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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. 
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Wind, Weather & Paint in Vermont’s Green Mountains

High up in the Brandon Gap in the Green Mountains the loudest sound is cascading water.  An occasional car goes by on the road that follows streams that rush down the gap into the valleys on each side.  

This road is paved all the way through to the other side of the mountains. Some of the other routes that criss-cross the mountains are so steep and twisty that they are closed from first snow to last snow. With narrow hairpin turns its impossible to plow them.  

Near the top of the gap close to the AppalachianTrail I found a trail that went straight into the national forest. 

One of these rushing mountain streams flowed under this trail through a culvert.

The trees at top of the ridge were almost bare.  

It was heavenly. It was so quiet. 

 The weather was changing so I got as much vital information as I needed then moved on to my next location. 

The next morning when I woke up… of course it was raining.

My friend Andrew joined me for a day of painting so our plan was to set up in a spot near our cars so we could get out of the rain if need be.  

It was needed…
The start of my sketch of Liberty Hill Farm,  11×14 oil on canvas panel.

About midday the weather began to clear so we headed up into the gap.  Half way up there was a beautiful long view through a large meadow.  A lake nestled at the upper end of this valley .  We had typical mountain weather. Periods of sun and clouds moved through creating dramatic light. 

Sunny patches moved across the mountain range making great shadow patterns… Minutes later we’d be socked in clouds… 

 The wind was fierce as the weather cleared so we drove our cars on to the edge of the meadow and set up behind them to keep our easels from blowing down. 

We sketched fast as the light was changing …

and the sun was setting !

Sketch ~ Cool Gray marker on 98 lb. paper.

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Painting in Vermont ~ 2nd Day

We had a little sun & lots of clouds on our second day of painting. 

I set up on Main St with a view down the hill toward Mount Anthony.  

There were some nice shadows and light so I blocked it in fast.  It didn’t last long then more big clouds rolled in. 

People were dropping by all day to see the painters at work . Jim & Jeannette Gurney were down the street from me at the crossroads in the town center.

When I arrived Jim was painting with a mall stick and a sable brush…this guy is into refined detail ! 

Jeanette was painting in watercolors behind him.  They were both painting the Powers Market.  I loved Jim’s “Art Dept” orange cones…   they are so “official looking” they keep the coast clear of parked cars in big cities.   Go Jim!

Here is a close up of Jim’s painting.  A real gem. 

The next painting location we headed to was behind Park-McCullough where we found Andrew Orr set up and splashing paint!

I set up down the lane behind him…

…where I could get a view of the barns and meadows… 

…and I drew it in as fast as possible as sunset is early these late summer days.

Finally the sun broke through a short while later and, wow what a difference! 

I’m working fast.

The horses loved having the painters around – these must be some of the most intelligent, gentle horses I’ve ever met. 

They frolicked in the sun as we all painted like mad!  Day 2 was ending fast! 

Check out James Gurney’s blog on his hot reports of North Bennington Plein Air….
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North Bennington, Vermont Plein Air

I just returned from painting in Vermont at the North Bennington Plein Air Competition . Marcus came along to sketch and take pictures when I was too busy painting. It was great!

Check-in was at Taraden B&B where the event was held in a huge barn on the property.

Minutes after we arrived artists Jane Ramsey, Ruth Randall and co-director Bob Lowary showed up.  
The barns on this property once housed a large amount of dairy cows.  They are completely renovated inside with the original exterior intact.  Perfect!

Taraden sits on acres of land full of open meadows, trails, trees and views of the Green Mountains. 
 We were early for the check-in, so we took a ride up Burgess Road to scout out the dairy farms and the view of Bennington from the high ridge.
When we returned to Taraden we found Tony Conner and James Gurney hanging out in front of the barn.  Everyone was arriving and boarding….

…a large wagon hitched up to a pair of huge American Cream horses.

We all got on board and the guided tour of North Bennington began.
The center of town has all these old mill buildings built right along the river. 

While the wagon was rocking and rolling around town Jim continued to sketch away – what a trooper. I was busy just trying to keep the camera steady.

These barns housed a black smith shop. Now they are full of repaired lawn mowers, bikes, cross terrain vehicles and anything else that needs fixing…  
After our horse drawn wagon tour of North Bennington, Marcus & I walked up a trail to the top of the ridge behind Park-McCullough. 
At sunset the sun finally broke through the cloud cover that rolled across the mountains all day.

Looked like we might have a nice sunny painting day for tomorrow. 
Check out James Gurney’s blog of  hot reports of North Bennington Plein air
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A Hint of Color

On this trip I sketched and painted my way across Massachusetts, part of New York state right along the Mass. border and up into Vermont from Williamstown. If I had more time I would have continued north on Route 100 inVermont . I used to live in that area, it is gorgeous.

This farm in western Mass was perched on the the top of a ridge that over looked a valley filled with old farms. Its pasture was filled with ledges of granite poking through.

On the way north into Vermont from Williamstown you instantly know when you are in Vermont. The place has a different feel. I pulled off on a dirt road that ran into fields near the race track and the view of the surrounding mountains was beautiful ,quiet and peaceful.

The valley opens up to long views of the mountain range that runs north to south to the west. There were spots of early trees turning yellow and orange.

The field grasses were all that golden color and you could feel fall in the air.

The road would rise and twist as it made its way through the valley.