Snow Painting Gear

At dawn in Sugar Hill, NH. , at 6:30 AM its -4 and I’m up checking the weather conditions for the day.

I paint out doors year round in New England. I live on the coast of Maine where I often have to deal with wind off the water so that figures into my clothing plan . For snow painting in the mountains it was pretty clear cut. I brought almost everything I had for high tech clothes and a few tried and true favorites .


Here is our group of painters each with their choice of cold weather garb. Boots are the most important piece of clothing. They need to be good for at least -100 and a -145 rating- this means you won’t get cold feet while standing still for hours. Painters on this outing who did not have the right boots (-45 didn’t work) got cold standing on snow. One painter put foot warmers in her boots and that kept her warm. Most of us had these monster boots and did not get cold feet . Cabelas and Sorrel makes boots like this that work. They are called Pac boots and are fine for dog sledding across Alaska.

Here is an example of a very cheerful painter whom you can barely recognize due the amount of clothing they are wearing! She is wearing a wool hat, neck combo specifically made for this trip. Many painters were wearing down parkas on this trip . Others were wearing wool jackets with insulated overalls. Two hats layered were not unusual.

What I used for this trip … I wore a layer of cotton against my skin, (sometimes I wear silk) then a cotton turtle neck, a thin down vest, a thick wool sweater,a wind proof polar tech vest, a polar teck neck gator, a polar tech head band , a polar tech hat , a down parka and topping it all a wind proof shell. On the bottom I wore cotton sweat pants, polar tech pants over them and wind proof polar tech pants on the top layer. I have down pants but wanted layers in case I got too over heated. On my hands I wore fingerless wool gloves. I was very toasty – had to take off my hat and paint in the shade when the sun was out.

This trio of painters are wearing down and 2 of them are wearing 2 hats . You can see they don’t look cold.

The camoflage unit on this painter was duck hunting gear. He knew it would work for painting if it worked for sitting in a duck blind for hours. It was totally insulated. Everyone was very puffy and needed to pull off layers when we went indoors.

Here is what indoors looked like…cozy and warm, the world we entered after a day of painting!

The White Mountain Painters


Snow painting is for the hale and hearty. It is a totally rewarding experience. The right equipment to keep you warm and comfortable in these cold temperatures is important.


Snow clouds moved in across the White Mountains in the late afternoon to bring a sprinkling of the white stuff at dawn.

The Sunset Hill Inn where we were “camped” is an old historic inn with a great off the beaten track location. It was perfect as a snow camp base.

During the day the clouds would come in and drag across the mountain peaks leaving a layer of white . They left a visible snow line.


It was snowing fairly steadily so I painted this sketch under the roof of the large porch on the back of the inn.

Nancy and Susan concentrated on their paintings as the temperatures dropped and the air grew damp.


Dennis and Will went for the total New Hampshire winter plein air experience in falling snow. They had favorite spots where they painted out in the open meadow.

Snow Camp in Sugar Hill, NH

Big adventure ! This past weekend I headed into the white Mountains of New Hampshire with a group of plein air painters to paint with the snow man himself Stapleton Kearns.


Here Stapleton, Ginger and Susan are heading out to find a good spot to set up .


This location on Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill in wonderful. The top is open meadows with the White Mountains to the east and the Green Mountains to the west. The sun moved in and out of thin clouds all day.


Stapleton is in his element painting snow. He is pictured here comfortably painting in 11 degrees temps.


Dennis and Willek set up and painted down in the lower meadow.


At the end of the day as the sun set and the temperatures dropped the mountain tops began forming small pink clouds on their peaks.

South Bristol & Pemaquid

The mid coast area has all these great fingers of land, islands and lots of little harbors with those craggy rocks poking out everywhere. I made my way down to South Bristol where I crossed “The Gut,” parked just south of the draw bridge and did this quick sketch of some dories at the town dock.


I made my way down to South Bristol where I parked just south of the draw bridge and did this quick sketch of some dories at the town dock.

August in Maine is peak summer tourist season and is usually crowded, this day it was so hot that everyone was out on the water or at the beach. I had the place mostly to myself with a few locals stopping by to have their lunch or on their way to work. This tree was on the left bank at the edge of the channel.

I turned to my right and painted this view of channel marker # 3 right before the entrance to the drawbridge . This channel is deep and very narrow and the draw bridge goes up every 5 minutes when the lobster boats come in with their haul.

By the time I was ready to head out to the lighthouse on Pemaquid it was mid afternoon and the parking lot was full. Everyone was trying to escape the heat. No ocean breeze. I painted in the shade. Looking south the view was of those famous rocks, pines and crashing surf .



The water is too dangerous (and too cold) to swim off Pemaquid Point as it is on a huge rocky shelf with big surf. The place is beautiful. In the late afternoon clouds were building in over John’s Bay as white sails dotted the water.


Damariscotta and Pemaquid Point

These watercolors are from my midcoast 6 day trip. My good friend Libby lives next to a dirt road that leads down to acres of meadows and forest along the Damariscotta River. Here is the view from a lower meadow.

From up behind the church in the center of Damariscotta I could see the boats in the harbor. While painting there a lady came up and gave me directions to a tiny cove in Round Pond where she said I would find a beautiful place to paint. I went the next day and she was right!
It was a perfect summer day. The Damariscotta River was filled with boats. These are some that were sailing up and down the bay as I was looking across toward Boothbay.
This sketch is of the boat shed in South Bristol where Pete Seeger ‘s boat “The Clearwater” was built. As I was drawing this scene a man came by and told me his father said the day they launched The Clearwater you could walk across the water from South Bristol to Boothbay on the beer cans floating in the river! It was a huge celebration!
Later that afternoon I went out to Pemaquid Point. Behind the light house I noticed this out building way across the lawn at the edge of the pine woods. It was in a nice, shaded, cool spot on a hot summer day. It was in the 90’s that day with no sea breeze.

Monhegan & John’s Bay

I’ve been in the studio for the past two months painting from my summer plein air studies. This past year I did a ton of watercolors ! Surprised me as I just tried it outdoors for a lark. They are so easy to use compared to oils. There is no set up. I just pull this tiny Koi color box out of my bag and paint in the pages of a notebook.

This trip was for 6 days down the peninsula from Damariscotta to Pemaquid Point and out to Monhegan. Here is a fish shack in South Bristol.

On Monhegan I painted the harbor from Fish Beach.

The day was sunny and gorgeous with horsetails in the sky over Manana.

I settled for lunch on the rocks along the harbor and painted this view of the town dock where everybody comes in their battered, half alive pick up trucks to pickup visitors and their luggage. Its a mob scene !

ACADIA ~ Mountains, Islands & Sea

After a full tilt spring & summer painting and teaching I am reviewing field sketches and segueing into my fall painting mode. I’ll be painting some larger paintings this winter from these sketches. Here are a few tidbits from my Acadia National Park trips.

We drove up from southern Maine and when we arrived at Mt Desert Is. it was early evening – just in time to get up to the Blue Hill overlook to catch the sun before it set. We were hoping this sunset promised good weather !

Here I am the next day just beyond Sand Beach. It’s awesome painting on the park loop road in Acadia National Park- you can pull your car over in the right lane and park. I set up like this to save time and go to many locations in one day.


This was a view of Otter Cliffs that I could see from the road. Here’s the 8-10 min sketch I did in markers & watercolor. This summer is the first time I painted outdoors in water color. It is so fast its mind boggling.

After I finished the watercolor I did a 20 min field sketch in oils. Then I packed up and drove to the next location.

The weather was changing the whole time. Hey, its part of the territory ! I set up on the road again at Otter Cove. Here is the 10 min watercolor sketch.

My wonderful husband Marcus came on this trip and he took the pictures of me painting. Here I am in the thick of painting my 20 min field sketch. I love doing these as I learn so much and can go to many different locations in a day. You can tell by my gloves it was windy & cold on the water… I stayed warm by painting !

Thunder & Tobacco

I took a short road trip to Hatfield & Whatley, MA; small towns in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts. Thunder storms rushing in from the Berkshires shortened my painting and sketching time. A field and tobacco barn in Whatley before the rain hit.

It was really great to see these clouds roll out of the foot hills across the flat area of the Connecticut River Valley. You could see the lightening and hear the thunder from clouds way back in the Berkshires.

Here are the super quick sketches I did of the edge of the storm just arriving and after the rain at the diner ( with gray tone markers and a field sketch water color box.) I am trying out at least 5 brands of paint right now. This is Sakura. Nice handy box and great water barrel brush but the colors don’t touch Daniel Smith’s.

I had no time to even set up to paint when the rain hit and blasted through the valley. By the time we got to the Whatley Diner everything was drenched and the sky was beginning to clear.

The next morning on our way back to Maine cool air and puffy clouds were floating above the fields in North Hatfield. It was a perfect summer day.

A quick road and barns sketch with the Sakura Koi box. These are all on basic all purpose drawing paper.

The tobacco barns are such nice classic worn structures and add a strong visual geometry to the wide vistas.
On this short trip time & weather limited me to sketches and watercolors . The last two sketches are the same location slightly different design and with Daniel Smith colors. Love these paints. I can use any old brush, any old paper and the colors sing. If I ever meet Daniel Smith I will hug & kiss him !

Acadia National Park ~ Rain in Paradise

Acadia National Park was in fog and rain for days on end.

We set up to paint on the shore of Eagle Lake. Everyone was on vacation and the carriage paths were full of families biking in the rain. Who cares! The little kids loved riding through the big puddles getting soaked.

My rain set up on the beach of Eagle Lake.



Vicki painted from the carriage path parking lot at Eagle Lake.
I’d dash out in-between the raindrops to make sketches of Eagle Lake.

The tide was rising on Schoodic Point but the sun didn’t break through the bright fog.

I came home with 16 field sketches and Marcus looked at them and said, “Who wants a painting of fog and rain? “ Too funny!



Loosening Up in Kennebunkport, Turbat’s Creek & Cape Porpoise, Maine

Early evening on the lawn of the Breakers I did a quick sketch to focus and decide on the motif of my painting. It was a beautiful, calm evening, a pleasant temperature, with a bit of sunlight hitting the trees. I was looking north into the harbor with clouds along the horizon.

There was a large party closeby on the lawn under tents and I wanted to do a 20 min field sketch. I knew I’d have interruptions and knew I’d also loose my light real fast!

I started out following the sketch. I painted on a 6×8 panel. I was about 15min into it placing a couple of boats in the fore ground when I decided the detailing of the boats was making the composition look cluttered. I was getting more onlookers at this point and people were starting to chat so I put a few highlights and accents in and called it a wrap. Here’s the finished pochade. (Kennebunkport Harbor Evening , 6×8, o/p SOLD)

The next day I went to Turbat’s Creek to paint and the place was awesome – a piece of old Maine seacoast tucked hidden in Kennebunkport! I walked around and looked at all the different views. There were many paintings to be painted at this great location.

The top sketch is of some of the fish cottages on Turbat’s Creek. My focus was the great looking fishing shacks.

The lower sketch is looking out to sea at the mouth of Turbat’s Creek.


These two sketches also made at Turbat’s Creek were looking north out across the creek toward Vaghan’s Island and east toward the tip of the island and the mouth of the creek.

A week later, I decided to do a color exercise with the black and white sketches.

I usually use the sketches on location as I paint my oil field studies but here in the studio on a rainy day I limited myself to a different palette of colored pencils. It was a great exercise. And it really makes the mind work when the color you want is not available to use nor can you mix it!

Checkout the difference in the colored pencil and black and white sketches above – these are the original sketches with color added.

It was a challenge to not have my usual three colors (yellow, red & blue) at my disposal to mix any color I wanted. It was also a great way to see how I think in color and how I use color. I was stuck with using a pencil of a fixed color to try and substitute it for another color I would normally mix to get the effect and mood I was after. It was fun and liberating to do this exercise !