#29. Island Inspiration (or, when you’re lucky enough to make art in paradise)


1893 map of Mount Desert Island by Edward Rand (perhaps a distant relation?)

Islands. If you live on one, your life is defined by either “on the island” or “off the island”, and you most likely love your island. If you are lucky enough to have a special one you can escape to from time to time, and be inspired by, well, you’re lucky.

MDI, shorthand for Mount Desert Island, Maine, is technically an island, although it’s attached to the mainland by a causeway. Geographically it’s a land unto itself, and when you drive over that causeway, you are leaving the mainland behind, and you get that sense of “ahhhhh.” Historically, it’s a fascinating tapestry, ancient Abenaki Native American history mixing with 17th and 18th century French and English exploration and settling, and early 19th century establishment of island life. (Way too much to address here.. but if you’re curious, click on the links … Great stuff.)

photo of an old print I have, a schooner sailing in Somes Sound … (my reflection is in the glass)

So much has been written about MDI and so many paintings have been produced here that it’s almost redundant to try to capture it in a little blog post, but I have a few choice things to show and tell. (Over thirty years-worth, actually… but that’s a different story.) My recent penchant for focusing on landscape is directly related to my love for this place, especially Acadia National Park, which is located on Mount Desert.

“Fall Blueberry Bushes, Beech Mountain” 12×12″ mixed media on panel ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

Naturalists, artists and writers were drawn here in the early/mid 1800’s, including Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church,  inspired by the incredible beauty and rugged terrain, and wealthy seekers of summer idyll followed soon afterward, building lavish “cottages”.  Artists, writers, and nature-lovers (and tons of tourists) are still drawn to the natural beauty here. The magic is palpable on this island…

"Cairn Shadow" 36x36" mixed media on wood panel. © 2014 Karen Rand Anderson

“Cairn Shadow” 36×36″ mixed media on wood panel. © 2014 Karen Rand Anderson

There is an Artist-In-Residence program at Acadia that offers you (as an artist) “the opportunity to pursue {your} particular art form while surrounded by the inspiring landscape of the park.” For more information and to find out the details, click here. (Though I have not been an artist-in-residence at Acadia, I know several artists who have.)

Mount Desert Island (“île des Monts Déserts”, or Island of the Bare Mountains) is a place that instills creative inspiration in anyone who has the opportunity to explore it. Choose your path…

There is so much more that I could share, but I’ll just say– if you ever get the opportunity (apply for a residency!!) come visit. Hike, paint, write, photograph, whatever.  Lucky me

"Gray Day at the Beaver Pond" 12x12" mixed media on panel. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

“Grey Day at the Beaver Pond” 12×12″ mixed media on panel. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

 all photos of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park by Karen Rand Anderson

#19. “More Snow”: building a painting while wishing winter was over.


photo by Laurel Casey

This winter in New England is… enough already. I’m not alone in feeling this. But in truth, it’s beautiful, in many ways. I’ve been doing some blue and white paintings as a result. Here is the process of my recent “More Snow”, mixed media on wood panel, 24×24″ (When I say “mixed media” I refer to the fact that the painting is not ONLY made of acrylic paint, but also pencil and water-based crayon.)


First a couple of quick value and color studies in my art journal.


I toned the panel with a random mix of phthalo blue, green shade; a small amount of lemon yellow; some teal; a little white. First time I’ve decided to use this teal color as a ground. Sketched out the image with hot pink pastel pencil. I like breaking rules, although I really don’t have too many in my studio.


Laying in darks, lights and starting on some mid-tones… Also lots of scribbling. I love scribbling. Mark-making is important to me; I love the freedom of letting the marks make themselves through my hand.



After I get things pretty well established, I often begin to get fussy, which is always a no-no. I take a lot of breaks, turn away from the painting, eat lunch, check my email, go back to the painting, play with my dog Theo,  plan the next painting, go back to the painting, sketch some other ideas, read books, check FB, (oops), go back to the painting.


Anyway, after a few days, I decide it’s done, and here’s “More Snow” 24×24″ mixed media on cradled board. (My personal title is actually “More F$%^&ing Snow.” )


“More Snow” 24×24″ mixed media on panel. © 2104  Karen Rand Anderson

Theo, faithful studio assistant

Theo, faithful studio assistant