Havre de Grace: An Artist’s Haven

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After a busy spooky season, I finally had a slower few weeks to retreat to Harford County to recharge before I had my next art show/book discussion scheduled at Haven in Havre de Grace on November 26 from 7-9 pm. I have written before in “The Self-Care of a Kids Painting Class”, that painting and creating art, especially in classes, is vital self-care to any human. But what is it about Harford County that makes it such an imaginative haven for creatives? When local Havre de Grace artist Ezra Berger invited me to join one of his Sip and Paint classes, I got to work figuring this out.

Leading up to this evening of painting, Ezra told me that there were no restrictions on what we could paint and paint what inspires us as artists. I wanted to challenge myself a bit and do something different than my normal art for this class, so I went out into Harford County to find inspiration. The first adventure was one of my famous walks around Havre de Grace to see what caught my artistic eye. Nothing jumped out to me on this urban stroll that I wanted to paint, mainly just a ton of marvelous photography that you can find under my Punk Rock Photography section on my website portfolio.

The day before the painting class, I still had not found anything that sparked my creative flame. That afternoon, I ran into John Keaton, the new Gallery Director of Artist’s Emporium in Havre de Grace. John showed me some of his newer art and gave me a personal tour of Robin Capecci’s solo show currently happening at the gallery. Robin’s solo show is a must-see classical masterclass in oil painting fine art; celebrating her Italian heritage and recent sabbatical to Italy, her deep spiritual connection to painting, and her passion for still life. Both artists’ work started to ignite that creative fire in me, but I still had not found anything that spoke to me to paint for Ezra’s class.

With about two hours left before sunset, I drove to Susquehanna State Park as nature always inspires me to create as I hike around the wild wonders of the Susquehanna River, and the early industrial sites of Rock Run. I parked my car at the old Mill and walked up the former railroad tracks along the remains of the Susquehanna and Tidewater canal with my camera. The late afternoon lighting in this rugged nature environment was impeccable, and once again fully ignited my photography eye, but not my painting eye this time. As I walked back to my car, I saw the sun beginning to set, so I walked up the hill to the Carter-Archer Mansion. Behind the historic mansion is a parking lot, and the entrance to a trail that leads into the woods. I was pleasantly surprised to find local photographer, Victoria Blevins, there working with clients taking gorgeous engagement photos using this fall sunset scenery.

After quickly chatting with Victoria, I trekked back down the hill to my car and drove down Stafford Road with a bunch of gorgeous photos but not anything I felt inspired enough to paint. As I was about to turn off Stafford Road onto Lapidum Rd, I saw the sunset on the river. I quickly parked my car in the parking lot of the Lapidum Boat Launch area and watched the picturesque spectacle. With the golden pinks overtaking the whiteish blue in the sky and an equally magnificent reflection on the water with the silhouette of the Tydings Bridge carrying I-95 over the Susquehanna in the background, I was instantly inspired to paint the sunset. I snapped a photo of a flock of ducks taking off from the water and drove home knowing what I was going to paint at Ezra’s class. After reviewing the photos, I saw this thread of railroads in a lot of them… Bingo! I was going to paint a sunset train for Ezra’s class.

I have been a lifelong train enthusiast, and I wrote about painting trains on my art blog with my post “The Trains of our Lives, Painting Trains, and their Graffiti”. With such a rich train history in Harford County, plus knowing that Ezra also enjoys painting trains, I grabbed a train photography book that my grandparents gave me as a little kid and arrived at Ezra’s painting class ready to go. As the laid-back class began, Ezra started talking about how to pick a subject to paint, and what common themes mean in artwork, like underwater depictions meaning the subconscious. Everyone then got to work painting whatever their heart desired, and as we were creating, everyone started to mingle with each other. This was the true magic of these types of events… everyone is there with the common purpose of art creation and events like these generate an artistic community which adds to the part of the self-care aspect of this event.

After two hours of painting and socializing, Ezra began the art show portion of this experience. Everyone is encouraged to show off and talk about the painting they created. The vast uniqueness of everyone’s art is truly specular, everyone in the class is open to the difference in subject, style, and technique. Some art was abstract with intense emotional brush strokes, some were colorful and happy of the artist thinking of warm weather destinations on this cold, rainy November evening. And me showing off “Green Engine that did it”, a neo-expressionist graffiti-style freight train engine. I snapped some photos, as Ezra and Tyler Buck, host of The Good Stuff with Tyler Buck on WHFC 91.1 FM, showed off a few paintings and local artist as well as another local Havre de Grace artist Khamari Smith, showing off his work completed in the class.

After that night, I meditated on the class and the adventures leading up to the painting night. Humans are inherently creative and social creatures, and these paint nights are essential. They provide a space to decompress and get in touch with an artistic side that resides in all of us. But the magic of Harford County is that we live in such a rich environment that provides endless creative inspiration for an artist, and a community of creatives that give the space to create with this inspiration, providing such multiple, ideal opportunities for self-care. Ezra’s next paint night will be Friday, December 2nd, 2022 at Haven in Havre de Grace and I am having an Abstract Expressionist painting workshop the following day at Haven as well from 7-9 pm. Do yourself a favor and take a class as it is such a relaxing and fun night that supports local art.

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