Category Archives: art process

Rockport Day Trip

On my 63rd birthday, Sandra and I drove to Rockport, Massachusetts, where my mother grew up and I spent time as a child, in the summer’s, with my grandparents, William and Josephine McNamara. My grandfather was a longshoreman. He off loaded cargo from the fishing boats that arrived fully loaded into Rockport and Gloucester Harbors. He was very muscular and told me it was from offloading wooden barrels, upon his shoulders, from the boats all day. My grandmother was a housewife who also baked goods for a nearby grocery store. I feel amazed to have such vivid memories of being with them as a young child, watching Gunsmoke while sitting on my grandfather’s lap and being escorted downtown by my grandmother, with a destination of Tuck’s drugstore to be let loose in the candy section.

Now, I have so many memories but miss my grandparents love and guidance that made Rockport so special to me in the first place. They lie at rest in the Beach Grove Cemetery at the end of Pleasant Street, two streets from the home they built and raised their family in.

Kevin, Wife Sand

As Sandra and I arrived in Rockport, to my great surprise, suddenly a car passed us with two most familiar faces, my daughter and her boyfriend! I was excluded from planning this and very happy. We went to lunch, we drove them around to the more significant family landmarks and needing to be at work, they soon whisked themselves back north.

We brought our bikes and a saw, parked at the Rockport High School and pedelled to the cemetery. We pruned some arborvite bushes that were encapsulating William’s, Josephine’s and my uncle Richard’s headstone. From there we pretty much coasted downtown and to the parking lot across from Motif Number One. There was a cool southerly breeze making our visit very enjoyable. We pedaled around Bearskin Neck and past the Benjamin Tarr house, my 7th great grandfather. In Rockport my family roots go back as far as my paternal family goes back in York. Rockport has always felt like a second home to me.

Kevin and Sandra Freeman at Motif Number 1, Rockport, MA
Kevin and Sandra Freeman at Motif Number One, Rockport, MA
Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, MA

With bikes back on the car rack, we drove around Cape Anne and to our next destination, the Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester. My great grandfather, Edward McNamara is memorialized on one of the bronze plaques. He lost his life in 1910 when he fell off the deck of the Schooner M. Madeline. He is one of the 5368 souls lost at sea and memorialized here. My grandfather, William, was born in 1909, sharing only about 17 months of life with his father, Edward.With each year, I find family history more and more compelling. The more I learn, the more the unkown opens up.

Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, MA
Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, MA
My great grandfather, Edward McNamara

First Winter Snow Storm

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Over the past several years the weather has been noticeably warm for winter, here in Maine. I cannot discount the idea that we are moving to a point of no return. With wild weather fluctuations and unprecedented natural disasters it would be impossible not to conclude that we will face a reckoning in the near future. Global warming is all around us and yet we are indignant to change our way of life, even if it could save humanity. It is as if we have no incentive to stop plundering the Earth’s resources and evidently we are more determined than ever to carry on as usual.

Today, I took my camera along for my morning walk. My routine has been to walk two to three miles on flat ground with occasional exceptions. The exceptions are walking through the woods, aimlessly. By aimless I mean just walking where my whim takes me, with the idea of arriving home at some point. When I woke this morning and looked out the window, my compulsion was to get outside where the fresh five inches of snow had rendered everything bright, brilliant and beautiful. It was about 10°F which creates an extra crisp light.

What I enjoy most about walking through the woods with my camera is the freedom of choices, movement, composition, to click the shutter or not to click. Foremost, I am witness to the incredible display nature is offering. It is mine and it is the most magical exhibit I have ever known. I need only to open my mind and let my eyes lead the way. I don’t know how to express this wonder but make humble attempts, realizing the very act is a compromise. My favorite places to walk are the woods with views of trees, the ground and the sky. I love to turn around and look behind where often the best magic takes place. But as soon as I reach for my camera something else happens. My mind transforms to conventions, to composition and framing the image. This process is a departure from pure observation. I don’t mind this process as it is an attempt to respond to a call to action. I feel a necessity to capture a facsimile of what I am experiencing and bear witness to the inspiration I perceive. Immediately after the shutter clicks I know I have failed at an attempt to capture the exhilaration I feel from my communion with nature. But a photograph conveys something quite different and at best offers the viewer a shared moment, an offering of consideration and perhaps evoking the viewer’s imagination to participate in a semblance that initially inspired the shutter to click.

Walking in the Morning

Witch Hazel and Winterberries

Most mornings I have been walking two or more miles. I like walking the same route and reenforcing the places of most interest and always looking between to see what I am missing. December is making way for January, yet we have had no cold weather, at least not what I would expect when I cut the season’s firewood. I bring along my Nikon some days and have been pushing the limits of my iPhone 13 pro max. The iPhone is unquestionably amazing but goes after contrast to sharpen the image, dark grays, specifically and more than I like.

The photo above was taken with my Nikon D800. The full size images look amazing on the computer screen. I make small adjustments in light room to try to bring back the same feel as when I click the shutter.

Mouse Attack

I currently have the benefit of having lived 60 years. I also have accumulation of stuff, as witness and compounded during this lifetime. Yikes, a lot of stuff. The possessions I question most are the tangible testimony of my attempts at making art. I view it as a problem mostly. The process of creating is where it all happens, and then we have this stuff left over.

I have never approached art as a commercial venture. Rather a process of self discovery and the process works in parallel with my spiritual journey. Both expanding and contracting according to the laws of the universe.

My painting studio is very small. It is a stand alone building, created in the 1980’s. I built it and still need to put a board, shingle or something here and there to call it complete, but that is another story. A few days ago I had a compulsion to open a plastic bin which contained drawings from a particularly productive period in regards to drawing. Once the top was lifted, a mouse looked up at me with big black eyes. She didn’t have enough spring to jump out, so I assisted her with a stick. As she kept leaping upward, I caught her with a stick an propelled her out, onto the floor and into hiding.

Collage created in 1985 by Kevin Freeman
Collage 1985

After examining the content it was clear she has built a nest in the box of drawings. At first I was very disappointed to see so much shredded content. I put some gloves on and began removing the nest, comprised of canvas and paper, the work I had imagined was safe. Quickly, I uncovered two infant mice, hairless with rapid heartbeats. They were too small to move, helpless. Two thoughts entered my mind at once. Watching my friend Brad Webber killing mice in his his garden with a spade shovel and how carefully the Dali Lama described excavating ground for a monastery. The monks refused to step on an insect.

I needed a break, so decided to go into the house and make some tea. I conferred with my wife Sandra. Either of us are fans of mice. But I couldn’t go kill them, somehow. So I went back into the studio and made a makeshift nest for them from the materials I removed from the box of drawings. I also set a mouse trap under the wood stove which was the most difficult thing to come to terms with.

Feeling good and bad, I proceeded with my intention of rediscovering the box of drawings. There was much shredded material which included the edges of many drawings. The drawings were laid one upon another and at first the damage seemed significant. I pulled them all out and onto the floor. I cleaned out the plastic tub and began putting them back, one drawing at a time. The drawings that were dated were either 1984 or 1985. Many were not dated or signed. The ones I thought were worthy I scribbled my initials on the backs of.

Self Portrait, collage, 1885

The damage to the contents of the plastic bin wasn’t as severe as it originally appeared. The mouse had collected much material from other places and it looked like, brought them into the bin. As I looked at each drawing, some were very familiar and some I did not recognize. These drawing were the result of a process that had occurred about 35 years ago. They weren’t so much different from the results of my process today. In fact, some of the drawings that were damaged by the mice, I put in a pile and look forward to reworking them into collages, maybe like the ones seen here.

collage 1985, Kevin Freeman
Collage 1985

This discovery of the mice and the vulnerability of my drawings has caused me to wonder about further detachment from objects. After all, what benefit do these things provide hidden away in boxes? Yes, they provide the opportunity for mice and I do admit, I derived satisfaction from revisiting this time in my life. One or two years out of art school, living isolated in the woods, Sandra and I having no idea what today would look like back then.