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The Sketchbook & the Bullet Journal

This is a watercolor from my sketchbook series. I am in the process of reviewing all my sketches and watercolors for a new project I am working on in 2017.  I love that I have these piles of visual diaries of everywhere. What a treasure trove! “Red Fish Shacks”. 6×8 watercolor. Original $175. Limited Edition Prints $35  Available.Photo: Mary Byrom


Its so early in the new year it doesn’t feel real yet. I always go through this when I’m writing the date in my bullet journal. I don’t know if I’ve talked much about it but I love my “bullet journal.” Over the past year it has brought me full circle and it’s really keeping me organized. I love that it’s analog and is so organic that I can design it to fit my needs and my always changing life.

I discovered the bullet journal on my instagram feed. All it took was seeing one picture of it to grab my attention. There was something about its old school approach that brought everything back down to earth. It is almost meditative to keep one. In contrast to the sped-up electronic gadget world that we live in this feels positively organic! I have a field sketchbook that goes every where with me and now, and I have a bullet journal that accompanies it!


I kept a daily journal when I was 6 or 7 years old  But I never used it to keep track of things. I used it to report things after the fact. Keeping a bullet journal is the opposite, I design how I keep track of things, how my life activities are organized and then review everything to see how it turned out. Thoughts and perspective are still part of the process but is sure feels good to have a track record that I can look any time I want to evaluate how I’m doing.  I list everything I think I need to keep on track from simple daily and weekly stuff to long term, big picture stuff. The bullet journal is full of ideas, tasks, structure and total freedom. How’s that for the perfect tool for a creative type?

I tape things into my bullet journal that I’m sure I will need again. Like the name and size of the multimedia board that I want to reorder. Photo: Mary Byrom

I love this process.
Right now I use 5.5 x 8.5″ Canson Universal sketchbook for my bullet journal. It is a perfect fit for me. I draw and sketch all the time in my bigger sketchbooks with heavy multimedia paper in them, so I can paint in watercolors, gouache or acrylic if I feel like it. I sometimes draw every day  in the big sketchbooks and I now write every day in my bullet journal. I don’t journal or use the small sketchbook the way the urban sketchers do. I’m not recording or journaling my day in pictures in these small books. I’m using them for thinking and creating form and structure in my life. Bullet journaling helps me direct and harness the unending creativity that pours out of my mind and keep track of all the many helpful things I encounter and would forget it I didn’t write them down. It helps me manifest my ideas into 3D reality. Not one of the electronic apps I used for the past several years could ever work as well as this does. It was eye opening to experience the benefits of the process. I totally understand why it is so popular with so many people.


I’m getting freer with my design of my bullet journal this year. I’m including more open, unplanned space in it to think things out. This is what I love about this. I used it one way for the past year and noticed that I needed more space for thinking and development of ideas. What I learned was that as an artist I do many more things per day (that need listing) than someone who has a basic 9-5 job. All my work and life details go into my bullet journal. It’s headquarters for keeping everything on track. I couldn’t believe the difference it made in my increased productivity last year. I also noticed I didn’t have the feelings of overwhelm I sometimes have when I’m so busy that I’m just going from point to point to get things done.  I am beginning to have more down time as a result of my bullet journal. Now as I’m reviewing last year and deciding on priorities for 2017 it is really making a difference in how I’m making my choices.

NEW PRINT RELEASED THIS WEEK … on my site on Fine Art America

“Deliverance” is now available in a variety of sizes as a high quality giclee.

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



Class meets WEEKLY on Tuesdays 10am  – 1pm.
The 2017 session will be focused on drawing perspectives, developing design, developing your color “voice” and painting large landscapes from plein air studies.
Register for 6 week STUDIO CLASS here.

If you are interested in joining the class that begins January 10, 2017 and have questions, please contact me here. 



I will be hosting a painting demo, artists talk and pop up sale in the quiet, beautiful time of the year – January !  (I’m watching the long range weather reports – which may or may not help on choosing the date…we shall see!)
I will have small paintings from my haiku series and selected plein air landscapes available for purchase at unbelievable price points! If you are looking for paintings of the seacoast region – you will find them here.
This will be a fun & wild pop up happening!
If you love tiny paintings, adventure, unusual locations and hot chocolate this event is for you.
If you would like to receive the date, location and time of this festive event please click here! 
This event is by invitation only. Get your invite here ! 



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Souper Supper in Parsonsfield

 Last week I received an invitation to supper in Parsonsfield, Maine.

Parsonsfield is a pretty town nestled up against the New
Hampshire border in the foot hills of the White Mountains.

The drive north from my house goes through the small towns of Alfred, Waterboro and Limerick…

This was a perfect opportunity to sketch some sequential landscape sketches in the car on the way… no, don’t worry I wasn’t “driving and sketching”…

I brought my Koi watercolor box and water brush….My sister Marcia drove and I sketched bits of the passing scenery.  What a challenge !

You could tell we had a rough winter.  The pot holes were huge!  We bounced and jolted as we drove along.  Somehow I managed to keep my hand fairly steady and my pencil on the paper.  When we spotted a nice place to pull over along the lake in Waterboro, Maine we stopped and I added some color to the sketches.

While the car was moving I made little color notes with my watercolor pencils. When we stopped it was easy to paint.  I love my watercolor brush!  It is so perfect for these quick sketches.

It is noticeably colder at these little inland lakes. They are still covered in ice and snow with a bit of open water where they are thawing around the edges…  

The ice fishing houses were lined up along the lake front.   I used to wander around every winter looking at houses like these on every lake and pond.  I like the funny, small villages they form magically in the deep of winter…

It is really spring despite the snow and ice.  The sun was warm and I felt like staying for a few hours. 

 All my gear was set up on the tailgate within easy reach.  

Time passed. Soon shadows stretched across the ice.  Suddenly I remembered we needed to get to Parsonsfield for dinner at 6:30pm.  

I packed up, we hopped in the car and headed up to Limerick.

As the road climbed higher into the hills, the snow got deeper. 

When we came to the top of the ridge we looked down on a snow covered lake with the snow capped Presidential Range of the White Mountains in the distance.

It was magnificent ! I sketched and painted as the sun dropped behind the mountains and the air turned chilly. 

It was almost dinner time.  We couldn’t linger any longer. We were 2 miles away from Parsonsfield Seminary. 

 The parking lot was packed when we arrived.

The kitchen was a flurry of activity and the aroma of delicious food filled the air. 

Music poured into the hallway from the dining room. On one end of the room was a tiny stage with three musicians singing, strumming, fiddling and bowing away…  

We were guided to the last available seats at a long crowded table. We sat down to baskets of homemade hot biscuits, & cornbread, steaming bowls of clam chowder, corn chowder, chicken soup and chili, green salad, and glasses of punch.  When it was time for dessert trays of gingerbread and molasses and sugar cookies were served with hot coffee.      
 This was the perfect end to a fabulous day.  I love the Friends of “ParSem” !  Now I know why they are so popular. The last time someone served me food like this was when I was little and my mom made it!
Waterboro, Limerick and East Parsonsfield.
1 1/2″ x 2″ sketches, pencil & watercolor on Rives BFK 

Waterboro and Limerick.
1 1/2″ x 2″ sketches, pencil & watercolor on Rives BFK 

Waterboro and Waterboro Lake.
1 1/2″ x 2″ sketches, pencil & watercolor on Rives BFK 

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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  

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Watercolor Workshop en plein air at Canterbury Shaker Village

I have a few workshops coming up in some gorgeous places….

The first one is The Sketchbook Journal – sketching and painting with watercolors in Canterbury Shaker Village, Canterbury, NH. 
The workshop is May 22nd & 23rd.  

This workshop is great for all levels.   

You will get a chance to try a number of techniques. Materials list available.

  The setting is spectacular with great open meadows, interesting architecture, and big sky action. 

Of course these pictures were taken a few weeks ago, when we are up there painting all the leaves will be out, the flowers will blooming and sheep will be dotting the hillsides…

Come paint some juicy paintings !  

To see more samples of some of plein air watercolor sketches check out  Field Sketches
You can get all the details for the workshop at  Canterbury Shaker Village
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Sketchbook Class At Sanctuary Arts

Sanctuary Arts & Green Foundry is an art school and foundry in Eliot, Maine. The school offers great classes for adults and children. The foundry is a fine art sculpture and teaching facility that is famous for fabricating the Robert Indiana HOPE sculpture for Obama at the Democratic National Convention.

This is where I am teaching a sketchbook class for the winter semester. The main building was a church. Christopher Gowell a well known sculptor, owns and runs the school.

Here is the main entrance to the class rooms and studios . Steven Lee sculpted the head planter near the door.

Here is the large studio where I hold my class. The windows are 2 stories high. There are lots of sculptures in various stages of completion.

Here are my wonderful students hard at work. They are sketching with ink. This class prepares them for sketching and painting while traveling or out and about in the world. It’s about how to do art while smack dab in the middle of your life and end up with something nice. The class helps one establish good habits for sketching and painting. Its about learning to see and developing a good critical visual sense.
This is a multi stage exercise using parts of landscapes images to depict form and compose a design. Here the students were using watercolor on ink sketches completed earlier.

Here we are doing an exercise that we would do after coming in from a day of traveling and sketching when we couldn’t paint on location. We add color or water to ink or watercolor pencil sketches using our notes and fresh memories of what we sketched that day for reference.

These exercises are fun and require their full attention. And water soluble, move able ink is one of the best things an artist can use for quick, great value sketches. Here is one of those great watercolor pencil sets with 100 + colors. For color notes on location it can’t be beat… unless you have the time and a spot where you can to set up and actually use your paints!
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Thunder & Tobacco

I took a short road trip to Hatfield & Whatley, MA; small towns in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts. Thunder storms rushing in from the Berkshires shortened my painting and sketching time. A field and tobacco barn in Whatley before the rain hit.

It was really great to see these clouds roll out of the foot hills across the flat area of the Connecticut River Valley. You could see the lightening and hear the thunder from clouds way back in the Berkshires.

Here are the super quick sketches I did of the edge of the storm just arriving and after the rain at the diner ( with gray tone markers and a field sketch water color box.) I am trying out at least 5 brands of paint right now. This is Sakura. Nice handy box and great water barrel brush but the colors don’t touch Daniel Smith’s.

I had no time to even set up to paint when the rain hit and blasted through the valley. By the time we got to the Whatley Diner everything was drenched and the sky was beginning to clear.

The next morning on our way back to Maine cool air and puffy clouds were floating above the fields in North Hatfield. It was a perfect summer day.

A quick road and barns sketch with the Sakura Koi box. These are all on basic all purpose drawing paper.

The tobacco barns are such nice classic worn structures and add a strong visual geometry to the wide vistas.
On this short trip time & weather limited me to sketches and watercolors . The last two sketches are the same location slightly different design and with Daniel Smith colors. Love these paints. I can use any old brush, any old paper and the colors sing. If I ever meet Daniel Smith I will hug & kiss him !

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Acadia National Park ~ Rain in Paradise

Acadia National Park was in fog and rain for days on end.

We set up to paint on the shore of Eagle Lake. Everyone was on vacation and the carriage paths were full of families biking in the rain. Who cares! The little kids loved riding through the big puddles getting soaked.

My rain set up on the beach of Eagle Lake.

Vicki painted from the carriage path parking lot at Eagle Lake.
I’d dash out in-between the raindrops to make sketches of Eagle Lake.

The tide was rising on Schoodic Point but the sun didn’t break through the bright fog.

I came home with 16 field sketches and Marcus looked at them and said, “Who wants a painting of fog and rain? “ Too funny!

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Loosening Up in Kennebunkport, Turbat’s Creek & Cape Porpoise, Maine

Early evening on the lawn of the Breakers I did a quick sketch to focus and decide on the motif of my painting. It was a beautiful, calm evening, a pleasant temperature, with a bit of sunlight hitting the trees. I was looking north into the harbor with clouds along the horizon.

There was a large party closeby on the lawn under tents and I wanted to do a 20 min field sketch. I knew I’d have interruptions and knew I’d also loose my light real fast!

I started out following the sketch. I painted on a 6×8 panel. I was about 15min into it placing a couple of boats in the fore ground when I decided the detailing of the boats was making the composition look cluttered. I was getting more onlookers at this point and people were starting to chat so I put a few highlights and accents in and called it a wrap. Here’s the finished pochade. (Kennebunkport Harbor Evening , 6×8, o/p SOLD)

The next day I went to Turbat’s Creek to paint and the place was awesome – a piece of old Maine seacoast tucked hidden in Kennebunkport! I walked around and looked at all the different views. There were many paintings to be painted at this great location.

The top sketch is of some of the fish cottages on Turbat’s Creek. My focus was the great looking fishing shacks.

The lower sketch is looking out to sea at the mouth of Turbat’s Creek.

These two sketches also made at Turbat’s Creek were looking north out across the creek toward Vaghan’s Island and east toward the tip of the island and the mouth of the creek.

A week later, I decided to do a color exercise with the black and white sketches.

I usually use the sketches on location as I paint my oil field studies but here in the studio on a rainy day I limited myself to a different palette of colored pencils. It was a great exercise. And it really makes the mind work when the color you want is not available to use nor can you mix it!

Checkout the difference in the colored pencil and black and white sketches above – these are the original sketches with color added.

It was a challenge to not have my usual three colors (yellow, red & blue) at my disposal to mix any color I wanted. It was also a great way to see how I think in color and how I use color. I was stuck with using a pencil of a fixed color to try and substitute it for another color I would normally mix to get the effect and mood I was after. It was fun and liberating to do this exercise !

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Did some good sketches today but I’m still thinking about the dimensions of the paintings. Don’t think I’m a “standard size frame” painter.