Into the Mystic with J.M.W. Turner

Last week I showed a few photos of my sketchbook from my visit to see the Turner watercolor exhibit but that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. You see, today I’m going to inundate you with photos I took of both the location and the exhibit itself. Fortunately photos were not only allowed but encouraged.

J.M.W. Turner… Joseph Mallord William Turner (23 April, 1775 – 19 December, 1851)






The Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT is perfect, located on the Mystic River just as it empties into Fishers Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.  It seems William Turner, throughout his life was enamored of the sea and its seafaring vessels. The exhibit includes works spanning his life as early on he depicts architecture for his patrons while he transitions to studies of landscapes and light. All of these are awe-inspiring but I was particularly taken with his more atmospheric ethereal pieces done in his later years when he bucked society’s expectations and experimented and created for his own pleasure.

The photos that follow are roughly in chronological order and are heavily weighted to his later work that I love so much.  I’m not going to describe them but instead have captioned each work for reference.  Oh, and please excuse the reflections from the glass… you may want to google the captions to find better online images.


Loch Long Morning 1801


Durham Cathedral: The Interior, Looking East Along the South Aisle 1797-8



Brent Toor and the Lydford Valley, Devon 1814-16


A Hulk or Husks on the River Tamar: Twilight 1811-14



Kirkby Lonsdale 1817


Shields Lighthouse 1823-6


Banditti, for Samuel Rogers’s Italy 1826-7



The Forum, for Rogers’s Italy 1826-7


Venice: San Giorgio Maggiore – Early Morning 1819



Marly-Sur-Seine: Color Beginning 1829-30


A Wreck, Possibly Related to “Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End” 1834


Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland 1837


(Whitehaven), Cumbria 1835-6


Coastal Terrain 1830-45



Sea and Sky 1845


Venice: Looking Across the Lagoon at Sunset 1840


Venice: An Imaginary View of the Arsenale 1840


Sea and Sky 1835


Brighton Shore, Looking West 1824


A Harpooned Whale 1845



Beach, (English Coast) 1835


(Flint Castle) 1834


Sketchbook and Loose Papers



Admission is to the entire Mystic Seaport Museum… its village, exhibitions, shipyard and vessels.




And if you stay overnight and are as fortunate as we were to have a brisk sunny day you might just want to find a spot to walk the shore and enjoy the scenery.



The Turner Watercolor Exhibit continues at the Mystic Seaport Museum until Sunday, 23 February, 2020. 

#jmwturner,  #mysticseaportmuseum


To The Sea and Mr. Turner

I’ve just returned from a short overnight excursion to Mystic, CT, specifically the Mystic Seaport Museum, to see the JMW Turner watercolor exhibit.

I’m still processing all that I experienced and I have many many observations and photos to share but they’ll have to wait. Instead I’m going to share a few pages of my sketchbook to show you how much more my books contain than a few quotes, drawings and splashes of color.

I keep brochures and even full sized maps that I sew into the book as extra pages. All sorts of things too valuable to toss or to lose on my messy desk in a failed attempt to keep them safe.

All this and a drawing too!

Oddly Comforting

After this week of upheaval I again tried to put my life and these times into perspective. Enter Carl Sagan and his Pale Blue Dot speech.  Just hearing it again inspired me to reflect, revitalize and create a journal page honoring my… and I hope… our resilience.

Thank you Ken Takahashi and YouTube for this wonderful video.


That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Thank you Carl Sagan.

Frederick Franck’s Big Ten

I’ve been a huge fan of Frederick Franck ever since I discovered one of his books, The Zen of Seeing: Seeing Drawing as Meditation. This book has moved with me many times; the spine and cover are quite faded in spots.

The contents will never fade; they’re as relevant today as they were when they were written. I’m not the only fan, just the other day a friend shared Franck’s ten commandments from his long out-of-print book, The Awakened Eye. As with all interesting quotes, I documented them in my journal!

Like Frederick Franck, I believe everything and anything is worthy of being truly seen, even for a few short minutes.

If you’re interested in a text version of these ten commandments or learning more about Frederick Franck and The Awakened Eye please check out this wonderful website. There’s a lot to explore!

My Peripheral Memory

My Sketchbook.

I use it for all sorts of things, even phone numbers I need to remember. 

The other day a friend forwarded an article with the collected points of Irwin Greenberg, an art instructor in New York. I paid particular attention since I wrote one of these points in bold face on the first page of my sketchbook:  “An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.” I knew then I needed to keep all 100 points where I could easily find them. 


Want an easier way to read all Irwin Greenberg’s wisdom?  Click here

Freezing Time

After Monday’s post I kept thinking of why I keep my sketchbook-journal and remembered this piece of wisdom from Julia Cameron I wrote on the page where I played with my watersoluble inks.


So much of the adventure of the life we lead rushes past us in a blur. Velocity is the culprit. Velocity and pressure. A sketchbook freezes time. It is an instantaneous form of meditation focusing us on the worth of every passing moment. So often the great adventure of life lies between the lines, in how we felt at a certain time and at a certain place. This tool will help you remember and savor the passing parade.

 —Julia Cameron, Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity

Retrain the Critic

We all have an inner critic, the IC, that noxious voice getting in the way of your artistic progress. What we need is a way to retrain our critic to critique the work instead.


As an example I’ll show you a spread I made a few weeks ago while out with my Thursday plein air group. They’re all fine artists and at every excursion I talk to myself………………. Do. Not. Compare.

Critique- Full

It has issues, my IC sees the mud, the poorly defined tree mass and the random scratchy lines in the chairs. Is that helpful? Not really. As I critique the piece I register that as I created this piece I hurried my lines… I needed to look… really look and slow down. My trees have nice trunks but again, I rushed. Breathe! It’ll still be there… what’s the rush?

Critique - closeA good critique also reflects on the pieces that DO work.  I managed to capture the depth within the barn and the stacked feed bags.

Practice! The more work you create the looser the hold your inner critic has on you. I remember that day clearly. As I sat painting and chatting, I savored the sun, the beautiful breeze, freshly picked sweet strawberries and especially the pleasant camaraderie of a morning spent with friends.

Every time I see this I will remember it all… and my critic has been banished!


Happy New Year!

Another bit of inspiration from Neil Gaiman’s Journal, this time from 2007.

And now it’s in my journal too.

2015 Gaiman


“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

— Neil Gaiman

Thoughts for the Eve of the New Year


From Neil Gaiman’s Journal 2011… transcribed into my 2014 journal. I couldn’t have said it better.

2014 Gaiman


“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and for all of us, and for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

—  Neil Gaiman