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Big Sky Summer Paintings ~ Maine & New Hampshire

Summer Day

There is something dreamy about a summer sky. When I was little I used to lie down on open lawns and in country meadows to watch the sky. I was happy lying in the grass with the smell of wild flowers and songs of crickets all around me. The clouds would billow and break as they drifted above me. Summer was a long, lazy vacation of wandering and exploring nature. Do you see why I love painting skies?

I’m thinking these days about how I paint and what I paint.  I’m thinking about painting in a “flow state”. Its like diving into a river. More on this in my next post.

Summer Day”  14×18. oil. Available. $2,000. Information here

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Vermont Grazing

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These cows were in North Bennington. Vermont cows are the best. Maybe its because there are more cows than people? I don’t know if that is true anymore. The small dairy farms are disappearing. Support our small farms! Eat local! 

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North Bennington, Vermont

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The pastures are open and the views are endless in this south west corner of Vermont.  On  one farm I drive across the field to the top of the hill and see rolling hills and farms in every direction. 

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Dramatic Skies over Maine Farms

One of the great things about fall in New England is the dramatic, changing weather. 
In southern Maine it’s been a sunny warm fall with the trees turning colors in start and stops…
The turning leaves have been bright and colorful in some neighborhoods and dull in others.  Some trees are bare while others still have their green leaves.
Marcus and I went out for an afternoon drive to check out some of the neighboring farms.
We parked at the golf course and I set up to paint.  I wanted to try for a few sketches of the quickly changing light on the landscape.
The Dunn farm is one of those rare small dairy farms that are still in operation. I love this farm!
I used my large Gloucester easel because there was a strong wind from the west and my other easel wouldn’t have a chance in this steady onslaught…
The cows moved in slow motion across the pasture as clouds raced across the sky, alternately lighting and darkening the landscape. 
I moved briskly as I put colors on my palette.
It looked like mother nature had plans for a change in the weather.. the clouds kept building.
Ooh… it was getting pretty nice out there, the farm was face-lit, the trees and cows had nice shadows behind them and the distant trees were a deep wine color in the cloud shadows. 
Late afternoon low light offers such a nice dramatic contrast.  I was hoping there would be enough big sky holes so I could keep getting glimpses of sunlight on the farm.
The clouds got thicker, and soon everything was in shadow. 
I sketched in the outline of the farm.
The cows kept moving in and out of these great patterns across the meadow. I really like the challenge of painting cows, as they rarely stay still in one spot.
I had my panel set up facing the sun, so the light on it and my palette stayed consistent.
I put in more colors as spots of blue sky appeared overhead.
All the great dramatic contrast of shadows and light had disappeared from the meadow.
Hey, that’s the nature of plein air painting…here one minute, gone the next.  That’s what I love about it!
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In southwestern Vermont there are some really beautiful places to paint. 

Open meadows are plentiful because farmers have kept the land clear. You can see for miles and miles.  
Chickens, 6×8 oil
Meadowood Farm is a lovely place on the upper slopes of West Mountain in Shaftsbury, Vermont

Jane Ramsey and I were invited by Cliff and Donna the owners of Meadowood to paint on their property. 

Not only did they invite us to paint, but they insisted that we also come for breakfast.
They operate an elegant Bed & Breakfast inn at the farm.
We arrived at the house and were treated like royalty.
Jane immediately started sketching our breakfast. 
It was a 5 star breakfast cooked to order! It was so perfect and delicious it felt like a dream… we had to keep pinching ourselves.
After breakfast we were ready to paint ! The hen house seemed like a good place to start. The chickens were lively and friendly. 
I made a large variety of sketches.

The chickens never stopped moving; running around eating bugs and little things in  the grass.
We tried to gather them in one place so we could paint them.  Ha ! Ever hear of “herding chickens” ? 
Jane and I set up near the fence to paint them in the yard.
They promptly took off, jumping the fence and running all over the lawns and woods. 
Jane had some crackers in the car… so we tossed them bits… to tempt them to come back.
Some of them stuck around long enough for us to sketch and paint them.
We were working fast… it’s difficult to paint chickens-in-motion. 
I  finally knew what “herding chickens” really means !
Chickens Too, 6×8 oil 
Soon Cliff came by with his bucket loader to carry our gear to our next painting location.
Jane and I walked down the stairs to the large open meadow below the house.
This farm is pristine. It has everything, a babbling brook, acres of hardwoods, open meadows and a river.
Cliff drove through the woods on a road he built down to the meadow. 
It was a perfect late summer day in Vermont… the Green Mountains were dusty blue in the distance.  
For the past two weeks Vermont had a ton of rain. Flooding was everywhere. Why was this meadow so perfect ? Cliff had built a berm at the top of the meadow where the river curved and he managed to keep it from flooding the meadow.
Is this man amazing or what ? The farm is a reflection of his care for the land…not to mention how thoughtful and kind he and his wife were towards us.  
Jane painted quickly with her watercolors.
The shadows steadily crept across the meadow.
We decided to call it a wrap. We were expected back at base camp, Taradin, for an art opening that evening. 
We packed our gear and Cliff drove it up the hill delivering it to our cars.  
The meadow was now all in shadow.  
The tops of the trees caught the last rays of the setting sun. It was the end of another perfect day on West Mountain in Vermont.
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Great Salt Bay Farm, a one hundred acre farm in midcoast Maine is a treasure! It is located on the shore of the beautiful Great Salt Bay at the head waters of the Damariscotta River. 
There were so many things to paint that I stayed on the farm and painted from early morning until sunset .
Great Salt Bay Pines, 6×8 oil on panel
The old farm house and barn sit high on a hill overlooking an expansive view of rolling fields and the bay.

It is now early August in Maine and the weather on the midcoast is typically sunny and warm. I set up on the farm’s back lawn under the apple trees where there were gentle breezes that came up the bay from the ocean. 
I was using my tiny 6×8 inch painting box to see if I could use the minimal amount of gear and still manage to get a painting completed. 
I’m doing a practice run for trips that I am planning which require a lot of hiking.

I sat down to paint as I did not bring an easel with me.  I’ll sit on anything available. Often I find a bench, chair, rock or ledge on location.
I was really glad to be at the farm on this warm summer day. The place is magical.
It was totally quiet in the meadows. The farm is about a mile from busy coastal Route 1 and I saw only 6 visitors the entire day.
Three old apple trees are all that remain of the orchard on the hill above the bay. 
I sketched and painted uninterrupted for hours. An occasional car drove by and a tractor mowed hay in a field down the road.
The apple trees cast enough shade so it never got too hot. Little apples intermittently fell from the trees hitting the ground with a soft plop.
The farm feels large and expansive. It has meadows on both sides of the road.  
Late summer flowers were in full bloom.  Queen Anne’s 
lace and golden rod filled the unmowed fields. 
Field Flowers, 6×8 oil on panel
 Recently there was a big celebration in a large tent next to the house. 
Late in the day the setting sun and the moist air created great atmosphere and colors.  
The golden fields glowed while the line of trees along the shore turned into dark soft shadows. 
I had to paint fast.  A large bank of clouds in the west was moving in front of the setting sun. 
Thin filmy clouds started to cover the entire sky. 
I wanted to capture the reflection of the setting sun on a large fresh water marsh at the bottom of the sloping meadow. 
The sun’s reflection could be seen in the still water for about ten minutes.  
I got it!
 The sun descended, the clouds moved in and the sun was a apricot gold smudge behind pale gray blue curtains.
Great Salt Bay Reflections, 6×8 oil on panel

PAINT EAT SLEEP  news from the road.
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In the Barn

Marcus caught a few moments of me sketching on our trip to Pineland Farms.  It is tough sketching lambs & ewes… They move all the time ! Then again what else is new? Its what plein air painters deal with…

For more details of our adventure see : FRESH PAINT, FRESH AIR 

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Lambs, Rams & Ewes

Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine was shearing their sheep this week.  In spring, the sheep get their warm wool coat removed before hot summer weather.
Pineland is an educational farm located on 5,000 acres of rolling fields and forest. Its a non profit with a mission to encourage farming in southern Maine.
When we arrived clouds were casting patterns of light and shadows across the high open meadows. 
Sketchbook, pen & watercolor  – 4×6 Rives BFK
It doesn’t look like at all like a Maine farm with its white fences, it reminds me of horse farms in  Kentucky bluegrass country. 
The barns are all brand new. No crumbling antique barns on this spread.  
 We headed directly to the sheep pastures and barn. The stars of the moment are the new born lambs! 
A couple of moms had triplets. They spray paint a number on them to make sure everyone is getting enough milk.
New lambs are born daily. They stay with their moms in the barn.  
Its still too cold for them to be outside. We are having an unusually chilly spring.  Sketchbook 6×8 
This little freckle faced cutie was friendly and curious. She kept coming over to me while I was sketching. 
These new families will stay in the barn and until it gets warmer and the lambs are sturdy and strong.    
The sheep were all shorn this week. The sheep shearers are in great demand. They travel from farm to farm shearing the sheep.
I like the black faced sheep. They have lovely almond shaped hazel eyes. Sketchbook, 8×10.
Since this was our first visit to the farm I wanted to make sure we checked out everything so we went next to visit the cow barns.
Sketchbook, 4×6 Pen & watercolor on Rives BFK
Every barn has a sign in front of it.  
Most of the cows were in the barn laying down after lunch. A couple of big bruisers were out side.
Sketchbook, 6×8 Rives BFK
This silo is the only thing left from the original farm buildings on the property. 
It was cold. The wind was blowing about 40 mph so I stood in the shade and sketched . 
Sketch book 4×6  Rives BFK
A brand new tractor was parked in front of the hay barn.
The rolling meadows are trimmed with white fences. 
Sketchbook 6×6 Rives BFK
The clouds dropped a bit of rain for a few minutes then the sun came back out. 
It was so great to visit a place that is focused on supporting the farms of the future and locally grown  food.
Sketchbook, 6×6 Rives BFK.
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Lions and Lambs

Spring is here. Its snowing every other day…March came in like a lamb and is leaving like a lion. Its now that in-between season. Every other day snow and ice change to water and mud.  Rubber boots are good footwear for this time of year! 
In South Berwick, Maine the snow disappeared from the open fields this week and the farmers were out and about on their tractors. Subtle hints of green were showing in the golden grasses.

 It was a typical New England spring day. In minutes it went from warm and sunny to chilly and cloudy.

We headed out to paint a nearby farm as we knew we only had a couple of hours before the next snow storm moved in.  Marcus drove to the golf course parking lot where we set up in an open sunny spot next to the car. 
As I was opening my easel a big ominous cloud bank started to move in on the western horizon. Marcus quickly got down to business sketching. He kept his back to the wind, the sun kept him warm.

I sketched the scene in charcoal.

I made notations with watercolors. 6×8 on 98 lb. mix media paper.

 I needed to face the sun to keep the glare off my panel and palette.

I made two more charcoal sketches.
I didn’t have a canvas to paint a panorama, but that’s not a problem with a sketch book. I just draw the size and shape I want my picture to be. That’s why I love them, they are so versatile.   
3×7 watercolor on 98 lb. mix media paper 
Today I planned to paint my oil sketch in sensitive grays. 
I usually have an objective when I go out to paint.  I’m currently teaching a class on color so I wanted to use colors and relationships we are studying.

The wind was blowing steadily now, bringing that weather change in from the west…

The light kept getting paler and cooler.

I placed the color notes quickly and kept moving. 

Soon a thin sheet of clouds covered the sky with just small bits of blue peeking through.  

With the sun gone the temperature quickly dropped. This year it feels like a real old fashioned spring with chilly nights and warmer days.  The sun is bringing out the red buds on the tree branches and mud season is truly here. Crocuses are in bloom in on the south side of my house. It may not feel like it now but before we know it everything will soon be green! 
       6×8 Charcoal & watercolor on 98 lb. mix media paper. 


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Farm Country

 Southern Vermont has small country roads that wind back and forth through meadows and forests along the Vermont /New York border. 

The only way you can tell if you are in a different state is by the surface of the road.  One minute they are paved the next they are dirt.  

One farmhouse was in Vermont, the barn was in New York.

 Burgess Road, just over the border in New York is a great, quiet spot to paint .  Clouds created light and dark patterns all day.
The hedgerow silhouetted against the sky caught my eye.   Hedgerow, 8×10 oil sketch. 

The farm behind me was a gem.

It was high up on a hill with huge open fields, old trees and views of the mountains in every direction.

The owner and his son stopped by to visit me. He invited me to go up to the top of his field and paint the view. It was gorgeous up there.   Silos and Cows, 6×12, watercolor on Rives BFK.

The farm had an old red barn across the road from a new barn with a pair of navy blue silos.  Pastures on both sides of the road had cows wandering across them.
This place was sublime, with a painting each time you turned around.
Burt’s Farm, 8×12, watercolor on Rives BFK.
For more Paintings & sketches ~ Paint Eat Sleep