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!

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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.

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Plein Air Painting in Winter

Cloud study after sunset.

Cloud patterns after sunset.

Cloud patterns after sunset.

There is something incredible about plein air painting in winter. Winter is a wonderful time to paint outdoors. Its actually one of the best times. There a magical quality to everything. Tonight everything was still and quiet.  I watched a full moon rise over the white landscape and had a thought… how many more full moons will we have on this white snowy landscape? Maybe March will have snow,  but April is doubtful. Spring will be here sooner than we think.

Painting in softly falling snow on the harbor in Portsmouth, NH.

The winter landscape is peaceful and a feeling of solitude envelopes everything. The dry, cold air makes the stars seem brighter and crisper. Even on cold days the sun is toasty and warm. The light is great all day long with the low sun in the sky creating perfect shadows at any time of day.

We’ve been having a series of storms here on the coast. The snow is piling up. I’m loosing track of how many storms and how much snow we have. I just know its up to my waist in the back yard. The snow is deeper than the back deck, the driveway is looking like a small canyon and its been snowing every few days. The weather reports keep changing.  I can’t plan my outings ahead of time so if the sun is out for a few minutes  I grab my paints and paint nearby!

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Loving the Blizzard of 2015

blizzard

The alley I dug through the drift from the back stairs to my studio.

I am loving the blizzard of 2015 !  We are getting a real nor’easter here in southern Maine.  Its snowing so hard I can only see the house next door. The barn out back across the field appears and disappears in clouds of white.  I’m not painting outside today.  That was an easy decision even though I love the atmosphere the blowing snow creates. Today I’m painting in the studio. I had to dig through a small snow drift (up to my arm pits) to get to the studio.

A cloud study in oils.

A cloud study in oils.

So Its a perfect day for working on cloud studies for a new series and premixing colors for my figure group tomorrow.

Quick 30 min study from figure group painted in Zorn's limited palette.

Quick 30 min study from figure group painted in Zorn’s limited palette.

I’m having a great time painting with lots of loose brushwork and a variety of limited palettes!

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Do you want to be a great painter?

5 NOCTURNE 15

For those of us who paint, who doesn’t want to be a great painter, painting something that makes us happy ?  Don’t despair, there are ways to get there. It just takes practice and persistence and one day you notice that something has changed. You are no longer struggling or feeling like you are paddling up stream, and you feel a little carefree. Sometimes its the location, the day, the weather or the mood that makes all the difference.  Sometimes it happens when you stop pushing to make it happen. Its called a breakthrough. And we all can use one…

Come paint in Maine this summer. Give yourself the opportunity for your own breakthrough in a beautiful place by the sea that you will never forget.

I am offering three Maine workshops this summer.

2015 SUMMER WORKSHOPS

2015 MAINE LATE SPRING WORKSHOP// JUNE :  “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE ”    DATES:  JUNE 8 -12   FOR: EXPERIENCED BEGINNER THRU INTERMEDIATE  $300  ~ Class meets from 9am-12pm each day. All levels welcomed- beginner to professional. Late Spring in Maine is beautiful with every thing in bloom and long days with lingering light. This workshop starts with a solid introduction to the fundamentals of good painting and strategies for painting outdoors in all kinds of conditions. The workshop includes lectures, hand-outs, demonstrations, personal one-on-one instruction and painting on location in beautiful classic Maine coastal settings including lighthouses, surf, rocky coast, beaches, marshes, harbors and picturesque villages.  I will demonstrate my painting technique and students get the opportunity to paint in a fun, high-energy, 5 day class. Students must provide all of their own art supplies, meals and transportation to and from painting sites. To register for these workshops and for an  accommodation list please Contact me.

REGISTER FOR WORKSHOP HERE.  JUNE 8-12  “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE ”

 

2015 MAINE SUMMER WORKSHOP// JULY : “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE ”  DATES: JULY  27- 31   FOR: EXPERIENCED BEGINNER THRU INTERMEDIATE  $300 ~  Class meets from 9am-12pm each day. All levels welcomed – beginner to professional. Mid Summer in Maine is glorious with warm days and cool nights. This workshop starts with a solid introduction to the fundamentals of good painting and strategies for painting outdoors in all kinds of conditions. The workshop includes lectures, hand-outs, demonstrations, personal one-on-one instruction and painting on location in beautiful classic Maine coastal settings including lighthouses, surf, rocky coast, beaches, marshes, harbors and picturesque villages.  I will demonstrate my painting technique and students get the opportunity to paint in a fun, high-energy, 5 day class. Students must provide all of their own art supplies, meals and transportation to and from painting sites. To register for these workshops and for an  accommodation list please contact me.

REGISTER FOR WORKSHOP HERE  JULY 27-31 “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE ”

2015 MAINE LATE SUMMER WORKSHOP// SEPTEMBER : “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE ”    DATES: SEPTEMBER 14 -18    FOR: EXPERIENCED BEGINNER THRU INTERMEDIATE  $300 ~ Class meets from 9am-12pm each day. All levels welcomed ~ beginner to professional. Late Summer in Maine is the best. The days are still warm, the leaves are beginning to turn and the beaches empty. This workshop starts with a solid introduction to the fundamentals of good painting and strategies for painting outdoors in all kinds of conditions. The workshop includes lectures, hand-outs, demonstrations, personal one-on-one instruction and painting on location in beautiful classic Maine coastal settings including lighthouses, surf, rocky coast, beaches, marshes, harbors and picturesque villages.  I will demonstrate my painting technique and students get the opportunity to paint in a fun, high-energy, 5 day class. Students must provide all of their own art supplies, meals and transportation to and from painting sites. To register for these workshops and for an  accommodation list please contact me.

REGISTER FOR WORKSHOP HERE SEPTEMBER 14-18 “CAPTURING THE LIGHT ~ PLEIN AIR IN MAINE 

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A Quick Painting on a Cold Winter Day

NB 2Sometimes a quick painting is the perfect thing to do, especially when there are days when the tasks are piled high.  Since I am a full-time painter I have to schedule a certain amount of time for taking care of the business side of life.  There are always tasks to complete; my website, blog, social media, marketing and more. This takes away a chunk of time from my painting schedule. Before the internet things moved at a slower pace.  I have to be very organized.  I have to choose where I put my time and energy.  I’ve decided to paint at least 5 paintings a week and get outside as much as possible this winter. On some days I don’t get a chance to get out to paint until after two pm. There is always something to keep me in the office or studio.

I’ve solved the problem with a simple solution. I allow myself to go out and paint local scenes at the drop of a hat. As soon as I do a certain amount of tasks, I’m heading out the door. My car studio is always packed and ready to go. A few weeks ago I began painting on a variety of surfaces. This week I’m working on fine portrait linen and oil primed panels.
This afternoon I got into my car and drove around town for about four minutes until I saw a spot where the sun was hitting a cluster of objects and lighting them up on one side. The houses on Market street in North Berwick looked perfect in the late slanting sunlight. A whole row of those classic white New England homes with barns were being lit by the bright beams of light. NB 3

I set up my easel and painted a quick sketch in 20 minutes. Then the sun was down behind the hill. It was perfect. The temperature dropped 10 degrees as the sun disappeared below the horizon. I packed up and headed back to the studio, happy and satisfied.

Painting Classes start soon ! For details go here.

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Painting When it’s Cold Outside

clouds NC Painting when it’s cold outside is not a problem for me. I was painting in the White Mountains a couple of days ago in North Conway, New Hampshire. It was one of those perfect winter days with big clouds rolling across the sky above the violet blue mountains. A wind was blowing in from the west over the towering mountains and across the open valley in front of me.
The sun was low in the sky. It’s always low in the sky in winter up here in New England.  At 2 o’clock in the afternoon the shadows were long. I set up my easel behind the open hatchback of my station wagon using my car is a windshield. This is what I do when I’m in a windy spot either on the coast or inland. It was a perfect day for painting with lots of great subject matter. After I finished my first painting a couple walking their dog came by. They said hello looked at my painting and the man said” I really admire you painting out here on a day like this.”
I said “Time is fleeting. There were only be so many more days when the sun is low like this and winter is here. Soon the days be longer, the snow will be gone and it will be summer. If I don’t get out here and grab it now I’ll never get out here to do it.” He said “That’s right, soon it’ll be summer and it will be warm again. I really can’t stand summer!” We all laughed.
They continued on their walk and I took out another panel and started painting the last light on the slopes in front of me.NC
There’s nothing like painting in winter. I’m going to grab every minute I can of this cold weather with its clear, sharp, clean arctic air, the blue shadows on the snow and the crisp, bright , twinkling light of the stars at night.  When I head out I bundle up with all my extra layers of clothing. I adjust my thinking and painting medium to make my paints behave and I go out into that big, quiet space when all of nature in this northern climate is alive in deep, quiet places getting ready for spring. The days are already getting longer.

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When the Tide is Turning

Dusk 3_edited-1

You don’t always know when the tide is turning. Especially when you are in the thick of it, busy  with your life and don’t really notice the first signals. It can be subtle. Everything has come to  stand still and you don’t feel like you are moving forward. It doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen before.  Its not like graduating from something or a big change in your course. Its not obvious like moving or getting a new job.  You are deep in your daily life, same schedule, same location and one day it seems as if you don’t quite see everything the same way.  You are in a totally familiar place but  it seems to have turned into a slightly different territory with no trail and no trail markers. You feel like a traveler with a compass but no idea where the nearest bit of civilization is.
It was in Soho, NYC,  in the early 1980’s that I distinctly remember thinking “this modern art scene” is over.  The stuff in all the galleries was looking the same; empty, hollow, meaningless and lost. The hot shot NY art scene was over. I was watching its death. A slow death; it looked like the husk of a plant left in the field after harvest and the first winter frost would be soon arriving.  When I left NYC that Sunday and drove back home to Vermont I remembered that was the last time I looked at the contemporary art scene as if it was a live viable community of interesting vital ideas. There might have been a few people searching  to create something personal and original but most everyone seemed to be more interested in being the next “hot artist” and making a pile of money before they were 30.  The work didn’t have too much content, just a lot of posturing and attempts to be different. Very few visual pieces could be understood with out a translator or script.
All this “modern” contemporary stuff began to look very passe. It was so easy to make it. It didn’t require much skill or depth. I could invent it in my sleep.  It was going nowhere. I realized I was departing from this whole art world concept.  I began to overhaul what I was thinking and doing.
That weekend I realized this whole modern art thinking that I had been exposed to in college was nothing I wanted to be part of.  I started following a path out into the uncharted territory. It took me out of Vermont, south to the coast of Maine. And I only went there because a jeweler I met told me this was a very happening place. He was right. It was Portsmouth, NH. There was a thriving arts scene there with an old factory full of studios. Artists, photographers, architects, wood workers, antique restorers, jewelers, potters and weavers were everywhere. This was my kind of neighborhood. Everyone was re-locating to this area. It was gritty and beautiful.
To be continued…

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Painting in the Dark

mbyrom_theparsonageoil12x16

 

There’s nothing quite like painting in the dark. You can’t really see anything. What color is that sitting on the left side of my palette?  I thought I put all my mid gray paints lined up on the left near the top. They sure look like blue in this head lamp.

It’s a total immersion adventure painting in the dark.  I  just get really comfortable trusting my values to do the work.  Making sure I’m hitting my darks and lights right. And holding down the fort with midtones of the right temperature.

In this darkest time of the year up here in the north land I always promise myself that I will get out to paint after dark. It’s the perfect time to grab the sparkling lights and long lingering  darkness of night that moves into our afternoons. At 3 pm it’s looking like dusk.   I’m reminding myself that this is the mystery time, the time I love and it will be gone soon. I’d better grab it while I can.

On that note after an afternoon of painting in the studio I went out yesterday at dusk (3pm) and painted till dark (6:30pm) and I only stopped because it started raining and water was flooding my palette.  My umbrella was packed away somewhere in the dark. Next time I’ll have it near me.