspiration abound from the mix of all kinds of creative minds all gathered in the one place.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lucie August 3, 2016 / 1:19 am

    Oh gosh…you brought me back to my biking days on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket….thanks for the trip down memory lane…. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tiger Den Resort August 3, 2016 / 4:12 am

    Love your Cape stories! Such a large number of inventive individuals all over the place. I will make certain to look at your bunch!..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aunt Beulah August 6, 2016 / 8:38 am

    This post interested me from beginning to end: the description of Cape Code (I really need to visit it), the interesting art experience, the green hose, and your quest with a camera. funny thing, when I scrolled to the deck shot and before I read about it, my eye caught the golden knot and my mind responded to it. But best of all, these sentences:”… all on the prowl for projects that will make them buzz. The wellsprings of creativity are thick and bubbling, though not always easily tapped.” Perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Martin August 7, 2016 / 3:40 am

    Great post, you have really captured something of the creative process. I write and paint, although I don’t spend enough time doing either, and I recognise that moment when something catches your attention and you think “I could do something with that”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. vprofy August 17, 2016 / 4:25 pm

    Ernst Haas, color photographer, commented that there should be a be a nail where the shutter is. It’s the search, looking for the picture, when we find it were willing to endure a bit of pain to take the picture. But search first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger August 17, 2016 / 7:23 pm

      “… there should be a nail where the shutter is.” — I like that!


  10. norosc_blog August 30, 2016 / 6:00 pm

    Creativity is not bound to anyone… It is only a perspective and an approach one has towards something. When I read this article, I so like that part where the mind is struggling to find something to only make us realise that creation only comes through a process which doesn’t have a “FORMULA” but definitely can be categorised by style.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. johnlmalone August 15, 2019 / 6:18 pm

    you got that one right, Neil 🙂 you never know where the idea for a story or poem will come from but one thing I’ve found is they come more often when one is NOT on the prowl

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger August 15, 2019 / 11:26 pm

      Hi. Yeah, the writing process is kind of mysterious and unpredictable. I guess that’s part of its charm. Or maybe not!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. cath August 3, 2020 / 2:06 pm

    Lovely post, Neil. I took a closer look at your photos, and I agree, those two paintings are impressive.
    I also think the underside of your decking with the golden knot is a winner, nicely balanced by the story of how you got to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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