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Is There a Best Time?

When is the best time to paint outside? Now.



Sketch the scene that captures your heart!

I have been out sketching in some beautiful Maine locations this past winter and spring.
WATCH how I work with watercolor, gouache and pen to quickly capture the mood in my sketchbook.  Plus a few tips on dealing with fast changing light. The magic of the landscape makes it wonderful to sketch & paint outdoors in all seasons!
Get outside. Sketch. Paint. Enjoy!

Lets Get Started !

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Art Adventure ~ The Traveling Sketchbook

Art Adventure ~ The Traveling Sketchbook

You are invited


Opening Reception | Thursday, May 31st from 5 to 7 PM  |  Sentry Hill  |  York Harbor, Maine

This show presents a sample of the sketchbook pages from a six week art adventure exploring the world around us in our sketchbooks.

A group of curious, interested, intrepid individuals ventured out into the landscape in late winter to sketch the moods, the land, the architecture and the people they saw.  With sketchbooks, pencils, ink pens, watercolor, colored pencils and gouache they created individual, personal, interesting and charming renditions of the towns, villages and communities we call home.

Coach and Guide  |  Mary Byrom

“The Adventurous Sketchers”

Ruth Ann Fatscher  |  Marcus Gale  |  Judy Guadet  |  Christine Haddad  | Celeste Kelly  |  Zenaida Maicas  |  Sandra Nelson  |  Maryse Newton  |  Annie Noonan  |  Gail Santos  |  Virginia Scudiere  |  Amelia Small  |  Krista Sullivan  |  Susan Wierzba


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Young Artist

I was out at Parsons Beach yesterday working on my marsh series…when I heard a voice near my elbow ask. “Do you always draw before you paint?” 

When I looked up there was a thoughtful boy wrapped in a big red towel.  He’d noticed me sketching…A good habit I’ve gotten into that helps me see the subject matter better and helps me make choices…
Willy draws all the time. He especially like whales and the ocean. 
He said he can draw but painting isn’t so easy…now isn’t that something the rest of us can relate to?  
I told him if he keeps at it by the time he’s 17 he’ll be really good!
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Read it on the streets of NYC !

Since September 2010 my blog is published by the international media company Epoch Times. Every week my blog appears in their online edition
Once a month the NYC edition publishes a print version of my blog.

 My editor and copy editor are great ! 
Here is my editors choice for this month. Enjoy! 

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Quick Sketches ~ A Young Model

This week I finally got to go to a figure group….we did 45 minute sketches of a lovely young girl….I did these on unsized paper …next time I’ll try watercolor paper which will be able to bear more water and techniques…
A bit rusty after doing landscapes for so long….I tried a first one…
6×7 watercolor on Rives BFK

The second pose I left the lights white and liked the effect…
6×7 watercolor on Rives BFK

The third pose was lovely …. Marry Bullock put a halo of stars on her …she became an instant angel !
8×14 watercolor on Rives BFK

Thank you Mary for hosting this group! 
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Spring Comes to Perkins Cove

It was a typical spring day on the coast.  A  huge fog bank drifted in over the land then moved out to sea along with the tide.
Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine is shifting gears from its quiet winter season…

…to the popular summer hot spot it has become.

Everywhere, boats were getting ready for the season.

I  was so busy sketching I didn’t notice the name on this sail boat until Marcus pointed it out…”Quick Draw”.  
This tiny protected harbor has a fleet of lobstermen who are active all year.

The boats were returning from their morning run. 

Traps were piled on the docks. Lobstermen were loading new traps onto their boats.

Freshly loaded and ready to go for tomorrow morning!

Perkins Cove was created by connecting a man-made trench from the Josias River to the sea.

I sat on a bench sketching on Fish Cove, the original harbor the fishermen used. 

Fishermen liked Perkins Cove, and so did artists. In the 1890’s Charles Woodbury founded a popular summer art colony in Ogunquit. His great grand children still live near the cove. 

Perkins Cove used to be busy with fishermen and artists working and selling their art to summer visitors.  Now the former fish houses are little tourists shops.
Marginal Way. 6×6 watercolor, Rives BFK

This is my watercolor kit for the day. Two small color sets and a tiny water jar. I can carry everything in one hand and my pocket.

There are so many tourists in the summer that artists can only easily paint in the cove off season… the town limits the amount of time you can park here during the summer. 

Using my water-filled brush makes quick sketching easier.
Rocks, Perkins Cove. Lobstermen Parking
6×6 watercolor, Rives BFK.  

The S.S. Crusher is the town’s ice breaker. What a face! It is used on cold winter mornings to open the harbor so the boats can go out. In winter the cove freezes overnight because there is so much fresh water flowing into it from the river.
The landing above the docks offered a great view of the cove.

Fred, the harbor master, built his own boat last winter. 
I quickly sketched a few boats. 

The cove has a pedestrian draw bridge. It is the only user operated drawbridge of its type in the US.

The sun came out for a couple of hours drying the watercolors nicely !

Moored in a row. 4×6 watercolor, Rives BFK 
Michelle V. 6×6 watercolor, Rives BFK.
Baby Jess. 6×6 watercolor, Rives BFK.

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Spring Fever

Its happened ! Even here up north where we still have 3 feet of snow in the woods and all over our lawns…it was 52 today and the snow is almost gone from the marshes…

On the Mousam River in Kennebunk, ME the high tide left bits of ice stranded up on the edge of the marsh. The open ocean is just on the other side of that small peninsula.
I decided this afternoon was perfect for sketching. It was so beautiful I wanted to go to as many locations as I could. 
When we stopped at the Rachel Carson marshes in Kennebunk it was low tide.  
It so nice to be out when its  peaceful and calm. There was just a hint of breeze coming up the mouth of the river from the ocean.
Sketching with charcoal on multimedia paper is my latest thing. I like to try different materials and mediums. I’m going to paint these sketches with watercolors back in my studio.
The tides this winter changed the shoreline of the river. Small islands are forming along one edge. Nice shapes…I’m going to paint these for sure! 
Sketching trips like this are great.  I get to scout old and new locations, see the changes and see what catches my eye.  My equipment and supplies are so compact I can carry them in one hand. 
I am a student of the sketching /drawing school..I can never sketch or draw enough.  It is such a liberating activity… free of the pressure to have to make something…
…and I end up really seeing things, sketching them over and over and seeing them differently each time…   
You get to to know your subject intimately, all the nuances of light, weather, temperature, chroma, value… 
It becomes something of yours…something beyond a depiction of a place.  
Marcus drove us around on this sketching expedition. We were traveling instinctively. He turned down a road that took us to the end of the peninsula we earlier saw from the marshes.

At low tide you could walk out to Strawberry Island.
I set up my paints for a quick oil sketch of the sun on the water.
Marcus sketched leaning against the side of the car.

The challenge of this situation was the back lighting and unbelievable reflection on the water.  It was blinding.
I wanted to do a small sketch with just yellow, red, blue and white and mix all my lovely sensitive grays from them.  I’m teaching a color class and want to show them what a limited palette can do.

The last stop on our wander was the town dock in Kennebunkport.

The parking lot was empty. In summer this place is packed with trucks. It was quiet, the harbor was empty, almost all the lobster boats were gone…in dry dock somewhere.
 The tide was coming in and the moon was rising.  It feels like spring.


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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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Spring Skiing & Scouting

Even with chilly temperatures it felt like spring in the White Mountains!  Marcus had a gig in North Conway, NH so I took the opportunity to hitch a ride and go on a sketching and scouting trip.

About 35 miles south of North Conway you get a peek of the Presidentials in their white capped glory.  

New Hampshire is a rugged granite hewn state; this old farm on route 16 had that solitary outpost feeling.  

Forests cover most of the state. The land starts to rise up in Ossipee. 

The view of Mount Chocorua from the shore of Little Lake is a favorite spot of mine. 

The winds are steady here all year round. They flow out of the mountains across the lake.

The sun felt warm and the big snow drifts were shrinking… 

As we approached North Conway and came round the turn down into the Saco River Valley we could see the gash of Tuckerman’s Ravine clearly down the side of Mount Washington.

Up above the village of North Conway the ski trails beckoned….
It was a beautiful day to be on the slopes!  Big and very little skiers were trying their best ….

I found a place to set up at the base of the mountain in front of a lodge. A big granite boulder was perfect for  my gear and sketchbook… 

I was surrounded by skiers arriving from different trails converging on this one spot…

It took a lot of concentration to grab these 2- second poses.  These skiers kept whizzing by…I kept sketching them… filing the pages…it’s a good exercise!

As the sun went down we headed over to a favorite painting spot of mine in town, the Conway Scenic Railroad Station. The railroad cars are all parked in the rail yard for the winter.
This train travels on tracks through the valley heading north through Crawford’s Notch to the top of the ridge. They will start running again in the spring.

The railroad, once a part of the Boston and Maine Railroad & the Maine Central Railroad employed people who lived all over these mountains.   
This region has a lot of rich history and was a favorite of the Hudson River painters. This is a gorgeous place at any time of the year.  

For more paintings….PAINT EAT SLEEP

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Snow, Salt & Canadian Geese

The sun was warm on the piles of snow across the Piscataqua River from Portmouth, NH.
I headed out to my old neighborhood in Kittery,ME for some snow and water views. 

 Darlene Furbush Ouellett and Todd Bonita were meeting me today.

This is a perfect quiet back street location right in town that is on the river.  

Looking north west we could see the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge.

A flock of Canadian geese are settled in here on this bit of marsh for the winter. They think this is Florida !

I scoped out the options and decided on a water view for my painting.

It was warm (35) compared to last week but still cold enough to need pliers to get some of the paint tubes open.

I did a sketch of a finger of water reaching into the marsh. I really like sketching in charcoal.

A second charcoal sketch is of a small peninsula across the inlet from me.

 Darlene set up her paints…

I laid in the design with Burnt Sienna on my panel.  I set up behind my car out of the wind that was coming down the river. 

Darlene set up behind Todd’s car and Todd parked himself out in the open.

I’m putting in the first color notes…

Darlene working fast as the light changes.

I’m adding more color, starting to shape the scene…

Todd painting with a determined stance… looks like he might be fencing with that brush.

I’m keeping my focus, more colors notes are added …

I was dealing with a tidal situation.  The low tide was the most interesting composition so I painted that in early and ignored the high tide…except for the interesting ice chunks it was sending my way…   

Getting close to calling it a wrap… the light was going and the temps were falling…

Its amazing how noticeably colder it gets on a winter day as the sun get lower in the sky.  Of course the colors get really nice at this time so its a matter of knowing how to dress really well so you can stay and paint a little longer.