I finally feel like my inspiration and motivation are reviving after being mostly absent for much of 2020. While I have sketched a great deal, especially from our front porch in Maine (Front Porch Sketches and More Front Porch Sketches), I haven’t often had the mental energy to do more than very quick sketches. I am realizing more and more how much stress and grief and illness can drain one’s creative energy. But now that my creative spark is returning, I am finding it is both energizing and calming at the same time to immerse myself in meditative sketching or painting. I am very thankful to be getting my brushes wet again and to be playing with paint and ink.
A couple weeks ago a friend who does amazing renditions of Van Gogh’s and some other artists’ paintings suggested I paint the same black locust tree I had done in ink (images in my last post) with vivid colors. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I decided to pull out my gouache and go a bit wild with color. I sat in my yard (under a cedar tree that showered me with prickly needles) and painted, trying to capture the light on the trunk of the tree. And that got me revved up to paint with gouache, so next I pulled out a sketch I’d done on location and a photo of Bash Bish Falls in Massachusetts (can’t go there now because of Covid, so a sketch and photo had to do) and imagined being there as I painted.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
And of course I painted the rocks and trees of Schoodic Peninsula!