A Bit o’ Green and Sunshine

Wind Scuplture, Garrett Reynolds

Traditionally on St. Patrick’s Day, even those who do not have a lick of Irish in them can be found donning green shirts, green hats and even green socks.  We don’t even blink when our beer turns green for one day a year; we just raise our pint all the higher and toast with a friend we may not have met yet. It’s the spirit.

Here in New England, even Mother Nature gets in on the action. Most years (let’s forget last year) by March 17th, she has begun to work her magic on the grass and flowers and leaves.  It gives those of us who have braved yet another hard winter a bit more to celebrate. There is nothing like a bit o’ green and sunshine to make a Mainer smile.

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Between spring and St. Patty’s, we love this time of year at Maine Art. The streets outside our windows have a few more people wandering, shops that have been closed and dark since January are beginning to open their windows and air out the winter dust, and on those lovely days when the thermometer rises above 60 degrees, we start to smell the beginning of the season. Of course, our pot of gold looks more like Daniel Corey’s sunflowers in Of the Sun, and our Shamrocks are made of copper by Lyman Whitaker, but still we celebrate right along with the rest of you.

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So come in and share a permanent pint with Trip Park’s Old Country or bask in the spring leaves of Birch Tangle by Liz Hoag. We are here at 14 Western Avenue in Kennebunk and open from 10 – 5.  We are happy to be sharing the Luck of the Irish, or even some spring flowers with Light Over Shadow by Philip Frey. As always, you can view our entire collection online at www.maine-art.com.

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First Lives – Ellen Welch Granter

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Ellen Welch Granter has been with Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture for over ten years.  Her love of nature and wildlife, especially the winged ones, is well known in the Maine art community.  Her work is peaceful and warm and welcomes the viewer in with open arms. Yet, her life did not start at an easel.

School for Ellen looked a little different than you might expect.  A bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a master’s degree in History. Government? Politics? This isn’t the jumping-off point for most artists. Like so many of the most interesting people in our world, Ellen’s past is varied and fascinating. Having the opportunity to chat with Ellen at an opening is always a pleasure.  She is intelligent and well spoken, and offers so much insight into her work. However, there are pieces of her past one would never guess. The pinnacle being six years of studying Mandarin Chinese. “I started learning it as a study-abroad student in Hong Kong in 1982. Then I did Middlebury College summer intensive language training… twice. After that, another year in Beijing. I had an internship during that time at a very sleepy import/export company. There was virtually no importing or exporting actually going on at that time, 1985, so I hung out with the drivers and office staff and learned a lot of Beijing slang.”

There were some years, like the rest of us, Granter had to work her way through. Her patience with her art and with her clients certainly was earned from the beginning of her employment history. “My first job… I worked for the Sisters of Saint Joseph as a nurse’s aide in their infirmary at Nazareth College,” say Granter.  “I was also a lifeguard, a waitress, a quilt piece cutter and a knitting shop assistant.” She did it all. “Making submarine sandwiches for drunk students was in there somewhere as well,” Ellen remembers. “But hands down my worst job was working a folding machine in a print bindery. It folded those little paper instructions that used to come inside pill bottles. I lasted a full two days!”

Eventually, her odd jobs began to lean a bit into the art world. “I was a technical illustrator, video editor, t-shirt silk screener and graphic designer/art director in various places.”  When a person really looks at their past, it is hard to have regrets when happiness fills the present. “It all enriched my life, and sent me on my path. Non, je ne regrette rein,” says Granter. No, I regret nothing.

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Please visit Maine Art at 14 Western Avenue in Kennebunk to see all of Ellen’s work.  You can also see it online on her Artist Page.

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First Lives – David Witbeck

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“As a kid, I thought I wanted to be an artist… or maybe a musician,” says David Witbeck. “As a high school senior my choices were music school in Potsdam, NY (the boonies, -40 in the winter), or Art School in the Big Apple. What would you choose?”

Did he choose New York City? Yes. He studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for three years. Did he stay in New York? Yes. However, after quickly becoming “disenchanted with the crazy New York art scene of the time,” he read The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe, and photography seemed like a much more relevant pursuit.  He became aware of, “nitty-gritty black and white street photography and photojournalism.” He transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology. Rochester was not only home to a photography program, but also to his then pregnant girlfriend. “Ah, the 60’s,” says Witbeck as he looks back.

“A very young marriage and parenthood necessitated finding whatever work I could,” says David. Darkroom assistant, wheelchair mobile driver, employment counselor…the irony! He eventually took a job as a yearbook photographer. Still not art, but getting there. After three years he quit and took a job with a small weekly newspaper. “The pay was less, but I could build up my photojournalism portfolio.” Art, right?

“Eventually frustration, poverty, disappointment, etc., led to divorce, at which point I decided to ‘bleep’ it all and just drive a truck,” says Witbeck. Sometimes taking a step back is necessary in order to take a step forward. After a year of driving a small fish-delivery truck, he made the decision to go big or go home. “As long as I am driving a truck, I should drive a ‘real’ truck,” he had thought. He took lessons, received his NY Class 1 license, and for the next six years was a Teamster driving tractor-trailers. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is an art.

“Driving trailers could be great fun in good weather, but a little terrifying in Rochester winters when, by March, there could be ten feet of accumulated snow,” David recalls. With the threat of becoming an old Teamster, he applied and was accepted to Rhode Island School of Design in 1980. Finally, the world of art had found its way back into his life.

He sold just about everything he owned and moved to Providence. “I graduated with a BFA in photography in 1982 at the age of thirty-five.” He had a couple beat-up cameras, a few sticks of furniture, his clothes, a few thousand in debt… and the promise of a job with a major daily newspaper to his name. “The job failed to materialize. The photo editor wanted me, Human Resources demanded a woman… I was the wrong gender. What now!?”

Lucky for us the “what now?” ended up eventually putting him on a path to the larger-than-life seaside fishing and lobstering paintings that grace the walls of Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture.  Alongside them hang the picturesque scenes of harbor villages and coastal life that Witbeck is known for in New England.  In May, Maine Art is lucky enough to be hosting a one-man show of David Witbeck’s work; offering more insight into this fascinating man, his history and the what, where and who that finally helped him find this Artist’s Life.

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First Lives – The History of an Artist

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We each have a history. They can be quite long or quite colorful – or both. Personal history is a kaleidoscope of people and places who have touched us and left their mark.  It is often very different than our present. But for all of us, it is what made us, for better or worse, who we are today.

While spending time at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture, a customer begins to see connections between pieces from the same artist. There are threads that lace together works in a meaningful way. Each collection is, in many ways, a history in itself.  The staff at Maine Art is more than happy to share our artists’ names and inspiration behind the art that has captured your attention. Through this dialogue you begin to picture the artists at work. A room of blank canvases leaning against well worn walls, sunlight streaming though windowpanes illuminating partially painted pieces and brushes and palettes covered with color fill our imagination. It is a dream world, a haven, a place where this person lives and breathes. It is an artist’s world.

But there is more, so much more. Each of these artists has a history, a life, that brought them to where they are. However, like many of us, it is not what you may envision. When we look at a breathtaking landscape or detailed watercolor of the perfect autumn day, we don’t see lifeguards or waitresses at the easel. We don’t see mothers and fathers sculpting clay.  We certainly don’t see teachers or truck drivers with brush in hand, painting broad strokes across beautiful canvases. Yet, they are there. Hidden in the background, rooted in the memories and entwined in the art are these people.  These people that used to be, but have grown, changed and become artists.

Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to some of these people.  The yoga teacher, the nurses aide, the photographer turned truck driver turned first grade teacher. And maybe, if we are lucky, the lead singer of a rock band who gave it all up to buy a small coastal art gallery. We shall see.

As always, we welcome you to come visit the gallery at 14 Western Ave in Kennebunk or visit online at www.maine-art.com , but remember to check out our blog on Thursdays to get a peak inside The First Lives of the artists of Maine Art.

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The Beauty and Brains Behind Maine Art

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As the owner of Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture, John Spain is the first to admit to all the work and hours that go into making a gallery a success. However, he is also the first to point out that the business would not be where it is today without the dedication and talent two women put in year-round. Amy Lewia, Gallery Director, and Natalie Lane, Gallery Manager are an integral part of Maine Art.

Nine chances out of ten when walking into Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture on Western Ave. or Maine Art Shows on Chase Hill, one or both of these women are there. Not only do they make the behind the scenes run smoothly, they are continuously on hand to help the rest of the staff provide excellent service and knowledge to the customer. Both women are well acquainted with the artists, their work and their stories.  Both woman offer insights and details before anyone makes a purchase. Customers comment frequently on what a “happy place” Maine Art is, saying that it was such a “fun experience.” These two women continuously go above and beyond and are responsible for the welcoming atmosphere and fabulous service found here.

Amy Lewia has been with Maine Art the longest. Last winter she celebrated ten years at the gallery. John often says she is the daughter he never had who has come in and learned the family business from square one. She is the marketing exec, the curator, the staff coordinator and the talent agent all rolled into one. If you have a question, she has an answer. If you have a problem, she will help you fix it. If you just need a great eye and an honest opinion, she is the one to go to. She does it all. However, as much as she loves the business side of the gallery, her heart belongs to the customer. “I love the different feelings, memories and senses that are triggered by art,” says Lewia. “In any one piece, the reactions tend to vary from one viewer to the next. It’s wonderful to hear stories from our clients who are inspired by a painting, sculpture or artist that grabbed their attention and pulled them in.” Amy has a personal connection to the business and the artists, and customers immediately feel this when dealing with her.

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If Amy is the daughter of this “family” business, Natalie Lane is the sister. She is the organizer, the calm head, and the voice of reason. She is going into her tenth year at Maine Art, and as in any small business, a manager must be a jack of all trades. “I have worked with color and textiles all my life,” says Lane. With over twenty-two years in frame design, Natalie is the guru of the frame shop. She knows which pieces should be in which frames, which frames compliment a room or a space and can turn family photos into heirloom pieces. “I love to frame old family photographs and memorabilia. The idea that the relatives of long past will be part of and appreciated by the present or future generations is one of the reasons I enjoy what I do.”  Natalie is also the ring master on the gallery floor. With a staff of a dozen employees, she makes the day to day smooth and easy.  With over thirty-five years of sales experience, she is a natural. “It is always my goal to welcome and engage each customer in a manner that will have them coming back to the gallery year after year. Their experience during a visit, to either gallery, will have them feeling as comfortable as they are in their own home.”  Natalie has a loyal client following that seek her out for those “special projects” or want her help finding the next piece to add to their collection. Yet, new clients are just as rewarding for her. “I enjoy welcoming a new customer to the gallery. Bringing a collector and artist together at a reception and hearing the artist share their inspiration or technique is a favorite part of my job.”

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We know when you walk into Maine Art it is the paintings and sculptures that draw you in. But it is our knowledgeable, warm and friendly staff that keep you with us for years to come. Come see for yourself and become part of our family.

 

When Winter is White

There are some Maine residents that escape to warmer climates by December.  They don’t like the cold and hate the snow. There are also many who were born and raised, or transplanted by choice, who may not love an overabundance of the snow, like that which covered us from January to April last year. However, we have certainly grown fond of Mother Nature’s blanket holding us captive in front of fires, celebrating a day off from school and freezing the pond for skating. Then, there are “the crazies” – those who love it. They dream of skiing while they sit on the beach. They count the days until the snow sled is allowed out of the garage. They even wait patiently to cut holes in the lake and sit all day on frozen water and call it fishing.  For them, we are sorry that this year Thanksgiving was spent at the beach or golf course, Christmas should have been a BBQ and the Snow Sled Parade in northern Maine was an ATV extravaganza. For them, we are sharing a little reminder of, “when winter is white.”

Many will say, “If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute.”  This is funny.  When this post began, lawns were almost green. Now, as the finishing touches are added and links are being put in, Maine has been covered by the wintery white stuff  which we have been missing for most of the season. Finally, we are in it.  Maine Art and our artists are thrilled with this. We love snow as much as we love the sun… or almost as much.

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Craig Mooney, the master of the beachscape, is a skier in disguise; a snow bunny, not a snow bird. This is obvious in Snow Blanket, where he captures the quiet serenity and peace only a snow-covered landscape holds.  Many locals would love to be trapped in the little cabin which sits so perfectly in Hidden Cabin.

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Then there is Jill Valliere. This time of year she normally lives surrounded by a winter wonderland. Pieces like Carried Away and Catching the Drift are a beautiful representation of what is ordinarily her back yard.  As February arrives, she is finally enjoying the beautiful bend of trees under this new-fallen snow and the crystal-coated branches which are often her inspiration.

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Valliere is not the only one of our artists who finds beauty in the winter trees. Artist Susan Wahlrab captures the whitewashed branches with her unique watercolor technique.  First Snow and Snowflake are both done on claybord and finished with varnish.  The paths that she travels are familiar and mysterious at the same time.  They capture you and bring out a desire to find your own winter walk in the woods.

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Lastly, there is Jeffrey Fitzgerald’s Silver and Skyward Boys.  These two hint to a cooler time and place.  A place where the rocks, shells and sea life are in a sleepier spot to wait out the winter.  The silver and blue whisper of winter, and bring us back to the coast of Maine during a time of year many others leave it behind. This place is a local place.  It is the sunny day in February that often lures us back to the rocks for a just a few moments in the sun.

Our hope is not to jinx, but just to remind of the wonderland we call home. Mother Nature kept us waiting in anticipation, but has now decided to decorate Maine in a way we here at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture are much more accustomed to this time of year. There is no way to know how much snow will come between now and spring. It will be welcome. Maybe not when we are shoveling it, but at least when we are sledding, skiing and walking through what we love about winter in Maine.

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The Sculpture

When someone asks of art in Maine, the mind goes to seascapes and fishing boats; classic Maine scenes captured in oil, acrylic or watercolor hung on walls in memory of a time and place lest we forget the beauty. Yet, when walking into Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture, one quickly realizes it is more than just one-dimensional. Here, among the canvases, is sculpture.

Sculpture, by definition, is the art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms, especially by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster. Though Webster says this in the most succinct way, it lacks the passion and awe that sculpture evokes.  Helen Keller held the key to the best way to experience sculpture. “I sometimes wonder if the hand is not more sensitive to the beauties of sculpture than the eye. I should think the wonderful rhythmical flow of lines and curves could be more subtly felt than seen,” she said. Great sculpture draws the hand as well as the eye. Our fingers lift and twitch with the overwhelming desire to touch it.

When viewing James Rivington Pyne’s Diver, this need is very real.  If tracing a finger from the tip of her toes to the end of her fingers, the impression of diving into the cool water of summer time is present. The smooth lines and deep colors of this piece hold the sense of water gliding over skin and blocks out everything else. There is an understanding of the sculpture. You have been there.

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Elizabeth Ostrander agrees. “Both gentleness and strength inhabit my sculptures. Their quiet joy is a ‘hooray’ for life. It can be a reminder that we can all meet in that wisdom place. And sculpture also invites touch and the soothing experience of graceful shape and the nuance of texture,” says Ostrander. Her sculptures, while still using human form, find a mingling of nature and man, or more often, woman. In her piece, Trust, Elizabeth captures that connection with nature. The smoothness of her skin and softness of her closed eyes begs for a touch which connects the viewer to the art.

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Though Webster’s definition indicates a casting or carving, which both Pyne and Ostrander do so well, modern art has discovered a repurposing or redesigning of materials to convert the normal and familiar into the beautiful. Patrick Plourde does this well.  His work still demands the viewer to engage, to reach out, but the emotion is different. Spigot Flowers is one of these pieces.  The repurposing of the water spigots in this piece immediately brings memories of summertime sprinklers. You know the metal is cool to the touch as it pulls a knowing smile full of old friends and family gatherings. Plourde collects such items and blends them flawlessly into his work.

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These are the sculptures of Maine.  Maine art and Maine memories.  We welcome you to come in, visit, and see for yourself the beauty of Maine in three-dimension.  You will find us at 14 Western Avenue in Kennebunk.  Check for our website for winter hours. www.maine-art.com.

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For the Love of Red

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For the month of February, Kennebunkport is turning red – every shade of red.  Driven by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, we are embracing the month of February and all it stands for.  The town will transform its normal winter wonderland into a sea of scarlet lights and ribbons. Visitors will find amazing deals on hotels stays, restaurants and of course, shopping. If you are in doubt for what to do to celebrate this very special time of year, look no further; Kennebunkport is ready and waiting for you to Paint the Town Red.

Audrey Hepburn, the woman that personifies the color, said, “There is a shade of red for every woman.”  Whether it be crimson, rose or ruby, we all love our favorite shades. The artists at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture do too. They know how to capture not only your interest, but your emotions with sweeps and strokes of this most remarkable color. “Red is the color of extremes. It’s the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure,” says Color Matters.  “It is the color of energy and primal life forces.”  Our very own Robin Mix is skilled at swirling this fire and spirit into his glass sculptures.  Pieces like Temple of Doom and Roualt Red with Orange are filled with power, or you can find the calm and gentle love delicately blended in pinks in his piece Pink Smoke.

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The walls of Maine Art are proof of the varied emotions this color can produce.  The bright reds Mother Nature herself provides, especially in the flora that surround our state, bring a smile and much happiness with just a glimpse. They are a reminder of love and passion even in nature. Karen McManus, Sandra L. Dunn and Monique Sakellarios all capture this in acrylic. Summer Harbor Hollyhocks, Opium Field and Paula’s Poppies will bring joy to any room.

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There is the fun and whimsy of a carefree color that excites both adventure and amusement.  Though their works are very different, each of these artists loves the effect this color produces.  Home Slice by Trip Park, William B. Hoyt’s Clippers and Dillan, David Whitbeck’s much loved lobsterman, each grab your attention.  Amazingly, not only does the wonderful red tone catch your eye, it holds it.

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Lastly, you will find the classic red that is scattered throughout Maine.  Her barns and boats come alive with dark shades of crimson and cinnamon. They are iconic. In Russia, the word “red” means beautiful. No other word is necessary for the feelings of home and warmth that radiate from works like Mountain Barns from Janis H. Sanders, The Red Peaked House by Abbie Williams and Lucky Day from William B. Hoyt. Each draws us in and reminds us of the comfort found inside these places.

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So bring your woman or man, or even just yourself, to the coast of Maine this February and help us celebrate the love found here. Eat, drink, shop and play in Kennebunkport.  We welcome you to visit Maine Art at 14 Western Avenue to check out all artists or visit us at www.maine-art.com.

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Trees

 

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This past fall we introduced Liz Hoag to the Maine Art extended family.  The entire first floor of the gallery at 14 Western Ave. was filled with a collection of her work which was centered around her love and interesting perspective of trees. “Tangle” was a wonderful success.  However, Hoag is not the only artist we represent that has a fondness for these incredible works of Mother Nature.

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Hermann Hesse, the winner of the 1946 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote, “For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone.”  Our artists have expressed this exact sentiment through paint and brush. The up close look at the intricacies of birch branches like the the work of Liz Hoag, the blur of green from a “tribe” of pine and spruce in Dusk, Mink Island by Karen McManus and of course, the strength and courage found in the simplicity of Lone Pine by Abbie Williams and Majestic Pine by Sandra L. Dunn.

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We are familiar with trees that represent all aspect of our lives: the family tree, the tree of life and even the famous children’s book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree.  Strong branches and deep roots are personified in poetry and song all over the world.  Metaphors are found scattered in literature both new and classic. Confetti-like leaves, strong as the old oak, or the centennial pine. For years these wonders of nature have sheltered, decorated and inspired.  So it comes as no surprise that these same themes are seen in art. Be it the famous works of Van Gogh or O’Keefe or new pieces just created, like Catherwoods from Trip Park.  We surround ourselves and celebrate the trees.

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Most amazingly, their beauty is found in all forms from the stark bark waiting in hibernation as in Susan Wahlrab’s varnished watercolor, Snowflake or the resting Catharsis from Jill Valliere. We celebrate the color of autumn we see in Edge of the Woods by Alex Dunwoodie or even the promise of spring and new beginnings which Henry Isaacs illustrates in Saturday Afternoon, Santa Barbara. Even in the death or darkness of these plants we find meaning and beauty.  Our own Philip Frey displays this perfectly in Forest Floor.

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We house so many beautiful and inspiring pieces that spark viewers to stop, take a breathe and enjoy.  We welcome you to come in and share them with us. You may just want to wander through and appreciate the work, or maybe, just maybe, you will take one home to help fill your house with this happiness.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth… whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”  – Hermann Hess

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For the Love of the Beach

 

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Kennebunkport from the Breakwater -William B. Hoyt

We are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in Maine.  The Kennebunks have been sited in numerous journals and websites on many “top tens” of Maine, New England and even the Untied States.  We are known for our quaint, coastal village feel and we are just that – a coastal village.  With that comes one of our favorite characteristics of the coast: the place that doesn’t close for the winter, the place where everyone is welcome and the place that reminds us daily of how truly amazing and beautiful our home is. The beach.

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In Kennebunkport, Goose Rocks Beach has been voted one of Maine’s top ten beaches. This three-mile stretch of sand is loved by locals, tourists, and of course, artists.  While the rest of us spread out towels and settle in on beach chairs, these local artists mount their easels in the sand and spread out only colors and canvas. We store memories in mere minutes with our cellphones and cameras, while they take the time to capture that tiny piece of paradise in paint.

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Then there are the Kennebunk Beaches. Less than a mile away from the gallery, Kennebunk offers not one, but three beaches.  Each have their own distinct personalities, yet all attract the artist who has the need to capture the wonder of the sea. Gooch’s Beach boosts sand and surf, similar to the grand scapes we see from Craig Mooney. Middle Beach offers a rocky coast of crashing waves and sea creatures, not unlike Jeffery Fitzgerald’s work. Then there is Mother’s Beach. A beach that boasts not only a giant castle making sandbox, but a wonderful playground and safer water for smaller children to make memories like those of artist, Liz Hoag. As diverse as this stretch of coast is, one thing holds true. Artists love them all.

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In the gallery we have a variety of Maine artists.  All have their favorite pieces of Maine, and many, at one point, have found their way to the ocean. We are blessed to be surrounded by work like “Beginning” by Daniel Corey, “Shifting Tide” by Philip Frey and “Jousting” by William B. Hoyt. We are lucky to have skilled and talented artists who are able to beautifully recreate this place we love – this place we call home.

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No matter what season you choose to visit our little town, know the beaches will be here to welcome you in.  Stop and smell the sea roses, walk in the sand and enjoy this unique and wondrous coastline.  And of course, please visit us here at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture at 14 Western Ave.  We will be happy to help you find a little piece of Maine and her beaches to take home with you.

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Pines and Roses by Janis Sanders

Click this link to Learn about all of Maine’s beaches. Also click the icons below to share this on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.