Saratoga Car Show… The car I had hoped to paint, making the turn.
A vintage car festival at Saratoga State Park- a win-win, or so I thought! It was Saturday morning and I had the whole weekend ahead. After weighing my options for places to paint, I decided the car fest would be an ideal place to plein air paint. Stately brick buildings provided the ideal backdrop for cars from the early 1900’s through my favorite decades, the 1960’s-1970’s. I was so excited to paint a few of the cars. The park was buzzing with action. Skidmore College was holding its graduation. It was the first seriously nice weekend. Luckily, I found an ideal parking spot and schlepped my gear to the show. Of course, before setting up, I had to walk around and gawk at some of the cars. They were offering Ford Model-T car rides around the reflecting pool. the old Model-T chugged along its course with happy passengers being transported back in time. I set up my easel so I could paint the car as it made its way around a turn in the gravel road. There was a big tree on its left as it turned. Perfect, I thought! Confident, I decided to paint a 12″ x 16″, a big change from the 6″x 8″ I had been doing. I got this! So, I thought. First mistake: my umbrella wouldn’t work. The sun was beating down on me and I couldn’t figure out how it attached to the easel. My second mistake was skipping breakfast and only having a granola bar and one warm water bottle with me. My third mistake was attempting to paint on a panel primed only with Zinsser. I have decided to prime with gesso, but that’s a story for another day. Needless to say, my paint was sliding all over the panel which was extremely frustrating. And lastly, and the biggest irritation: people! Now normally, I don’t mind one or two random people stopping to peek at my painting. It’s actually sort of fun. But there was an onslaught of people. Person after person had to tell me their story about painting, cars, Saratoga. I just wanted to paint. It really got me thinking about plein air painting. I have been juried into a few plein air shows this summer. They will be my first competitive plein air events. The problem is, while I teach and love presenting material I am familiar with, when I am plein air painting, I just want to be left alone. Is this the norm? I couldn’t take it anymore. Tired, hungry and hot, I packed up my gear with a painting half done. I didn’t even include a car in the painting!
My half done painting…missing the car.
After downing an extra-large ice water when I got home, I decided to venture back out in the afternoon to a more remote area. Ah….time for redemption. I painted a smaller panel, just a 6″ x 8″. Only a handful of people stopped by
with friendly dogs for me to pet! that was a win-win. Dogs, painting in solitude with the sound of the birds chirping. Two hours later, I was pleased with my plein air postcard. Life was good again!
Plein Air postcard sketch.
Tub O’ Soda, 10″ x 10″ Oil on gessobord
Original page from Michne Camping Log, 1971
My father kept our camping log all the years we camped. This page has the story of the day I won the “floating mattress!”
It was July 16, 1971. The perfect summer day as I recall. My father was hosting the annual work picnic. I won a green raft that day for my athletic ability in the egg race! It was my biggest claim to fame as a 9 year old. I remember reaching into a tub of iced cold soda with what seemed like every variety ever invented. It was sheer heaven- all the FREE SODA I could drink! Pull the ring tab- wear it on your finger for a bit before carelessly dropping it somewhere in the grass. Take that long first sip…..ahhhhhhhhhh. Life was good.
Who’s Thirsty? 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
We didn’t have water bottles- there was no sippy box, pouch or fancy energy drink. If you were outside playing, and you were thirsty, you would simply turn on the spigot, bend down a bit, wait for about 10 seconds until the cold water reached the end of the hose, then take a long, long gulp swallowing, swallowing and swallowing. Of course, you would then offer the hose to the next sweaty, out of breath neighborhood friend. If you were on your game that day, you might remember to turn off the hose. Or, your father might step in huge puddle and yell out ” Who left the dam hose on?”
Cherry Kool-Aid, 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
Making Kool-Aid was hit-or-miss. First, you had to have packet. Chances are, we didn’t have enough sugar to fill the measuring cup. Next, to find the pitcher- (dump out whatever old drink was brewing in that!) After accidentally snorting the unsweetened powder when you opened it, get your spoon, add sugar, stir, then pray that you would have ice in the ice-cube maker! If all was right with the world, you would have the perfect sugary cup of cherry Kool-Aid. All in a summer’s days work!
Remember Saratoga Vichy Water? Well, they also made Saratoga Ginger Ale! Of course, everyone had the Vichy water. My mother had it for every “adult” party. Each time there was a spill, it was “Grab the Vichy water!!” Not gonna lie, we usually had Canada Dry Ginger Ale. I resurrected this bottle from the Round Lake Antique Fest and thought I’d put the little sister of Vichy in the spotlight. What is Vichy water, anyway?
Frozen Pink Lemonade
After ripping the plastic strip off the can, removing the aluminum disk from the end, I would hold that can for a few seconds then wait for the “scccuuuupppppp” sound as the plop of pink creamy ice fell into the pitcher. I remember being in such a hurry to make it that filling 3 whole cans of water seemed like an eternity. The sticky, gooey mess would be left on the counter, along with whatever utensil could find to make it. Then, after selecting a glass as impressive as this pink drink, I would find the perfect spot to enjoy it. The ritual involved with pink lemonade hasn’t changed much and while buying a carton may seem easier, there is something about the canned frozen pink lemonade that remains my prefered method of classic, summer-must enjoyment.
Coke and a Smile. 10″ x 10″ Oil on Gessobord
Detail: Coke and a Smile.
I feel for this generation that didn’t get to experience the Real Thing. The commercial- apple trees, honey bees and snow white turtle doves. Everyone knows things go better with Coke. Especially the mountains! Taking a freezing cold Coke out of a galvanized bucket of ice- there is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day. It adds life! It’s a natural! This video clip says it all! Classic Coke Commercial- Thank you Don Draper!
(Mr. Harvey’s) Suntea
Mr. Harvey was my 5th grade teacher at Skano Elementary. He was the best. We made sawdust puppets, paper mache bowls and something using the wish bones from chicken bones. At the time, during the early 70’s, he was definitely ahead of the curve on “student engagement”. I remember outside our classroom, he had this mysterious jar with the most beautiful colors. He poured us all a cup in a little Dixie paper cup (after he added mint!). What teacher does this??? Every summer, I try to recreate the taste of that tea. After 40+ years, I think I nailed it! Here’s the recipe: Put 8 or so tea bags in a glass jar, add water. Next add peaches, strawberries, an orange slice and a bit of lemon. Let it seep all day. Add a teaspoon or two of real sugar, add ice cubes with a sprig of mint, and there you go, Mr. Harvey’s Suntea!
Underneath the deck at 10 Evergreen was magical. All you needed was a spoon and a Matchbox and before you knew it, an entire town was created! My brothers were experts at sneaking spoons out of the house. Spoons made the best roads, and let’s admit it, they did the work of the backhoe and bulldozer! The sand was great under the deck-perfect for easy construction. Of course, there were a few boulders (pebbles), rivers (rain dripping through the slots) and the the occasional heat blast (the dryer vent), but overcoming those obstacles is what made the pastime exciting.
As the “Summer as it was…” daily painting series comes to a close, I leave you with this…
If you only read one of my blog posts, read this. This was a summer I will cherish forever. I made tangible the fond memories of my childhood, and hopefully yours, too. The story doesn’t end here. I hope to publish or license the images via a book encompassing these paintings along with the American cultural phenomenon during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Plus, I want a cool t-shirt with the salt water taffy painting on it! You may be wondering if I have a favorite. No, I don’t. There are a few that as an artist, I struggled with technically. But I’ll let you guess which ones those are. Tomorrow, I start a new job at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, NY. I will be teaching art. I was an art student in the very wing I will be teaching in. It is where I attended school my entire childhood. I find it fitting that as “Summer as it was….” wraps up, it might as well be 1972 and tomorrow, I am going back to school. I hope you enjoyed these paintings. I hope they triggered a memory or a smile. I will be making available prints and am looking for a venue to show the entire collection. Thank you to all who “liked” or took the time to leave a comment. I also want to thank Peter Fiore who inspired me and challenged me to paint every day for 100 days. I painted for 70 days and, well, that’s works too! For now, it’s time to order more paint and start the next project!