PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Littleton artist Frank Sullivan doesn’t quite know how to put into words what fascinates him about the southern Aroostook County landscape.
“Maybe that is why I paint it,” he said recently, surrounded by his colorful paintings and pastels in workshop.
To Sullivan, most things in the area — the farmhouses, the fields, how the sunset casts a certain light in the woods — spark his interest.
His artwork, which hangs in private collections throughout the country and has won numerous awards, is now reaching an even wider audience at the Mark & Emily Turner Library in Presque Isle through the end of the year.
The show features 26 recent paintings and pastel drawings inspired by the agricultural landscape of southern Aroostook County, particularly the Littleton and Monticello area.
Sullivan worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, art director and art instructor in Massachusetts before moving to Littleton in 2006 to focus on his art full time.
“There were so many things I liked about this area when I saw it,” Sullivan explained. “In Massachusetts where I grew up, there were lots of trees. Here, there are wide open spaces and you can see for miles. I also love the quality of light here. I also love how much the landscape is valued here. It is used to grow food, for work, for survival.”
Sullivan has spent much of his time re-creating what he sees around him. Farmhouses, fields and potato houses are favorite images, and the vast landscape is pictured in both summer and winter. He incorporates weather into much of his work, whether it is by showing a farm at sunset, a potato field dotted with snow or a pink sky hugging a forest.
Once settled at his Littleton home, Sullivan converted a potato house on his property into a studio and gallery, where he displays his work and teaches drawing and painting classes throughout the year.
He also teaches drawing and art appreciation classes at Northern Maine Community College and art classes and workshops at the Wintergreen Art Center in Presque Isle. He has injected himself into the local art scene, serving for more than two years on the board of the Southern Aroostook Cultural Arts Project in Houlton, and he also serves on the board of the Houlton Star Bright Children’s Theatre.
“I was surprised to find such a vibrant art scene in such a remote area,” he said. “There are a lot of artists up here.”
Sullivan said that his display at the Presque Isle library features all but one landscape painting. Most of the scenes showcase Littleton and Monticello.
He has seen many beautiful scenes throughout the rest of The County, particularly in the St. John Valley, that he would like to paint.
“The problem is, I would rather paint than drive,” he said. “You have to drive awhile to get there, and there are so many interesting things to paint around here.”
He is trying to get his work exposed farther south and is looking for gallery representation in southern Maine and Massachusetts.
“When most people outside of the state think of Maine art,” he explained, “they think of the coast. They think of scenes of the ocean and boats and things. I am on a mission to let them know that there is more than just that here. There is agriculture, there are landscapes, there is Aroostook County. I am eager to reach a broader audience with my art.”
His work can also be seen at Visions and The Courtyard Cafe, both in Houlton, The Eastport Gallery in Eastport, Morningstar Art & Framing in Presque Isle, and he has four paintings on display at the state Capitol in Augusta. His work can be viewed online at http://rainbarrowstudio.blogspot.com/. The exhibition at the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library will be on view during regular hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.