Notes from the Coast

What could be better than a week spent outdoors on the beautiful rocky coast of Maine with a group of people enthusiastic about exploring, sketching, and painting nature? Hmmm…. not much. Directing the Arts and Birding program at the Hog Island Audubon Camp near Damariscotta is a highlight of my year. Although I don’t have time to do much artwork myself, the time I spend teaching others and seeing what they produce is inspiring. I do manage a few sketches, or at least I manage to start them even if I need to finish them later. Here’s a peek inside my journal from the week with a few notes and observations.

I was excited to head to Maine in June instead of later in the summer so that I could see lupine in bloom. Alas, I was nearly too late (or the blooms came and went early), as most of the plants had already gone to seed. I searched these out in a large roadside meadow on my way to the island, before my hectic schedule kicked in.

Arts and Birding is not all about birds; the island provides a chance to explore deep spruce forests, rocky shores, mosquito-laden bogs, and salt marsh meadows. This page began as a very loose and sloppy mess of ink sketches made while standing over basins of collected creatures. Thankfully, I managed to pull it into a coherent whole while painting. 

Northern Parula warblers are common on the island, but they are more often heard than seen. Their nests are equally well hidden. Veiled in beard lichen and hanging from a high branch, this pendulum nest was so well camouflaged that even when you knew where it was you could barely find it.

This was an exercise in observation and color mixing that I suggested as a sketching prompt: paint a page of watercolor swatches of the changing colors of the ocean throughout the day. You could easily do it with greens in a forest, colors in a garden, or almost any subject.

Bits and pieces. I sketched an immature bald eagle early one morning but then didn’t have a chance to return to the page. The daily schedule explains why.

COMING UP: I’m excited to share these two upcoming workshops…
IN WORDS AND ARTSketching In Harriet’s Garden
Saturday, July 10, 3-5:30pm (in person)
The Stowe Center, Hartford, CT

TAPPING AUDUBON’S PASSION: Sketching Birds in Watercolor
Thursday, August 12, 2-5pm (via Zoom)
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH; REGISTER

26 Comments on “Notes from the Coast

  1. This is lovely, as usual! Couldn’t make it to Maine, but I did just register for your Stowe Center workshop, can’t wait!

  2. I love these, Jean. I spent a week at the Schoodic Institute in June birding with Georgia Audubon. Seth took us around. We had a great time, despite the brief heat wave, and saw lots and lots of lupins! One day I’ll make it to Hog Island. We visited friends in Waldoboro after birding and ate dinner on a wharf right across from Hog Island.


    • I haven’t been to Schoodic, but I would love to go and Seth would be the perfect guide. He and I know each other from way back in graduate school. Glad you got to see the lupines in full glory and glimpsed Hog Island and the Muscongus Bay!

    • Thank you…maybe you need to come to Hog Island so that you can try your hand at drawing. I’m a firm believer that everyone can draw– but learning a few techniques is helpful to get going and gain confidence.

  3. Oh how I love your sketches of Maine and the coast in particular! You seem to capture the natural surroundings and sites so well. Love your interpretations. I look forward to hearing more about the trip if you’re going to do more of course.

    • Thanks so much Erica! This is all I’ve got for this trip, but I will be back in Maine in August and will have more time for sketching– can’t wait! — Jean

  4. HI Jean…I dont know how you had time to even think about your own pages, with everything you did for us at Hog Island! I especially enjoy your Parula nest page completed, because I did see your work in progress on that one…love it! Now that its been a week or so, and I feel that the whole experience has had time to sink in, my gratitude and appreciation for you and everyone at the Camp is profound. It was so great to get to know you personally. I very much hope that we meet again sometime – your coast or mine?? 😉 Thank you for sharing yourself, your knowledge , and your appreciation for nature and Hog Island!! Karen. PS I have your little postcard, (which i was lucky to get, on the final night) framed on my bookshelf ❤

    • Hi Karen- So nice to hear from you and to share these sketches with someone who was there for the week. You did such great work yourself and I’m so glad you fully immersed yourself in the experience. I’m glad we had the chance to meet and spend the week together. I feel confident that our paths will cross again, and I’m glad you have the eggs on your bookshelf! Best, Jean

  5. Your beautiful art, and descriptions of the week, make me so nostalgic for our time on Hog Island. Maybe next year! I love your Northern Parula, and I want to try your water color exercise. I like that you added time at the end of your hectic schedule to “Think – Sit”.

    • I’m glad the sketches brought a bit of the island to you. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the blank space on that page and that note of my schedule seemed just the right thing to add. See you next year?!

  6. Hi Jean, Your new sketches are such a delightful reminder of my week in Maine with you and all the other wonderful people I met. Each page brings to mind a whole treasure chest of memories, which is why I journal in the first record some of the best moments of my life. I loved it all and thank you, (and Sherry, Shawn, and Barry) for an unforgettable experience. I’m now starting my own Maine Journal using photos of our week (Since there’s never enough time to draw and paint it all in the moment) I’m full of new ideas, thanks to you!

    • Thanks Janet! I’m so glad we got to meet in person and I was so pleased to see you pick up my late night enthusiasm for the lab. I hope to see some of your sketches on the NJC page. Enjoy the memories and completing the rest of your sketches.

  7. Wow Jean! The birds nest, the water colors! Just love where your eyes take you.

    • Thanks Michele! I always enjoy Arts & Birding– it’s a special place with special people and I’m pleased to have captured a few of my explorations during the week.

  8. The nest is amazing, Jean. You were really able to capture the ethereal nature of it. It was great seeing you again on Hog Island. I learned a great deal and you did have a great team this year.

    • It was so nice to spend the week with you Mary. I’m glad we both spent time with the parula nest. That was a special sighting and well worth the observation and sketching. I may still tackle it again but, of course, other things now beckon as well. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  9. Hi, Jean. I love all your Hog Island sketches. The Lupine page is so sweet and delicate. The Intertidal so fun. I really like how you captured the lichen in the Northern Parula sketch. It looks like that technique would work well for Spanish Moss as well. I love your prompt for sketching the colors of the ocean throughout the day. One could do that for a lot of different landscape features. Attending your Hog Island workshop is on my wishlist. Hopefully, someday! I’m glad you’ll have a chance to go back again this year for more sketching.

    • Hi Susan- Nice to hear from you and thanks for your appreciation. It was so nice to be back at Hog Island with a group of artists. It’s a very inspiring place to spend a week– I hope you do come some year!

  10. I’m sorry I’m so late to comment but just wanted to say it’s great to see that you were able to resume the Hog Island workshops. The lupine page has the most calming colors, it makes me sigh. And the Parula warbler, what a beautiful painting! I miss hearing them (I know, I always say that!). The other workshops sound great – enjoy!

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