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My Turn: Making Weare – a celebration of an inspiring community

Long ago, when I lived in the Weare woods, I was new to New Hampshire as well as to living in the woods. I did not live just by the side of the road, nor did I move into a ready-made house with hot and cold running water or electricity. Not even an indoor bathroom. I thought I was on an adventure and treated it like one.

I lived in the woods for 15 years with increasing comforts. The wisdom of nature stayed with me, as did the deep sense of community I came to love in the friends I made and neighbors I enjoyed.

In 1984, I did a mural for the Weare Conservation Commission using my elaborate idea of how a basic New England style of house decoration – stenciling – could be expanded to remind the viewer of the endless cycle of nature. The mural is in the conservation room of the old high school, now the town offices.

It was a surprise to hear Neal Kurk’s voice on the phone and his request that I do a poster flier to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Weare town charter. He suggested I look around at what other towns/cities have done and maybe think about nature.

It was the middle of the winter, but I drove through Weare reminding myself of treasured sites and the ambiance I found living there. I took lots of photos and made as many drawings as I could while seated in the car.

Then I researched what else had been done.

Weare and the Pine Tree Riot was a great story about rebellion and resistance, being the first act of defiance before the Revolutionary War, but it did not evoke images that lasted. I looked for historical events and at other posters. I looked at old broadsides thinking a simple graphic may work well. I looked at old postcards and read about their history.

I liked the colors used in the cards and the phrase “Wish you were here.”

Weare has a rich history as a town on a railroad with inns for travelers seeking fresh air. I studied travel posters and again liked the simple graphics that invited the viewer into the scene.

The industrial revolution in Weare brought mills for shoes and toys, some of which lasted well into the 20th century. I did not find a lasting image.

I started some ideas and developed a scene of the town with the giant pine trees on the side. The tree stands are still impressive in Weare and using the pine tree not only gives a border to the image but suggests the famous Pine Tree Riot.

The view from Route 114 coming into Weare from the south could be construed to look into town, so I began to imagine that scene, using the Town Hall for a sense of community.

I took my rough idea to Neal and Helene Kurk. I had written “Wish you were here” on it. Neal said, “Weare you wish you were.”

I have been drawing with walnut ink or Japanese calligraphy ink recently, and adding color with pastels. I decided this would be an appropriate technique for this piece, to reflect my own current work as well as suggesting age through the materials.

I worked on the composition from drawings and photos. I had made some black walnut ink both out of curiosity and for its sepia color. I had taken rotten black walnuts hulls from fallen nuts in my yard, then boiled them until I got a deep sepia color. It was a very earthy smell inside the house.

I first had drawn with black calligraphy ink, but it was too harsh both for the sentiment and for the ability to evoke timelessness. The walnut ink was better, leaving a softer or deeper color as I drew.

I mostly use a 12-inch reed cut from a phragmites stalk for a drawing tool. Phragmites is an invasive grass growing in low swampy areas. The use of the reed gives lines a human quality as well as thin and thick lines. It forces an imprecision that characterizes an immediate reaction to a seen object, an emotional reaction less than a careful precise intellectual reaction. In this case, for the distant objects, I needed a sharpie marker in brown or the smaller lines would be lost with the reed.

The composition was intended place objects in a geographic relationship to each other.

I tried several times to get the spirit of what I had originally seen. I could see it in my mind but was not getting there on paper.

Placing objects in geographic relationships made a lousy composition. Finally I just enlarged the Town Hall, moved the Clinton Grove Academy, made the road narrower between the buildings, and moved the river and the lake to where they worked compositionally.

I put this drawing on a sober, grayish paper and added the pastel color.

Again, I tried mimicking real colors. It didn’t look right, so I simplified the color and emphasized bright consistent color, more in keeping with travel posters or post cards.

Simplifying the town, the view, the colors – the whole finally felt right.

When I took the drawing to Nathaniel Raymond, a friend of my son’s who is an artist and a printer skilled in typography, I asked him to write the inscriptions. He loved the word play of “Weare you wish you were.” His take on how that inscription should look is the final addition to this celebration of town, history and community.

(Linda Graham lives in Concord.)

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