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    Living Art

    A creative couple find inspiration for their art and family life in a rural Truro farmhouse.

    Polly, 7, and Courtlandt Watson, 3, take a watermelon break with mom and dad, artists Tom Watson and Francie Randolph.
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    ON A BALMY SUMMER DAY, YOU WON'T FIND 7-YEAR-OLD Polly Watson slouching in front of a computer or snacking on the couch with her 3-year-old brother, Courtlandt, eyes glazed by the Cartoon Network. They are too busy exploring the many nooks and crannies of their rolling 3-acre Truro yard, where they investigate their own slice of the Cape Cod ecosystem.

    "Polly has always loved birds and all creatures," says her mother, artist Francie Randolph.

    "I don't like slugs . . . or spiders," disagrees Polly, sitting in the grass near the family's robust vegetable garden, "but I do like ladybugs, butterflies, crickets, and fireflies."

    And she loves her three pet sheep, Little Guy, Pear, and Bully Boy. They bleat, and she runs to scoop some grain from a bin into their feed bucket. The animals fight to bury their wooly heads in the food.

    A year before Polly was born, Randolph and her husband, Tom Watson, also an artist, left their life in Cambridge with hopes of raising a family in a rural environment. "As young adults, we loved the energy of being in the city," says Randolph, "but we wanted our kids to grow up in the country."

    It was the kind of experience Watson, who spent much of his childhood in Truro and in Putney, Vermont, and Randolph, who is from Manchester-by-the-Sea, had as children. "We grew up in houses with the door open, riding bikes, exploring the woods and beach, catching frogs and crabs," says Randolph.

    In Truro, they found a 200-year-old farmhouse that had everything they wanted, and then some. Besides a comfortable old country home full of history and personality, they got a large canvas of land on which to paint their future. There would quickly be a new barn for creating and exhibiting artwork, and the yard would become a playground and fantasy farm with animals and crops alongside swings and hammocks.

    As her parents watch, Polly plays nearby, hiding in the lilac hedges, making a pot of muddy soup, swinging on a rope that dangles from a tree, and driving a real tractor.

    Watson makes regular trips to local beaches to surf-cast for striped bass. When he is successful, there is fish grilled over apple wood for lunch. He serves it with zucchini from the garden and a tart made with home-grown raspberries. When there is a bounty of stripers, he smokes a batch in the locker-size smoking shed he built himself.

    "We have a lifestyle that lets us be home with the kids," says Randolph. "Here, we can take things more slowly."

    The sea inspires Watson's art. He loves to paint ethereal dreams of Moby Dick and other great creatures from the deep. His large canvases capture a feeling of classic style, combined with abstract power. His oceans have deep-water hues and tones that create a sense of liquid movement and depth. He and Randolph also draw on the landscape of the Outer Cape. For her art, Randolph uses bold abstract techniques to amplify lovely compositions of natural elements.

    "We feel that our art is an extension of how we live and spend time with our family," says Watson, "I think that's part of the reason people enjoy these paintings. They respond to something that's in them because of how we live. The paintings are the culmination of our life in this environment."

    Eric Roth is a freelance photographer and writer in Topsfield. E-mail him at

    SERVES 6

    All the berries for the tart come from the backyard of Tom Watson and wife Francie Randolph. They also make their own low-sugar red currant glaze, but store-bought will work. For this tart, the couple use a flan ring, which is a plain 1-inch-high ring that is set on a baking sheet. A French tart pan or shallow American pie pan will also do.

    2 cups flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange rind
    3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up and left out for 30 minutes
    3 hard-cooked egg yolks, mashed with a fork
    2 raw egg yolks
    Flour (for sprinkling)

    Have on hand a 9- or 10-inch French tart pan or a shallow pie pan and dried beans for baking.

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, lemon or orange rind, and sugar.

    Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and put the butter and the mashed and raw yolks in the well. With your fingertips, mix the butter and yolks together. Gradually mix in the flour mixture until the pastry comes together.

    On a lightly floured counter, shape the pastry into a disk. Use a pastry scraper to help remove the dough from the counter; it will be quite soft. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Make it even all over.

    Chill for 20 minutes.

    Set the oven at 375 degrees.

    Prick the dough well all over. Line the dough with foil and fill with dried beans. Bake the dough for 20 minutes or until it is barely golden at the edges.

    Remove the beans and foil and let the pastry continue cooking for 10 minutes or until the center is cooked through.

    Leave to cool.

    1 cup red currant jelly
    3 tablespoons Drambuie
    3 1/2-pint boxes fresh raspberries
    1 bunch fresh mint (for garnish)
    1 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks with 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (for serving)

    In a small heavy-based saucepan, bring the jelly to a boil, breaking it up with a spoon. Stir in the Drambuie and cook until the liquid evaporates.

    Brush the bottom of the tart with some of the glaze.

    Add a level layer of berries. Pour about half of the glaze over the berries. Carefully arrange a second layer in a pleasing design. Pour the remaining glaze over the top until all the berries are glazed and shiny.

    Let the tart cool slightly, garnish with mint, and serve with whipped cream.

    SERVES 4

    Tom Watson grills over seasoned apple or cherry wood because he loves the flavor the logs give his food. He serves the bass cold with herb mayonnaise, a recipe from his friend Felicia Kaplan. The mayonnaise varies with the herbs available in the garden. If you feel confident, cook the fillet whole.

    1 clove garlic
    3 anchovy fillets
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1 cup mayonnaise

    In the bowl of a food processor with the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube and work it until it is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

    Add the anchovies, lemon juice, chives, and basil or parsley. Pulse them until combined. Add the sour cream and mayonnaise and pulse 3 or 4 times or just until blended. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

    2 1/2 pounds striped bass fillets, skin intact, cut into 6 pieces
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Vegetable oil (for the grill)
    1/2 cup pimento strips (for garnish)
    1 lemon, cut into wedges (for garnish)

    Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.

    When the grill is medium hot, lightly oil the cooking grate. Place the fish flesh side down on the rack. Cook for 2 minutes. With a long metal spatula, carefully turn the fish. Cover the grill and cook the fish for 5 minutes more or until it is cooked through. Check often for doneness by inserting a small paring knife into the center of one of the pieces.

    Transfer the cooked fish to a platter. Leave it to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and chill.

    To serve: Spoon some mayonnaise over the top of the fish. Garnish with pimento and the lemon wedges.

    Serve at once.

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