Winter Plein Air & Live Demos


I painted at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, NH this week. What a blast! The January thaw had melted all the snow in the fields. The light and colors were muted and gentle. It was 40 degrees until the sun started to set. We were loving it!   “Fields Edge” 3×5  $125.  Available. Photo: Mary Byrom

WINTER PLEIN AIR

MY DEMO & POP UP SALE ON SATURDAY WAS A BLAST !
We had a great time on Saturday. I gave 2 demos. The first one was for guests who visited in person and the second demo was broadcast live on Instagram. What a hoot!

There were some great painters and artists  watching ” live” who asked questions and sent encouraging remarks.
I will be hosting a series of live demos and artist talks on Instagram. If you would like to see these please follow me on Instagram to view them. I will post times when I will be doing the live demos in my posts on my page on Instagram !
I will be posting dates and times on Instagram and on my page on Face Book. Please follow my Face Book page for the schedule. 

I love doing these demos and I think Marcus (my hubby) has found a niche that is a perfect fit for him ! As soon as we go live he thinks he has his own comedy TV show. Everyone was laughing . It was so much fun!

Almost Home, 4×6″ acrylic $195. This painting is available at the LL&D show at McGowan Fine Art in Concord, NH. If you wish to purchase this painting  please let me know.  Available Photo: Mary Byrom

MORE NEW PRINTS RELEASED THIS WEEK …(7 new ones) on my site on Fine Art America


“Ready to Go” is now available in a variety of sizes as a high quality giclee here.

If you wish to purchase note cards and prints of my paintings, they are being posted on my page “Mary Byrom Fine Art America”. You can follow my page on Fine Art America for notification as I release new paintings into print editions.
A select collection is available now and more are posted on a daily basis. I will be releasing small studies and reproductions of some of my larger paintings.

Warmly,
Mary

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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Painting While Driving

Drawing and painting landscapes in a moving car is a challenge and quite fun. 
Snow,Rocks & Trees Watercolor Sketchbook
The view is right there in front of you for a few seconds then… zip its gone !
When I drove from the Maine coast into the White mountains of New Hampshire the other day I encountered a variety of weather along the way. It was raining along the seacoast. I settled into the passenger seat and organized my materials.
My carefully chosen weapons for the battle… an ink pen, mechanical pencil and 98 pound multimedia sketchbook paper.
Sturdy Pines Watercolor Sketchbook

I have a method for sketching from a moving vehicle. I stare hard at the subject, remember what I saw and sketch very fast. Its an excellent memory exercise.


I placed my sketchbook on my lap, unpacked my small watercolor set and my lightning-fast Niji water brush. This water brush is the best thing for fast painting in tight quarters. 
Snowy fields Watercolor Sketchbook
It helps when you need to mix colors rapidly. You just squeeze water through the brush tip to clean it. You don’t need a jar of water handy to clean the brush, which could be a problem in a bumpy car ride on uneven road surfaces.

The weather was fierce. It rained, sleeted and ice froze across the windshield as we drove north. The heat turned up high melted the ice off the windshield. The higher we climbed into the mountains of New Hampshire the colder and icier it got.
Boreal Forest Watercolor Sketchbook
When we crossed the high ridge of mountains in the middle of the state and started driving down into the valley toward Vermont and the Connecticut River the freezing rain turned to rain.
It was 10 degrees warmer in the river valley.
The White River Watercolor Sketchbook
The White River meets the Connecticut River at White River Junction, Vermont. After the big floods Vermont had last August the White River has a number of sand bars and a newly shaped river bed.

Road into the Mountains Watercolor Sketchbook

The precipitation stopped completely in Vermont. Low clouds were tearing across the mountain tops and sky holes made it brighter. 

It was easy to sketch the view. I just kept looking and moving my hand at the same time. Painting in colors was more difficult. I could only get one good look at the colors of a specific location, then in seconds it was gone.
Snowy Rocks and Pines Watercolor Sketchbook
There was more snow in Vermont than any where else we drove through, especially on the high ridges.
It was a blue, violet and slate gray day. The trees were dark mauve and deep blue against the distant snow fields.

Whaleback Mountain Watercolor Sketchbook
Everything was looking very dramatic.

 
The dark bottomed clouds and dark trees made the snow look whiter than ever. The snow covered ground was the brightest spot in the landscape.
The Tree line Watercolor Sketchbook
Winter is the best time to paint out doors. The contrast and shapes are wonderful!
Each open area that was edged with trees has a different look and feeling.

Snowy Ledges Watercolor Sketchbook
A mundane location that you would never look at in the summertime all of the sudden has dramatic shapes and colors. 

Farms & Snow Fields Watercolor Sketchbook
In hilly and mountainous areas the white snow covered fields created a patchwork of pines and hardwoods.
In this winter wonderland a simple red brick building became a warm spot of color in the cool white and blue landscape.

Road on the Ridge Watercolor Sketchbook
As the afternoon moved toward sunset the dark violet blue mountains were a deep cool contrast against the nearby green pine forest.
It reminded me that it doesn’t have to be a sunny day to be beautiful. 
The Connecticut River at Hanover Watercolor Sketchbook
Days like this have a peaceful quiet mood and subtle rich colors that are very satisfying to see. 

Friendship, Maine in December

It was a cold and gray Monday morning, a chilly 14 degrees as we headed up the coast of Maine.

When we arrived in Camden there was ice on the harbor and the schooners were wearing their winter coats. 
In the summer you can’t see the water in Camden harbor because it’s so full of pleasure boats…not true in winter.
The docks were quiet and the sky, land and water colors were muted and silvery.
I stopped by Camden Falls Gallery for a visit.  My paintings will be shown there this summer. Its namesake is a crashing waterfall at the head of this picturesque harbor.  
On our way down the peninsula to Friendship, Maine the road twisted and turned as we passed farms and rolling fields covered with fresh snow.  

In Cushing, Maine I spotted this incredible old farm. It looked like no one had touched it since the 1950’s. It is in the neighborhood of the famous Olsen farm from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.”

Even on a gray winter day there is nothing as beautiful as a midcoast Maine pennisula.

Friendship has a great harbor with lots of large and small islands. 

All along the edge of the harbor are docks and buildings for lobstering.

A change was coming in the weather. After an overnight snow storm and frigid morning, a warm wind started blowing off the water. 

The bright colored lobster traps glowed in the muted light.  

I walked around sketching different views.

Whitecaps appeared in the harbor. The wind really started gusting.

I knew I couldn’t set up on the docks to paint. 

The dock community in Friendship is amazing. There are all kinds of buildings on the docks out over the water.  

I parked my car near the town landing. I found a perfect spot to set up my easel out of the wind.  

Some of the fishing shacks on the docks are brand new and well kept. 

I did several sketches from the view in front of me . 

I wanted to paint the soft colors of the small islands in the harbor.

The clouds were breaking up and the sky was getting brighter.

I kept it small and simple.

There were stacks of traps everywhere with their colorful floats tied up in bunches near them.

The floats were very interesting to look at. Their colors were eye popping…

…compared to the muted blues and grays of their surroundings.

To my eyes It felt like their colors were lit up from within especially after looking at all the subtle grays of the landscape.
Even the traps which are very colorful, looked slightly grayed next to the psychedelic float colors.
The afternoon started getting brighter with spots of blue sky holes in the clouds.

The wind was still totally wild. But I didn’t care.

It was warming up. I kept painting.
There are many scenes waiting to be painted in this neighborhood. 
 A fishing shack had rows of floats hanging from the ceiling.
The docks reach out into the harbor one after the other all the way down the point. 
It looked warm and cozy inside the small lit buildings. 
Some of the shacks were heated like little houses.
Others were simpler, more like storage sheds.
It really feels like a little fishing village out there, though no one lives on the docks.

The sun set just after four.  The best and brightest light of the day came right before twilight.
As we left Friendship the Christmas lights were coming on in the village.
Someone had taken two of their boats out of the water, parked them next to their house…

…and dressed them in holiday finery !
It’s time to celebrate Christmas in Friendship, Maine.

Snow, Mud & Maple Syrup

When spring arrives in New England the maple sugar houses are a beehive of activity, with the collecting and cooking of maple sap. This year the sap started rising in the maple trees in early February.

Our early spring cycle of warm days and cold nights has created ideal conditions for the maple syrup harvest.  

There was plenty of warm sunshine, melting snow and mud when we headed up to visit sugar houses in the small town of Newfield, Maine.

On our drive north through Shapleigh, Maine we spotted a small sugar house by the side of the road.  The sap lines from the maple trees up on the hill behind it were delivering sap directly into the cooker.

The sap was boiling away, creating thick clouds of sweet, warm fragrant steam….

High up on a beam near the roof vent sat a line of old sap buckets.

The fire in the cast iron fire box under the sap cooker was kept stoked.  Cords of neatly stacked wood sat nearby. 

A line of syrup containers sat on a sill above a window.

There was little time to set up an easel to paint on this fast moving tour. This was a sketching trip ! We were covering a lot of territory in an afternoon.  

The snow melted in patches on the south side of Bond Mountain. 
6×9 watercolor sketchbook

At Sugar Hill in Newfield they started the sap cooking season with 16 cords of wood. They were running out of wood with only a few cords left in the storage space next to the cooker.

The snow still sat in big drifts on the north side of the hill while there was bare ground and mud on the south side.  
6×8 watercolor sketchbook

Some farmers used the traditional buckets and traveled through the woods collecting the sap with a tractor and wagon.

I  sketched as fast as I could at each location.  There were throngs of people visiting every sugar shack.  

Hilltop Boilers only used buckets to collect sap.  
6×8 watercolor sketchbook

It was great to see the metal pails being used. I remember these from  my childhood when I saw them each spring all over the woods in western Massachusetts. 

Sap buckets. 
4×8 watercolor  sketchbook

Hilltop Boilers had a sharp new sugar house.

Sugar Hill 
6×8 watercolor sketchbook

 
This maple sugaring tour was a first for me. I’d never seen so many different sugar houses in one day.  It’s been a cold spring here in Maine so it is nice to see that chilly weather has created this bountiful maple syrup harvest. These farmers are happy with this great syrup season!


Traveling, Sketching & Painting in the Great Outdoors

When I arrive at my painting location I always grab my sketch book and start to look around. 
After a bit of wandering something usually grabs my eye so I stop and set up my gear. If its at all possible I like to paint near my car, then I don’t have carry a bunch of stuff and I can set up in minutes and get started.
I do two or three sketches right away. I use ink, gray markers, charcoal and now my latest newest sketching tool is a mechanical pencil! I love how smoothly it moves over the surface of the paper. 

I paint in watercolors, acrylics and oils. I learn a lot by painting the same subject in different mediums. 

After I do several sketches I like, I usually pick one and use that one as the “map” for my oil painting.

It isn’t unusual for me to go home after a plein air outing and paint a watercolor after I’ve finished an oil painting on location. 

I think the most important thing I’ve learned from painting in plein air is that my eyes always see everything differently than the way a camera does.

I never got into a habit of painting from photographs so when I decided to paint landscapes I just went out side to do it.

It was a shock to go outside at first. I didn’t have any painting equipment so I just grabbed an aluminum easel from my studio and threw my paints in a canvas bag and lugged the whole thing out on location.


When I saw the potential of painting outside, and thought I might really like it,  I broke down and bought the cheapest gear I could find.  I found a Julien french easel on sale for half price.  

Little did I know I would become totally hooked on plein air and I would only want to paint outdoors !

I didn’t sketch when I first painted en plein air.  I was always in such a hurry, afraid the light  would change and I’d better grab it fast.   
At some point I started sketching. 

The sketches evolved from a way to get familiar with a location, to a way of seeing the location intimately, to seeing the sketch as a unique part of the whole outdoor process and a finished statement in its own right. 

I went from painting exactly what I saw, to interpreting what I saw, to transforming what I saw…


I really like to go out and paint in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions…

I look at how other painters handle winter scenes, lighting conditions, rainy weather… 

I especially like seeing how artists painted the same or similar landscapes  that I paint…
So of course I love looking at any of the great painters who lived in or came to paint in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

And I love looking at the Russian painters work as they  painted some great winter scenes…

They painted some snow scenes that make my locations along the coast look like a temperate climate… 

I’ll often be on a location and think of another painter who painted long ago in the exact same spot I’m standing in… once I was in the White Mountains looking for a place to paint so I pulled off into a road side rest area to look around.  I glanced up at the mountains above me and saw a totally familiar sight, but I knew I’d never been there before.  As I stood there staring I realized I’d seen a painting of the scene in front of me that had been painted in that exact spot 100 years ago…
TO SEE VIDEO CLICK HERE…

Spring Skiing & Scouting

Even with chilly temperatures it felt like spring in the White Mountains!  Marcus had a gig in North Conway, NH so I took the opportunity to hitch a ride and go on a sketching and scouting trip.

About 35 miles south of North Conway you get a peek of the Presidentials in their white capped glory.  

New Hampshire is a rugged granite hewn state; this old farm on route 16 had that solitary outpost feeling.  

Forests cover most of the state. The land starts to rise up in Ossipee. 

The view of Mount Chocorua from the shore of Little Lake is a favorite spot of mine. 

The winds are steady here all year round. They flow out of the mountains across the lake.

The sun felt warm and the big snow drifts were shrinking… 

As we approached North Conway and came round the turn down into the Saco River Valley we could see the gash of Tuckerman’s Ravine clearly down the side of Mount Washington.

Up above the village of North Conway the ski trails beckoned….
It was a beautiful day to be on the slopes!  Big and very little skiers were trying their best ….

I found a place to set up at the base of the mountain in front of a lodge. A big granite boulder was perfect for  my gear and sketchbook… 

I was surrounded by skiers arriving from different trails converging on this one spot…

It took a lot of concentration to grab these 2- second poses.  These skiers kept whizzing by…I kept sketching them… filing the pages…it’s a good exercise!

As the sun went down we headed over to a favorite painting spot of mine in town, the Conway Scenic Railroad Station. The railroad cars are all parked in the rail yard for the winter.
This train travels on tracks through the valley heading north through Crawford’s Notch to the top of the ridge. They will start running again in the spring.

 
The railroad, once a part of the Boston and Maine Railroad & the Maine Central Railroad employed people who lived all over these mountains.   
This region has a lot of rich history and was a favorite of the Hudson River painters. This is a gorgeous place at any time of the year.  

For more paintings….PAINT EAT SLEEP





Green Ice & Muted Mauves

St John’s, Newfoundland in iceberg season is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I love icebergs . One day in the Portland Museum I saw Rockwell Kent’s paintings with all that ice and snow up close and personal… and I fell in love with them…   

There is ice up here in Maine and New Hampshire. But it is small pieces of ice… beautiful in their own right. Marcus & I  headed over to Durham Point on Great Bay to see the ice as it was breaking up into mini icebergs.  When we arrived at Adam’s Point it was a study in blues, greens and mauve……the colors were soft, the air was still and it was just high tide.

The sea water was pouring into the bay on the western side of the peninsula. 

Cakes of ice were floating around the inlets.

The bright green color of the ice submerged in water is amazing.

At first sight the bright green color is startling…

We parked near the boat launch on Adam’s Point Road, between two bays.There is water to the east and west.

The ice was breaking off and floating along on currents moving in two opposite directions, south along the shore and north toward the middle of the bay.

I set up and mixed my colors…The weather started to change. The heavy cloud cover started to move out over the ocean. 

In only half an hour the sun was burning through and the entire scene had changed.  The moody soft colors were gone. Poof! 

I kept blocking my colors into the scene from memory…


The difficulty was that the light kept getting brighter and it was hard to see the original colors in the scene I had chosen when it was overcast. 
The sun dropped lower in the sky, the wind picked up and flocks of Canadian geese flew in for the night.  

The sun was getting so bright I decide to stop and call it a wrap.  I could barely see the panel and reflections were bouncing all over the place.

Horse tails scattered across the sky. Then the big wind came! It came in hearty gusts, blowing my easel and everything else around. 

I set my tripod legs for windy conditions and that stabilized the easel. But it was  even hard at this point to keep my hat on. 

With 25 – 35 mph winds I’ was ready to pack it in. Strong wind is the hardest thing to deal with when painting. Its so distracting!  

Green Ice, 11X14 Oil on panel

Spring Thaw

Winter is coming to an end! I know there are a lot of folks out there that are happy about this. As the snow drifts melt I have more space to park my car but it also is rapidly changing the landscape. 
At the Rachel Carson Cutts Island trail head on Kittery Point there is more pavement showing along the road but the woods are still thigh deep in snow.

 Chauncey Creek was almost covered in ice a week ago. The creek is tidal so the tides and saltwater move ice out faster than on fresh water lakes and ponds. 

I set up my easel with water views to my left, right and straight ahead. 

The ice has disappeared from the middle of the creek and is melting along the shore and in coves.  Large cakes of it were scattered around. 
 I did a number of sketches in ink and pencil to help me decide what I might paint.  

There was so much great material to choose from and the tide was rising.

The light was changing.

A thin haze of clouds streaked across the sky.

I decided to paint a cove in the creek with slabs of ice scattered around. 

The light started to get bright and hazy with indistinct shadows as I started my block in.

Recently, I’ve been approaching my plein air paintings with a direct method of paint application. I don’t do any underpainting, and I premix my color groups so I can paint faster. 

As the sunlight dimmed a thin sheet of ice formed on the surface of the creek.

The sunlight was now gone but I kept to my original idea. I decided to change the foreground on my small panel(10 x12).  


I wanted to included more slabs and cakes of ice in the cove and shore area. 

This is the view of my easel looking down from the snow drift behind me. 


I really picked up speed as the light dimmed and it got colder!

Marcus kindly documented today’s painting trip. He came along on this late winter jaunt to do some sketching. 


I’m going for a wrap on this one. I ‘ll put the finishing touches on it in the studio.

Or use it for a larger studio piece!

I’m looking forward to spring but… I’ll really miss these great snow scenes. Snow makes the landscape so beautiful and interesting !

The Moody Blues

Snow, fresh arctic air and that misty blue mood of the marshes called to me on Monday.  I couldn’t resist . I headed out, with the car studio packed for action.

Here on the seacoast we have a lot of snow! I couldn’t find a place to park in any of my  favorite places…8 ft drifts blocked the view.
Finally on a quiet, dead end road near the harbor I parked in the road.

It was cloudy, the tide was going out and the muted blues, reds, ochers and greens were beginning to show in the late afternoon light.   
I set up behind my car.  The afternoon was warm. It was above freezing!  What a rare occurance.

I really love sketching with charcoal! Its so different from my cool gray markers.
I spent some time really looking at my subject…
Painting outside is not like work, even though it requires complete concentration it feels like fun.
I painted my sketch in a thin burnt sienna on a primed panel.

The colors of the landscape were soft and muted.

The sky was shifting to subtle shades of golden yellow. 

I started to block in the color notes.

The light began to drop and that blue tint moved in.

I like painting near my car, all my gear is there so when I need something I can just reach for it…there’s my tool/paint box open next to me.

Here I’m adding more color notes and building the mood of the place. The ducks and geese honk and quack as they settle in for the night on the marsh . 

Not many people are out here on this late winter day, in the summer this place is a favorite spot for a an evening walk.  

The sun is gone.  A deep blue cast settles over the marsh.

I clean up my paints as my hazard lights light up the dusk.

Across the marsh all the little house lights begin to glow. Another perfect subject for a painting!  I’ll do that on another day…