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.


  1. This is a fantastic post, and a historical record of an important event! Hope to see the finished painting!

  2. I loved reading this, such a super documentary of the work on the river in photos and paintings.

  3. Replies
    1. This is what I was really looking for. Thanks very much. Keep up this good work.
      Aluminum Gantry Crane

  4. Mary--I just found your blog while surfing Maine painters...I'm awaiting my plein air easel as we speak, and can't wait to start painting outdoors. I'm signed up for the Boothbay Harbor Botanical Gardens plein air/auction event, which will be my first such event ever. Visit my blog at

  5. Janet, You are welcome to join us!