Late afternoon light shines on the cottages on the Nubble. It was a great evening to sketch, paint while listening to a concert in the gazebo. No wind, big surf and perfect temperatures. A fine late summer day.
Late summer in Maine has this special feeling. This past week the temperature was warm in the day and cool at night. The heavy humidity of the dog days of summer is gone. The air is dryer and fresh, sweeping down from the northern forests of Canada on the jet stream. There is this lingering feeling of the laziness of summer yet a crispness to the blue sky. Its the perfect time to paint in Maine. The air is so clean and fresh right now and the skies are an amazing, shocking blue. I saw my first flock of geese heading south this week through the early morning fog. We know autumn is knocking at the door…
A quiet dock in York Village on a foggy day this week. Maine has a million scenes just waiting to be painted. September & October are perfect for plein air painting with comfortable temperatures and great color.
Late August in Maine feels like the last hurrah of summer for our many visitors. This is not true for those of us who live here. September on the southern coast of Maine is wonderful. The lingering, lazy warmth of summer is still here and some days have crisp early mornings with a feel to of whats coming up ahead. We can still laze on the beach, go swimming, boating and all those other fun things we love and we can enjoy everything without the big summer crowds. My favorite time in Maine is from September to December. The air is fresh, the temperatures moderate and painting outdoors in late summer and fall is awesome!
A bit of the rocky coast. A small plein air demo of wild sweet peas, rocks and pines painted on Kittery Point, Maine. 6×8 oil on panel.
Summer in Maine is at a full tilt boogie. We are in the midst of the dog days of summer where the muggy, hot, humid temps are hitting the high 80’s and low 90’s. In August? That’s shocking when normal highs this week are usually in the low 80’s. It does cool down at night and it might feel like early autumn in couple of weeks. This week its perfect for plein air painting, swimming, drinking iced tea and eating ice cream. (And not necessarily in that order) If you want to come out and paint with me check the schedule here.
Jane Ramsey and I setting up to paint on the lawn above the Marginal Way. Ogunquit, ME
My annual summer artist residency is in an awesome place . The Beachmere Inn has the most incredible views of the Marginal Way and Ogunquit Beach. I love the view of the coast from their front lawn. The skies are amazing. The sound of the surf against the rocks makes you want summer to last forever.
If you are thinking of coming out to paint this summer you are still practicing in your back yard (to make yourself comfortable) before you head out, come have some fun and do it with some like minded souls. Join the Brush & Sketch Club here.
For first dibs on everything join the email list here.
Sometimes to capture the perfect moment you have to move fast. July 4th. Fireworks on the coast of Maine. If you look north from the Marginal Way in Ogunquit you see the fireworks in all the towns up the coast. This was painted from the Beachmere Inn lawn. It is in a private collection.
It is moving toward late summer. I can feel it in the air. A few leaves are turning and we have had some cool nights. I’m looking forward to the perfect painting weather August gives us! August session of the Brush & Sketch Club starts Wed Aug 12th 3-6.
I’m starting my painting using a handy tool from my kit. I’m painting in the village of Ocean Park, ME during a plein air event at a busy 4 corners with a steady stream of visitors. I stayed focused and moved fast to get my lay in before the next group arrived.
Do you ever find yourself fighting with a painting? You are on location. Its a beautiful day. You saw the exact thing you wanted to paint. And… something happened while you were setting up. Some hikers stopped to ask directions, a dog owner let their pet run wild all over your gear, a nature lover asked it you knew the name of a flower blossoming next to you. Maybe the light changed and the magic of the moment disappeared. Well, you think, these are all minor glitches and decide to forge ahead. You’re putting paint on the canvas and leaning into it, you are earnestly moving on muttering – come hell or high water , hook or crook – this painting will come together. And it doesn’t. There is no flow state. There is no state of grace. Instead, its like you are wading up stream,the current moving against you, knee deep in water on slippery rocks.
I’ve seen painters in this state forge on and on and … it never comes together. Others end it quickly and manage to save a fragment of the painting. I’ve seen paintings wrestled right down to the ground. I used to do all of the above. Until I learned how not to do that. A painting that is painted “with a struggle” looks like “a painting of a struggle”. A painting that is painted in “battle mode” looks like “a painting of a battle”. And quite frankly if I’m not in charge of the painting and instead something else has the upper hand then I’m not a happy camper.
There are many things I have learned along the way that have really improved my paintings and my painting experience. If you are interested in learning more sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be sharing this and much more at The Brush & Sketch Club. You can join for one session or a cluster. The next session is Wed. Aug 12th. Shoot me an email or sign up here.
I’m painting a classic Maine cottage during the Ocean Park, Maine paint out. I had many visitors at this location.
I was talking to a student the other day about my experience learning how to paint outdoors. In my early days of painting en plein air I was simply trying to find out how to apply oil paint so it would stick on a canvas surface in freezing temperatures. I had problems when the wet paint I was applying would remove the existing paint on the surface of the canvas. I couldn’t get the paint to layer properly. In addition to this technical aspect of paint handling, I was often overwhelmed by the amount of visual information that I encountered in the landscape. When on location there were way too many things that I wanted to paint. I tried to get help and instruction from experienced painters that I knew. They offered a variety of advice, some helpful. But no one was painting exclusively outdoors. They were all studio artists who did a little plein air painting in warm weather.
A quick value study and color poster painted on location in Hamilton House’s formal garden.
Whenever I went out to paint I encountered the same situation. What should I paint? Where should I set up ? How much time do I spend hiking into a location? What if the best spot is still ahead of me? It was enough to drive me nuts! I would see a lot of scenery that I liked but it didn’t look anything like the paintings that I wanted to paint. I often had visions of completed paintings in my mind. They were luminous and glowing. They were about mood and a deeper message, not how the light looked at a certain time of day. I soon noticed that the time of day when I was usually out painting never offered a lighting situation that was close to what I saw in my minds eye. I realized I wanted to paint a message, not a depiction of a specific place. I decided to look at as many landscape paintings as I could. The Hudson River painters; Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Church were painting something similar to what I was seeing. The Luminists looked like they were painting some of my internal scenes. After much searching, when I encountered Aldro Hibbard and the Russian Impressionists I felt like I’d found my tribe. The Russians and Hibbard were the most helpful as they were dealing with snow and lighting conditions that I faced every year during New England winters. I knew they were going outdoors to paint, so I figured if they could do it and paint it; well, so could I. I started to look at all the work they produced. It made me so happy to see a painting of the rural Russian countryside on a cloudy day in winter. It was exactly the same conditions that I encountered. What did I learn? Find some one who is accomplished and paints in the same types of conditions that you do and see how they handle it . The Russians painted gray winter days in a way that was spectacular. Hibbard painted snowy Vermont scenes in villages where I had actually lived ! Now I had some value and chroma guide lines to follow that made sense to me. To be continued…
Mary Byrom painting at Perkins Cove, Ogunquit , Maine
I was reflecting on what I learned while plein air painting and about the challenges of the changing weather and dark clouds moving in on a perfectly sunlit scene. I live on the coast of Maine. It was winter when I first started to paint outdoors. We have typical new England winters here, with snow and ice and freezing temperatures. I didn’t think it made any difference what the season was, I would just have different subject matter. In the early days I went out to paint once a week with a friend. That way we were committed to go out to paint even if the weather looked questionable. We would pick a variety of locations and meet each week to hike to wherever we thought the best view was. Since we started plein air painting in early winter, we just put on our warmest clothing and headed out. We didn’t think too much about the cold, mostly we thought about locations.
The first time we ran into a problem was when my painting companion climbed to the top of a tower to get the best view over the marshes and ended up with hypothermia at the end of the day. I was perfectly fine down on the ground as I was protected from the cold winds by dunes. Little did I know that she was up at the freezing in the wind. Lesson learned; cold wind all day can be a problem that you don’t notice while you are painting.
We went out faithfully once a week to paint. My paintings were horrible ! We would talk to each other about this constantly. Why was the paint all coming off the painting back on to my brush? It wasn’t sticking to the canvas. Why did I have all these situations where I could not get the paint to behave in a normal manner? I couldn’t get a sharp edge. The light reflecting off the snow was blinding me and when I got back home and looked at the painting I had painted it all in the wrong colors. There were other painters who painted outdoors and their paintings looked just fine. Why did mine look so bad ?
A couple of things were happening. We were both experienced artists. We worked with a variety of art materials that we used indoors. All my previous experience painting with oils was in a studio. I painted from life. I drew from life. I sketched from life. I painted with watercolors and acrylics alla prima but they dry in a few minutes . Oil paint does not dry in a few minutes. And oil paint at 20 degrees on a winter day does not dry at all. I was experiencing a double learning curve. I was painting with oils wet into wet and I was doing it outdoors in the middle of winter. I had the wrong brushes, wrong solvent and difficult substrate. I didn’t have a clue that they were wrong. And I didn’t have anyone to ask. The studio instructor I talked to was knowledgeable and could help me with suggestions for my subject matter but he had no idea how my tools and materials were behaving. When he painted outdoors it was on a nice summer day.
To be continued….
Do you want to learn to paint outdoors and improve your skills? To join the Brush & Sketch Club go here.
Students painting at Brave Boat Harbor, York, Maine.
What is the Brush and Sketch Club?
The Brush and Sketch Club is an ongoing plein air class practiced in a wide variety of mediums. Each class session lasts 3 hours. We meet at a different location for each class. Student may work in any medium wet or dry, painting or sketching, with a plein air easel and paint kit or with just a sketchbook, some pencils or markers, some watercolors and a folding chair.
Student painting at Hamilton House, South Berwick, ME.
How does the club work?
It works like your favorite yoga class. You can purchase a block of 5 classes ($180) and use them on any day a class session is scheduled. Or if you just feel like trying out a class or being spontaneous and dropping in at the last minute you can pay for a single class.($45)
Me painting and demoing in Kittery Point, ME.
When does the club meet?
Summer and Fall Class sessions are:
Mondays 3-6pm. June 15th – October 26th.
Wednesdays 3-6pm ~ June 24th, July 1,8, 29th, August 5th – October 28th