Anne Howes, Nancy Cabot, Susan Silva, and Virginia Blakesley: Photo by Susan Safford
Among the artists showing their work at the Howes House in West Tisbury last weekend were: (clockwise from top left) Anne Howes, Nancy Cabot, Susan Silva, and Virginia Blakesley. Ms. Cabot convenes the weekly painting group.

Howes House art a rainy day delight

Story and photos by Susan Safford - June 29, 2006

Last weekend there was water everywhere, and not necessarily welcome to those who hoped to enjoy a day at the beach or busy themselves with gardening chores. But it was a perfect weekend for indoor browsing, and the watercolor art display at the Howes House in West Tisbury offered a refreshing respite from the weather.

The show featured 10 local artists with a selection of work done at their informal weekly meetings in the off-season. "We meet every Friday afternoon," said Nancy Cabot, who refers to herself as the convener of the group. "It's very informal, I just makes sure there is something here to paint," she said. "Anyone can come to the group, but we're mostly seniors, and right now it's all women, but it's not restricted to women."

Most of the artists have had experience with watercolors and are renewing an old interest. Some of them have painted with oils or in another medium and want to experiment with watercolor. "We have a surprising number of former art teachers in the group," said Ms. Cabot.

Shells in a basket by Nancy Cabot: Photo by Susan Safford
Shells in a basket, a delicate watercolor by Nancy Cabot.

Ms. Cabot taught for many years at independent schools. Virginia Blakesley taught art at some of the Island schools in the late '50's. "Allen Whiting was my student in the 7th grade," said Ms. Blakesley, adding he showed considerable talent even then. "Many of the students on the Island were very creative," she said. Another artist, Ann Howes, is co-teaching a three-day workshop this summer at the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown, where she also displays some of her work.

But there are also beginners, some who have been painting only a few years longer than the group has been together.

"The camaraderie is very nice, and mutual criticism is helpful," said Ms. Cabot.

"One thing about watercolor is it requires a lot more thought before you put paint to paper," Ms. Cabot said. "But happy mistakes can be wonderful," added Ms. Howes.

When it came time to decide what work to display for the show, they looked at a lot of their pieces and decided together. "We thought it would be interesting to group some subjects together to see how different people view the same subject," said Ms. Cabot. So it wasn't surprising to look at the display panels and see three visions of seashells in a basket, or Nancy Luce's grave. Decoys were a popular theme, and flowers in a vase.

Most surprising were the prices attached. At most art galleries you don't even see price tags much lower than $1,000, but here, most pieces were priced under $100. It's a show not to miss, but you'll have to wait until next summer. And since the group will be meeting throughout the summer for the first time this year, if you're interested in painting, stop by Friday afternoons at 1 pm, no reservation necessary.