Although I have visited some downright unpleasant places in my travels, the majority of the places I visit are lovely, interesting, and entertaining. However, it is also true that some places “grab” me more than others. I like almost every place I visit, but occasionally I find that I love a particular place. This happened to me recently when I traveled to the northeast U.S. to see the fall colors. I liked New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, but I loved Maine.
Since then, I’ve been wondering why I found Maine so captivating. Of course, the scenery was spectacular. In Acadia National Park I hiked through vibrant red and gold foliage along craggy cliffs that plummeted to azure and turquoise seas below. In town I talked to any number of Mainers who live simply and maintain traditional values. Still, I couldn’t figure it out. Why did Maine feel so different? What was it about Maine that attracted me so?
Soon after returning home to Florida, I received an email from Brian Kliewer, an artist who lives in Camden, Maine. He discovered my blog and wrote to tell me about his latest project:
“I’m doing 100 small paintings in 100 days. All are for sale and you can probably guess the price…”
I was intrigued enough to check out more of his paintings on his website. Brian explained his philosophy:
“Believability is very important to me in my work, not just in realism, but in the emotional, human connection I often feel toward the subject.”
Suddenly I understood why I was so attracted to Maine. It is a believable place. Despite the fact that Mainers deal with hordes of tourists for at least half of each year, they haven’t turned into nondescript people who pander to those tourists. Maine felt real to me – authentic rather than phony. And I suspect this is what Brian is referring to when he talks about believability, since he is devoted to accuracy as to time of day, season and weather in his paintings. He doesn’t paint palaver with the goal of selling his work. He paints the real Maine; the sometimes sunny and beautiful Maine, as well as the fogbound and wintry Maine.
Since receiving his initial email, Brian and I have been corresponding. Believability is critically important to him not only in his work, but also in his life. Although gifted as an artist, he’s had to struggle for his success. Brian was born with a debilitating arthritic condition that has thrown his joints out of whack; since childhood he has been at risk of dislocating his knees at any time. Early on, doctors told him he would never be able to hold a normal job, but he tried anyway. For a while he worked as a janitor in a bank, but the time spent standing on his feet worsened his condition:
“By that point, my ankles were just about shot. The best way of describing it is that they felt like bloody stubs. It really felt like I was walking around on nothing but bone. I didn’t feel my feet. But I kept working because I needed the job!”
Eventually Brian decided to believe in himself enough to pursue painting full time. And thank goodness he did! He has the most amazing ability to capture scenes and subjects as he feels them, in addition to how he sees them. When I look at his paintings, I feel the real Maine and I realize that this is the same reaction I had when I visited the state. Today his paintings, which in many cases command thousands of dollars, can be found at galleries across the state. And though Kliewer’s work is in many private and corporate collections throughout the United States, perhaps his most famous collector is former President Jimmy Carter.
On November 10th Brian began his latest project, producing 100 paintings in 100 days. Each miniature painting measures between 3″ x 5″ and 4″ x 5″ and was priced at – you guessed it – $100. The project ended on February 18, 2009 and any unsold paintings were removed. Way to go Brian! You’ve made a believer out of me.