Friday, October 29, 2010

Painting the Perfect Maine Island

The ferry ride from Rockland, Maine to the island of Vinalhaven is about an hour and 15 minutes long. When you get there you feel like you've traveled back in time about 30 years.
You can't figure out why. Its a funny feeling you can't quite put your finger on.  First of all there are only about 1300 people on the whole island.... the town is full of old New England houses and the views are quintessential coast of Maine. 

I went here to paint as a friend recommended it as "untouched", "the real Maine".  I've been to Monhegan painting ... this is the real deal...a Maine plein air  paradise!

  There was so much to paint.  It was a visual overload.  Every view had that wonderful Maine flavor.  Old granite docks, fish shacks, houses clustered against the rocky hillside, a multitude of  tiny islands strewn across the bay and those spiky pine trees everywhere.  

When we arrived on a Monday afternoon- the Main Street was quiet & empty...  No people, no cars.   The ferry terminal gave us a map so we could find our way around.  Good thing as there was no one to ask if we were lost...

The town dock and the harbor were the only places that showed signs of life.  Boats were coming in with the day's catch and  pickup trucks were all lined up at the dock waiting for their owners.  

I headed off immediately to scout out painting locations.  The island is sprinkled with old granite quarries. It's famous for its granite. The Washington Monument, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine are built of Vinalhaven granite.

It has this wonderful variety of islands of all shapes and sizes. 

Pointy dark green pines grow on any bit of earth on top of all this rock. 

Docks and wharves are built of solid granite making you think you are walking on land then you realize its a man made peninsula...

Every jagged edge of coast line around the southern protected harbor is full of fish shacks and busy docks. 

Big round boulders of granite sit on ledges and are scattered across islands.

Every paved road turns into a dirt road that becomes a dead end with a gorgeous view of a harbor, another island or the mainland.  

At low tide Carvers Pond empties into Carvers Harbor and makes a sound like the rapids of a big river. 

When evening comes the town is dark and quiet, only one third of the houses light up.  That's when you see how few people there really are here...  

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Nor'easter ~ Surf & Salt

I had to wash my car yesterday. I couldn't see out of my side view mirrors. They were  covered with salt!  It was like looking through dry fog.
  Sheets of driving rain hit the car as I sat parked at the town dock in Vinalhaven, Maine working in my sketchbook...

There was big surf in the well sheltered harbor.

The sideways driving rain soon stopped. The winds were still whipping around.    The ferry had not run all day.  Everyone at the dock waited for the captains decision.   

Yes, that's how it works, the captain decides if its safe enough for the ferry to run. We boarded the first ferry of the day, and were happy with the steadily improving weather conditions. 
 This nor'easter had moved in from the west the night before when I was up painting at Browns Lighthouse. 

That was my last day of a week painting on Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine.  It is an hour and 15 min ferry ride from Rockland, Maine. 

The island is the real Maine thing packed with views just waiting to be painted ! 

The town of Vinalhaven has a working harbor with lobster boats and fishing trawlers. 

When the nor'easter hit it really made everything screech to a halt.  The fishermen did not go out.  The harbor was full of moored boats. The ferries stopped running. The waves were too high and dangerous.

My friend Libby and I were sitting in my car during the ferry crossing.  I was going to sketch - forget that !   When the waves hit the boat, the bow lifted skyward and the cars shook like jello. It was better to be out standing on the deck.  There we had fresh air and  a clear view of the waves as they hit us !

 I was happy.  I just put my back to the wind and waves and kept my eyes on the distant islands that didn't jump up and down.  When we passed Owls Head we were on the home stretch. The captain kept tacking till he got us to the ferry dock.  I love the drama of extreme weather ! It reminds me of those great Winslow Homer paintings of the sea. However much I wanted to capture the scene, its  difficult to draw in a bobbing sketchbook and impossible to paint in a 45 mph wind! 

More paintings & sketches at: Paint, Eat, Sleep

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lions, Deer and Angels at Creek Farm

Around the turn of the century Creek Farm was a big, rambling summer cottage for a wealthy Boston family. It has remnants of formal gardens, long sloping lawns,  a rocky shoreline and a bit of pebbly beach.  It has a cove that was a damned to create a natural salt water swimming pool.

It sits on the edge of Sagamore Creek in Portsmouth. NH, looking across the water to Newcastle, NH.

Two stone lion creatures guard the entrance to what was once a terraced formal garden.

Marcus and I set up on the lower lawn to sketch and paint views of the house ...

...and the lions...

Marcus worked diligently on the details of the multi-level cottage.

My sister Ann joined us for the day.  She chose to sit on the lawn in the formal garden where she had the long view of the creek and Newcastle. 

To add to the natural show in front of us, the Blue Angels suddenly appeared in the sky to the west performing a number of dangerously daring formations.   What a thundering roar those engines make!  The stuff plein air painters see is unending! 

As the sun dropped in the sky we decided to pull out the acrylics and go for a few small sketches.
Marcus & I are taping canvas to a board to paint several different sketches on the same sheet.  This is nice simple way to do lots of studies. 

Acrylics are dicey.  Painting a la prima when them is a hoot. I'm using the regular fast drying type.  I have dry paint on my palette in minutes ! Marcus has Golden's open acrylics, so they are a bit easier  to deal with.

As we prepared to leave, a doe with two fawns wandered across the lawn happily munching their grassy dinner.  They didn't even care that we were 30 ft away packing up our paints!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Painting at Turbats Creek

I went over to Turbats Creek to see what was happening.  I hadn't been there since spring. Its an awesome, quiet spot in Kennebunkport...down the end of a dead end lane.

 The first shack on the corner has a sign for the abc Real Estate Company... which probably never even existed. 

This collection of sweep outs blew off their pilings in a storm.  They had to be dragged back and put on new ones....but .... no plumbing or electricity so its a day cottage.  

Marcus set up to sketch the cluster of houses on the point. 

I saw this skiff up near the pilings at the boat launch.

With nice warm sun pouring over the grasses- it was a sight to see. I did an 8x10 sketch of it.

We stayed till sunset.  When its great weather  you have to grab every minute of it.

The tide is so low here that you can walk out to the nearby islands. You just have to make it a short trip so you get back in time, or time it to stay over night with your gear and sleeping bag and catch the low tide back in the morning.  I've seen those little groups of campers coming home in the morning...the stuff you hear and see while painting.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sketching in New Castle

New Castle is this beautiful little town on an island at the entrance to Portsmouth's harbor .  Across the water at the mouth of the Piscatiqua River you can see the Portsmouth shipyard and the boats moored at the town dock on Kittery Point . 

We set up near the coast guard station. It was calm and clear this morning. 

The houses along the narrow streets have docks in their backyards that stretch out into the river.

The whole island is a pile of rock like most of the coastline in these parts. I set up to sketch on the top of the bluff.  Marcus set up below me. 

Deb chose the top as well and got right into the subject matter.  Boats & rocks.

There was a dingy and some skiffs moored in front of me.  They moved with the current every few seconds.  So I did 10, 20, 30 sec sketches to capture what they looked like.  

Deb was sketching in watercolors and rotating sketchbooks.  She'd paint in one sketchbook while the other was drying in the sun. 

Marcus had a pile of sketches he wanted to share with us. The boats were a challenge !

We had a  conversation about how to draw the boats and how difficult they can be as they won't hold still... and there are many shapes and curves to deal with. 

There are different types of lobster boats Marcus discovered as he sketched them... 

...the more you sketch them the better you get at it...

...everyone went back to the drawing board to take another try at it... 

The tide was coming in the sun was moving toward high noon ...

The harbor was active, lobster boats came and went. A huge tanker was guided out of mouth of the river by two tugs. These three boats sat in front of us the whole time we sketched.  How lucky ! That's the big difference between sketching and painting.  What may be plenty of time for a sketch is cutting it short for a painting!