Thursday, September 29, 2016

Yaaahhhr Not Fraahhm Maaaahhhhland, Ahhhhhrr Yaah?

St. Anne's Church, Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

Nope, I'm not from Maaahhhland. Born in New Jersey, raised in Nebraska.

So forgive me if I know nothing about crabs. Soft shell crabs in particular, in this case. Don't know about eating soft shell crabs, how they are traditionally prepared, and definitely nothing about picking crabs. Patrick Saunders was forced to pick crabs (one) at Plein Air Easton, but I managed to avoid it. Totally not interested in that experience. One of our lovely hosts at Easels in Frederick patiently explained to me that picking crabs isn't really about doing it for food, because it's tedious work for relatively little pay off. Picking crabs together is a social thing. Something you do with family or friends for fun. Like a cocktail party game, or a family activity, I guess. Still don't get it. And that's okay. I don't need to understand. Whatever floats your boat.

But anyhoo, the Maryland Federation of Art's Paint Annapolis was the first of eight almost back to back plein air events Patrick participated in just this summer. He was fortunate enough to be accepted into every event he applied to in 2016, sixteen of them in all. We did not expect this. We figured he'd maybe get into half of them. And then when he got lucky, we had to figure out how the h**l we were going to get from one place to another fast enough.

So, we hightailed it to Annapolis, Maryland, right after all of Patrick's events/workshops in Missouri. We debated whether to take both my Smartie as well as the tow vehicle, but once we got to Annapolis we were glad to have my little golf cart. The streets of downtown Annapolis are colonial - extremely narrow, and the area is such a tourist destination that parking is a challenge. One of many things I love about my little blue car - it can fit almost anywhere. You could practically leave it on the sidewalk and not get a ticket, because authorities don't even seem to recognize it as a real car. I can't count how many police and state trooper cars I have whizzed by in this car while speeding, and nothing happens. They don't even look up, or they look away. It's like they assume that a Smart can barely go fast enough to even be on an interstate. Or, more likely, I get the feeling that these often pretty macho guys don't want to pull me over because they don't want to be caught dead standing next to my little clown car. And now that I have said that I have probably jinxed myself and better watch my speed.

On our first night in Annapolis, we went to McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar for dinner. To be honest, we picked this place solely because they actually had a Dogfish Head beer on tap, which is still a big deal for us. Our favorite craft beer is not available in all states, and even where you can find it, it is rarely on tap. Turns out they were already out of this beer for the night, it was such a popular special. Oh well. So I order a soft shell crab sandwich, foolishly assuming that I was ordering some kind of crab meat salad sandwich. NO. You order a crab sandwich in Maryland, you literally get a crab on a piece of bread. They season it and cook it whole. It's little legs were sticking out of my sandwich when it arrived, and I felt terrible. It looked a little like a large, flattened, hairless spider. Maybe if meat was served like this I would finally go full vegan. No offense Maryland, but I just don't get how anyone eats a crab whole like that. Just wow.

I ate the french fries. And the tomato and lettuce. The waitress, looking at my plate as she took it away, said, not unkindly, "Yaaahhhr not fraahhm Maaaahhhhland, ahhhhhrr yaah?" Nope. Clearly, she had seen the stricken look on my face before, many times. So, if you order soft shell crab, be clear on whether it's a salad mix or an actual crab. Lesson learned. I should have photographed my poor little crab, but I was so weirded out by the whole thing that I didn't. I am sorry crab that I wasted you. I had no idea.

We walked past The U.S. Naval Academy that evening before dinner. The campus is beautiful, and definitely worth a visit. Patrick painted an old stained glass window while there, sorry no photo. You see a lot of young people in the Navy in downtown Annapolis every day in their dress whites. I was so impressed with how white their clothes were, and how white they seemed to stay. How on earth do you get and keep dress whites like that clean? I would feel like I could never sit down, or really do anything. But they run around, eat, and go about their daily lives in those whites, and I never saw any dirt or stains on any of them. Very impressive. If I wore white like that I would look like a dirty napkin in no time.

Our host couple were very welcoming and interesting. She's an art therapist and he is an attorney who is very active in crewed boat racing in his spare time. They also have an amazing art collection. Their home is like an interactive art museum. They live amongst inspiration in a variety of mediums. Love it. When we met them, they had just come home from a day on their boat. Patrick painted a lot of boats while in Annapolis, because it's all about the boats here. We are land people who went to the home of water people. Summers here are as hot and humid as in the Midwest, so the best place to be in Annapolis during this time is on a boat enjoying the Chesapeake Bay.

Paint Annapolis was where Patrick took a swing at his first ever nocturne painting. I was very proud of him for this. He had PRK surgery on his eyes a few years ago, and while the benefits of the procedure make it well worth it, one sacrifice is not always being able to see as well at night over time. Lights tend to fan out into blurry circles, and he finds it hard to see color well. He hated the painting, and wanted to paint over it, but I talked him out of it, and it won an award. Patrick thanked me at the awards ceremony for talking him out of scraping it down. Such a thoughtful and humble guy. He's a keeper.

"Night Falls On the Maryland Inn" (oil on panel, 12"x16") by Patrick Saunders won a second place nocturne award at Paint Annapolis. 

Since Patrick was brave enough to try nocturne painting, I decided to take a swing at night photography, something that's outside my comfort zone. This is a long exposure of the Maryland Inn at night. Not terrible for a first try, not great. Definitely fun though and something I want to keep practicing.

A long exposure of the Maryland Inn, which dates back to the end of the American Revolutionary War. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

Our first full day in Annapolis was Memorial Day, and we spent some time at the Annapolis National Cemetery. I took some photos of unknown soldier headstones. The sheer number, and the precision of placement, of white headstones in military cemeteries really drives home the human cost of war. I also can't imagine the pain of not having your loved one's remains. To never know for sure where they are, or where they might have ended up. I can't even wrap my head around what it must be like to have to learn to live with that.

An Unknown Soldier buried at Annapolis National Cemetery. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

The next morning, we headed to Herrington Harbour North Marina Resort, where we found many people living on their boats, sailing the world. This place is much like a high end RV resort, with similar amenities. Boating is a much more expensive way to live than RVing though. Definitely out of our price range. And I'm an earth sign. I'm not really keen on any body of water I can't see to the bottom of. I have had a huge fear of sharks ever since my parents took me with them to see "Jaws" when I was about eight years old. Not that I really had anything to worry about, growing up in Nebraska, but irrational fears are just that. Completely irrational.

"Morning After the Holiday, Herrington Harbour" (oil on panel, 16"x20") by Patrick Saunders

Patrick and I are often drawn to capturing the same things, but we try not to post them together, because we don't want them to be compared to each other, since oil paintings and photography are very different animals. I have posted a few similar scenes in this blog, so just don't tell him. It will be our secret.

Herrington Harbour North Marina Resort. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

We also had the chance to visit Historic London Town & Gardens, a lovely event space on Chesapeake Bay. Patrick did a nice azalea painting there. The man can paint a floral like nobody's business. All those years he spent at Hallmark painting flowers with Gail Flores have really paid off. You should ask Patrick to tell you his wadded up toilet paper story.

"Azaleas In The Glade" (oil on panel, 9"x12'') by Patrick Saunders

We really enjoyed our week in Annapolis, but as soon as it was over, we had to hustle, because we only had one day to go from the ocean to the mountains for Mountain Maryland Plein Air. From shark territory to the horrors of black bear country next. - Kimberly

Tuesday, September 27, 2016