Painting on Harris Island

I live about 15 miles from Harris Island. It’s a great area in York Harbor , ME where two of the town docks are located. Now that the bridge is being repaired on route 103 the road is closed into town so its a perfect quiet place to paint with only a few cars and trucks driving to the docks.
It was a warm sunny morning with snow clouds moving in from the west around midday. Here I’m looking east out to sea with a view of the tip of the island at low tide. The deepest channel forms a curving river pattern in the sand. I did a sketch here.





On the other side of the road there is another bay. I turned and painted this about an hour and a half later. It was filling up fast with the incoming tide.

Here’s the sketch I did before the tide and dark clouds moved in.

Shortly after 4:00 pm I moved to one more location a bit farther up the road.There was this large piece of snow on the western side of this small tree covered island in the marsh.

I set up and quickly painted a 20 min study. I had only a small amount of time as I had to head off to teach a sketch class that night.

Here I am still set up in the last bit of light before I packed up and drove off. 


Think this might be some of the last snow on Harris Island for this winter. I’m not holding my breath, its March and we do get big snow storms in March. Here’s the sketch with a bit more paint on it. Still not finished.

Water’s Edge

In late spring the coast of Maine is chilly and brisk. You need your winter weight wool when you are on the water. This visit to Acadia National Park was no exception.




I stopped on the park loop road, got out of the car, looked north and south and did several quick sketches. This is looking south toward Otter Cliffs. I used gray scale markers and water colors in my sketchbook.



I turned and looked to the north toward Great Head and saw layers of all kinds of clouds moving out to sea. The afternoon light was turning them pink & gold.



When I looked at Otter Cliffs again just before I left the tide had gone out even farther and more rocks were exposed.



The next day the view from the mountain road looking over Frenchman Bay was incredible. It was calm with no wind on the water. So the water was that iridescent blue green and the island reflections were perfect.


By the time I drove to the Blue Hill overlook the wind out over the bay was starting to pick up. You could see the color of the water changing to a deeper blue and patterns on the water surface shifted and changed shape.

Big Storm, Big Waves

We just had a monster storm in Maine with rain & 90 mph winds here along the coast. We had 7.5 ” rain in the coastal plain over night, inland they got hit with heavy snow. The big wind and the water combination was wild! 150 roads were closed in our county.

Two days after the storm departed it still kept sending bands of snow and rain in off the ocean. I went over to Israel’s Head in Ogunquit to paint the surf. This is the surf at the mouth of Perkins Cove as the tide is going out.

There is usually some wave action on the rocks on the Marginal Way. Today it was quite lively and even a bit too rough for the usual surfers. Nobody was out on their boards. It started to snow heavily so I moved inside the car to do some sketches.

View of surf hitting the point from Perkins Cove. This one is watercolor pencil & watercolor on 90 lb. paper.

The point awash in foam. Never seen so much beautiful white frothy foam – made you want to jump in it. This sketch is ink, water color pencil & watercolors on 125 lb. paper.

More rocks and foamy waves.

A big one hits the ledge and delivers a sloppy foamy crash.

After the foamy crash, now pulling back into the briny deep.

The following day the clouds were beginning to break up so I went to Moody Beach and Wells to see what was happening. The weather was better – no sideways snow so I could set up and get a painting in before dark.

It was low tide and still the surf was crashing.


Here’s a quick wave sketch I did.


As I packed up the sun was peaking through tiny openings in the clouds as more of that big storm headed out to sea. Its really nice living& painting in this land of big sky, big water and big weather!

Sketchbook Class At Sanctuary Arts

Sanctuary Arts & Green Foundry is an art school and foundry in Eliot, Maine. The school offers great classes for adults and children. The foundry is a fine art sculpture and teaching facility that is famous for fabricating the Robert Indiana HOPE sculpture for Obama at the Democratic National Convention.


This is where I am teaching a sketchbook class for the winter semester. The main building was a church. Christopher Gowell a well known sculptor, owns and runs the school.

Here is the main entrance to the class rooms and studios . Steven Lee sculpted the head planter near the door.

Here is the large studio where I hold my class. The windows are 2 stories high. There are lots of sculptures in various stages of completion.

Here are my wonderful students hard at work. They are sketching with ink. This class prepares them for sketching and painting while traveling or out and about in the world. It’s about how to do art while smack dab in the middle of your life and end up with something nice. The class helps one establish good habits for sketching and painting. Its about learning to see and developing a good critical visual sense.
This is a multi stage exercise using parts of landscapes images to depict form and compose a design. Here the students were using watercolor on ink sketches completed earlier.

Here we are doing an exercise that we would do after coming in from a day of traveling and sketching when we couldn’t paint on location. We add color or water to ink or watercolor pencil sketches using our notes and fresh memories of what we sketched that day for reference.

These exercises are fun and require their full attention. And water soluble, move able ink is one of the best things an artist can use for quick, great value sketches. Here is one of those great watercolor pencil sets with 100 + colors. For color notes on location it can’t be beat… unless you have the time and a spot where you can to set up and actually use your paints!

Islands, Pines & the Rocky Coast

Frenchman Bay on the north side of Mount Desert is scattered with islands named the Porcupines. They have pine and hardwood forests on them with rocky cliffs and sandy beaches trimming their edges.

I sketched view this from the overlook on Cadillac Mountain. The tide was half way out and you could see the sandy skirts around each island.


The next day I was headed up the mountain in the late morning. The bay was still calm but the wind was starting to pick up out on the water. From the mountain you could watch the wind patterns across the bay as it went from still water that was iridescent yellow green to wind whipped dark blue.


This is Great Head with a huge cloud bank lifting off it.


On the loop road heading toward Thunder Hole you enter an alley of pines.


Great Head and all the ledges facing the open ocean were bathed in foam this day. The water had long ribbons of creamy froth all up and down the coast.

Snow, Salt & Plein Air

I headed over to Cape Neddick last week to paint the ice on the river before it all melted. Its tidal so its dramatically different as the tide rises and falls.

Here is where I set up along the road. I am looking east down the river toward a small harbor, the open ocean is just beyond. It was a beautiful day.

My friend Heather lives in the neighborhood. She took this picture of me doing a small sketch looking west up the river with the sun dropping lower in the sky.

Here is the river and its collar of ice as it heads up into the woods. It is so difficult to paint facing into the sun but I wanted to do it as I know there are only a few days left before these spring like temperatures melt all that great ice.

I am really concentrating here trying not to let the glare off the snow blind me. It was so brilliant that sometime I could barely see my pallette or painting. When a cloud floated by I’d try to see if I was getting my color relationships to read.

Here’s the sketch I did in the field. I have’t worked on it in the studio. I’m thinking I might use as a reference for a larger painting.

Cape Neddick is right next to Ogunquit so I went over to the Marginal Way next to see what was cooking.

The snow on the rocks was gorgeous. There was big surf crashing as the sun dropped down behind the trees. I was running out of light so I did a quick sketch . The temps were dropping fast and the wind was picking up.





Cliffs, Coves & Mountains

The weather was beautiful on this trip up to Mount Desert Island. It was chilly, no one was around as it was before season and the air was crystal clear. Even the rangers were talking about it. I did all these sketches as I did my first drive through the afternoon we arrived and I decided where I would paint the first day.

The sunset colors on Cadillac Mountain were amazing.


I stopped in Otter Cove at low tide and sketched the sand patterns as the tide swept out.


The pink granite at the Blue Hill overlook had huge cracks in it that were filled with blueberry bushes, pine and mosses of all different kinds.

Above Beaver Pond the ridge had big veins of granite running through it with pines clustered along it. Big puffy clouds blew out to sea.

The Scent of Pines

Vicki & I headed up to Acadia National Park for a week of painting in late June before the tourists arrived. Eagle Lake was dreamy and moody when we pulled in to paint . Clouds were tearing across the mountains tops and it was misty with rain threatening. I loved the atmosphere and layers of subtle color.

The lake was still and the reflections were lovely.

There were bands of huge pines all along the eastern shore that were ragged and leaning from many years of strong wind.

As the clouds barreled across the mountain tops cracks would appear in the fog and you could see bright sunlight and bits of blue for a few seconds.

The next day we painted on the Schoodic peninsula which is the wilder, remote part of Acadia.

It was still overcast but brighter and no rain fell.

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.