Vinalhaven Sketchbook 2021

Islands all along the east coast are invaded each summer by lovers of sun, beaches, and beauty. DownEast Maine islands are no different, except that the beaches are rocky, the water is cold, and you’re likely to get a healthy dose of fog as well as sun. If you go far enough out to sea, you can add solitude to the list of attributes. We’ve found all of that on the island of Vinalhaven, which sits at the margin of Penobscot Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Here are a few pages from my recent retreat. You can find past Vinalhaven sketches here and here.

Tip Toe Mountain Park combines moss-carpeted spruce woods, rocky beaches with fascinating geology and seaweed draped rocks, and granite ledges with spectacular views. The occasional song of the hermit thrush or cry of the osprey overhead punctuate an otherwise silent forest.

Locals vs. Outsiders– There are tensions on any island between locals and summertime outsiders and the strain they place on finite resources and services. Demanding, entitled “summer jerks” as they are known on Vinalhaven are not appreciated. There are also insidious plant and animal invaders that can quickly damage ecosystems. I was dismayed to find this new outsider, the European black slug, which arrived only in 2018. I found it both fascinating and repulsive and I hate the thought of seeing more of them on the East coast in the future.

On the other hand, I was delighted to find the flowering ghost plant, Monotrope uniforma (you may also know it as Indian pipes) sprouting in the forest. This native species lacks chlorophyll and takes its sustenance from certain fungi which, in turn, are co-dependent on beech trees.

Along the Roadside are lots of hardy and familiar outsiders along with a few native eastern wildflowers that co-exist where poor soil or disturbance favor only the tenacious, as all islanders tend to be.

The Basin is a large and stunningly beautiful protected tidal basin, surrounded by rocky granite outcrops and spruce forest. We hiked and canoed there, and I’ll have some sketches of harbor seals to share when I finish them in the coming days.

Tips and Techniques– Mix it up on your next vacation. Try a variety of approaches, materials, and layouts to capture parts of your journey. I like having closeups mixed with maps and landscape views to convey my experiences and an overall sense of place.

21 Comments on “Vinalhaven Sketchbook 2021

  1. It’s such a great way to capture your visit to the island Jean. you get a real sense of what the
    Surroundings are. The different layouts play off of one another on the page as well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your posts are always a highlight of my Sundays; and after you’ve been on retreat for a week?! Bonus!!! These are lovely, and convey such a nice cross section of your adventures. That first spread is stunning (and I really like your map border, and that you use it specifically for maps), but each of them has great appeal. Love having the schedule in there, too — it’s relaxing just to read it, lol. One rainy day to work on art sounds perfect! Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with us. Looking forward to the seals.

    • So glad to have you along Cathy. Vinalhaven is lovely and I so enjoyed having a week to explore and sketch. Back to a very different schedule starting tomorrow, so I’m especially grateful for the week past. Glad to be a highlight of your Sundays.

  3. Really enjoy all of these. I too live in an area that is spotted with nature preserves surrounded by thousands of acres of state and federal land. Which invites many who want to enjoy and love nature. It also invites those who simply don’t respect their surroundings or us locals. So I get it. But I do enjoy getting “out” and every summer to take in what I can before winter hits. I’ve had Indian Pipe popping up and I’m sketching it too. Thanks for the visual tip on painting the background, I’m going to use it.

    • Hi Erica- Helpful to hear from an “insider” as I’m sure it isn’t easy to share your place with lots of visitors during the summer. The tension is very present on Vinalhaven where the hardships of living on an island during harsh and long winters can never really be understood by those of us who only drop in during the best of times. Sketching Indian pipes does present challenges of white on white. I was thinking about toned paper (but I didn’t bring any). For a white background, I think the edges of the sketch need to be very clean. I might try that next time.

  4. Another beautiful and informative post! I love “traveling” vicariously with you. Headed to Stowe, VT next weekend, will have to try out some of your tips, thanks.

  5. Seeing your recent work inspires me to get back to my sketch book- so thank you for that. It’s been a beautiful but dry summer here in Washington. The island looks lovely – makes me more as the East. Enjoy the rest of summer!

    • Thanks Patti– don’t leave your sketchbook for long. It’s good to keep your hand in it, even if only once a week or so. It was great to have a week of Maine beauty and sketching!

  6. So happy to hear about and see your trip, Jean. I chuckled at your fix for the wrong dates – too funny! And really perfect. The Basin ink sketch is quintessential main coast – beautiful. Too bad about the slug…you’d think folks would relish obliterating them. We have several here but they’re native so people tend to like them (out of the garden, that is). The dark, smudgy background for the Ghost pipes is just right – no need for light so why not take advantage of the dim spots no one else wants? 😉 Your mention of the beech tree connection has me wondering which fungi/plant relationships they utilize here – I bet the plant part is Douglas fir. These plant/fungus relationships are fascinating and we know so little about them, but there they are, right under our feet.

  7. Very much enjoyed your sketches of VH and it’s flora and fauna! As a ‘summer jerk’ with a house on VH, we have been coming for 37 years. As an artist also, every view is an inspiration! It is a unique and special place!

    • Hi Valerie- Thanks for writing and glad you enjoyed the sketches. I always enjoy visiting the gallery on Main St to see other artist’s work and creative views on the island. I only have a week there and wish I had more time…it takes me a few days to settle in and hit my stride. We’ve been going for about 10 years and are grateful for our time on this unique island. –Jean

  8. Love these! I lived on VH for five years, from about 2006-2011 and saw the black slugs back then, too. Also did a bunch of nature journaling during grad school, need to get back into it. Thanks for sharing your work, I’ll have to catch up on your other posts!

    • Interesting that you saw the slugs then. We contacted the Maine Department of Natural Resources who told us the first reported slugs dated to 2018. I’m glad you enjoyed these pages, perhaps some more nature journaling is in your future!

  9. Ugh!!! Those black slugs! I last saw them in Ireland (and hoped that I would never see them again. They are rather BIG for slugs….at first glance I thought it was a dog dropping. 😦 How did they get here?? (and WHY??)

    Those Indian pipes however- come up in our back yard woods during some years, and I’m always delighted to see them- they are pretty interesting! What a lovely set of pages from your trip!

  10. Jean, your journal is such an inspiration. I love how every line you make carries so much information that I instantly recognize plants I’m familiar with, and at the same time your sketches are rich in color, design and just plain joy. I pour over every entry! Thank you for sharing them.

    • Thanks so much Janet! Maine is a place where there is always way more inspiration than time. I was glad to be able to sketch and paint every day! Hope you are enjoying your painting time too!

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