The Studio School brochure was sitting on the smoothie store counter in Roanoke, Virginia. While waiting for my order I  flipped through it and noticed, on the last page, the description of a painting class in Maine coming up in June. Boothbay Harbor and Monhegan Island.

Who knows how or why we get these counter-intuitive ideas. But it started to make perfect sense for me, a writer, to go on this trip. I'd learn to SEE better. To stop and observe carefully.

It's not a big leap to hope that by studying and drawing physical objects right in front of you, you might see less tangible things better, too. Emotion, motivation, character, heart, soul.

So, I signed up and here's my stuff, spread out on the kitchen table. The Carnet de Voyage is actually from France. The special pencils are from Germany and Austria. This old school European provenance was a happy surprise. The guy at the Southern Graphics art supply store in Roanoke suggested I get an eraser. I laughed and said, Of course, and bought two (from Malaysia). The sketch pad is from the U.S.A.!

Flipping through The Art of Monhegan Island by Carl Little, with a foreword by Jamie Wyeth (he lives near there), you realize -- or, at least, I realized -- that American artists have been visiting this tiny island (1.75 miles long; .75 of a mile wide) for 150 years. Harry Fenn, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper -- and that's just the names I recognize. Rachel Carson writes about Monhegan in The Edge of the Sea. It's a sacred place.

A friend lent me his much-loved copy to take along of Arundel: A Chronicle of The Province of Maine And of The Secret Expedition Against Quebec by Kenneth Roberts (1929). It's a tome, but I'm already deep into its spellbinding 1775 time travel, following a pre-traitor Benedict Arnold across the Maine mountains to Quebec. Yum.

Maglite flashlight, sun hat, packing list. I'm ready. More in a week...

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