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From the shores of Ossipee Lake in southern New Hampshire you can hear the loons calling from across the water.
It is a beautiful haunting sound, one I don’t often hear living here on the seacoast. 
5:45 PM…. Ossipee Lake, Study, 8×10 oil

I hitched a ride up to Ossipee Lake with my husband who was performing a music concert at a private beach on the lake. Last year I went with him to this same location to paint. 
6:45 PM…Storm Clearing Ossipee, Study, 8×10 oil
It was one of those perfect late summer days. Warm and sunny with a slight breeze on the water.  
Scattered thunderstorms were predicted for the White Mountains of New Hampshire and along the seacoast of Maine. 

As soon as we arrived I unloaded my painting gear and set it on a picnic table in a stand of pines near the water’s edge while I walked around looking for a place to set up . 
Suddenly a gray mass of low clouds moved rapidly across the lake from the west.  It was a column of pouring rain.  
The sun was shinning where I was standing.  Several large rain drops fell for a few seconds.   Everyone on the beach stopped and stared as this bright double rainbow formed a short distance away.
The storm cleared out in a few minutes.  The sun lit up the departing clouds. 

I set up my easel and sketched in my first design.  This evening I had a plan to paint a series of paintings as the sun set and darkness descended on the lake. 
Planning was required for this. I set up in a location where I had a variety of scenes to paint. 

I premixed some of my colors so I could paint really fast, changing colors slightly as I went. I knew I would have enough daylight to finish two studies easily.

The sun began to drop as I was working on my second study. 

The light and colors were beautiful! 

As the sun set behind the White Mountains I made sure I had all my color groups in certain spots on my palette.  
As dusk arrived the lake became very quiet. The wind stopped and the mosquitoes attacked. I painted faster. 

A big camp fire was lighting up the beach. People gathered around and began to sing songs. The music drifted across the water. I could still see the difference between the colors on my palette…but they were beginning to look muted.  
7:45 PM….Camp Songs Study, 6×8 oil
The lavender sky reflected in the water. Lights came on in cottages across the lake. I took out my flash light and put it in my apron pocket. It would be needed soon. Now it was so dark I was almost painting by intuition. I knew where the colors were on my palette.  I could see the values of the paints and by shinning a flash light on my palette every few minutes I could make sure the colors I choose were correct.
8:15 PM… Lavender Evening Study, 6×8 oil
At 8:45 PM it was dark. All the colors I was using looked like gray values. I painted as if I was making a value painting of many grays. I checked my batch of mixed colors with my flash light every few minutes to make sure I was picking up the right color. A voice behind me in the dark asked “What are you doing? Painting?”  It was so dark he couldn’t see the painting till I turned on the flash light.  I put in my finishing strokes and called it a night. By then the stars were twinkling in the sky.
Summer Lake Night Study, 6×8  oil

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Boats & Blossoms in Kennebunkport

Its been a cold spring along the Maine coast.  Spring is arriving in bits and pieces. The marshes along the Mousam River in Kennebunk are still brownish yellow. 

The trees are covered with red buds and still no leaves are in sight. 
6×8 charcoal & watercolor, Rives BFK

The weather is so changeable.  Sunny one day, cloudy the next . Its nice and warm then its windy and cold. 

The harbor in Kennebunkport is beginning to fill up.  These guys don’t fish all winter.  A month ago there was one boat out in the river.  

The clouds overhead dropped rain every now and then so I focused on fast and furious sketching. 

My water brush delivered the perfect speedy color notes.

Mechanical pencils and my little Koi water color set are perfect for a quick set up when you are trying to dodge raindrops.

Moored, 6×10 watercolor on Rives BFK

Plowed fields and blooming forsythia, 3×5 watercolor Rives BFK

It was very quiet on the harbor. No fishermen, no parked trucks, just me sitting alone on a bench painting.

The quiet was broken by this strange, black lobsterboat.  I’d never seen anything like it. As it motored by to me I saw it was the secret service; a retired president is in town… 

Mt Agamenticus and moored skiff, 3×5 watercolor, Rives BFK

Across the street from the harbor a little shop was open for the season.  They were celebrating with blossoms of all colors piled in front on the sidewalk.  A delightful vision of spring and reminder of what is ahead ! 

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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…
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These Old Houses

We had a true Nor’easter yesterday and it delivered piles of fresh snow and a sunny, quiet day today.
Nothing beats snow for the best plein air experience.  On a clear day the air is crisp…
…the shadows are blue and the snow is a brilliant warm white.
I headed over to Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, NH to meet to friends who wanted to paint old buildings in winter light. The collection of old buildings in Strawberry Banke is excellent! 
Meet Chris Volpe and Todd Bonita!… who were all set up and in the thick of it when I arrived.  It was about 20 degrees. These guys were set up painting in the shade as if it was a summer day!   
Todd was painting a view of a small building in a sunlit patch of snow that was rapidly being swallowed by the shadow of a big house.  He was measuring carefully to make sure his drawing and perspective were correct.

Today was the first day of a trial run for a new plein air set up, a Julian half size french easel.
It was a second hand special and missing the palette.  This is the new replacement palette a woodworker at the Button Factory made.  It is very handsome.
Todd used a neat custom made maul stick to get his lines straight on the edge of the building and windows. Don Demers was the artist who passed on this neat idea. Its great to learn and see these unique tools painters use. 
While these guys were painting I was walking around sketching a number of views…

And I dropped into the Banks Gallery up the street near us to see the contemporary American paintings and talk to Jamie the owner.
We had very nice visitors pause on their way through the lane. The Museum is closed until spring.  Many people in the neighborhood enjoy walking through the quiet lanes. 
The afternoon sped by and soon the whole area was in shadow.  The sun was dropping below the horizon and it was beginning to get chilly.  Todd put the last notes on his sketch.
The sky became a peachy color after sunset and the half moon and stars came out.  It was a nice ending to the first plein air outing of the new year.  
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Salt, Sun and Acrylics

Some of you may know that in my secret life I am children’s illustrator . I’ve always used watercolors for illustration. I don’t know why but I reached for watercolors when I was asked to do my first illustration.     
Last year was the first time I used watercolor en plein air when bad weather forced me to work in my car on a painting trip to the Berkshires. This summer happened to be the “plein air trial run” for acrylics. Acrylics?  What’s an oil painter doing painting with acrylics?

 Its all because of Marcus – he wanted to paint with me outdoors and thought acrylics would be easier to start with than oils. So we decided to just dive in and go for it. 
I had a bunch of acrylics in the studio. We grabbed the colors I had and headed to Wells Harbor for our first experiment.The clouds, water and boats were spectacular!

We set up easels side by side so we could take notes from each other.  We taped large sheets of canvas paper to gator board and we each painted 4 small studies on it. This was Marcus’ very first time painting so he’d keep asking, “How did you mix that color?” What a brave guy- and he’s doing this outdoors? Its hard enough to mix colors indoors! 
We discovered we didn’t have any red ! What a hoot! We had blues, greens, yellows, white and black.  We pretended ochre was our red. What a color harmony! Still we could paint recognizable trees, sky and water. 

As evening set in people gathered next to us to fish off the rocks. They were all on vacation and having a great time. The night before one of the girls caught a 20-pound striper, so everyone was hoping for a rerun.

As the sun set and the fishing crowd grew they came by to look at the paintings and talk to us.  Acrylics are very fast drying. No time for chatting.  Not only were we losing our light but our colors on the palette were drying up fast!  
Marcus graciously took over public relations. He packed up his brushes and joked with the guys. 

The clouds started to catch the really warm golden light from the setting sun so I went for a small fast sketch before it got dark. I can tell I am going to really like acrylics. They are like a combo of watercolors and oils. When I get used to this super speedy drying I’ll be fine. I ordered some reds so soon we ‘ll have all the colors we need to make some decent paintings. Let’s just hope we have a nice, long, warm autumn to help out!
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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.