Artists’ Getaway

Twice a year, a few plein air artists answer the call to “get away” from their humdrum winter lives and congregate at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett, NH. The Spring Getaway occurs just when the outdoor temperature has risen to a point where standing outside for long hours of painting becomes more or less bearable, if you don’t mind the black flies and ticks. The spring weather is undependable though. We started this year on Thursday, which was a beautiful day, as was Friday. But Saturday threatened rain all day, and Sunday delivered on the threat.

I did some good things, which I will show you, but my Saturday disappointment is overshadowing all else right now. You see, I had looked forward to spending the whole day in one spot, working on a 16 x 20 panel, because the forecast was cloudy all day but no rain until later in the day. Clouds meant no shifting light and shadows, which created the possibility of painting one scene for more than two hours. Here is what my spot looked like when I reconnoitered the North Conway Scenic Train Station:

This photo shows the Round House pit exposed in the foreground and various cars and engines strewn about behind the train station. You can see the roof of the train station above the car on the left. Concealed behind the car on the right is a black steam locomotive that I fell in love with as soon as I laid eyes on it. Also note the clouds in the sky. Solid, but not threatening.

Happy as a clam, I set up my big Beauport easel in a spot smack in the middle of the upper photograph of the train yard and station, and got to work sketching this lovely machine with thinned out paint.

That sketch is the cover shot above, because that is as far as I got. After about a half hour, just as I got to mapping out the darkest darks, drops of water started falling. I packed away the painting and the easel and sat down to wait it out, but one of the train engineers came out to commiserate with me, and said his GPS showed the rain clouds blanketing us without any break. So I checked in with my two companions, Sharon and Sandy, who had set up to paint the front of the North Conway station. They were giving up too. We went back to the Inn, where we puttered around touching up the previous days’ paintings. The real rain did hold off until later that evening, however. We should have stood our ground at the station.

Sharon and I were staying on either sides of a duplex cabin with a roomy porch, big enough for three of us to set up easels–not my big Beauport easel, but my smaller pochade box-on-a-tripod. A piece of our cabin is in the foreground of my other 20 x 16 adventure, a view of the Inn from a point in front of our cabin:

I worked on this painting Thursday and Friday evenings, while my companions went out for dinner. The Inn serves wonderful full breakfasts, but no other meals. I played the role of Starving Artist, dedicated to my craft.

Three smaller paintings have come home in more complete condition:

Mount Chocorua. 11×14. We stopped there on our way up North. It was a boring landscape until I got to it Saturday on the porch with my dioxanine purple. Maybe I went too far? This is one that will stay in my studio until I decide whether or not to tame that purple with blue.

Fourth Iron. 14×11 Friday morning. The title refers to the identification used for this railroad bridge, located off Route 302 between Bartlett and Crawford Notch. To keep the sun off my panel and palette, I had to face into the sun with my back turned to the bridge. (I learned years ago that when you allow the sun to light your workspace, you end up with a too dark painting.)

Silver Cascade. 12×6. Friday afternoon. This waterfall is close to the Crawford Notch depot train station, but a little south on Route 302. We set up our easels in a large parking lot across the highway; the ground was anything but level. Because of the angle of the sun, I ended up facing out to the right of the scene, with my easel to my right, one leg uphill and the other downhill. After an hour of that, my body was screaming for mercy. I worked on this one again Saturday afternoon. The water cascades needed more nuance, but that dioxanine purple seems to have taken over again. The photo is blurry because I did not use a tripod to take the picture. Sorry about that. When these paintings are closer to perfect, I will retake the photos and post them on my website.

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