Have you had your “Best Nine” assembled for Instagram yet? It is a strange phenomenon to me, but I do it anyway. These are the nine posts that were “liked” the most, be it through folks who follow my account and appreciate my artwork or through the momentary impressions made on thousands of eyes they happen to pass by within the deep algorithmic machinations of Instagram’s computers. Is it a true reflection of my best work for the year? Perhaps, but there are always one or two things I’ve shared that I liked better. Still, the Best Nine tool never fails to bring up memories of the year; memories of paintings, memories of the places those paintings are about, and memories of the circumstances under which some were painted.
Starting with the top left image: this one was definitely about circumstances. I started work on this landscape painting at an open studio event. It turned out to be a slow weekend, my booth space was in a basement, and I sold just one original painting. I think maybe three people watched me demonstrate my painting technique with this piece and two of those people were the other artists set up in the room with me. I almost finished the painting over the course of the next day and a half. I had that much spare time.
The top center image has memories of happier days. Nice that there is a process shot of this piece in the bottom center position, too. The painting is based on a photo taken during a glorious solo week of hiking in the White Mountains the year before. I could feel the hot sun and wind of that trip as I painted, and the many rare hours I was alone on the trails. The painting sold before it was even dry.
The top right watercolor view of birch trees was from another great trip. At the end of October my husband and I spent a week at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Medawisla Lodge way up in the north woods of Maine. It ended up being a rainy week, which meant hanging out inside a lot. We got out plenty anyway, even with the rain: a couple of hikes, a muddy bike ride over hill and dale, plein air painting under a waterfront pavilion, and a short paddle on the lake. Lovely as well were the hours spent quietly reading and painting the view out the cabin window.
There are three unexpected sunrise and sunset scenes in my Best Nine group this year. I don’t normally paint a lot of pinky-orange sun glow, but the year brought about opportunities to do so. Two process shots of watercolors in the center left and bottom right positions were based on an early morning at Star Lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and of a chilly evening on Mount Hunger in my home state of Vermont, respectively. There is something about the start and end of day above treeline that makes being up before dawn and staying out after dark not so bad. The landscape changes more dramatically than at any other time of day. The third sun-struck painting is in the center right position and was painted in oils during a delightful three day plein air painting workshop in New Hampshire. Up at dawn and fingers numb in no time from the chilly September mountain air, I was ecstatic and focused as I painted the gorgeous foliage scene before me.
The centerpiece of this little group of nine is representative of all the little ink pieces I made during the year, though probably not the best example. The bulk of this graphic work was done in October when I took on the #inktober challenge to make one ink drawing per day. This turned into a hilarious mix of mountain goats and ladies hiking through history that was a pretty big hit with friends and family.
Finally, the watercolor in the lower left. Not something I painted this year or even in the last five. It is a little scene of White Rocks, the little neighbor summit to Mount Hunger. These were the mountains of my childhood and we lived at their feet when I was very young. I’ve climbed both more times than I can count, camped up there twice, and once hiked an amazingly underused trail from their popular summits to Mount Worcester.
And that’s it! Of course, lots of other things happened this year, but Instagram did catch one thing: there was a lot of painting. In a year packed with other events - an office move, trips for work, and other stresses - art was good therapy. It was a place for my thoughts to dwell on good days, mountain scenes, and beauty. Hopefully 2018 will be even better and next year’s Best Nine will be filled with even more paintings, adventures and fun.