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Lions, Deer and Angels at Creek Farm

Around the turn of the century Creek Farm was a big, rambling summer cottage for a wealthy Boston family. It has remnants of formal gardens, long sloping lawns,  a rocky shoreline and a bit of pebbly beach.  It has a cove that was a damned to create a natural salt water swimming pool.
It sits on the edge of Sagamore Creek in Portsmouth. NH, looking across the water to Newcastle, NH.
Two stone lion creatures guard the entrance to what was once a terraced formal garden.
Marcus and I set up on the lower lawn to sketch and paint views of the house …
…and the lions…
Marcus worked diligently on the details of the multi-level cottage.
My sister Ann joined us for the day.  She chose to sit on the lawn in the formal garden where she had the long view of the creek and Newcastle. 
To add to the natural show in front of us, the Blue Angels suddenly appeared in the sky to the west performing a number of dangerously daring formations.   What a thundering roar those engines make!  The stuff plein air painters see is unending! 
As the sun dropped in the sky we decided to pull out the acrylics and go for a few small sketches.
Marcus & I are taping canvas to a board to paint several different sketches on the same sheet.  This is nice simple way to do lots of studies. 
Acrylics are dicey.  Painting a la prima when them is a hoot. I’m using the regular fast drying type.  I have dry paint on my palette in minutes ! Marcus has Golden’s open acrylics, so they are a bit easier  to deal with.

As we prepared to leave, a doe with two fawns wandered across the lawn happily munching their grassy dinner.  They didn’t even care that we were 30 ft away packing up our paints!
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Lobster Boats

When I ‘m in the harbor in the summer there are often a ton of boats around.  Last spring I decided to just do some portraits of them and try to do a “color thing” not a “view thing” with the painting. So I set some rules for myself on what colors I was featuring and how much I could use… really interesting what happens.  I think this type of exercise makes me stretch my thinking…


Here’s one from that series of portraits… Late Morning LIght, 8×10 oil on canvas panel




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Painting at Turbats Creek

I went over to Turbats Creek to see what was happening.  I hadn’t been there since spring. Its an awesome, quiet spot in Kennebunkport…down the end of a dead end lane.
 The first shack on the corner has a sign for the abc Real Estate Company… which probably never even existed. 
This collection of sweep outs blew off their pilings in a storm.  They had to be dragged back and put on new ones….but …. no plumbing or electricity so its a day cottage.  
Marcus set up to sketch the cluster of houses on the point. 
I saw this skiff up near the pilings at the boat launch.
With nice warm sun pouring over the grasses- it was a sight to see. I did an 8×10 sketch of it.
We stayed till sunset.  When its great weather  you have to grab every minute of it.
The tide is so low here that you can walk out to the nearby islands. You just have to make it a short trip so you get back in time, or time it to stay over night with your gear and sleeping bag and catch the low tide back in the morning.  I’ve seen those little groups of campers coming home in the morning…the stuff you hear and see while painting.
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Sketching in New Castle

New Castle is this beautiful little town on an island at the entrance to Portsmouth’s harbor .  Across the water at the mouth of the Piscatiqua River you can see the Portsmouth shipyard and the boats moored at the town dock on Kittery Point . 

We set up near the coast guard station. It was calm and clear this morning. 

The houses along the narrow streets have docks in their backyards that stretch out into the river.

The whole island is a pile of rock like most of the coastline in these parts. I set up to sketch on the top of the bluff.  Marcus set up below me. 

Deb chose the top as well and got right into the subject matter.  Boats & rocks.

There was a dingy and some skiffs moored in front of me.  They moved with the current every few seconds.  So I did 10, 20, 30 sec sketches to capture what they looked like.  

Deb was sketching in watercolors and rotating sketchbooks.  She’d paint in one sketchbook while the other was drying in the sun. 

Marcus had a pile of sketches he wanted to share with us. The boats were a challenge !

We had a  conversation about how to draw the boats and how difficult they can be as they won’t hold still… and there are many shapes and curves to deal with. 

There are different types of lobster boats Marcus discovered as he sketched them… 

…the more you sketch them the better you get at it…

…everyone went back to the drawing board to take another try at it… 

The tide was coming in the sun was moving toward high noon …

The harbor was active, lobster boats came and went. A huge tanker was guided out of mouth of the river by two tugs. These three boats sat in front of us the whole time we sketched.  How lucky ! That’s the big difference between sketching and painting.  What may be plenty of time for a sketch is cutting it short for a painting!


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In the Marshes with Acrylics

It was one of those warm, late summer days so we stayed out to paint till dark… 

This marsh is part of the Rachel Carson preserve and its in the flyway, so near sunset all these migrating birds stop for the  night. Flocks of geese settled in all around us.  

Marcus is working hard at learning to paint en plein air with acrylics.

 A family came by on a leisurely walk. They wanted to see the paintings. Marcus whipped out my canvas sheet of small paintings.  He kept saying I’m a beginner.   I told him to stop saying that.   Who cares ? Everyone is a beginner at some point.  He’s got guts to just try and get out there and paint !

The wind died down. The mosquitos hadn’t found us.  That was nice. 


My sister Ann stopped by and the painting stories and joking started. She was soon off out looking for some lobster for dinner.

I decided I had plenty of light to do another sketch.  Light?!  Who cares about light with acrylics?  I have to paint at break neck speed so the paint doesn’t dry !    

The sun was now completely behind the trees.


A family out for a bike ride to the harbor stopped and had a lively bunch of questions about our paintings and how we chose our subjects. 


We had a pile of visitors and It was a good painting session! Marcus is still trying to decide the best way to fold up the french easel. I think I’ve seen him do it 3 or 4 different ways . Sometimes I think he’s doing it just to make me laugh. Its very entertaining having him out painting with me. 

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Field Sketches at Salmon Falls

Ended up in Rollinsford after a drive over back roads.
I set up behind the mill near the falls. It was quiet there.

The base of Salmon Falls.

I’m warming up on my first sketch.

8×10, oil on panel

I liked painting the waterfall so much I did a larger more detailed one immediately (18×20).  Had to work really fast. It started to rain. Needed my umbrella to finish it.
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Painting in Vermont ~ 3rd Day

Saturday morning we painted, framed and dropped off paintings for the opening on Saturday night.
Tony Conner was hanging the show with the help of his high school volunteer team.


Jane Ramsey arrived right after I did and pulled out her paintings for us to see. We were all working so hard we hadn’t seen anything anyone was painting unless they were near us in the field! 

Tony is giving directions and they are listening.  These guys had to move fast!


Paintings were unpacked, lined up on the tables and Tony would tell the boys exactly where to place them.


They were practically synchronized- it looked like a dance.

Jane wanted our oppinion on which two paintings to enter in the competition. 


Hiu Lai arrived minutes later as Jane’s paintings were being hung – no kidding.  Go Tony- what a pro!  


Bob Lowary explained the reason for the color of the antique glass balls on the lighting rods.


Frank Costantino arrived with more painters right behind him. The show was going up fast! 



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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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Painting Large in the Marsh

OK. Time for true confessions. A while back I used to paint large abstract paintings indoors in a studio.  Then I went out doors to paint landscapes – all the time.  When I studied for two years with Scott Christensen  I painted small paintings – “starts” – hundreds of “starts” outdoors. 

Last year a friend of mine, Stapleton Kearns suggested I paint large paintings again – outdoors.  Plus, Marcus had been bugging me forever to paint large again….so I started to think in that direction. Well, one day it just happened… I was painting in Wells Harbor in the afternoon. As it was moving toward sunset I liked the misty light on the marsh.   

 I parked along the edge of the marsh on Harbor Road. I set up my easel. It was so peaceful and quiet Marcus decided to practice Falun Gong. Here he is doing an exercise called Falun Cosmic Orbit, it is a series of slow, smooth movements. He’s standing near me in a nice spot with a view of the salt pans.
I looked at the view then pulled out a small 9×12 panel, then a 11×14 then I dug deeper into my car studio and pulled out my BIG panels!  Oh no! The only one that would fit on my Easy L was  the 15 x30. So I went with it and threw on the paint fast, with a big brush. 

What a relief it was to paint on a large canvas out doors. There was enough room to say something!

I was having a really good time. So of course the wind picked up and my little easel started to sail away…I had to move it in closer to the back of my car out of the full blast of the wind.

The sky started to do some nice things.  Then I heard a voice behind me taking about me . I glanced around and saw a trolley stopped right in middle of the road. The driver was explaining to the passengers what I was doing  and everyone was leaning out of the open sides looking at me and the painting.   

A guy yelled from the back of the trolley, “I’ll buy it!”  I yelled back, “It’s not done! ”  I turned and went back to painting. I was loosing my light so no time to hang out and chat. 

The sky just kept getting better!   A few moments later a van pulled up and the driver – called out, “Acrylics?”  “No”, I said, ” oils”.   He then said, “Alla prima?  You are good! ” (Now I’m getting the educated passerby, I’m thinking… I paused to ask him if he was a painter; no, high school art teacher)

I love painting big ….but I’m finding it does cause traffic to stop… more tales to come…
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Plein Air in Canterbury, NH

New Hampshire is gorgeous in the summer!  I live near the ocean in Southern Maine but…a short drive from my house takes me into the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We headed up to Canterbury, NH for the afternoon. 
Marcus decided to come along with me to do some sketching.

Here’s the view of the top of the meadow where we parked the car. 

I started to set up and Marcus got down to work a right away.  He’s working on perspective and sight measuring.

He decided to sketch my pochade box all set up and ready to go. He is experiencing the difficulty of designing the landscape to make it interesting and hold your eye.  All that editing.  Much harder than a still life or person.  So at this stage in his plein air experience he picks a specific object or person to sketch and is doing really well.  

Of course here we have 2 sketch books with totally different focuses and purposes. 

 I’m well into the my first field sketch.  I’m painting with my back to the scene to keep the moving dappled sunlight off my canvas and palette.

Here’s the 12×12 , oil on panel. 

The big cross road behind me had a road sign for every destination these roads will take you to – yes, it goes to 
 Boston!  Note the granite post. Up in these hills we see pasture fence posts made out of granite.

A granite watering trough is near the sign. This is a spot to stop and water your horses. The road was once a highway(1700’s?). Its now a country road.   

Here I am taking that step back to see if the design is making sense on my second start.

Here is the cross road behind me that goes to Lake Winnipesaki.

I’m laying in some paint fast on the 16×20 panel. The light is changing, the clouds are flying and  I’m moving fast!  

 As we packed up to head back to the coast heavier clouds moved in over the meadow.  What a great day!