The Deserted Cottages, Recalling a Long-ago Image, and a Friend

painting of deserted cottages by lake

Deserted Cottages, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Original pastel painting, 17″ x 8.5″, 1999

Three years ago this month I posted the original of this painting of deserted cottages along Lake Erie for sale here and in my Etsy shop, including the story below connecting it to an old cardboard painting in my mother’s house found when I was selling it that had been an unwitting inspiration for my work today, along with memories of my mother.

A friend I hadn’t seen since middle school read the story, knew the place where the cottages had been and contacted me. We met and reunited our friendship after 35 years, and she bought the painting because she and her family had spent summers at that place while she was growing up. She had so many precious memories from all those years and the painting brought it all back to her. It also made a nice new bond between us and we regularly communicated after that, hoping to meet for a little vacation at a spot near this place she now visited over summers with her family, but also sharing our love of cats and crochet.

Unfortunately, she unexpectedly died this past summer. I’ve been remembering her daily since then and wondering how she could slip away so soon and unexpectedly, and it always brings me back to this painting. I’m so glad she had it with her for her last three years. She had a part of me with this painting, and I had a part of her with the memory each time I saw it in my portfolio, or as one of the prints I have on hand. I didn’t make it up to Lake Erie to spend time with her, but I will be sure to get to this area and remember her.

And here is the original story I published then, full of emotional connections as well. My mother had died earlier that year, 2011, and I was also renewing my bond with my art which I had let fall aside while I cared for her in her increasing illness over a decade.

. . . . . . .

Anything can become a learning opportunity and an inspiration, even a cheap cardboard painting stapled into a rickety wood frame. It worked for me.

I painted “Deserted Cottages” en plein air at a deserted campground in North East along Lake Erie. It was just a quick thing at the end of the day because the sun was going down and the light was changing fast, but I’d been painting all day and I was well warmed up. I quickly blocked in the buildings with just a few simple shapes and colors and their traceries of shadows, then the trees and grass, trying to catch the fluttering effect of the leaves in the wind allowing chunks of sky to show through, the tree trunks simplified and in high light-dark contrast, the blank expression of the boarded windows. I was pleased with the outcome, yet something was strangely familiar.

J.E. Warfield Painting

J.E. Warfield Painting

Six years later I put my mother’s house up for sale as she had moved to personal care, and took down her collection of cardboard art in plastic frames that I’d studied in depth growing up. It may not have been expensive, but there was a lot of it, in every room, including the basement. I particularly remembered the one long narrow painting with the signature J.E. Warfield because I liked the way the trees were leafy, not solid, and opened to the sky, the shadows traced across the ground and the buildings were very simple; after studying it as a child I felt that I could do that. Later, it hung on a paneling wall in the basement just inside the door from the garage where I entered for years, so I saw it every time I went into the house. Again, something was familiar.

I looked at “Deserted Cottages”, and looked at my cardboard Warfield. The tree trunks, the leaves, the simple buildings, the shadows—there it was! I could clearly see what I’d been aiming for as I’d painted six years before—this painting I’d been studying practically all my life.

detail of painting

Detail of the houses in the Warfield painting.

detail of painting

Detail of houses in my painting.

So it was a cheap cardboard painting stapled into a rickety wood frame—never underestimate the power of any image to inspire and teach! And I haven’t found out a darned thing about J.E. Warfield, but apparently this painting was a popular one judging by all the ones I’ve seen being sold as “vintage”.

Nothing is ever wasted for a creative person. I’ve learned to never dismiss something that impresses me for some reason, be it the cover of a bodice-ripper romance or a velvet painting or a doodle on a notebook, it goes “in there” somewhere and comes out somewhere else as a way I learned to work with color or shape or medium or just something that caught my eye and would catch others’ as well.

detail of painting

Detail of Warfield trees.

detail of painting

Detail of my trees.

Where to find this art

The art is 17″ x 8.5″, and when I originally posted this the original was hanging right above my desk, as it always had since I’d painted it.

While the original sold as mentioned above,  I have made a series of prints on paper and canvas which are available in my Etsy shop.

See other autumn art and landscapes

Click here to see an archive of autumn art and also landscape paintings.

And there are many more images to browse! Visit my Etsy shop to see what’s available in my Landscapes and Still Lifes Gallery.

I also have an e-newsletter for non-animal art like my landscapes and photography, which I usually deliver seasonally, click here to add your e-mail address.

. . . . . . .

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


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