The first time I drew the church on the common in Townshend, Vermont, I was maybe in the third grade. That steeple dominated the landscape of my young life. I grew up two houses away in a home my parents still live in today. I spent six years at Townshend Elementary in the shadow of that old gal. She’s the model I looked to when practicing perspective. It was her proportions and lines that first made me think, “Maybe I’ll be an architect.”
Now, I’m always extra interested when I come upon artists’ depictions of the Townshend Church and surrounding buildings. I like to see if they got it right. Occasionally, I’m impressed with the changes the artist made and got away with… “Why didn’t I ever think to paint her like that?”
If you include all the school kids who have sat on the common and drawn her, the Townshend Church has been drawn and painted thousands of times. But it’s surprising how rarely I come across original art depicting Townshend Common. In my own collection, I have just one piece of the common that was created by an artist other than me.
One afternoon late last fall, I parked my car on the common because I had to run into the school (I won a 50/50 raffle). I noticed an artist at his easel. He was painting the usual scene in its late autumn splendor… except there was no steeple and no church anywhere in his scene. He was painting the school and neighboring house, keeping the common in the foreground. I recognized the painter, Peter Huntoon, one of my favorite Vermont painters. Peter’s paintings are wonderful compositions full of interesting shapes and subtle colors that draw your eye and hold your interest. He’s on a mission to paint Vermont in as many places as he can. It’s a treat to watch Peter’s creative process. I hovered a while, watching Peter work. We agreed that we both liked the more neutral colors that come after peak foliage. There is something about too much orange and red that throws off a landscape composition. Before leaving, he suggested I support the arts by purchasing the painting with my 50/50 winnings. Hmmm…I had been lucky to hold the winning ticket and I was lucky to have run into Peter on the common. So yes, three weeks later I had my first non-church depiction of Townshend common on my wall.