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“Afternoon Light on the Marginal Way” 9×12 oil. This is the second painting I finished on Saturday afternoon in the Marginal Way Plein Air Event Ogunquit, Maine last week.


Painting outdoors is always an adventure. Painting in the middle of the high summer season is often exciting. Last weekend I participated in a one day plein air event in the seaside town of Ogunquit, Maine. This wet paint event was hosted by the Marginal Way Preservation Foundation. A small group of five artists painted along the Marginal Way on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to help raise money for preservation of the Marginal Way.
Late August is peak vacation season for Maine, so I knew that I would have throngs of visitors walk by me as I painted on the Marginal Way. It was a hot day, there were no clouds in the sky and very little shade to be found. I decided to paint in the only spot of shade I could find on the Marginal Way, in the shadow of a little light house on the side of the trail on a point of land called Israel’s Head.

When I set up my easel it was almost high tide. The surf was lackluster, it looked lazy, a bit sluggish, but the colors of the sea and sky were awesome. It was a challenge to fit my easel in the shady spot. There was only so much space to set up an easel without having some one trip over it or try to push a baby carriage into it. I really wanted to paint in the shade as there wasn’t even a breeze. I knew I would be able to concentrate better if I wasn’t frying in the sun. I set up my tripod carefully making sure that the legs did not stick out too much into the walk way.  I managed to do a few sketches of different compositions of the views. While sketching five or six people stopped to peek over my shoulder to see what I was drawing and to encourage me.

I pulled out a panel and began to put paint on my palette. Another 3 or 4 groups stopped to look at my paint colors and see if I had started painting. At this point some children ran up excitedly. A painter ! A painter !  They were so disappointed to run around behind me and see a blank canvas!  “Come back later”, I told them. “You will be able to see something then,” I promised.

After Carol Douglas finished her paintings down on the rocks in the midsection of the Marginal Way, she walked north on the path to discover me painting next to the lighthouse. The second wedding party had just arrived and was just starting to disembark from their trolley. They began to gather around the lighthouse and around us. Most of them didn’t even notice us even though they were standing 5 inches away from my easel. They were very focused toasting and cheering the bride and groom. Photo: Marcus Gale

I dipped my brush into some thinned burnt sienna to start my drawing when a large stretch limo pulled up and parked next to me. A bride & groom got out, a minister arrived and proceeded to marry the couple in a simple wedding ceremony in front of me over on the rocks…. yes, they were eloping. This is how my painting afternoon started and continued.  A hundred people and two weddings later I’d finished two paintings. I kept it simple. I stood in one spot and just turned 90 degrees and painted that view, turned another 90 degrees painting that view. Timing is everything when painting outdoors. I was lucky that I finished my second painting just before a trolley pulled up and deposited 50 guests for another wedding party that decided to locate themselves right in front of my view.
It was getting late, the sun was now out of sight behind the trees when another artist, Carol Douglas came walking up the path after her afternoon of painting out on the rocks. We pause for a discussion and decided to stay and paint one more painting as the sun set. As it got dark we packed up our gear and headed out to dinner.

Frank Constantino at the Beachmere Inn next to his watercolor paintings from his two days of painting on the Marginal Way. Photo: Mary Byrom


A gentle reminder for all of you painters out there who were buried in summer activities, travel, and house guests.
The Tuesday afternoon PLEIN AIR class is starting on September 6th. Info in the links below.

This class starts Tuesday, September 6th, 2-5pm, and runs for 6 weeks.  If you want to attend this plein air class Please let me know ASAP to reserve your spot.   Space is limited. Advanced registration is suggested.  Six week session~ $220
Locations : EACH WEEK A NEW LOCATION –  Beautiful locations in the southern Maine and New Hampshire Seacoast region. Register for 6 week session here.UPCOMING EVENTSJay Goldsmith Exhibition at Discover Portsmouth Museum
NOVEMBER 4, 2016 : 5-8 PM

I am included in this show of portraits of artists by Jay Goldsmith.
My portrait by Jay Goldsmith and several of my paintings will be on display.
I hope you can come!



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How to Create Successful Plein Air Paintings

Painting the marsh in Ogunquit, Maine. Oil on panel. 15×30. Available at Beth Ellis Cove Gallery.

I was thinking the other day about how to create successful plein air paintings. When I first went outdoors to paint in 2004 painting the landscape was overwhelming to me.  I would  think about what I saw and what I would choose to paint.  I remember I would be in these gorgeous, awesome places and when I got home the painting wouldn’t even look close to the beauty that I had experienced. It looked like a struggle of paint on a panel. I was painting a picture of my struggle to paint in plein air, not the beauty that was in front of me. I decided I wanted to have more control over the painting and not get over whelmed by the elements.  This idea and a process I went through helped me improve my plein air paintings and reach a certain level accomplishment.

O beach
“Infinity” oil on panel. 11×14″ Plein air on Ogunquit Beach. Available at The Beth Ellis Cove Gallery.

At a gallery opening on Friday night a studio painter shared with me how she is always struggling when she goes out to paint en plein air. As I listened to her I remembered the time when I had my “plein air break through” and no longer struggled while painting en plein air. It had to do with a series of plein air painting experiences and a change that occurred in my thinking.

When I first  painted outdoors it was in the winter.  I had so many failures. I  pretty much had to learn plein air painting on my own. There seemed to be a shortage of plein air painting instructors in New England in the winter. I didn’t have any real guidance. As time went by I had fewer failures but couldn’t really see a method or pattern to my success. I decided I was going to learn how to create successful plein air paintings.  I was going to strategically try specific things to get me on the right track.

Late Light, oil, 4×8 $250. Available here.

The first thing I did was research lots of painters to find one who was accomplished at painting outdoors.  The second step was to find one who offered instruction in plein air painting. It was difficult. Only a few artists offered instruction in plein air painting and most of those were far away in the western states and only offered one workshop a year. I was wait-listed trying to get into workshops that were filled. To be continued….

If you are interested in painting outdoors and learning how to really get good at it join the BRUSH & SKETCH CLUB click here.


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The Days Grow Shorter

3 NOCTURNE 18When I am out painting as the days grow shorter and the darkness expands I notice I look to see where the house or street lights first show up in the landscape. When I am looking across a large landscape during the daylight it can be hard to see where villages, streets and houses are. As soon as the light dims I can see subtle shapes and clusters of land forms. When its dark enough and the lights turn on I can see the streets, villages and neighborhoods.  River Twilight, oil, 11×14, Available @ A Pictures Worth, Exeter, NH.

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Dogs Head at Henry Straters house

Sometimes the best things happen. I was invited to paint Dogs Head, an Ogunquit landmark and I had a blast doing it. At first I thought everyone has painted this! Why should I do it again? Then I took a look at the old paintings and noticed that the dogs head had changed alot! Yikes. The ocean is wearing it away. So I trucked my gear over and got to work. And since Cindy and John were having a party for the Marginal Way Preservation Fund that same day I was served the most delicious gourmet food while I painted. What a blast!

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Plein air at The Beachmere Inn

You are invited …as part of my artist residency at The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit I will give a plein air demonstration & talk on their front lawn. This location and view are the best in town… it’s a “beautiful place place by the sea!” Parking: The nearest place to park is in the public parking lot at the Ogunquit Town Hall. From there it is a short walk over to the Beachmere Inn.

Plein Air Demonstration & talk on the Lawn
The Beachmere Inn
62 Beachmere Place, Ogunquit , Maine
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
5:00 ~ 7:00 pm

Guests are invited to watch Mary paint while enjoying refreshments.
A small selection  of original paintings and prints will be available for purchase.

Beachmere Invitation

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Painting ’til Dark

I just love painting ’til dark. The colors change slowly and beautiful things happen. This weekend I painted the surf at dusk and the July 4th fireworks after dark. It was awesome!

I set up on the huge sweeping lawn of the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine. The view of the beach and the Maine coastline from the lawn is second to none.

I planned to paint small paintings so I could capture the ongoing changes in the light. First, I painted the surf below me foaming over the rocks. A group of little children gathered around me to watch me paint.fireworks 1

Hundreds of people began to appear on the Marginal Way with their folding chairs to watch the fireworks. Everyone was happy and excited!fireworks 2

Then as darkness fell the towns up along the coast started their firework displays. I had a choice of which one to paint. It was beautiful !



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Ogunquit Beach, Perfect Evening

Summer arrived yesterday on Ogunquit Beach, it was a perfect evening. The tide was going out. The temperature was balmy and everyone was in a mellow, relaxed mood.  Children flew kites. Clusters of people played bocci.  Frisbees flew, sail boats glided by and boys on flat boards skimmed across the thin sheet of water left by the receding tide.  Everyone was out for a walk on the huge expanse of sand. The nicest people stopped by to chat. Obeach painting

I headed to the beach hoping for a big showy sunset.  It didn’t happen. It was a quiet sunset with a pink afterglow reflected on the water. I had lots of visitors. I painted several small studies. Here is a start of a tiny one.  I decided to take a picture before it was finished as it was getting dark and I didn’t know when I’d next get a chance. Painting in Ogunquit in the summer requires the ability to really focus! Sail boat O beach



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Plein Air Demo in the Cove

mary demoYesterday I gave a “plein air” painting  demonstration hosted by Beth Ellis Cove Gallery in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine. It was a mob scene when I set up on the docks overlooking the harbor. Summer has arrived in our neighborhood, and there were lots of people walking around, sitting on benches, eating lobster and arriving and departing in sail boats.mary demo3



I painted three paintings in a row. There were two groups of viewers. The first group was mostly artists and they asked very technical questions about materials and procedures. When I finished they spontaneously burst into applause. Pretty funny!  As I was cleaning up my palette the second group arrived looking sadly at the finished paintings on the dock and asking if they were too late.  I assured them I had 30 min left to paint another demo, so they smiled as I started a third painting.

That morning I packed a good selection of small panels in my gear so I could show a series of small finished field sketches to the group, not once thinking that I would have two different groups watching. That was a first.

demo 2 boats

What I observed during the demo is that some people think it’s easy to paint. They believe that you are a born, gifted genius and you just pick up a brush and do it instantly.  (Not true!)  One group murmured “Magic” when the image emerged after a series of brushstrokes. This session was just a warm-up for the big crowds that will gather next week and for the following 10 weeks. Summer is here and the season doesn’t stop till October !

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Beachmere Inn on the Marginal Way

Beachmere 2I am really lucky.  I am the artist-in-residence during the summer at the Beachmere Inn on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine. Beachmere 3

The inn has this incredible long view of Ogunquit Beach and the shores of Wells, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport beyond. Everyone exhales when they see this view.

IMG_1026People come from afar to walk on the Marginal Way, one of the few traditional coastal paths still open to the public in Maine.

6x6 Crashing surf
“Crashing Surf” 6×6, oil. Available at Blue Hill Bay Gallery.




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Painting till Dark in Ogunquit

PAINTING 1Yesterday was gorgeous. I decided I was painting till dark in Ogunquit on the marsh. I went to the Footbridge Beach parking lot and set up as the sun was going down.

MARSH 1I wanted to paint  three small paintings of the marsh as it changed in the late light.

MARY PAINTING 6.1.14I painted marsh painting #1 in bright light. The sun was shinning fully in my face and across the grasses. It was golden and glorious.

MARSH SET UPMarsh painting #2 was painted after the sun was behind the trees so I was standing in their cast shadow.

MARSH PAINTING 2 editedAt this point I had a visitor,  a man who lives nearby and recognized me from last summer. People are really friendly and often say hello when they see me out painting.

MARSH 3 editedThe sun went down behind the horizon and my favorite time to paint began. I love the many stages of dusk until dark. The colors were amazing, subtle and steadily changing – I mixed them totally intuitively and it worked.