Friday, July 29, 2011

Pierce Island

Pierce Island is a small island in the Piscataqua River that belongs to the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The Piscataqua River has some of the fastest tidal currents of any river on the eastern coast of the U.S.
Bridges  4x6 watercolor

The island looks across the river at Badger's Island and Seavey's Island in Kittery, Maine which were the homes of famous shipyards that built fleets of clipper ships. When I first moved to the seacoast I lived in a house in a tiny, quiet neighborhood on Badger's Island.  

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is on Seavey's Island.  It is a hub of activity where they repair submarines. 

Pierce Island is a quiet place on a busy harbor. It has walking trails, picnic areas, a swimming pool, a boat launch and the state wharf. 

Wild roses grow in profusion all over the island.

It's July so the rose hips are ripe. They are high in vitamin c and make the best jam and tea! 

Plein Air Painters of Maine were meeting on the island to paint for the day. I found a  parking spot right on the river front.  My good friend Ellen arrived and set up to paint near me. 

It was overcast with fast moving clouds heading out to sea. The weather report predicted thunder storms. I stayed close to my car to paint. Everyone who sees my car loves to look in it at all my painting gear. It looks like a treasure chest to them.  

Ellen was painting in pastels. What a different set up than mine ! She needs different types of pastels and a variety of colors.  She has all these boxes of colors she brings. She sets them up on a small table.

She showed me how she sketched in her design and the types of pastels she used for sketching.

I was painting with a limited palette of lemon yellow, medium red, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and white. I premixed all my color groups before I started to paint.

The sun broke through the cloud cover every now and then. The tide was going out and the light was changing drastically.

  Ellen was laying down areas of different colors, then blending them together with her fingers.

I moved my easel and palette into the shade so I could see the colors I was mixing accurately.  

The sun was out, it became warm and I loaned Ellen my hat. It was actually getting hot !

After she placed in her foreground Ellen drew in the placement of the bridges. Wow, what a different approach with this dry medium. She drew right on top of all the other colors.

I can't do that easily with wet oil paint. 

I have to wait for it to set up or use something to speed up the drying time. 

The tide was now all the way out and the Memorial Bridge opened up to the top. People watching were getting excited hoping a big ship would come through.  

 When I lived on Badger's Island I used to watch ships come and go all the time. I could  look out my  kitchen window and a ship bigger than a five story building would go by. I got used to it. It was part of life on an island in a busy harbor. 
Three Bridges 6x12 oil

Friday, July 22, 2011

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 8x16 watercolor 

Along the sides of these mountains are groves of white birches. Some mountains are entirely covered with white birch forests.
 Silver Cascade Birches,  8x4 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 9x12 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 6x6 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 5x8 watercolor

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

 Small Pool, sketch 4x5 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  9x12

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!

Friday, July 15, 2011

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, 9x12 watercolor on aquarelle.