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
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

More Sketches from Acadia National Park

Back home now (I got home a week ago), I am still putting finishing touches on some paintings, as well as getting back into the routine of life at home. Actually, I should say that I am working on developing a new routine for life at home. During my time away I had lots of time to think and evaluate how I do things on a daily basis, and I realized that, much as I have valued quiet time and solitude, I haven’t done a great job of consistently living with a peaceful rhythm to my days. Somehow the demands of life in an overly connected world, along with the alluring draw of the internet have resulted in a feeling of being scattered and constantly available and pulled in several directions at once. While at Acadia National Park, I had no cell signal (what a blessing!) and, as a result, I found that I was more focused in a relaxed way that caused me to be much more “present” with myself and my environment. So now I am working on incorporating some of the lessons I learned, so that I can live with a peaceful rhythm even as I am connected and involved with the world and people around me. I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet, but I am hoping to make progress.

Here are some of my sketches from my time away. I have still more that I will post sketches in another few days. I’ve also posted some of my finished watercolors on my website (Melissa Fischer’s Art ). If you click on the images, you’ll be able to see them large enough to read my notes.)

Gannets diving
Maine coast rocks

Otter sketches

Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park!

Last week I was notified that I’ve been selected to be an artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park in Maine! I am SO EXCITED! I applied in early January and have been eagerly awaiting news, attempting (with limited success) to wait patiently and not check my email obsessively. I got the email last week on the first day of a vacation trip Stephen and I took; that started that vacation off on a wonderful note.

During the time I’ll be there (October 14-31), I’ll be focused on immersing myself in the world of Acadia and in my art. Observing, exploring, sketching, creating, painting. I can hardly wait! I’ll also be working with the public (school children, I think) for an hour or so each week, sharing my love for nature and art, something I always love doing.

I am so very thankful to the Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park for this incredible opportunity, and a big thank you also goes to my friends and family who encouraged me to apply. I feel so honored to have been selected, and I am eager to serve the park and the public with my art. I’ve already purchased a book on plein air painting at the park– Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island Plein Air Artist Guide— and have been perusing the book and counting the weeks and months until I can start roaming the park, sketchbook in hand.

View from Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park,
photo courtesy of National Park Service

Maine Retreat

Wrapped in the warmth of a wonderfully soft, fleece blanket, steaming mug of green tea in hand, I settled on the deck and watched. Watched Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches at the feeder just feet from me. Watched two loons swimming a ways across the lake. Watched the morning light transform the distant mountains from misty outlines to purple splendor to the full glory of fall colors.

So began my days last week while on retreat in a cabin on Wilson Lake in central Maine. This wasn’t my typical solitary retreat, as I went with a close friend, but it also included time for private reflection, personal evaluation, and contemplation. How could one not become quiet and thoughtful before such a magnificent display of God’s creation?
My friend Sarah and I took a week away as a writers’ retreat, and write we did (and cook, and eat, and hike, and sit on the dock star-gazing, and canoe on the lake, etc). Every day we did one or more ten minute writing exercises, which we then shared and discussed. Those conversations led to discussions of our writing styles, subjects, and goals, and to mutual encouragement as we enjoyed each others’ strengths in writing. Sarah made some long term plans and got a good start on her next writing project. I worked on various writings, including some memoir-type selections and a short article about how crating can be a stress-reducing haven for a dog, with my old dog Bilbo as an example. That article is posted on the My Smart Puppy blog.
As I always do on retreat, I spent much of my time in silence, sometimes reading, sometimes journaling– either in my private journal or my artist’s sketchbook/journal, and sometimes just quietly observing nature and musing. As I started this retreat, a friend, Cindy Steffen of the Prairie Pond Woods blog that I follow, emailed me some questions that she had recently used when she led a retreat, and I pondered and wrote on these questions throughout the week (the questions, with some modifications, come from the book The Questions of Jesus, by John Dear):
  • What are you thinking in your heart? (a clearing of the mind exercise)
  • What are you looking for? (passions? desires?)
  • What do you want me (Jesus) to do for you?
  • Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? (dealing with integrity)
  • Will you lay down your life for me (Jesus)? (what does that mean, etc?)
  • What is your name? (playing with God’s proclivity to rename and Jesus’ to nickname)
As all retreats come to an close, this one did too, but, as usual, I have come home with an inner peace and quiet that has me listening more than speaking and that holds me calm and steady in the midst of the storm raging outside.

Lake Wilson Sunset (plein air watercolor)
Artist’s journal pages (click to see larger image) 

Maine Colors– Scenery and Birds

Today was one of those crystal clear days when I can’t get enough of the fresh air, the sunshine, and the scenery. From the moment I woke up and looked out the window of my bedroom (the window is right over the bed, so I can look out without even sitting up), I was entranced with the colors. At first the sky was just brightening up and there was a long line of orange over the hills opposite our cabin. Soon the sky was a soft pinkish, with violet clouds across the lake and dusky rose-colored clouds over the mountains at the north end of the lake. All day long the lighting and colors shifted. I did several sketches as I sat and pondered the thoughts and questions that came to mind throughout the day.

Yesterday when Sarah and I were walking in some nearby fields, we saw our first Bohemian Waxwings– a flock of about six were flitting from tree to tree! I have seen Cedar Waxwings many times, and when I saw these I thought at first that was what they were, but then I noticed the different color of the undertail coverts and the white on the wing edges. Their voice is also a bit different. While we were watching these pretty birds, a Bald Eagle soared far overhead and disappeared into the colors of the hills.

Maine Night Sky

The Big Dipper hung huge above the far side of the lake, each star punctuating the indigo of the night sky. I followed the end of the dipper out to the North Star– bright and clear, with every point of the Little Dipper visible. 

When I woke during the night last night, I lay on my bed in this beautiful rental cabin on a lake, looking out at stars more numerous and twinkling with more brilliance than I have seen in a long time. I couldn’t sleep for some time, but I didn’t mind; it was worth a few hours of lost sleep for the opportunity to savor the tapestry before me. Opening my window, I lay listening to the lapping of waves against the dock, while filling my soul with the light from above– a wonder-filled night.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee; 
how great Thou art, how great Thou art!