Friday, August 5, 2011

Midsummer Marshes

Summer marshes have a certain mood. They are full of misty air. Painters call it atmosphere.
The distant tree line often has a thin veil of blue color over the far away green leaves.  The shadows of the nearby trees can even be blue violet.
Egrets, 8x10 oil on panel

There is always lots of water in the marshes. I call them a water world. They have salt pans, creeks and rivers, everything is tidal. The place is a big sponge.

I live very close thousands of acres of marshes. Its great to go there its like instant wilderness in a highly inhabited coastal area. I make many sketches of the marshes.

Its very quiet in the marshes. I don't quite understand why. Its close to the main roads that travel up and down the coast but the sound of the cars doesn't carry out into the marshes.

It may be all the sea grass. I think  the grass acts like cotton batting. You hear the wind blowing in the grass next to you but some one trying to talk to you from twenty yards away has to shout to be heard.

My neighborhood of marshes stretch in a linked green necklace along the southern coast of Maine from Kittery north  to Cape Elizabeth.

On the southern side of the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire they stretch miles south into Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

The Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge owns many of the marshes in Maine. They are keeping them open and in their natural state so the wildlife is abundant. There are millions of birds in the marshes, some live there others are just passing through when they migrate.

At the Refuge headquarters in Wells there is have a mile long trail of groomed paths and boardwalks that follow the edge of a high peninsula of land bordered by the Merriland River and Branch Brook. When friends and I paint there, we hike in with our gear and set up along the trail.

At the refuge really large trees grow right next to the marsh. There are hills of high land through out the marshes.  Large pines and hard woods grow on them. I found a shady spot with a view. There was a nice ocean breeze keeping it cool.

The rivers and brooks running through the refuge are deep channels that empty and fill rapidly with the tides.  

The salt pans are another entity entirely. They sit full of water all the time. The tides have no effect on them. They are very shallow.

They sometimes  look like lots of little ponds sprinkled across the marsh. A favorite painting spot of mine is Rachel Carson land along the road to the harbor in Wells. 

Some of the bigger salt pans are connected in irregular patterns and filled with lots of miniature islands.  

I 've never tried to walk out among them. I'd need to wear some really tall rubber boots. I've seen scientists out there and they sometimes sink in up to their knees in the mushy places.  

The tide comes in really fast on Branch Brook at the Refuge.  As we were painting we could almost see the river banks disappear inch by inch.

The board walk down to the edge of the river is a popular spot for bird watchers. Visitors come from all over the world to this spot. 

Ellen, Libby and I visited the refuge headquarters last week. Ellen sketched before she set up to paint.

 I went to work and got my design painted in before the tide changed too much.

While Ellen and I painted Libby stretched out on a bench at the overlook reading and enjoying the sun.  She actually fell asleep it was so quiet and peaceful !

The incoming tide swept through the marsh grass at the river's edge.

When we are painting together Ellen and I often discuss what we are painting.

I'm working on painting a series of the marshes in a variety of seasons and weather.  

I painted at this location a few years ago. This island was in my first large marsh painting.  As we were finishing up the tide was almost at peak high tide.

I'm lucky that I live close to this beautiful location.

Summer is definitely the easiest time to come here to paint, but winter is my favorite. 

Salt Pans, 24x24 oil on panel


  1. Beautiful marshes... very much like the ones here in SC, I too have noticed the quiet in the marshes.

  2. Thank you Capt Elaine ! I'd love to see them much to paint so little time !