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Yale 62

The Artist’s Sketchbook

Recent works by Fred Appell, with the artist’s comments.

The garden is the creation of Jan Moss on Great Cranberry Island, Maine, where I spend my summers. Each of the pages of the sketchbook is an answer to an individual challenge. In this case the problem was to suggest a multitude of flowers, without necessarily resorting to detailed sketches of individual flowers. The more or less oval format is important because it allows the white paper of the background to interact with the whites in the painted surface. As far as the subject goes, this garden is on the side of the hill. In the background, you see a little of the blue of the ocean, and in front of or to the right of the ocean are the lollipop trees, which are conifers that the deer have stripped of all their foliage in the winter, and which had their bare branches subsequently cut off.

The painting of the three houses on Cranberry Road shows the Western Way, an arm of the Atlantic, in the background, and detailed drawings of these three houses on the island. Each painting has a story. This one relates to the large boulders on the right-hand side of the road which were placed there after a member of the community, given to drinking, had plowed into the front porch of the house, not visible on the right.

The back of the Cranberry Island church with the rector’s study and the Ladies Aid building next door is quite obviously a raw sketch, the pencil line still showing. A little red patch in the right foreground, may not make any sense, but it seemed to be necessary for the composition.

The ceramic bowl with fruit on my Minneapolis porch is a testament to the desperation an artist feels when the only subject is some unimportant, homely objects before him, the table with African printed fabrics, wicker chairs and cut crystal vase. In the end it’s all about actually painting something and letting the paint speak for itself, never mind the subject.

This view of Northeast Harbor, Maine features on the left the Sunbeam, a hospital ship servicing the few still inhabited islands in Maine. I was especially interested in the dinghy dock, where I resorted to pen to show the confusion of outboards. (If there is a “murder of crows,” I’d propose a new group name: “a confusion of dinghies.”)

It was a cloudy day in York Harbor, Maine, but I was determined to get a painting done to fill up my high school reunion sketchbook. This is a detail of an unfinished sketchbook page which I did as it stated to rain.

I went to Winslow Homer’s studio and I saw the rocks which Homer frequently painted. I felt challenged to take a shot at painting those rocks myself. The rest of the painting was “unloved” but the rocks came out fairly well.

This old fellow is based on a fisherman who used to sit in the shop on the dock at Islesford, making rope ladders for lobster boats. I painted this picture out of my imagination, made the rope ladder maker into a model maker, and put various types of sail plans of sailboats on the shelves.

The next four pages show different styles I use in my sketchbook. In the watercolor of a tree I was working with the differences between light and shade; the second is a sketch done on the spot of the only pedestrian drawbridge on the east coast; the third a study of rocks with the waves marked by an iron stake and with a navigational buoy in the distance; the last a drawing of the old mower in the backyard is an entirely different style, an outline drawing, done while sitting in the house on a rainy day.

We welcome your comments below.

2 comments to The Artist’s Sketchbook

  • Wyllys Terry

    Delightful. When I was Ass. Superintendent on Mt. Desert, I used to spend a lot of time on the Cranberries. We put a solar panel and wood stove on and in the Great Cranberry, I think, school. The first solar on an Island school. Thanks for sharing.
    By the way, I spend my summers in Castine.

  • Frederick Appell

    Thanks for writing. it’s fun to hear from classmates through this medium
    My family has been going to Mt Desert forever and this fall we are buying a house on Great Cranberry.
    My paintings occasionally sell when people come to me but the main joy is in doing them and sharing with those who follow me on Facebook -“Frederick Appell” and Instagram. Hope to see you.