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Spring Road Trip

I went  on a road trip last week to the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.  It was a quick trip that took me into a slightly warmer zone where spring was having a head start compared to my Maine neighborhood. It was lovely to see the red tree buds on the hill sides and Magnolias in bloom in the valley gardens. I love the hills and fields of western Mass. where I grew up in a college town. I brought my water-based paints and sketchbook with me on this trip as I knew my primary objective was to visit family and I would only have little bits of time to paint. In the past I’ve found that road trips can be a mix of irregular weather (yes, this definitely happened), a packed schedule (ditto), and not enough or just enough time to get everywhere and do everything planned. So when I knew I was making this quick trip I packed my sketchbooks, markers and water-based paints.

“Roof Tops” Haiku series. Ink & watercolor. 4×7″.
Photo: Mary Byrom.

We started our trip in the morning.  The sky was blue on the coast and grew increasing cloudy as we headed west. While in the passenger seat, I began sketching and painting as we entered the central part of Massachusetts. There I noticed the gray trees had changed to vibrant reds, greens, and oranges. As we drove through the city of Lawrence I first saw the masses of budding trees changing the color of the landscape. It was amazing! All the tree covered hills seemed to be subtly glowing. I drew what I saw and quickly applied water colors. I had to paint fast. I really like doing this. Its a great memory exercise and its very quick. No time to linger or second guess anything. No correcting or fixing. Its painted and then its on to the next sketch.

Spring in the Mountains”, Haiku series, 5×7 ink & watercolor.
Photo: Mary Byrom.

As  Route 2 climbed into the hills near Orange, the long views of the Berkshires came into view. The colors here are so different from what I see on the coast. The skies were filled with clouds and the distant mountains turned a muted violet blue. The nearby rolling hills turned a deep wine color.  The stands of hardwoods glowed in warm tree bud colors punctuated with spikes of tall green northern pines. I used my tiniest Windsor Newton watercolor set, a water brush and my multimedia Canson sketchbook to draw and sketch. All these sketches were drawn and painted with my sketchbook on my lap while riding in the car.

“Spring Buds”, Haiku series, 5×7, ink & watercolor. Photo: Mary Byrom.

THE PLEIN AIR EXPERIENCE ~ If you like to spend time in nature and are interested in painting outdoors but are not sure you will like it a good way to check it out is to attend a plein air demo. Some people like to paint or draw but feel shy about doing it in a public place. Others don’t have the equipment and want to see what it is like before investing in a lot of stuff they might not end up using. The best way to find out is to watch someone and see how it is done. Come to one of my plein air demos this summer and see for yourself.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE  A DEMO OR  A PLEIN AIR WORKSHOP AT YOUR LOCATION:  I am visiting art groups and associations giving demos and mini-sampler classes. I’m traveling and giving plein air workshops as well. If you or your group would like a workshop please don’t hesitate to ask for details and dates. I have available dates for summer and fall.


MAY 28TH    4-6 pm

JUNE 16TH    4-7 pm

This is a great chance to see how I paint and how I guide you through a plein air painting. If you are thinking you’d like to paint outdoors come to this event. It’s a great sampler of plein air painting. After the demo I will answer questions and share insights.
2016 summer classes “en plein air” begin on May 3rd.  I will be teaching a new easy plein air method in a 6 week block of classes. This easy method really helps beginners get comfortable with plein air painting and it helps experienced painters improve skills dramatically. It’s a tried and true method and its great to see how fast it works.




JUNE 18 2016  10-5
JULY 9  10-5
AUGUST 6  10-5
SEPTEMBER 10  10-5
OCTOBER 8  10-5

All workshops are in southern Maine in the coastal towns of Kittery, York, Cape Neddick, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise. Painting locations include quintessential Maine places including beaches, rocky coastlines, harbors, marshes, farms, historical homes and classic small villages.
These are one day plein air workshops. All workshops begin at 10am with a one hour break for lunch. The day will start with a demo and a short talk on the specific aspects/advantages/challenges of the location.  Guidance will be given on choices of subject matter tailored to each student’s individual painting experience. Students can expect to complete one or more paintings.
Register for a workshop here. Price: $100.

Join my email list for the latest scoop.
See reports from the field here.
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Deep Summer

Jane Ramsey on the Beachmere Inn lawn drawing as she starts her watercolor painting.
Jane Ramsey and I setting up to paint on the lawn above the Marginal Way. Ogunquit, ME

My annual summer artist residency is in an awesome place . The Beachmere Inn has the most incredible views of the Marginal Way and Ogunquit Beach. I love the view of the coast from their front lawn. The skies are amazing. The sound of the surf against the rocks makes you want summer to last forever.

If you are thinking of coming out to paint this summer  you are still practicing in your back yard  (to make yourself comfortable) before you head out, come have some fun and do it with some like minded souls. Join the Brush & Sketch Club here.

For first dibs on everything join the email list here.


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Why does it feel like Late Summer?

Sometimes the perfect moment is fast. July 4th. Fireworks on the coast of Maine. You can look north from the Marginal Way in Ogunquit and see the fireworks in all the towns up the coast.
Sometimes to capture the perfect moment  you have to move fast. July 4th. Fireworks on the coast of Maine. If you look north from the Marginal Way in Ogunquit you see the fireworks in all the towns up the coast. This was painted from the Beachmere Inn lawn. It is in a private collection.

It is moving toward late summer. I can feel it in the air. A few leaves are turning and we have had some cool nights. I’m looking forward to the perfect painting weather August gives us! August session of the Brush & Sketch Club starts Wed Aug 12th  3-6.

If you want to join us shoot me an email.

PS. Don’t forget to join the mailing list so you can see plein air locations and get invites to special friends and fan events.

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Why Painting Outdoors Makes You A Better Artist

Plein air water color sketches 6x8" in my sketchbooks
Plein air.  A view of my sketch book, water color sketches.

Painting outdoors has huge benefits. It is not only awesome and loads of fun , but in the end you actually are better painter, not mention a happy one too. I’m not kidding, it’s incredible! Being outdoors makes you feel great and after you have painted in every type of weather and light condition known to man you discover that after the dust settles you actually have some decent paintings to look at. Don’t just take my word for it. There are piles of studies that show the benefits of being out side.

From 2010 to 2015 I painted outdoors almost exclusively. Every day I headed out to paint under the open sky.  I think this was the most important thing that guided and developed my work. By painting consistently outdoors I developed my ability to see and increased my skills.  So…because I love painting outdoors… I started The Brush & Sketch Club.

What is the Brush & Sketch Club?

The Brush & Sketch Club is an ongoing plein air class practiced in a wide variety of mediums. Each class session lasts 3 hours. We meet at a different location for each class.  Student may work in any medium wet or dry, painting or sketching, with a plein air easel and paint kit or with just a sketchbook,  some pencils or markers, some watercolors and a folding chair.

How does the club  work?

It works like your favorite yoga class. You can purchase a block of 5 classes ($180) and use them on any day a class session is scheduled.  Or if you just feel like trying out a class or being spontaneous and dropping in at the last minute you can pay for a single class.($45)

When does the club meet?

Summer session is posted on my website .  Most class sessions in June & July are on Mondays and Wednesdays, 3-6pm. With a few evenings sprinkled through out the summer.  So we can capture those beautiful night lights!  View Calendar here.

It will put a smile on your face.  Not to mention how you will feel after a day of painting in nature, when you tuck in to a dinner of  lobster, corn on the cob and blueberry pie at the end of a perfect day painting in Maine.

Questions? Contact me at:

Sign up for classes here.

Sign up for mini- workshops here.

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Love Sketching

Fish Shacks  I really love sketching. I always sketch.  I love sketching with grey markers, ink, watercolor, gouache and acrylic. I sketch and paint on a medium thick paper that can handle color and water without collapsing or curling. I think the reason sketching is so special to me is because its fast and easy and doesn’t require a lot of gear.  Its quick, it grabs me and takes me away to a wonderful place.  When visiting a new area sketching invites me to enter into a closer intimate relationship with this location. It sets me free. Its not self conscious. I am not making a picture. I am not going to frame it. I am not making a statement. I am entering into a relationship with what is surrounding me. And what  I choose to put on the page is something that captured my fancy or a whim. I am carefree when sketching. Its a record of where I am at that very minute and nothing else.  Just lines, colors and freedom.


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Tea Party

tea pots

I love a tea party. I love everything about tea. So when I was invited to the Victorian Tea at Parsonsfield Seminary in North Parsonsfield, Maine I put it on my calendar.

M vteaI brought my small sketch book, ink pen and watercolor pencils. I knew I would be pressed for time. I walked around during the lawn concert and sketched the ladies in their fancy hats and outfits!

hats&gowns sketch 7.20.14 hats sketch VT 7.20.14hats sketch 7.20.14When we all went indoors for tea I stationed myself near the kitchens and the tea station where all the fancy food and tea were dispensed from 2 kitchens.

VteaServers brought tea and food to four different dinning rooms. It was impressive!

tea pots sketch 7.20.14I need to go back and paint the tea pots and cups on a quiet day when I can concentrate and paint these lovely objects in oil.

tea pots sketch7.20.14I think a nice autumn day after the hustle and bustle of summer is over would be nice. Especially on one of those days when a cup of tea would be perfect!


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Thinking and moving fast

When I am out sketching, I am thinking and moving fast. You might think that it’s a pressurized situation, but actually its very relaxing. I have my sketchbook, a pen, ink and some water colors. It is very easy. I draw what catches my eye. Then I splash some color on.

Watercolors have a carefree feeling to them. I’m not making a painting, I’m playing. So they are light-hearted and fun!DRAFT HORSE

If I don’t like what I painted I turn the page and do another one, and another and another… One of them is bound to look pretty good!  SUNSET 2

And I am relaxing and getting plenty of drawing practice; that is the best thing a painter can do. Draw!

If you would like information on the Art-venture to sketch and paint in a beautiful spot in north western York County at a Victorian Tea click here!

Sign up here!


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Plein Air Art-Venture

You are invited to a plein air “art-venture” session with me this summer!  An art-venture is when I am traveling light and carrying just the essentials I need for my objective. Soon I will be going to a Victorian Tea carrying my smallest watercolor painting kit. sketchbook 2

It includes a small sketch book, a pen and a pencil, two “waterbrushes,” a mini Windsor Newton watercolor field set, a sponge and a bottle of clean water to fill my “waterbrushes”.  This all fits into a small shoulder bag. watercolor 1

Sometime I bring the bigger Koi watercolor kit with me. It offers options of more color.sketch book 1

Sometimes I bring a bigger sketchbook as this fits easily into my shoulder bag and it doesn’t weigh much.  It’s all about taking half the gear and traveling light!

My first plein air art-venture this summer is on Sunday July 20th!  It’s at a fabulous event in the Maine countryside called;  Victorian Tea.

You can find more information and sign up for the session here!


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You are What you Consume

Everything you hear or see goes into your mind.  It stays there even if you “forget” it. 

Watercolor Plein Air Sketchbook Acadia, ME

Its like sound waves in a wall. The sound from Beethoven’s music he played in a concert hall in 1800 are still in the walls. What does this say about what is in our minds?
Watercolor Plein Air Sketchbook Acadia, ME

One time when I was out painting with a group a fellow painter wanted me to paint standing behind him.  I told him I wasn’t  interested in painting that specific view. 
Watercolor Plein Air Sketchbook Acadia, ME

 He responded by saying that the intent of his suggestion was not for the landscape but to provide me the best view of his easel and what he was doing.

Watercolor Plein Air Sketchbook Friendship, ME

He thought hat I could learn a lot by watching him paint.  Now this is a very kind and generous thought. But…

Watercolor Plein Air Sketchbook Friendship, ME

 …what if I do not want to paint the way he does, or want my paintings to look like his… 

I was thinking about having all this extra unwanted stuff in my brain… 
 I’m having trouble enough trying to paint what I do want to paint … without adding all this other stuff to the mix. 

I also don’t watch TV…but this probably doesn’t surprise you.

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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.