Thanksgiving Day , ’14

Nov 27, ‘14

Today is Thanksgiving Day.  I’m thankful every day.  I don’t celebrate this national Thanksgiving Day in a big way.  I wish a happy day to all who do.

We’ve had much snow, so it’s going to be a white Thanksgiving.  Also cold.

In a recent conversation with a plein air painter about painting outside, I dredged up some of my paintings that were done on the scene, not from a photograph.  Since digital cameras, I most always have a photo of a scene where I’ve painted; those photos are for reference and to aid my memory.


This painting is a very small watercolor of the former Jailhouse (on the left) and a building that houses a bank – to the right and is on the other side of the Litchfield Green.  It was my habit when I lived in Litchfield to take an hour or so 2 or 3 times a week and drive up to the Green and do a small painting.  I usually brought coffee, had Depak Chopra on the car’s tape player and my painting equipment in the passenger seat.  This very small (post-card) painting was done on Feb 18, ’06.   I remember sitting in my car and feeling happy because it was a warm-ish day and the sun was bright.

I’ve always been struck with the redness of these two buildings and the way light strikes them when the sun is getting low in the west.


This painting, also from the front seat of my car, was done in Jan. ’12.  I left early for work to do this painting.  I’ve passed this scene for many years and have seen it in many different lights, throughout many seasons of change and never fail to tell myself that I’d like to paint that someday.  That’s why I left early for work, to have time to do this painting.  I finished 98% of it that morning and added a few finishing touches later that week.  I never put in the wires on the telephone poles because I felt strongly that I didn’t want to ‘push’ this painting any further.


This painting is a small watercolor sketch showing the house where I lived in Vermont on a ‘white-out’ day.  There was much snow in the air rendering all color and shape as a dull gray.  I dressed for the cold and walked down the road for the mail.  On my way back, I stopped and did a very quick sketch and wrote down color notes.  Then I went back inside and did the painting.  What I recall is that during my brief time standing there and sketching rapidly, was that the silence was so profound I felt as if I could hear each snowflake hitting the ground – and an occasional crow.  My footsteps in the snow seemed to be thunderously loud.  I have no photographs of the house where I lived in Vermont.


This small watercolor was done in ’06.  The barn is one I used to pass regularly until I moved to Torrington in ’08.  This is another scene that ‘spoke’ to me, begging me to paint it someday.  It was a January day with a warming trend, which is why I went out to paint.  I’d passed by a day or two before and promised myself that I would go there the next time I had a few hours to spare.  The scene is north of Litchfield and I was facing south.  I did this painting from the front seat of my car.  Another thing I remember about this day is that I had my first cell phone with me and had a conversation with a friend while I worked, which at the time I thought was way cool.


This is a painting from Port Clyde, Maine, in late May, ’92.  I was there for a few days visiting my parents who have a cottage about a half mile and a short drive down a dirt road toward a bay behind where I was sitting on the side of the road in my lawn chair. The church steeple and the forsythia are somewhat an icon, to me.  In its present state, this painting has had a lot of paint lifted.  The paint was thickly applied and looked a lot like I’d melted a crayon in some places.  As I lifted out the muddy paint I asked myself What was I thinking?  But, of course, I seem to remember.  Visiting my parents anywhere was usually stressful, driving to Maine to visit them was extraordinarily stressful – it’s a 6 ½ drive and there’s a high bridge to cross on the way.  While I was there, I went out to paint on a regular basis to let off steam.  My father was recovering from a cancer operation; both he and my mother were stressed, as well.  I think this painting was so muddy because I was so emotional and just kept piling the paint into the wet areas.  I was also trying to stay out and work as long as possible so I sat and loaded the painting with a waxy build-up.


This is a small watercolor sketch from a notebook that is filled with sketches from the same spot.  The spot was less than 2 minutes from where I lived in Litchfield.  I called this spot a hasty retreat.  I went there frequently to remind myself that I was an artist as well as a person with a day job.  If I went in the morning, it was a Matin, if I went in the evening, Vespers.  This is Vespers 080307.  This was a peaceful spot for me for a very long time.  On a late October day, this spot was soured for me by 2 guys in a pick up truck who were obviously drunk and were obviously drinking beer – they each had a can in hands that tilted frequently.  They stopped to talk and to me, their talk was leering, ominous and threatening.  My car was on the other side of their truck and to my right, nothing but the river.  I told them I was busy and didn’t have time to talk.  They parked there for what seemed like a very long time and finally left when I refused to engage.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief and left shortly after.  It was a day I’d forgotten to bring my cell phone or my pepper spray.

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5 Responses to Thanksgiving Day , ’14

  1. beetleypete says:

    Some lovely paintings, and great stories to accompany them Gretchen. It strikes me that the two snowy scenes would make great Christmas cards, though the church is my personal favourite.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you. (We don’t have that here, thankfully)
    Best wishes from England, Pete.

  2. These are each stunning in their own way…Thanks for sharing them! That last story made the hair stand up on the back of my neck; I think you were quite fortunate that day.

    • I like to think that my intuition serves me well and that indeed I was quite fortunate that day. I went back to that place to paint one more time after that. I had my cell phone and pepper spray but I went back mostly to face my fear.

      Thank you for the “stunning.” And thank you for your comment, really appreciated….

  3. chris ludke says:

    They are BEAUTIFUL!!!

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