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Mount Washington Valley

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The White Mountains of New Hampshire are beautiful and a favorite painting spot of mine. There is a magical quality in these mountains and I love being up there in all seasons and any kind of weather. This is the view up the valley from North Conway, NH.

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Deep in Pinkham Notch

 On the east coast of the United States, large rivers create paths through the Appalachian Mountain range. Up in New Hampshire the Saco River begins in a lake up on the top of Crawford Notch in the White Mountains National Forest.  

It flows east down to North Conway creating a open rolling valley named the Mount Washington Valley.
Mount Washington Valley, sketch 8×16 watercolor 

Along the sides of these mountains are groves of white birches. Some mountains are entirely covered with white birch forests.
 Silver Cascade Birches,  8×4 watercolor
The narrow valleys through the mountains created by these rivers are called “Notches”.  They were named by the early colonists because they looked like the notch marks made by an axe when cutting a log.  Beautiful waterfalls cascade down the sides of the mountains through these notches. 
Silver Cascade, sketch 9×12 watercolor

I paint every summer in the White Mountain National Forest for two weeks and still haven’t visited all the great spots. This forest is a popular destination that is easy to reach from the urban areas of the northeast coast.  

While driving to Pinkham Notch I discovered a great painting spot on the banks of a mountain stream near Wildcat Mountain. A series of waterfalls cascade for hundreds of feet down into a narrow boulder-strewn creek bed. 
It was a short 20 ft climb down to the stream’s edge from my car up on the road.  I carried my painting gear down and set it on a large flat rock. 

The streams and rivers in the White Mountains are full of rocks and huge boulders. Some of the rivers have more rocks than water during the summer months. The park rangers warn about dangerous rapidly rising water levels after sudden storms. 
Birches along the Peabody River, sketch 6×6 watercolor
This icy stream carved its way through the boulders and solid rock of the mountain side. 

I found a nice relatively level spot and set my easel up right next to the water.
Around mid-morning the mountains started making clouds. The mountains create their own weather. 
I started work on my first painting of the day; a view looking north up the river as it flowed down into Pinkham Notch.  

Looking North, sketch 5×8 watercolor

As the sun moved higher in the sky the stream bed emerged from the shadows of the trees. 

 Small Pool, sketch 4×5 watercolor
Groups of cyclists pedaled up the mountain on the road above me. 
I was surrounded by the sound of falling water. 
As the day grew warmer people arrived! My painting spot was also a favorite swimming hole for families. The temperature started to rise toward midday. It became warm. I put my feet in the cold water. Awesome! 
The sun soon moved to the other side of the ridge. The stream was in deep shade.

Icy Mountain Stream, sketch watercolor  9×12

I start placing my color notes as the afternoon shadows moved across the creek.

The water pouring over the rocks appeared pure and cool.  The filtered light and shadows were changing constantly.  
At 6:30 pm I called it a wrap. The sun was behind the mountain and everyone had gone home. I didn’t want to leave this lovely wild place. I packed my gear and headed back up to my car.  I’ll be back!
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Waterfall on the Wildcat

  This summer I am having a love affair with waterfalls. 

It started a week ago at the Mill Yard in Amesbury MA. where Marcus performed a music concert

…and a nice crashing waterfall (that once powered the mills) cooled the summer evening air as I painted it.

The following week I discovered a number of waterfalls on my way to painting locations in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 

 Early Saturday morning on my way north to Pinkham Notch I stopped in the village of Jackson, NH. 

There the rushing waters of the Wildcat River flow over rocks and ledges creating Jackson Falls.

 This is a popular spot and has been since since the 1800’s. A bathing pool was built into the river for summer visitors to enjoy the cool waters.
 The river runs right through the center of the village and is designated a national  “Wild and Scenic River” .

The Jackson Historical Society is located in the village near the river.  This old snow roller was sitting right next to the river. 
 I knew what it was ! I first saw one of these in a painting of a winter scene by Rockwell Kent.  Interesting how much you can learn from viewing art. 

The trail to the lower falls of Jackson Falls is well marked and cared for by volunteers. 

A little gazebo sits in a park on a grassy spot along the trail.

As you walk closer to the falls the land gets rocky.  A small bridge crosses over a stream of water that was diverted into a channel away from the center of the falls.
The water is cold, sparkling and crystal clear.

When I reached the end of the trail to the lower falls, I was looking up at gushing plumes of white frothy water cascading over a huge sloping wall of rock.

To paint I had to balance and carefully prop myself in between a couple of large boulders.  
The falls created a lovely sound of rushing water.
I was practically sitting in someones very nice back yard! The trail provides a public right-of-way along the edge of private property.
I was safely tucked into an area full of deep cracks and crevasses in the rocks. I had to wedge my gear carefully between the boulders and set my watercolor box on top. 
The water was several feet away from me, constantly splashing, bouncing and flowing by.  

It was very peaceful to sit still and concentrate on capturing the moving shapes of the water.

People climbed out on the rocks above me from the upper falls. The more adventurous ones climbed up and down the falls jumping from rock to ledge. 
For myself, I had enough to focus on painting and staying balanced on the boulders…and not fall down in between them!

I was careful to not make sudden moves that might send my supplies down into a narrow deep crevass.

Sitting was best in this situation.There was really no obvious place to set up an easel in a spot that I liked. The grassy level spots are all further down the river. 
I loved the place. So do a lot of other people…there was a flow of visitors enjoying the falls the whole time I was there. 
Jackson Falls, 9×12 watercolor on aquarelle.

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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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Mountain Snow & Roast Lamb at the Hodge Podge Lodge

 There was plenty of snow in the White Mountains when I packed up my gear and loaded it into the car.
The sun drifted in and out of the clouds, making the mountains along the Kangamangus Highway look mysterious . 
Main Street in North Conway, New Hampshire was sunny and warm, the sidewalks were packed with tourists.
The road up to Cranmore Mountain was packed with cars. 
It looked like everyone was on vacation…  
Here’s my big painting kit for the day ! A black fine line pen, a Koi 24 color water color kit with a water brush and my 6×8″ sketchbook.
I had a real tight schedule. My husband Marcus was performing a concert in the lodge and I had one hour to sketch and paint whatever caught my attention…
Some very nice shapes were formed by the curve of the mountain and the bands of trees as they draped down the slope.  
4×6 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper
I walked around and looked up the ski trails.
I loved the dramatic views and sweep of the snowy slopes…
4×6 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper

My car was parked in a spot with great views…so…
I set up and proceeded with the “JaneRamsey ” method of watercolor painting in freezing weather…on the heated hood of my car!  Brilliant…it kept everything warm and liquid.    
The sun began to get low in the sky… nice shadows formed…heck it was only 3:30 pm !
Still the light on the trees was hazy and golden.
4×6 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper

I went up to the bottom of the slope to watch the skiers coming down.
What angles some of these folks formed.
6×8 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper
Every so often this snow machine towing this sled full of tiny skiers went by with instructors holding on to them tightly so they wouldn’t fall off.
The ski “life guards” had the best form.  I could have sketched them all day. Very casual, fast and elegant. They would come swooping down the slope holding both ski poles off to the side in one hand… 
4×6 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper

The teenage boys were interesting.  They could go fast at an angle but were a bit ragged in their form… 
6×8 pen & watercolor on 90 lb paper
Marcus finished his concert and we packed the car and headed out of town to Beth & Nordel’s Hodge Podge Lodge. 

The lodge is the sweetest place you ever saw… after traveling a mile and half into the woods on a snow machine…
…the welcoming fire in the wood stove and the campy feeling were perfect !
Alan, Vitali and Owen were watching dinner as it was cooking… guests were arriving and lamb roasted in the piney woods was on the menu for New Years Eve.  Happy New Year everyone! 
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Snow Painting Gear

At dawn in Sugar Hill, NH. , at 6:30 AM its -4 and I’m up checking the weather conditions for the day.

I paint out doors year round in New England. I live on the coast of Maine where I often have to deal with wind off the water so that figures into my clothing plan . For snow painting in the mountains it was pretty clear cut. I brought almost everything I had for high tech clothes and a few tried and true favorites .

Here is our group of painters each with their choice of cold weather garb. Boots are the most important piece of clothing. They need to be good for at least -100 and a -145 rating- this means you won’t get cold feet while standing still for hours. Painters on this outing who did not have the right boots (-45 didn’t work) got cold standing on snow. One painter put foot warmers in her boots and that kept her warm. Most of us had these monster boots and did not get cold feet . Cabelas and Sorrel makes boots like this that work. They are called Pac boots and are fine for dog sledding across Alaska.

Here is an example of a very cheerful painter whom you can barely recognize due the amount of clothing they are wearing! She is wearing a wool hat, neck combo specifically made for this trip. Many painters were wearing down parkas on this trip . Others were wearing wool jackets with insulated overalls. Two hats layered were not unusual.

What I used for this trip … I wore a layer of cotton against my skin, (sometimes I wear silk) then a cotton turtle neck, a thin down vest, a thick wool sweater,a wind proof polar tech vest, a polar teck neck gator, a polar tech head band , a polar tech hat , a down parka and topping it all a wind proof shell. On the bottom I wore cotton sweat pants, polar tech pants over them and wind proof polar tech pants on the top layer. I have down pants but wanted layers in case I got too over heated. On my hands I wore fingerless wool gloves. I was very toasty – had to take off my hat and paint in the shade when the sun was out.

This trio of painters are wearing down and 2 of them are wearing 2 hats . You can see they don’t look cold.

The camoflage unit on this painter was duck hunting gear. He knew it would work for painting if it worked for sitting in a duck blind for hours. It was totally insulated. Everyone was very puffy and needed to pull off layers when we went indoors.

Here is what indoors looked like…cozy and warm, the world we entered after a day of painting!

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The White Mountain Painters

Snow painting is for the hale and hearty. It is a totally rewarding experience. The right equipment to keep you warm and comfortable in these cold temperatures is important.

Snow clouds moved in across the White Mountains in the late afternoon to bring a sprinkling of the white stuff at dawn.

The Sunset Hill Inn where we were “camped” is an old historic inn with a great off the beaten track location. It was perfect as a snow camp base.

During the day the clouds would come in and drag across the mountain peaks leaving a layer of white . They left a visible snow line.

It was snowing fairly steadily so I painted this sketch under the roof of the large porch on the back of the inn.

Nancy and Susan concentrated on their paintings as the temperatures dropped and the air grew damp.

Dennis and Will went for the total New Hampshire winter plein air experience in falling snow. They had favorite spots where they painted out in the open meadow.
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Snow Camp in Sugar Hill, NH

Big adventure ! This past weekend I headed into the white Mountains of New Hampshire with a group of plein air painters to paint with the snow man himself Stapleton Kearns.

Here Stapleton, Ginger and Susan are heading out to find a good spot to set up .

This location on Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill in wonderful. The top is open meadows with the White Mountains to the east and the Green Mountains to the west. The sun moved in and out of thin clouds all day.

Stapleton is in his element painting snow. He is pictured here comfortably painting in 11 degrees temps.

Dennis and Willek set up and painted down in the lower meadow.

At the end of the day as the sun set and the temperatures dropped the mountain tops began forming small pink clouds on their peaks.