Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Warriors at Fort McClary

A battle of the The French and Indian War was reenacted at Fort McClary on Kittery Point, Maine this past weekend. 

When we stopped at the Kittery Point town dock a very strange looking vessel was pulling away from the wharf.  It was a replica of a "Jolly boat". It had four rowers and a sail!  Its was flying a plain white flag...the flag of the naval ensign of France in 1754. 

They were sailing to Fort McClary over on the right side of the harbor where a small encampment of white tents could be seen on the grass above the rocky shingle beach...
3x4 watercolor Rives BFK

The fog was rolling in off the open ocean, obscuring the forest behind the fort's block house. On the water visibility was fine for the invaders.  The boat landed on the shingle beach. Cannons blazed away. The harbor was filled with a volley of "booms"! It was quite exciting.

By the time we arrived at the fort the battle was almost over.  Maybe that was OK as the cannons are really loud !  As we walked down from the fort a very official looking commander was lining up the troops for the audience to inspect. 

He was an impressive looking colonial officer with an elegant uniform, a huge sword and polished knee high leather boots...

He invited the ladies in the audience to come in closer to inspect the troops; announcing loudly that some of these fine looking men were single...

These officers and soldiers were wonderful models! When they weren't in a battle of some sort they were sitting around their encampments, relaxing or preparing meals. They were reenacting what live was like in the 1700's then was very slow. 
Colonist. 8x11 watercolor on Rives BFK

Sketching these actors in their period costumes was great! Several of the French sailors had their wives traveling with them. This delightful French colonial woman explained everything she was doing as she set about preparing dinner, a stew cooked in a dutch oven over an open fire.

The sailors had a nice dinning tent with wooden furniture, hand carved wooden dishes, goblets and utensils. Everything they used was a custom made replica from the 1700s.

A new recruit was learning how to present arms. These rifles are working replicas of guns used during the French and Indian War. 

I found a wonderful sketching spot with excellent views of the fort and the sailors' camp. 

I did a quick sketch of the block house and put in some color notes.
6x12 watercolor on Rives BFK

The weather changed rapidly. Sunny blue sky one minute and low clouds of cold, damp fog a few minutes later....

After sketching for a while my models wanted to see what I was doing...

Their costumes are custom made, historically accurate, colorful and very interesting.
French Sailor. 6x12 watercolor on Rives BFK

The conversation was fascinating.  I learned a lot about colonial life in the 1700's, the nature of the Seven Years' War and why these participants love doing these historical reenactments. 

Enactors camp out over night in beautiful locations and live like colonists did in the 1700's, with no electricity, no TV, no internet. Evenings are spent with interesting people, wonderful conversation, great food, and stories of other historic encampments. Slow living! What fun! 
6x7 French Sailor. watercolor on Rives BFK

The block house at Ft McClary.
6x12 watercolor on Rives BFK

As we walked to another French and Indian camp on the other side of the fort we passed an old cannon sitting above the harbor on the ramparts. 

The French soldiers were cleaning their firearms. Everything must be ready for the next battle. They have to prepare all the gun powder packets by hand. 

The view of the harbor was intermittently obscured by fog.

Fort William and Mary in New Castle, New Hampshire sits across the mouth of the Piscataqua River from Fort McClary. These two forts were active in colonial times.  

The French sailors gathered for dinner as the tide rolled in and the fog came with it. 
Kittery Point harbor as the fog rolls in.  
3x7 watercolor on Rives BFK

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spring Showers & Flowers

Winter arctic air has a sharp, clean scent. It is dry air and offers a clear view of the stars at night. Spring air is moist and humid. It has a earthy scent combined with chlorophyll and fragrant blossoms.
With lots of rain showers in Maine these past few weeks the moist air has arrived and everything is growing. The azaleas have fat fuchsia buds on them...
The rhododendron have big green buds...

The lilacs have tight violet buds..
The daffodils are in full well as the grape hyacinth. 
The Tsukubai in the tiny side garden sits in a cluster of daffodils. I made this basin when I designed the gardens.
8x12 watercolor, Rives BFK

I found a nice spot to sketch in the shade with a view into the meditation garden... 
Polished granite and marble stones form the walkway by a second Tsukubai... 
...that sits on the edge of the grassy central island of the garden. My garden is an intimate walled space with old and new plantings  and small water features. 
8x12 watercolor, Rives BFK
There are a couple hundred narcissus growing around my studio.

They are planted in waves along a border of mature lilac bushes.
8x12 watercolor, Rives BFK
They blossom in successive displays; each group has their debut opening day ....some are species with an exquisite scent that fills the air with fragrance...
The azaleas were the exact match for my Derwent watercolor pencil "magenta".
I sat close to the shrub and sketched the tiny bright buds on the woody stems.

I marked all the notes in watercolor pencil as I moved about capturing the multitude of blossoms surrounding me... 

 I have a great love for plants, outdoor environments and botany. In college I had a double major in botany and art. I might easily have become an architect or garden designer. 
 8x12 watercolor,Rives BFK

White and blue violets poked up through the paving stones in the garden.
Pansies crowded a pot by my studio door...

8x12 watercolor,Rives BFK
A small birds nest made of clay and straw was discovered in the wisteria vine when we were pruning. I have no idea what kind of bird builds a nest of clay...many birds raise their families in this garden every spring.
8x12 watercolor,Rives BFK
More pansies leaned into the afternoon sun by the back door.

8x12 watercolor,Rives BFK
The azalea buds burst open after a series of afternoon showers. The rain even knocked some of the flower petals off. Every day brings changes. Everything is growing fast! The garden is a lovely little space for reflection and respite in this big bustling world.
 8x12 watercolor,Rives BFK

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Greens and May Gardens

It's still chilly here on the Maine coast. It always is cooler here in spring and summer than the rest of New England.
With longer hours of daylight and liberal rain showers everything is turning green!

Bright green!  There is so much green its hard to adjust your eyes to it.  Plenty of yellow too. A huge meadow in Berwick, Maine was filled with about a million dandelions.

I stopped to sketch the view.  The farmer stopped by to see what I was up to. He thought I was an agricultural agent taking notes...I guess sketching looks like note taking!  He wasn't too happy to see a million dandelions growing in his newly seeded meadow. 

This property is part of a very old farm.  A row of ancient maples on the edge of the  road were turning a bright chartreuse green.

I wanted to visit a number of different locations today, so I sketched and colored as we traveled. 

I used my water color pencils to mark some color notes. These pencils are great for quick studies. I get the basic info down while I'm on the go. At the end of the day I pull out my watercolors to fill in my notes.

The clouds moved in and out all day. 
2x3 watercolors, Rives BFK

Hamilton House  in South Berwick had misty green veils of leaves everywhere.  Everything was thriving and budding.

It has been a rough winter.  The barn at Hamilton House was missing three panes of glass from its high loft window.

The cherry tree in the barn yard was beginning to blossom.  

Big old trees that were growing near the house last summer are now gone. It made the house look bleak and a bit like "Wuthering Heights."

I sat down to sketch a cluster of tulips in a small walled garden.

 Three clusters of red tulips bloomed in a warm protected area near the stone wall.

The hum of a lawnmower filled the air. At the edge of the formal garden a landscaper mowed the steep hilly lawn.

The house and gardens overlook the Salmon Falls River. The river is tidal in this area below the falls.  It is often windy and cold here.

Clouds and steeple. 2x3 watercolor, Rives BFK 
Dandelion meadow. 3x4 watercolor, Rives BFK
Old maples. 3x4 watercolor, Rives BFK 
Island pond. 2x3 watercolor, Rives BFK 
Salmon Falls River at Berwick. 2x4 watercolor, Rives BFK 
Tulips. 3x4 watercolor, Rives BFK  
Salmon Falls River Island. 2x4 watercolor, Rives BFK