Jonalyn's Watercolor Blog

The Shapes of Portland

This week, I’m enjoying a plein air painting week in New Hampshire. This means I’m painting outdoors, in the open (plein) air, which will hopefully be sunny and fair. Forecast has been good so far. I’m setting up on street corners and benches, trying to find ways to put the three-dimensional views into an 11 x 15 inch piece of paper. I am tired, creatively spent, also sunburned, but so happy.

From a Hotel Window

In celebration of the beauty I’m working on this week, here’s a painting from some window “plein” air. From the window of my hotel room, I stood and painted the morning. It was the night before that I wore that hat and painted sunset. This was December in Portland, Maine, right after a huge snowstorm transformed the view. Don’t miss the pictures in the tiled area at right, they’ll enlarge and you can view them like a gallery. Be sure to read the Artist’s Note for more about the two window paintings that informed “The Shapes of Portland.” (And if you are reading in your email, simply click the title at top) A big thank you to my friend, Audra, for taking these pics of me painting!

This piece is much larger than I usually paint. The skyline inspired me to use the whole length of the watercolor sheet. So I tore it to this panorama size. Thank you, Dale, for taking this one of me in our backyard.

How does a view out a window become inspiring enough to paint? Well, let me explain how I felt that morning.

New Painting

The snow blanketed the city of Portland, Maine. From windows, anyone could see the peach and plum hues in the frosted city. At sunrise, the towers of brick and snow banks were still untouched by anything but light. As the sun rose over the highest peaks the shadows shrunk. And suddenly the enchantment breaks. The air conditioning boxes no longer looked quite as regal without their accompanying trains of purple shadows. The snow soon became a mess instead of a crown, stuff to drive around and shovel, but I would capture it before that spell broke.

Before the city awoke, I could watch from my windows and sketch and paint these shapes of Portland, bedecked with white. This was a morning, I wanted to remember.


10 Responses

  1. So happy you get to do this… all the pics and comments; did you say what town you were in in New Hampshire? And staying in a hotel…..must have been so relaxing!

    1. Oh yes, “creatively spent” turns on the word “creative.” The most helpful definition of creative that I’ve found is “making connections where others don’t see any.” So on painting trips I’m not just painting (hopefully) beautiful scenes. I’m also making connections between the people and the culture of a place, I’m journaling my observations and concerns. I am taking online art classes and reading about Civil Rights (in my down time). I’m studying great art in galleries and noticing when and why it’s not-so-great.

      And then on the painting side, I don’t usually just find a ready made picture. I have to compose it, moving what’s in front of me to create a compelling scene. This is done in the eyes of the public who are often kind, sometimes patronizing, rude or objectifying. I always get honked/startled at least once. It drains me extra. Not to mention the wind, rain, temperature and snow, depending on the season. I find it harder to be creative without good food and rest. And on these trips both can be harder to find. So, I come home pretty creatively spent. And ready to evaluate how I can become better for next time.

  2. I AM LOVING YOUR NEW BLOG! I love getting the email for it. It’s been such a breath of fresh air with some wonderful beauty interwoven with contemplative ideas. I’m super happy for you and proud of you!

  3. I like the way you described the “perfect lighting and or timing”. Also the beauty in a simple thing like buildings. There is beauty all around us if we take a minute to look.

    1. Thank you, Eva, you’re correct about the richness around us. It doesn’t matter where we live, though some places seem extra drenched in beauty. You live in one of those places, too. Light itself is a grace from God, how it changes, and grows or dims. How much we need light and beauty to live well. I’m glad you took a minute to share.

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