Love Sketching

Fish Shacks  I really love sketching. I always sketch.  I love sketching with grey markers, ink, watercolor, gouache and acrylic. I sketch and paint on a medium thick paper that can handle color and water without collapsing or curling. I think the reason sketching is so special to me is because its fast and easy and doesn’t require a lot of gear.  Its quick, it grabs me and takes me away to a wonderful place.  When visiting a new area sketching invites me to enter into a closer intimate relationship with this location. It sets me free. Its not self conscious. I am not making a picture. I am not going to frame it. I am not making a statement. I am entering into a relationship with what is surrounding me. And what  I choose to put on the page is something that captured my fancy or a whim. I am carefree when sketching. Its a record of where I am at that very minute and nothing else.  Just lines, colors and freedom.

 

Like Summer

Today was like summer. We are having days with 80 degree temps inland and its 50 on the coast.  I needed to wear my gloves and winter hat when I was out painting the surf. The waves this week were spectacular. Under sunny skies with puffy white clouds we had surf that looked like a nor’easter was hitting the coast. We painters lucked out. I live about 8 miles inland from the ocean.  I can often judge what is going on over on the rocks.  A morning that started off quiet and warm turned windy and very chilly by 10 am. The wind was hitting hard, driving off the ocean from the east. Backwards! Our weather usually moves from west to east. I packed up and headed over to paint. Wow, what a great decision !

Wearing all the warm clothes I had!

Wearing all the warm clothes I could find in my car!

I’m just beginning to return to my regular work/painting schedule. Marcus is improving!  His recovery is a steady process that needs time for the healing.   I’ve never been around anyone who had a heart attack and  open heart surgery so this is all new territory for me. I’m doing my best to keep him cheerful and and fixing healthy, tasty food so I can to keep him interested in eating.  He’s not the usual heart attack type , as he’s pretty fit and not over weight, with low blood pressure and a good diet.  They don’t often give people like him a by pass.

My surf painting, 9x12 oil on panel.

My surf painting almost finished, 9×12 oil on panel.

Lessons learned in these past few weeks : Things change; you can always trust that things will not be the same. What we actually know is far less than what we don’t know. Don’t make assumptions, jump to any conclusions or end results. Persevere; if you can out last everyone else and you are the last one standing in the room, you win.  And… its not over till the fiddler stops playing.

 

Tonight Just after Sunset

Evening Sky Study 1, 6x12 oil

Evening Sky Study, 6×12 oil

I went out back tonight just after sunset. The sky was covered with a thin veil of clouds after a pale blue violet pinkish sunset. The first stars were showing through. It’s early spring.  So early that when I was raking the leaves off the flower bed this afternoon I hit patches of ice next to the clusters of daffodils.

I went outdoors in the early gathering darkness to try to establish some normalcy in my life. My husband had a very close brush with death 20 days ago and we haven’t yet emerged from the vortex that event created. We are still in the aftermath of surviving a heavy blow. He is finding his way back to having his body function normally and healing the trauma of the surgery.  We are immersed in all the care giving, cooking, housekeeping, physical therapy, doctors visits, nurses visits, health monitoring and everything else that goes with the territory of surviving a close hit and finding oneself still alive to talk about it.

Sunset Study, 6x8 oil

Sunset Study, 6×8 oil

I went out to sit on the back steps to watch darkness fall on a spring evening. I wanted to feel a connection to the rhythm of the seasons, the time of the earth, the sounds of nature one hears as darkness falls, something bigger than my life. This is something that I used to do every evening when the weather was nice. I’ve been away and missed it for many days . I invited my husband to come out with me tonight to listen to the sounds of spring. We sat on the stairs in the dim light, the first stars glittering above our heads. A lone Canadian goose flew over the back field heading east, honking and honking.  A few minutes later a V of geese flew over honking and heading in the same direction. Then we heard a high clear call of a woodcock circling up in the air.  I can never see or find them. Its too dark.  But we can hear it. Over and over it repeats its song.

Sunset Clouds study, 6x8 oil

Sunset Clouds study, 6×8 oil

Its getting dark. The temperature is falling. There is no wind. The woodcock has moved farther away. I say “Its, too cold, there are no peepers yet”. Then right after I say the words we hear a murmur, then a distant song. We stop and listen closely. They are far away in the marsh down by Ogunquit Road. The song of those little, tiny harbingers of spring starts up, keeps building and is a steady hum filling in the distant silence of the evening.  I remember a past life that seems so long ago when I used to sit out here in the dark on chilly evenings with a hot cup of tea listening to this joyful sound of spring. And here it is once again.

Changes

STUDIO PAINTINGSPainting is a language for me. Its something I do all the time and it changes as I change.  I’ve gone through many periods and styles. The last time I had a extreme life change I went from being an abstract painter to becoming a landscape painter.

I was hit by a car while waiting in a cross walk on an early spring day.  Mass General Hospital became my home for the next 22 days while they put me back together. When I returned home to Maine I was in physical therapy for the next 10 years.

I tried to get back to work and to pick up where I was before I was so rudely interrupted. I couldn’t resume from where I left off. A life changing tsunami had picked me up and deposited me in a strange land.  When the wave finally receded I found myself alive and physically unable to do anything I could easily do before. Everything had changed completely. How I related to the world and how I fit in it was completely different.

BEARWhen I found Falun Gong during my 10th year of physical therapy and started practicing it all my symptoms disappeared. I could walk easily again, I was no longer fatigued by the demands of daily life and I finally returned to good health and full mobility.  I was so excited I immediately went out in to the wilds of New England.  I yearned to leave the roads and paved areas where I was confined for 10 years. My husband and I walked into the White Mountains of NH following trails up into the woods. We didn’t see one other person.  I wanted to be out in the solitude of nature to be surrounded by quiet, trees and mountains. It was what I missed most. I never would have know this if I hadn’t been denied access to these wild areas. A a result of this I became a landscape painter. Who would have known?

BRUSHESNow I am in the midst of another tsunami. My husband Marcus had a heart attack and emergency open heart surgery a couple of weeks ago. He is home now. I am the nurse, physical therapist, cook, housekeeper, secretary, personal assistant, patient advocate and CEO of this new company that is keeping everything moving forward through the medical industry, government industry and daily living.  Its had to keep track of all the people, institutions, entities, major players and bit players and stay on top of them. So many gaps, missing pieces and myopic views from this new population I’m dealing with. When the water recedes and we find out what this new territory is I sure there will be some major changes.  I can trust in that for sure. Change is a constant.

Mud Season

Up here in rural Maine we have 5 seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter and mud season. We have one extra short season that overlaps late winter and early spring. All the rural areas of the New England states share this season to varying degrees.

A Force of Nature, 8x16 oil on panel, $1200. Available.

A Force of Nature, 8×16 oil on panel, $1200. Available.

I notice if we have a few weeks of warm days with freezing nights we have a nice long mud season.  These same weather conditions are also perfect for the maple syrup producers. The sap starts running during the warm days and slows when the temperature drops below freezing over night.

Evening Mist, 16x20 oil on panel, $2500. Available.

Evening Mist, 16×20 oil on panel, $2500. Available.

This is a great time of year for plein air painting. We have the best of both worlds,  bright snowy landscape and  temperatures above 32 degrees that feel absolutely tropical after the minus zero temperatures from a few weeks back. Spring weather makes New Englanders act crazy. This week I  painted without gloves, a jacket and a hat. If I had been thinking clearly I would have worn my hat. I got my first sunburn of the season surrounded by huge piles of melting snow while standing in large puddles of water in 50 degree sunshine.

Blueberry Country, 28x32 oil on panel, $6000. Available.

Blueberry Country, 28×32 oil on panel, $6000. Available.

I’m spending a lot of time in my studio these days. I have a pile of paintings that need to be finished and delivered and a new show coming up at the beginning of April.  I’m organizing my spring/ summer/ fall plein air events and workshops and and planning my summer schedule.  I’m trying to slow down the departure of winter. I’m trying to stretch mud season? I really want to wear my bean boots for another month? Right now it is snowing.  Its covering the field out back, and turning the exposed bits of grass  white.  At the same time the snow on the roof is melting, the puddles and mud in the yard are liquid and the pavement on the street is wet.  Its OK with me.

You are invited to “Local Color 2015 ” the first exhibit of the 2015 season at Bayview Gallery. Friday, April 10th 5-7 pm. 58 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME.  I’d love to see your smiling face !

Have my blog delivered to your inbox here.

Receive the latest news via my newsletter here.

To see upcoming plein air workshops go here.

Winter Kisses Spring

Winter kisses Spring?  Where did that come from? It must of floated in from some remote spot in the woods where you can hear the river gurgling underneath the ice.

Walk in the Woods

Walk in the Woods, Study,  8×10 oil. Unframed. $325 Available.

These next few weeks will be the best days for painting winter scenes. The temperature is moderating, its above 20 degrees in the day  and the sun is warming everything up. Of course my first concern is where do I need to go to paint the snowy spots before they melt? Its like taking a giant land thermometer and thinking what warms up first?  Of course anything out in the open and facing south will melt first.  The northern side of  the hills and deeply shaded woods will hold the snow a bit longer.

And Through the Woods

And Over the Fields, Study, 5×15 oil, unframed. $225 Available.

If I want to be in the marshes before they melt and  all look muddy and brown I might have to put them at the top of my list.  Some of my best marsh paintings were painted during snow storms when it was very cold and not necessarily the happiest time for oil paint to behave nicely.  Sometimes to capture that picture and wonderful mood I have to just ignore the weather and deal with whatever it delivers.

Winter River

February River, 16×20 oil $2500 Available.

For the most extreme weather I carry a thermos of very hot tea. Hot tea works wonders after painting for hours in tough weather.  The added benefit of painting in crisp cold air is your mind feels super sharp and like it is washed clean of all the hum drum of modern life. It  totally blasts out cabin fever or any cobwebs in the corners of your mind. I think I’d be quite happy to spend a winter painting in the remote areas of Yellow Stone National Park.  I’m very happy painting along the sparsely populated seacoast of Maine in the winter. It’s often just me, big empty spaces, a lot of big open quiet spaces, flocks of birds, some fishermen here and there and a dog walker passing by once in a while. Its nature at its best.

NEW PAINTING CLASS/WORKSHOP ~  If you would like to get out to paint soon let me know. I’ll be starting a spring class  – 6 sessions. On Thursday afternoons, 1-4pm  We will be outdoors weather permitting. Send me a note if you are interested. I’ll post dates soon as the weather is warming up.

Sign up for my Newsletter here.

Sign up for Spring and Summer Classes and Workshops here.

Thinking of Summer ?

Fall Weather Study 5x7. oil.

Fall Weather Study 5×7. oil. Rachel Carson in Wells with a storm moving in.

I wasn’t really thinking of summer this week . I was just looking through some of my plein air studies from last year. I’m looking at all my sky studies and noticing all the different kinds of weather I’ve painted. After I gathered these studies all together in one place I notice a wide variety of moods and seasons. These studies are really interesting to see in one large group.

2.2.15Bluebery bluff

Blueberry Bluff Study. oil 6×12. A quick sketch painted on Mount Agamenticus looking west.

I find after all these years of painting from life I have stored away in my brain all the many scenes and places I’ve traveled to paint. This makes a difference when I am painting a large painting of one of these awesome locations. This past fall I went back to paint in the studio for the first time in over 10 years. Since 2004 I have painted exclusively outdoors. After 10 years of totally painting en plein air I wanted to see if I could get a perspective on what I had gained from all that exposure. I certainly change my approach, style, colors, technique and brush work as I develop as a painter, but I also wanted to see if there anything else I might notice.

2.2.15across the marsh

Across the Marsh. Study oil 5×18 Parsons Beach marsh.

Wow. What a surprise. I found that I have this ability to really focus and get down to the matter at hand.  Its very interesting to watch how I paint still life, portraits and figures. I size up a situation and work very fast getting in the important elements. I treat everything as if it is a landscape.  I look at shapes and forms first. And I organize it all so that I’m seeing those big shapes and values in a sequence that gels in my mind. In 3 seconds I can see what I want to paint and I can see the arrangement of shapes and how I want to put  on the canvas. Its as if it flies out of the atmosphere into my pen as I sketch it into my sketch book. Somehow I think this is the result of painting a few thousand studies in plein air.  It feels organic.  And even though I really like my new figure group and I totally enjoy the experimentation with new materials in the studio,  I still find that my favorite place on earth is a place that has no walls, fresh air and the open sky above my head.

Sign up for my Newsletter here.

Sign up for Spring and Summer Classes and Workshops here.

Painting in Deep Cold

Rocks & Snow, Plein air study ,8x10  oil

Rocks & Snow, Plein air study ,8×10 oil

I’ve been out painting in deep cold this week as another arctic front is chilling Maine. Yesterday the temperature was 14 with a steady wind out of the west. Who knows what the wind chill was?  If you aren’t wearing the right gear you can feel this kind of cold deep in your bones.

The weather was clear with startling, gorgeous colors everywhere. On the Nubble in Cape Neddick the strong wind made it tough to paint any where but behind the hatch back of my car. So I used the car as a wind block and it worked fine as long as I worked fast.  I’ve had my fill of too many back to back snow storms so now when any clear day shows up now I’m heading out. Who cares what the temperature is? Its almost spring and the sun is toasty warm!

nubble 3It is so beautiful to see everything covered with snow  right up to the high tide mark. So often the salt air melts the snow right along the coast so its brown and drab when just a mile inland everything is sparkling white.

Not this year! We’ve had so many coastal storms that the snow is actually deeper as you get closer to the coast. So before it all melts in a few weeks I’m getting out  there to paint it!

Follow my blog !

Join my Newsletter community here.

A Hint of Something Big

"Evening Clouds" 4x4 oil on canvas panel

“Evening Clouds” 4×4 oil on canvas panel. Study

When I am out painting pictures on location I often get a hint of something big when I’m working. I can be forced  to work small as its getting dark or  a storm is coming or I’m traveling and have to reach a destination by a certain time. When I have time limitations like this I just pull out a small or tiny canvas and paint really fast. Often I paint a series of them back to back, recording the light as it changes.

Low Tide at Cape Porpoise, 4x6, oil

Low Tide at Cape Porpoise, 4×6, oil. Study

I love doing this as its like having painted postcards from a trip. I like that they are loosely painted. This is the mood I’m feeling while immersed in this spot  and I’m painting the things that strike me most noticeably at that moment.

" Harbor Islands", 4x5 oil

” Harbor Islands”, 4×5 oil. Study

We are now in the middle of winter here in Maine. This year it feels like  we are actually living in the tundra ! Its been snowing almost three times a week for the past several weeks and when its not snowing the temperatures plunge below zero.  I’m deep at work painting everyday in the studio. I’m painting something big from all these tiny paintings that surround me.  I’ll share a few of the big ones with you and you can see how much I took from the studies and how much I added from my memory of the place.

Don’t worry I’m still escaping outside to paint in the snow. The open sky is still the favorite roof over my head at any chosen moment. I should have been born a cowboy or a sheep herder living in one of those tiny wagons, sleeping out in the big open spaces under the stars. Or maybe I was one and that’s why I want to paint outdoors so much !

 

Painting Snow in the White Mountains

Painting at the edge of a snowy forest.

My easel is set up at the edge of a snowy forest near a ski area in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

There is nothing like painting snow. It is magical, beautiful and sublime. When I am on location deciding where to set up my easel the first thing I always notice is the temperature and the direction of the wind. If it is a calm day it makes it easier to choose where I set up. If its windy I always paint near my car or behind my car. It makes  a big difference to be protected from the wind when the temperatures are in the teens or lower.  Twenty degrees seems to be the tipping point where the paints start to behave differently. When it is above 20 degrees my oil paints are normal. Below 20 degrees they start to get stiff and I add more medium to get them to flow. I also get different effects with the paint when its colder.

Through the Woods, 6x6 oil. Available.

Snowy Forest, Study, 6×6″ oil. $275 Available.

 

I love the mood of a snowy landscape. The air is fresh and cold. The light reflecting off the snow is intense. It is brilliant and blinding. It can be difficult to judge the color of paint when you are out in the middle of a bright snowy field. I wear my broad brimmed hat on sunny days. If I can, set up in the shade to paint. It makes it easier to see.

Fresh Snow, 5x7 oil. Available.

Fresh Snow, 5×7 oil. Available.

When we’ve had a lot of snow the most difficult thing is finding a place to park my car. Often the parking lots and pull offs that are easily available in the warmer months are not plowed. My favorite locations aren’t often available during the winter. I often find new spots in urban and village areas that are usually plowed.

In the past 3 weeks a large area of New England received up to 80″ of snow. It is more difficult to find plowed areas with a view. Everybody is just focused on keeping the streets clear.  The piles of snow on the edges of parking lots are now over a story high. Might just be time to get out the snow shoes and the toboggan and hike in a bit.

If you’d like to take a fun painting class, I have a new class starting in March. “COLOR & BRUSHWORK” ~ Level:  Beginner to Intermediate Fee : $180  6 classes  March 5th – April 9th. Class Description here.

Follow the blog adventure!

Join my Newsletter community here.