In this case, he’s offering vibrant slices of the serene New England town of Gloucester (pronounced Glaw-ster). “It’s a little seaside city up in Massachusetts, and it has this really dense American painting history,” Heidkamp tells me, listing off American artists who have made camp there, figurative forefathers
, and even abstract masters like
, among them. “There’s a reason why all of these people have gone there—because it’s beautiful and it has that art energy,” he explains. “I always like to see if the art energy is real. If you go there and you paint, does something good happen? And it does!” Gloucester also holds personal meaning for Heidkamp; it’s a place he visited as a child, on beach vacations growing up, not far from his native Wakefield, Massachusetts. This past summer, he made two trips to Gloucester, staying for a week at a time, with the purpose of painting.
With his wife and son, and frequent visits from nearby relatives, he stayed in large secluded houses surrounded by private land, close to the the ocean. “My goal was to pick spots and stay there, and just entrench myself in these properties and paint out from there,” he says. And while he’ll be the first to draw a parallel between plein air
painting and “Sunday painting,” there are no inklings of the hobbyist tradition in his works. “When I paint from life I’m not interested in the public side of it. I don’t set up an easel on Main Street or anything like that; I try to avoid that.” Painting in private, he captured plots of land and sea that he witnessed alone. “It was basically like having a massive outdoor studio,” he recalls. “I wasn’t really seeking out specific places here; it was more just the energy, and the light, and the color and scenery of the places in general.”