Working in John MacWhinnie’s Yard

The Path paintings

Over the next few days, John replaced the tiles in the shower of the artist’s house with new ones. It was because the old ones weren’t very clean and some were missing. I had mentioned that to him when we first visited the house. John seemed like he was used to this kind of work. It was probably because this type of work was what he had usually done for his acquaintances to make some extra cash.

John also took me to a large hardware store nearby on Long Island and introduced me to Michiko, a Japanese woman. She was John’s acquaintance. John introduced me to her and said that I was a promising artist. She looked like she was in her mid-40’s.

There was another living space on the second floor in MacWhinnie’s house and it was rented to a Mexican family. The family made fresh juice with a blender every morning so I would hear that sound every morning. I saw them occasionally. They seemed like nice people.

John MacWhinnie was living alone in this large house, except for the people to who he rented the place out. John told me that he used to live with his wife and daughter, but they had moved out a while ago.

yellow paint

At that time, MacWhinnie was working on a series of small oil paintings on foamboard. He used only yellow paint and created small square holes on the surface of each painting. He said he called them “Window paintings”. He was using a piece of glass as a palette. He showed me how to mix paint and how to work on a painting surface with the large flat brushes he used.

One day, someone came to see his work at his studio. His studio was a large bright space with a glass ceiling, but there were some leaks on the ceiling, so some parts of the floor were wet and water came down when it rained. As John had told me that MacWhinnie had a large studio before we visited his house, I had been originally planning to paint in his studio space. But, after I looked at the space and imagined how I would be working there, I felt that I might not be comfortable painting where there was someone else working in the same room. Also, I didn’t like the leaks on the ceiling. I thought I would feel more comfortable painting just by myself with no one else around. So, I decided to paint in his large yard.

I placed my easel where I wanted to paint in the yard and I started working on my new painting. The piece I was working on was called “Path”, another painting of Bryant Park. Also, I finished a smaller painting called “Table”, which was the table at Marino Studio.

The Path painting

Path by Chiho-Yoshikawa, 2002

While painting “Path”, I was becoming conscious of painting more neatly so that it would look nice and be more likely to sell. It was because I was creating new pieces for my solo exhibition. One day, MacWhinnie came out to the yard to see how I was doing, so I told him that. Then he said that I shouldn’t try to paint something that I think would sell. He also said there was a window on my painting, like his. He came to see me work a few other times.

Spot, the white cat, always came and sat near me while I was painting. Her favourite place to sit was under my work table. She also sat on the grass in the shade. She was a very smart cat. Since she had been living with MacWhinnie, she seemed to understand artists well. That was because she never bothered me while I was painting and she waited to play with me until I signalled to her that I was having a break.

Spot lying

I usually worked in the front yard that was facing the street. It was the largest part of the yard. There were many trees beside the house, so the house was partially hidden from the outside. There was plenty of space between the next house so it felt very private. Also, there was a backyard. It was smaller than the front yard. Beyond it were just extensive cornfields.

cornfields

I occasionally painted on the side of the house. Wherever I painted, Spot found me and waited for me to finish painting for the day. And we played after. Sometimes I was in the yard and not painting. Then Spot would find me and came running while mewing loudly. There was a large swimming pool in front of the main door, but it was empty and it looked like it hadn’t been used for a long time.

Long island was more expensive than New York City. There was only one grocery store nearby so I bought buns there and made sandwiches for every meal. I ate my lunch by my easel, lying on the grass, every day. I washed my clothes by hand as usual, which I had been doing since I was in Murayama City and Ireland. Then, I hung them outside on a clothesline made of a simple string. I really loved this lifestyle. I often wrote drafts of letters to my mother in Japan while lying on the grass in the yard, but I always felt that they didn’t sound good enough, so I never sent them to her.

grass

When John visited me in Water Mill, we walked into an art gallery in Water Mill once. Also, we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It was mostly farmland and just a few scattered houses. The street went into a hilly wooded area and as we followed it, we came to a community nature park. There was a large quiet pond also. On the way back home, John took some tomatoes from one of the farms to bring home.

Mexian cafe

There was a café on the main road. It was just across from a small street that led to MacWhinnie’s house. The café was run by Mexicans. Whenever we went into the café, they had very nice Mexican music playing and the CDs were displayed for sale at the entrance. They also served meals there and it always had a nice atmosphere.

MacWhinnie seemed to get up late in the morning and he went to the Mexican café first thing every day for coffee. He had a dark green coloured Jaguar, but it was an old model. Around 10:30 in the morning, while I was painting in the yard, I would see his car leave and then come back in a half-hour every day.