matinicus magic

I’m thrilled to be working on a picture book for Tilbury House written by Eva Murray of Matinicus Island. I’ve been a fan of her writing since discovering her columns in local publications, and hearing her speak about Well Out to Sea, as part of the Peaks Island Lecture Series, a few years back. When editor Audrey Maynard asked if I was interested: a story set on an island? YES. By Eva Murray? DOUBLE YES.

It seemed only fitting to combine research with a family field trip. As an islander for 22 years, I have boundless curiosity about other islands, and what huge contrasts between Peaks and Matinicus! Peaks gets 16 ferries a DAY from Portland, a 15-minute trip one way. Matinicus gets 30 ferries a YEAR, a 2-hour trip one way. You can get there from here, with planning, cash, and some groceries.

The Maine State Ferry in Rockland, Maine has day parking, since we were heading one-way. The MV Everett Libby was our vessel.

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We passed Owl’s Head Light during a break in the clouds.

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Once we left the coast, I sketched another passenger who’s obviously done this trip before.

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I drew Marty, too.

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Matinicus is a rather flat island upon approach.

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The harbor is all about lobstering.

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Eva kindly gave us a lift to the Tuckanuck Lodge, owned by Bill Hoadley, a native of Nantucket who also spent many years living on Peaks.

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It’s a charming old house filled with antiques of all shapes.

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I enjoyed dialing on this rotary.

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It’s no small luxury to simply curl up and read amidst the peace and quiet.

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There’s no store on the island, so we brought ham, cheese, and apple juice. We set out in search of Eva’s Bakery, passing this sign along the way. Sums up the island ethos, a motto we could all use.

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How can a kid resist the real jungle gym at the island school?

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Gotta love public art.

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We stopped to buy stamps to see what the post office is all about. The old Post Office burned down, and this PO is a couple of rooms in a house owned by the church, where the minister lives.

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The real hub is Eva’s bakery, where her sweet goods draw a crowd.

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Armed with her bread and cookies, we set off for a picnic, past colorful trees and billowing grass.

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We marveled at snowy mosses while nibbling berries along the path.

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Sweet reward for finding the Southwest Point:

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The clouds parted and we found another trail to follow.

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After a warm social hour at Eva’s, we returned to our lodge for a hearty dinner.

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There are no street lights on Matinicus, so we strolled in the darkness.

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Bill’s call to breakfast is opera music, a heavenly start to a clear Saturday. Each mug at the table features one of his beloved dogs. The current resident, Sandy, keeps Bill on his toes.

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Here’s my sketch of 16-year old Emma, a snuffly pug who keeps fellow boarder, Peter, loyal company.

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We headed to Markey Beach with our drawing supplies. We had all this beauty to ourselves.

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I started a small pastel with a new travel set, but abandoned it in favor of beachcombing.

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We climbed around to the breakers sheltering the harbor.

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Now and then, the sound of a plane drew our attention. We’d be taking one of them back to Rockland the next day.

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Meanwhile, Marty did this drawing.

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It was pretty quiet over at the wharf.

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We returned to the Tuckanuck for lunch and lolling about.

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We decided to trek to the air strip, another scene I’ll be illustrating. Along the way is the church, which also doubles as a phone booth.

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Wild flowers are abundant.

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The narrow strip faces north towards Rockland.

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With no planes in sight, we found another trail. A single fairy house is a good sign.

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These are NOT blueberries, but rather an inedible feature of some forest lilies.

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Plenty of flora to document.

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Planes flew over now and then. Bill said the lobstermen were taking their paychecks to spend in Rockland.

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We reached the shore again, and clambered over these cool rocks.

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What’s the secret of this ancient boulder?

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Back on the main road, stunning patches of dahlias, first brought to the island in 1903, dazzle the landscape.

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Drowsy dog and dusty road by the PO..

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We got more cookies at the bakery and checked out the cemetery, where stones are adorned with golden lichen.

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We made it back to the lodge in time for lobster and more stories from Bill.

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With fog rolling in, we browsed his ample library, finding this antique novelty from 1889.

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Daisy documented a ton of startling illustrations, such as these.

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With no electronic devices for distraction, we retired early and slept like logs. In the morning, after one last trip to the bakery for donuts, Eva’s husband, Paul, brought us to our plane, the cheerful Island Spirit.

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This was the one piece of our trip that gave me anxiety.

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Yet, it was by far the smoothest and best flight I’ve ever had.

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Thanks to Penobscot Island Air pilot, Roger, the 12-minute trip was splendid. Look, there’s the boulder out on West Point.

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More islands closer to the mainland:

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Upon landing at Knox County Airport in Owl’s Head, we took a Schooner Bay taxi back to our car in Rockland. Heading back down Route 1, we stopped at a favorite landmark, which I included in my sketches for Eva’s book.

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The truck is a great icon of that Waste Not ethic on Matinicus, and is the work of amazing sculptor Jay Sawyer.  For the first time in our travels, his sculpture garden was OPEN. I sketched this scene.

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He showed us what he’s working on in his shop. Seeing his art was the best way to complete our trip.

Now it’s back to work here, with our hearts full of Matinicus magic. Thanks to Eva for delicious hospitality and to the Tuckanuck for sweet dreams.

Book friends unite

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, travels | 0 comments

Book friends unite

It’s no secret that most children’s books are about relationships.  Author Lyn Smith and I traveled recently to visit fellow book creator,  Jo Miles Schuman.  Lyn and Jo met via Maine Authors Publishing and I’m always down to meet fellow book makers. We found her homestead along a winding road with acres and acres of rolling woods and wetlands beyond. We ducked beneath swooping swallows nesting in the dark rafters of her barn and into a sunny studio where Jo served a scrumptious rhubarb pie and carrot cake. Double dessert,...

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Book Friends

Posted by on Jul 12, 2017 in Art Classes, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island, Seven Days of Daisy, travels | 0 comments

Book Friends

Way back in 2009, I visited the Friends School of Portland to read my first children’s book, Seven Days of Daisy. Friends do make the world go ’round. Fast forward to a recent sunny Tuesday, when I headed off island to visit their Stories by the Forest program. When I arrived at the Peaks Island dock, it was oddly quiet. Where is everybody? Well, yours truly had missed the boat! The summer schedule change got me! So, I promptly called the trusty water taxi. Here she comes, zipping across a placid Casco Bay. I made it to Cumberland...

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Ireland adventures: Cork to Dublin

Posted by on Jun 11, 2017 in drawing, Illustration, travels | 5 comments

Ireland adventures: Cork to Dublin

We headed to Cork on June 2, driving back up the Dingle peninsula about 40 miles to Tralee. While at the Dingle Library, I’d read an essay about the Two Paps, a pair of mountains which, upon seeing them, the writer felt nourished by. I kept looking for them as the landscape, quilted in greens, rolled by. Every so often we’d ride through a town, where the ancient hugs the modern. We took an hour’s detour down to Kenmare, so I could pick up a cashmere sweater for Grace, the only person to request I bring something very...

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Adventures in Ireland

Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 in drawing, Illustration, pastels, travels | 17 comments

Adventures in Ireland

Ever since a brief visit to Ireland in 1980, I have yearned to go back. Somehow, the years piled up until recently, when Marty, Daisy and I enjoyed two weeks of travels there. On May 22, we flew to Shannon Airport, during which the dusk to dawn was sped up, like a time lapse into the next day. We landed at 6 AM, sleepless, and rented a diesel powered Renault in which Marty bravely took the wheel to find our first lodging. The Carrygerry House is a mere 15 minute drive from the airport but felt far away in another time, situated above rolling...

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Tillie Time

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration | 0 comments

Tillie Time

I recently illustrated the cover of Mary Atkinson’s second middle grade novel, Tillie Heart and Soul, that just earned a starred review from Kirkus! As soon as I heard that Tillie was a roller skater, I was into it. After reading the manuscript, I began a little page of doodles. Then I began doing my homework for visual research on skater culture. And did more sketches. Tillie is a fifth grade girl living with her Uncle Fred. She’s an awkward but tough kid, and gets her share of scrapes. I wanted to show energy here, with hair and...

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Prickly Picture Book Program on Peaks

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in A Porcupine's Promenade, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Island Birthday, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, Tilbury House | 2 comments

Prickly Picture Book Program on Peaks

Many thanks to the Peaks Island Branch Library for hosting our Prickly Picture Book Program on Saturday morning. I couldn’t resist making something sweet and prickly, too. (Do try this at home, a pile of warm brownies pierced with toothpicks is a very fun sculpture to make and then eat!) It was a pleasure to have Lyn Smith, the author of A Porcupine’s Promenade visit Peaks Island. As a reading specialist, Lyn enjoys reading aloud.  She makes these porcupine noises that I just cannot fathom how. I talked a bit before making a...

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100 days smarter

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in A Porcupine's Promenade, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, pastels, school visits | 4 comments

100 days smarter

Last week I had the good fortune to visit another stellar school: Kennebunkport Consolidated School. Author Lyn Smith and I received a warm welcome from first grade teachers and set up in Mrs. Roberts’ room. There was evidence all over the place that students here are on the ball. I need one of these oversize pencils as a prop, since I’m always talking about keeping our eyes and pencils sharp. We attended the Friday morning assembly, where I spied this ingenious banner in the hall. The entire school was celebrating the first 100...

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Between Books and Blizzards

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, collage, Illustration, Peaks Island, Tilbury House | 2 comments

Between Books and Blizzards

When I saw the forecast a week ago, I dared to ship all my original art to Tilbury House instead of driving there in a blizzard. Not an easy decision, given I’ve had this work in my head and on my table for the past five months. Whew! Ana and the Sea Star by R. Lynne Roelfs will be out in Fall 2017. Driving down front to the post office on Peaks Island, all was quiet before the storm. Even us chickens. I’m a snail mailer from way back, so the island post office is an almost daily destination. Isn’t it cute? Once the storm...

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Women’s March

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in travels | 13 comments

Women’s March

You know it’s serious when an introverted, crowd-averse, middle-aged peep decides to go to the NYC Women’s March. But how could I not? I joined my neighbors, Nicole d’Entremont and Eleanor Morse, both writers and veteran activists for civil rights, peace, and the environment. Nicole and I left serene sunshine on Peaks Island, crossed Casco Bay, and took the bus to NYC, where a soft drizzle greeted us. We walked to Chelsea where I met our host, Fran, and her friend, Shirley, who is a Raging Granny. Here’s my sketch of...

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Sharp eyes in Kennebunk

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in A Porcupine's Promenade, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, pastels, school visits | 2 comments

Sharp eyes in Kennebunk

When Lyn Smith, author of A Porcupine’s Promenade, promised to introduce me to Henry, I could barely wait. Why didn’t I meet this friendly fellow last July when I was working on my illustrations? Henry is a male North American porcupine who has lived at the Center for Wildlife since November 2014. He was mistakenly taken home by some well-meaning folks who thought he was abandoned at the base of a tree. Did you know porcupine mothers climb and forage in trees before their young can climb along? I learned a lot illustrating...

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