Posted on 9 Comments

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. 

9 thoughts on “Painting While Driving

  1. Mary, this series is incredible. What a challenging project and what a great outcome. I’ve got to ramp up my sketchbook project now.

  2. Thank you Kay! It is so great to do this – you’ll love it.

  3. Painting while driving?!? That sounds worse that texting and driving. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Honk of you Love Jesus, text and drive if you want to meet him today”

    I wouldn’t want my children to say, “I want to die peacefully like my father when he was painting, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

    All kidding aside, this is really great stuff Mary, I may purchase a set of these Niji Watercolor brushes. I plan on “pulling over” when I sketch.

    –Robert Goldsworthy

  4. Robert, Too funny! I thought “painting while driving” was eye catching…as so often I see people texting , putting on make up, etc. while driving. Yikes!

    You’d love the water brush – just get a large one- large to them means medium.

    If you can’t get a personal driver (I’m lucky) try painting or sketching from a boat or train so you can paint on the move. It raises the bar on using your visual memory.

  5. I already order a set of 3 from Amazon.com 😉

    –Robert Goldsworthy

  6. Mary, this is really inspiring me!!! Thanks for posting – I love the work, too!

  7. Love your watercolor sketches. Simple, direct with great design. That’s the trick…knowing how to fill the paper while on the move. brilliant!

  8. Thank you Julie ! I have piles of these from various road trips. So many paintings to do and so little time to post them!

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