“For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to part of the earth;
and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.”
—Alan Gussow, A Sense of Place: The Artist and the American Land, 1971
A journey with Jessica( an artist/) to discover( Find )your unique sense of place in Maine through art.
Distant memories of a physical place are a kind of sixth sense that contributes to how we make meaning of who we are in relation to the world around us. Whether good or bad, these past experiences travel with us and grow as we create more memories in new places. But beyond our individual perceptions, the essence of a place also comes from its geography and natural resources, and in the history of the people, families, communities, and tribes who have existed here long before us and whose lives (whether they are aware of it or not), will impact the lives of future generations. Our knowledge of these histories and our respect and reverence for the natural environment, strengthen our connection with a place in turn enriching our lives and building a healthy mental spirit. Writers, poets, songwriters, and artists have tapped into the essence of a sense of place, but perhaps the ways to tap into this sixth sense alludes too many of us in this modern age. And so, I am inviting you to join me on a journey to learn how to discover your own unique sense of place by engaging in some artistic activities that were inspired by my personal sense of place in this special state of Maine.
Why Maine and Why art?
For many artists, having a strong sense of place drives their creative spirit. Is this what has attracted decades of artists to the rustic state of Maine? Maine’s mystique is born from its natural beauty and rugged terrain, along with a history of proud resilience, and often stubborn residents. The dramatic rocky coastline, picturesque mountains, and remote forest lands have attracted artists like Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Marsden Hartly, Bernard Langlais, Dahlov Ipcar, and streams of other remarkable artists. Numerous writers and poets like Steven King, Sarah Orne Jewett and (Richard Blanco or other author or only one??) have captured some of Maine’s qualities. Indigenous artists as the original human inhabitants of this area have had a spiritual connection with this land for centuries as they have revered the natural resources they use while preserving them for future generations of artists. A large part of Maine’s rich sense of place stems from an artistic heritage that holds a prominent spot in American art and has contributed to the mystique of Maine as a place.
What this book aims to do:
Whether you are just visiting Maine or a full-time resident, this book will point out some of Maine’s intriguing places that I have discovered. Some of these are off the typical tourist-beaten path. Maine is full of hidden gems found in the least likely of places. I will also try to dig a little deeper to uncover unique facts and stories to get your creative juices flowing. This book discusses many of Maine’s famous artists and writers and examines why they chose a particular subject, place or material, to uncover what was it about Maine that inspired them. Finally, I will show you some of my art that reflects these inspirations as an example to demonstrate some art activities.
Looking at Maine through a different lens should inspire you to try something different in your own artwork or help you make a closer connection or relationship with this beautiful state.
The workbook activities are meant as suggestions and ideas for creating your own unique work of art. Anyone can buy a book about drawing a cat or looking on youtube to follow a tutorial. However, this is not a book about technique. This book shows artists’ thought processes about why we make art. This book is about things that can inspire creativity. Although I have written this book for older students and adults, these inspirations and activities could easily be adapted to suit a younger age group.
Use the sketchbook to document your own ideas and observations about Maine. In time, I hope that you will uncover your own sense of place about Maine.
A short recognition for the Indigenous peoples of Maine.
“As Indigenous artists, our ancestors possessed remarkable resilience to overcome pandemics, extermination policies, and staggering land losses due to broken treaties.”
As I am writing about a sense of place in Maine, I would like to recognize and reflect on the stewardship of the first people who lived in this state now known as Maine, the Wabanaki Native Americans. Learning about the Wabanaki people and their history has enriched me as a person and given me a new perspective on the meaning of a sense of place and I hope that others take some time to listen to their stories as you discover Maine.
The Wabanaki people have always been stewards of this land, appreciating and using Maine’s natural bounty while choosing sustainable practices for future generations to enjoy and use. From the days of the arrival of the first settlers, history has shown that Instead of working in harmony with the Wabanaki, many groups of people abused and disrespected them and hindered their ways of life, and continue to do so. Native Americans’ sense of place must be much different as they watch us immigrants deplete Maine’s natural resources with no thought to preservation. Some environmental groups are beginning to work with the Native American people and learn from their knowledge; however, the Wabanaki continue to fight for their sovereignty, and injustice still needs to be faced. One could write a whole book on their unique artistic visions. Their symbols are full of reference to their close relationship with the natural world around them. It is inspiring that these artists thank and pay homage to the trees and the grasses that give them the materials to create. They fight to protect and replenish these sources so that future artists can follow in their ancestor’s footsteps. For more information about the history and the culture of the Wabanaki people, I highly recommend the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, as a wonderful resource for accurate information.
Structure or contents of this book
As a Maine artist guide, I will take you on an inspirational journey to examine
- Maine’s Maps (Mildred Burrage)
- Maines’ species (Bernard Langlais / Ipcar)
- Maines natural resources and agricultural history (Kate Furbush)
- Maines industrial heritage( Marguerite Zorach)
- Maines coastal lifestyle and waterways (Marsden Hardley/
- Maine’s indigenous cultures (Wabanaki baskets)
- Maines people, resilience, mental health, sustainability???? Telling a story/ NCWyeth?? photos
After each part of the journey, I will invite you to try an art project of your own.
Keeping in mind that there may be limited resources we will explore
- Creating an artistic map or artistic mind map
- Illustrating a story and cardboard reliefs
- Botanical illustrations and simple tool sketches
- Collage historical events using textiles and homemade paper
- Watercolor studies: what we see and what we don’t see
- Natural materials weaving
- Surreal anatomy studies and the spirit world.