As the ferryboat pulled away from the dock, I anticipated my adventure ahead: two days on Nantucket to explore on my own! With everything I needed packed in one backpack and a painter's box, I was ready to discover the island's beauty for the first time. Though I had been to Nantucket twice before, I had not yet come to observe nature in order to draw or paint. This would be special treat for me: a time to search, absorb, interpret, and create. What an exciting and new challenge!
After arriving on the island after an hour on the speed ferry, I rented a mountain bike and strapped my art supplies to the back. I located the B&B where I would stay, grabbed a bike map, and started out.
I decided to find Miacomet Beach first. The sun was bright, the colors were clear, and I was excited about taking good pictures and making sketches. Along the way, I found a beautiful stretch of water called Miacomet Pond, a super cobalt blue with vibrant green grasses growing on either side. As I continued on biking south towards the shoreline to try to find Miacomet Beach, the smaller dirt roads eluded me. Neither my paper map nor the GPS on my iPhone could seem to get me to the beach, only to dirt road dead-ends, driveways, and even signs that said, “Not a Beach Road – Private Only – Turn Around Now.” I felt like Dorothy in Oz, when she came upon the apple orchard of grouchy trees that threw apples and drove her away! I gave up after three attempts down three roads. Maybe Miacomet Beach was not to be. Though this endeavor cost an hour of biking, I refused to get discouraged... every discovery is part of the journey. Other great scenes lay ahead. In fact, as I biked along Miacomet Road, I was captivated by the branches of evergreen trees against the deep blue sky, red-wing blackbirds darting around, and the quiet wind on my back. What a gift nature is to us.
Biking on, I found BRIX, where it's all going to happen... Loved the little garden in front, the big picture windows, and I could imagine its flower shrubs in bloom in just a few weeks. (This is the site where I will show the Nantucket paintings for an upcoming wine tasting on August 1.)
Biking further southward, I found Surfside Beach, on the southernmost side of the island -- YES! -- complete with a big sign, a parking lot, and bike path leading straight to it. User-friendly... phew! As I walked down the path to the beach and took in the scenery, I was hit with the realization that the beaches on Nantucket are distinctly different from the beaches of Cape Cod, or even anywhere else I had ever been. This felt very different from my expectations and previous memories. It was a dry, desert-like landscape. Its craggy, bleached trees formed wild shapes with their blistery arms reaching away from the water, as if windblown to grow that way. Long, mossy-green grasses stretched for miles. And the dunes sloped and fell gently and subtly, defined by lines of darker brush in places or slightly taller crests. I took several pictures and walked around for a little while. It was desolate and beautiful. I was so glad I came.
When I was attending the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, I took a class on the art, science and sociology of landscape design with Drs. Jim Sears, Donna Huse, and Peter London. We talked about "the spirit of the place." In other words, what does the place say to you? How does its design (whether planned or unplanned, man-made or natural) make you feel? What is its story, and how do you resonate with it? These questions were now ringing clearly through my head, many years later. How do Nantucket's different places speak to me? I would continue to ask these questions every moment I came upon a new discovery. What makes this particular place unique, what does it say to me, and what historic stories might it tell me? Wampanoag Nation stories... early European newcomer stories... a single place can hold a lot of history. This place spoke deeply to me through its vast sweeping land, far reaching horizon line, and the winds blowing across it. Though it felt dry and desolate, it felt quite alive and powerful to me. I breathed deeply and offered a prayer of thanks to God.
This beach would later be the basis for my first painting in the Nantucket series, “Surfside Crest,” on a large 36”x36” square canvas, below. I hoped to capture the power and life I felt there. It is important to me to capture not only what is seen with the eyes, but what is felt in the spirit. Photos act as a baseline or springboard.
Thanks for reading this far...
Exploring more of Nantucket including the inland landscape that is jokingly called the "Serengeti" that looks like the plains of Africa. Yes, Africa in New England! Nantucket's nature is pretty amazing. More photos and paintings to come soon.