Friday, February 17, 2012

Captains, Cranes, Boats and a Bridge

Sometimes you have a perfect day.

That happened last week when I set up to paint in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I've been having a great time painting this winter.  For the past 8 weeks I've been in Portsmouth, New Hampshire painting subjects that I've never painted before... made objects, buildings, machines, ships, bridges, metal, industrial things....dark,  gritty, heavy, non-cozy, non-pastoral stuff.   

Not really what you'd call friendly, or human-sized, it's the substance of big industry. 

I'm painting this industrial landscape with fellow painter Barbara Carr who is just as interested in this new subject as I am. 

We pick a general location every week then scout around to see what has shown up. Portsmouth is a busy seaport, the setting changes all the time.

 Right now the well-known and well-used Memorial Bridge, an aging drawbridge, is being removed so a new one can be built in the same location.  

Unusual looking tug boats have appeared to move the barges and cranes for the workers as they dismantle the bridge.

Its a big deal. Hundreds of people love this bridge. It's the only one you can walk across to get to Kittery, Maine. Everyone comes by to see the "de-construction".  

We were lucky to find a quiet corner.  

Barbara wasted no time locating her spot and setting up.

I sketched in my design.

It wasn't easy. Not only did the barges move around while we were painting...

...but the reason they were moved soon became apparent. A huge ship needed to get up the river, and one barge was in the way.

It looked like a tight fit getting through the channel.

 The ship was so big that the tugs had to keep the barges and cranes in place as it passed.

All kinds of frameworks are being put in place to dismantle the remaining sides of the bridge.

A visit from Captain Leo Smith of the tugboat "Miss Stacy" made our day! How often does the captain of your subject visit you? 

Then as if that wasn't enough... the next group of experts to arrive were from the barges. Emmanuel Jefferson(on right) is the operator of the monster red crane I was painting ! 

These ironworkers usually work in the Chesapeake Bay region and wanted to see what these northern artists were painting. 

Heck ! The pressure was on. Get those painting done. Back to work!

Its a real party scene down by the bridge. People pour in all day, looking, chatting, taking pictures and watching everything the workers do.

Jeff Weaver stopped by after finishing a painting he started the day before when the crowds were so thick he couldn't even find a place nearby to park. 

We kept painting until sunset. 

The scene on the river keeps changing. Tugs, cranes and barges move around.

 When they stopped work for the day the two tugs tied up on the barge anchored in the middle of the river. They were all lit up. It looked like a small industrial island.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Painting While Driving

Drawing and painting landscapes in a moving car is a challenge and quite fun. 

Snow,Rocks & Trees Watercolor Sketchbook
The view is right there in front of you for a few seconds then... zip its gone !

When I drove from the Maine coast into the White mountains of New Hampshire the other day I encountered a variety of weather along the way. It was raining along the seacoast. I settled into the passenger seat and organized my materials.

My carefully chosen weapons for the battle... an ink pen, mechanical pencil and 98 pound multimedia sketchbook paper.

Sturdy Pines Watercolor Sketchbook

I have a method for sketching from a moving vehicle. I stare hard at the subject, remember what I saw and sketch very fast. Its an excellent memory exercise.

I placed my sketchbook on my lap, unpacked my small watercolor set and my lightning-fast Niji water brush. This water brush is the best thing for fast painting in tight quarters. 

Snowy fields Watercolor Sketchbook
It helps when you need to mix colors rapidly. You just squeeze water through the brush tip to clean it. You don't need a jar of water handy to clean the brush, which could be a problem in a bumpy car ride on uneven road surfaces.

The weather was fierce. It rained, sleeted and ice froze across the windshield as we drove north. The heat turned up high melted the ice off the windshield. The higher we climbed into the mountains of New Hampshire the colder and icier it got.

Boreal Forest Watercolor Sketchbook
When we crossed the high ridge of mountains in the middle of the state and started driving down into the valley toward Vermont and the Connecticut River the freezing rain turned to rain.

It was 10 degrees warmer in the river valley.

The White River Watercolor Sketchbook
The White River meets the Connecticut River at White River Junction, Vermont. After the big floods Vermont had last August the White River has a number of sand bars and a newly shaped river bed.

Road into the Mountains Watercolor Sketchbook

The precipitation stopped completely in Vermont. Low clouds were tearing across the mountain tops and sky holes made it brighter. 

It was easy to sketch the view. I just kept looking and moving my hand at the same time. Painting in colors was more difficult. I could only get one good look at the colors of a specific location, then in seconds it was gone.

Snowy Rocks and Pines Watercolor Sketchbook
There was more snow in Vermont than any where else we drove through, especially on the high ridges.

It was a blue, violet and slate gray day. The trees were dark mauve and deep blue against the distant snow fields.

Whaleback Mountain Watercolor Sketchbook
Everything was looking very dramatic.

The dark bottomed clouds and dark trees made the snow look whiter than ever. The snow covered ground was the brightest spot in the landscape.

The Tree line Watercolor Sketchbook
Winter is the best time to paint out doors. The contrast and shapes are wonderful!

Each open area that was edged with trees has a different look and feeling.

Snowy Ledges Watercolor Sketchbook
A mundane location that you would never look at in the summertime all of the sudden has dramatic shapes and colors. 

Farms & Snow Fields Watercolor Sketchbook
In hilly and mountainous areas the white snow covered fields created a patchwork of pines and hardwoods.

In this winter wonderland a simple red brick building became a warm spot of color in the cool white and blue landscape.

Road on the Ridge Watercolor Sketchbook
As the afternoon moved toward sunset the dark violet blue mountains were a deep cool contrast against the nearby green pine forest.

It reminded me that it doesn't have to be a sunny day to be beautiful. 

The Connecticut River at Hanover Watercolor Sketchbook
Days like this have a peaceful quiet mood and subtle rich colors that are very satisfying to see.