Acadia Artist Retreat 2017– Wonderful week of painting and sketching!

The final week of my month in Maine was the 2017 Summer Acadia Artist Retreat at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. We had a foggy start to the week and, although I love painting the softness of fog and mist, one of the other program leaders and I were planning some indoor alternatives to plein air painting in case some of the participants weren’t keen on being outside in the fog. At our first gathering, however, all the participants waxed enthusiastic about the fog and said they were excited to get out and paint the fog-wreathed landscape. That enthusiastic spirit prevailed throughout the week as we painted in fog and sunshine, hiked as a group to Little Moose Island and then dispersed to paint whatever views captured our attention, shared thoughts and ideas over meals, learned from Ranger Kate Petrie on her fabulous geology walk and touch tank presentation, painted taxidermy models and a retired ranger who kindly sat as a portrait model for two hours, did figure drawing at nearby studio in town, and more, including, of course, lots of free painting time on our own. All the planned activities were optional, and varying numbers of artists participated in each, with everyone free to pursue their own interests and goals for the week.

Portrait painting with a retired park ranger
Ranger-led bird walk
Ranger Kate explaining sedimentary rock

Each of the four program leaders gave a brief presentation; mine was on quick sketching of wildlife, particularly birds. I also demonstrated the meander folded journals I like to make and fill when I travel to a special place. Below are photos of my meander journal opened out; I love that this kind of journal is called a meander journal, since I fill it as I meander through time and place.

Meander Journal side 1
Meander Journal Side 2

I really appreciated the opportunity to garner some helpful suggestions and ideas from the various presentations and from the other participants and am looking forward to putting some of these ideas into practice in the coming weeks. In addition to the painting and sharing times, we had delicious and plentiful breakfasts and dinners served at Schooner Commons, Schoodic Institute’s dining hall, as well as box lunches that we prepared each morning at breakfast so that we could be free to paint or explore throughout the day. On our final night we had a fabulous lobster dinner, cooked and served by the lobsterman who had caught the lobsters that day!

(photo by Jana Matusz)
Lobster dinner!
(photo by Jana Matusz)
Dinner at Schooner Commons

One of my goals for this retreat and really for the whole month in Maine was to try new approaches and materials, and the retreat was great for that with so much varied input and opportunities. I had been wanting to do more with gouache, which I’d only used a few times, and one of the retreat artists uses gouache, so I asked a few questions and watched her work, then went out a played with it. These two are gouache, the fisher from a taxidermy mount and the landscape did plein air in my meander journal on Little Moose Island.

Fisher in gouache
Little Moose Island in gouache

I’d also been wanting to do figure drawing again, which I’ve only done a few times, so it was great to have that as an option one evening at a studio in Winter Harbor, and again, I learned a lot from seeing how the other artists there approached it. While doing the figure drawing, I also tried working with walnut ink, which I’ve had for a while but have never used. (I’m not posting my figure drawings here since some viewers might not appreciate the nudity.) I also had not painted a portrait from life before, so painting a ranger who patiently sat for a portrait session was new and very enjoyable. I don’t think it looks a whole lot like him, but I was happy with it as a first portrait in watercolor from life. A bonus was that we got to hear wonderful stories from his work as a ranger while we painted him.

Walnut ink & watercolor
Ranger Ed

 

I tried sketching on Rite in the Rain paper when it was too foggy for my pencil to work on ordinary paper, and that worked wonderfully for sketching a Herring Gull at Schoodic Point. I’ll definitely keep a pad of this paper in my car for damp days.

Rite in the Rain paper

I tried doing watercolor on multimedia artboard, which I had never even heard of, and I loved it! I’ve already ordered a pack of it and am eager to do more with it.

Spruce in Mist on multimedia artboard

And of course I painted the rocks and trees of Schoodic Peninsula!

Pink granite and diabase dike
Schoodic Point Fog
Rainy day painting from the back of my car
Schoodic Point Solstice

Here’s a link to Schoodic Institute’s write-up of the retreat with many more photos: Artists Reflect on challenges, techniques, and experiences at Acadia Retreat . We’re already starting to think about next year’s retreat, so keep posted for updates!

Wonderful first week at Acadia National Park!

I’ve spent most of every day in the past week hiking, birding, climbing on rocks, sketching, and painting. I’ve identified two new birds for my life list– a Merlin and a Red Crossbill. I’ve walked an average of over 16,000 steps per day and I’ve filled about 50 pages in my sketchbook. I’ve watched and attempted to paint sunsets (not too many, because it’s often been cloudy and sometimes drizzly) and one sunrise (this morning at 4:50– the sun rises much earlier here than at home, thanks to latitude and longitude), and I’ve watched and attempted to sketch the otters here twice so far (they were a highlight of my last time here, and I love watching them swim and dive and cavort in the water). I’ve only pulled my computer out of its case a few times and even then have only been online briefly. I’ve spent hours in silence and days with few words spoken aloud, giving me much time to ponder, to pray, to simply be.

And that’s enough words for now, so I’ll just add photos of some of my sketches and some photos  I’ve taken of this amazing place (will wait till I’m home to post my paintings). (These are just quick photos, because I’m not going to take the time to scan and crop them until I’m back home.) I am so very, very thankful to be able to spend time here immersed in nature and art. Thank you so much to the Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park for giving me this opportunity, and a huge thank you to Stephen for holding down the fort at home and letting me have this time away.

Herring Gull 052617 Little Moose Island 052917 Northern Parula 052617 Otters 053117 Schoodic Point in ink 052917 Sunrise 060317 Yellow rumped & Black throated Green 052717

DSCN8042Light and Shadow Ravens NestDSCN8271DSCN8095

More Paintings from Acadia National Park

I still have more sketches from Maine to scan– it takes a while to scan even a fairly small selection of sketches from three sketch books, and the past couple of weeks I’ve happily been spending time painting rather than sitting in front of a screen. But, it’s dark now and I’m a bit tired from hiking in the Catskills today, so I figured I’d sit in front of my computer for a little while. Of course by now I have some local paintings I’ve done, so I have still more to scan and post. I’ll get to those sometime after I’ve posted my Maine paintings and sketches. For now, here are a number of the watercolors I did in Maine, along with a couple I’ve finished up at home.

I struggled a bit with my painting while I was away. For me, sketching is usually very relaxing and calming, whereas attempting to do a finished watercolor painting can sometimes be a bit stressful. It depends; sometimes it flows and I feel completely caught up in painting and time passes without my awareness. Other times, though, the wind chills me and dries my paints too fast, my fingers get stiff and don’t do anything I want them to do with my brush, the light changes so fast I can’t keep up with it, and I get frustrated.

When I was first at Acadia, I had a couple of easy painting days, then a few days when it felt as though my brushes were bewitched and wouldn’t do anything they were supposed to do. I felt discouraged and had to take a step back, to spend some time hiking, sketching and praying to recenter myself. When I had started getting frustrated, I had begun comparing myself negatively to other artists, so I had to remind myself to paint in a way that is true to who I am and not feel that I need to paint like other artists.

Schoodic Point at sunset

After a day of reflection, I returned to my painting with more focus and a more relaxed confidence that allowed me to immerse myself in what I was doing and paint from my heart and out of my connection with whatever aspect of creation I was observing at the moment. This was one of the biggest lessons I came away with from my time as artist-in-residence. The concentrated time immersed in art with no other distractions brought the issue unavoidably to my attention and pretty much forced me to deal with it, which then set me free to move forward. Again, I am so thankful to the Schoodic Institute and the park service for the opportunity to develop as an artist through my time there.

Arey Cove
Little Moose Island
Before sunset at Schoodic Point
Schoodic Point sunset glow
Schoodic Point Sunset
Eider Duck (male)
Storm Clouds coming in on Schoodic Peninsula
Otters!
Little Moose Island
Schoodic Point low tide rocks

The next two paintings are ones I did from my car at Schoodic Point during a tremendous storm. The waves were HUGE and the spray was rising up higher than the parking lot, which is quite a bit above the water.

Schoodic Point storm
Schoodic Point storm

Acadia National Park: More Wonders all the Time

I can’t believe I’ve already been here a week and a half, more than half my time. I could stay here for months and not see and experience all I’d like to, but I am making the most of every day I have in this rich place. 
Today the wind is blowing hard and it is raining. The rain started when I was in the middle of a plein air painting, sitting out on the rocks of Schoodic Point, painting the tremendous surf. I’m not sure yet how I’ll finish that painting, but it’s likely to have some interesting effects from getting rained on.
Earlier this morning I saw the otter family again. They cavorted their way around the edge of their pond, then saw me and waited a while, swimming back and forth and sticking their heads up to look at me, making occasional squeaky sounds. Finally they came up the bank and loped across the roads– so funny looking! 
Shortly after I saw the otters, I saw a huge number of gulls along the shore, some on the water, some on the stony shore, and some in the air (all in the air when an eagle flew by). While I was looking at them, I saw a bird in the water that stood out as something different. Heavy, thick bill, very clear black and white pattern with a small whitish area in the black of the side of the head. About the size of a small duck, but with straighter neck and bill held out fairly straight in front. When it dived I saw a sharp black tail. Razorbill! Another new bird for my life list!
Below are some of my sketches and paintings from the past week. If you click on the image, you’ll see a larger version.
Great Black-backed Gull field sketch (he posed for a long time)
Herring Gull field sketch (also posed patiently)

Raven’s Nest- beautiful but scary place to paint
Rocks and Surf (artistic license with colors)
Rocks on Little Moose Island
Sunset from Cadillac Mountain
Rock and autumn blueberry bushes

Hudson River Watercolor

The trees may not have leaves yet, but spring really is finally arriving here in New York. Two days ago I went to Bowdoin Park, sat in the warm sun overlooking the Hudson River, and played with my paints. I love the varied colors of the land all year, and I especially like the more subtle melange of colors in an early spring landscape, when grasses are starting to green up and shrubs are just barely gaining a hint of color from buds swelling with the promise of vibrant color to come.

Hudson River
Watercolor 6″ x 12″

To see this and other paintings that are available, please visit my Etsy Shop:
Melissa Fischer’s Art

The Retreat of Winter

I stood on my deck in the marginally warm sunshine this afternoon and, looking south, painted the stream, which is finally free of ice, and whose banks are slowly appearing from beneath Winter’s heavy blanket.

Like winter in Narnia retreating before Aslan’s advance, the snow is gradually yielding to Spring’s sunshine. The west facing bank of the stream is now snow-free, but the east facing side is still covered. The mornings are cold enough that early in the day the sun can’t muster the warmth to melt the snow, but the afternoons are warmer now, so the south and west facing areas are clearing.

Delicate Arch

We visited Arches National Park a few years ago and hiked out to Delicate Arch in the late afternoon. Once there we sat quietly for a while, just absorbing the immensity of the place. I just painted this from a photo we took when there, all the while remembering the wonder of what that world is like.

Delicate Arch Watercolor Painting
7″ x 10″
Available for purchase

Autumn along the Rail Trail

Colors are close to peak, and here and there are spots of brilliance, with the fragrance of fall in every breath. This afternoon I meandered along the Rail Trail, pausing to listen and look for birds, to savor the reds, yellows and oranges of the trees, and to breathe deeply of the refreshing autumn air. When the air is like this, cool and filled with leaf fragrance, I feel as though I could bypass eating; the air itself is satisfying and nourishing to soul and body. 

I stopped by Lake Walton to sketch, surrounded by ducks in the water, migrating warblers in the trees, chipmunks foraging in fallen leaves, and color all around… times like this, I forget all else and am simply present in the moment.

Darkness and Dawn

Darkness and Dawn
I woke up and glanced out the bedroom window to see streaks of light breaking the darkness, crossing the night sky with hints of the new day. Racing to my studio, I painted this in the dark; if I had turned on a light, I would no longer have been able to see what was dim but dramatic in the early dawn light beyond my window. As I look at the sky on such mornings, I can’t help wondering how often our lights, sounds, and other ways of adapting our world obscure from our view the often-silent beauty of that which is beyond our control and is far more majestic than anything we can create. 
This is one of the paintings on display at the East Fishkill Library until Friday this week.

Winter Sparkle

Watercolor 5×7 (8×10 framed)
Winter Sparkle
I
stood at my front door, every few minutes stepping briefly out into the winter
cold, attempting to capture the magic of the early morning sunshine sparkling
on the stream as it wound its way through the woods. This is the view I see every morning, sometimes covered with snow (as it is today), sometimes green with lush growth, and often in the winter, nearly monochromatic, which makes the sparkle of the stream in the sunlight all the more captivating.
This watercolor is currently on display at the East Fishkill Library and is available for $200, matted and framed. If interested, please contact me at naturepainter@hotmail.com.