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Sketching in Maine


Sketching is a different kind of exploring the world. It's a slower way to see things, but you see every little detail.

I can remember every sketch I have made, where I was and what was going on at the time. Sketching focuses your memory on a single moment.

Sketch of Ships Harbor in Acadia National Park by Jennifer Branch.
Sketching the world is different kind of exploring.
Ships Harbor, Acadia National Park, Maine

When we go up to Maine, we usually choose a time when my garden has turned brown and the thermometer is showing triple digits. I hibernate during the worst of Georgia summer, so when we get to Maine and the weather is cool enough for sweaters, I love being outside all day. Which is good, since we go camping for most of the trip!

I have two young boys who keep me running. It's nice to find a beautiful cove and relax and sketch. Sometimes I convince my kids to sketch with me. More often they practice the ancient sport of boys skipping rocks anywhere near water.

Bass Harbor Path Sketch by Jennifer Branch.

I rarely do final paintings when I'm traveling, but I usually come home with a stack of sketches. This year, I talked my husband (who has done book binding for years) into making me the most gorgeous sketchbooks with Arches paper. They have been such a pleasure to paint on that I'm afraid I'm spoiled for anything else. Really good paper makes all the difference to a sketch!

When the sketch comes out so much closer to what my final painting will be, it gives me an opportunity to really experiment with the sketch. I try different techniques and just play around with it.

Watercolor Sketchbook by Roger Luallen

Gorgeous watercolor sketchbook made by my husband, Roger Luallen.

I chose colors for the sketchbooks that fit with sketching in Acadia. I love this rust color against the pink granite!

Jennifer Branch sketching at Ships Harbor Trail.

The secret to sketching is making it easy. I bring a little folding chair in my backpack so it's comfortable too. Sometimes you're sitting on a rocky beach, but sometimes it's a muddy stream bank. You never can tell so it's better to be prepared for anything.

However, being prepared does not mean bring everything you have every time. If I'm filming a sketch, I'll bring a bit more kit, but mostly I keep it very simple. If it doesn't pack in my backpack, it doesn't go. If you make it easy to bring your sketching kit with you on vacation or everyday adventures, you'll bring it. If it's a hassle to get things together and carry them, you'll never do it.

Watercolor Sketch by Jennifer Branch

Sketch off the point at Pretty Marsh, Mount Desert Island.

Since I have growing boys who need to eat every half hour, I bring picnics if possible. That gives me a lot more time at a location.

If a location inspires me enough to paint one sketch, I generally find something else I want to sketch. The key is to sketch quickly. I think 30 minutes is the maximum amount of time for a sketch, but I generally aim for about 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes, the light changes just enough so your painting starts to change.

If you don't have time to paint all the sketches you want at a location, then take tons of photos. It's surprising how all the colors come back to you when you're looking through your sketches. Since inaccurate colors are one of the major flaws in painting from photos, you'll be able to paint the scene you want much better.

I rarely paint a finished painting on location. If I do, it does take longer than 30 minutes!

Picnic spot by the side of the Schoodic Park Road by Jennifer Branch

Picnic spot by the side of the Schoodic Park Road by Jennifer Branch.

Sometimes a gorgeous clear sky like this can turn into a storm.

Storm Coming sketch by Jennifer Branch.

A quick little sketch before the rain hits!

I painted this one in a huge hurry as the storm came over from Bar Harbor. This huge front just swept across us. I had to paint it! Sometimes 5 minutes is enough for a memory.

Sketch of fog at Ships Harbor, Acadia National Park by Jennifer Branch

Sketch of fog at Ships Harbor, Acadia National Park by Jennifer Branch

It's amazing how quickly the mood of the ocean changes. I hiked and sketched the Ships Harbor trail quite a few times since it's one of my favorites. Every time, the scenery was completely different. Sometimes the sky was blue and shadows were darkly crisp. Other times, it was foggy with the trees glowing green gold.

I'm fascinated by Maine fogs. They shroud their surroundings, so you just see glimpses of objects emerging from the mist. Shadows are dimmed, so you're painting more the bright colors of the objects.

It's odd, but it's almost like the fog enhances some colors, in just a few areas. By dulling most things, the few areas emerging from the fog are so intensely colored, they almost glow.

Sketch in Ships Harbor by Jennifer Branch

A hazy afternoon sketch off Ships Harbor trail, Maine.

Here's a sketch of Ships Harbor again, where the golds of the late summer trees just glow - and that bright green grass is intense against the grey background.

Sketch at Seal Cove, Maine by Jennifer Branch

Seal Cove, Maine sketch. I love the light streaming through the clouds!
It really doesn't take a huge sketching kit to sketch on location.

I can't think of a better way to travel than with your sketchbook. It's amazing how you remember a place when you've immersed yourself in it by sketching. Everything becomes so clear when you flip through your sketchbook. It feels like you're back sketching, looking at the beautiful view.

A sketch can take hours or a few minutes, but the memories will last your lifetime.

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