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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 7: "Sunrise" at Blackwoods Campground and Schooner Head

This morning I woke up at 4:30am to see the sun rise at an ocean overlook off Blackwoods campground. The sky was covered with clouds and fog so no "sun rising" really happened; the sky just got a bit brighter. I was disappointed because the sunrises in Church's paintings are epic - cadmium reds and oranges, bright blues, etc.
Beacon, off Mount Desert Island by Frederic Church, 1851
So that's what I was looking for. I will try again tomorrow and the next day because there are two locations Church painted sunrises here that I want to paint. I did two small sketches while I was there so the early rise wasn't a total bust.
Rocks near Blackwoods Campground.
Otter Cliffs from Blackwoods Campground.
I was on my way out, not sure where to go due to the predicted rain and not really knowing if the forecast had changed due to no service, I stopped in the ranger station at the campground. I've compiled a list of locations and scenes to draw and paint, but several mountain names and areas must have changed because they're not on the map. The two Rangers, Katie and Chris, we're very helpful and interested in my project! They kept saying "these are awesome questions!" and even went so far as to look up some of Church's paintings on the computer to get a better idea of the angles and direction to suggest spots for me to paint and view the same scene. Since I'm by myself most of the time, it was just nice in and of itself to talk to people and have them share in the enthusiasm I have for what I'm doing.

Rain was predicted on and off all day so I really wasn't sure what to do next. I didn't want to get my paints set up only to have it start raining, and I didn't want to paint from the hatch of my car because the scenes I'm painting all involve some kind of hike to get the best view. There's so much I want to do here, it's like putting together this great puzzle to fit it all in before I leave. Some paintings I want to do at sunrise, others at sunset, etc, plus rain is predicted another day this week too.

I emailed the Church historic site, which is his home in the Hudson called Olana, to see if I could access their research materials when I'm there next week. The woman got back to me quickly, and I think I'll be able to, I just need a list of what specifically I want, since "anything and everything because I am obsessed with Frederic Church" isn't really what they're looking for. I asked about his works in Maine since the exhibit was at Olana, and it sounds like most of the works are on display. Next week my nerdiest dreams are coming true! I am so fascinated by Church's work and believe I can spend a lifetime learning from him and about him. Of the four artists, he was the most prolific in terms of painted oil sketches - Cole did more drawings, Moran did watercolor sketches, and I'm actually not sure about Bierstadt...more on that later. Anyway, I feel very connected to Church's process as well as his subject matter.

I tried to find Cole's sketchbook from Maine to see if it was as inspiring as Church thought it was...but no such luck. I'll have to email the Thomas Cole historic site and see if they know. As I sat in my car it started raining which confirmed my fears of getting rained on while painting. But people are still out hiking in raincoats and rain pants.

I decided to go to Schooder Head overlook to see if the scene was the same as Church's sunrise painting "Schoodic Peninsula from Mount Desert at Sunrise." I brought my book down with me to reference. It's not the same as Church's painting but feels somewhat similar. The "head" of the peninsula that juts out is different in shape and appears taller. Maybe it's was a different place...but Schooner Head and Schoodic Peninsula, with a 150 year gap, seem like they could be the same place. Church does describe watching a storm at Schooner Head; maybe Schoodic Peninsula is they name he gave the land that jutted out. It is privately owned and there's a massive mansion right on the rock face. It would be an epic place to live but I'd prefer the view without it. I wonder how much building on the peninsula affected the landscape.

I went back down in my poncho and wide brimmed hiking hat and my sketchbook because as I mentioned before, Church sketched here during a storm - so this rain thing ended up working out. There aren't any reproductions in my book - another one to ask Olana about. He is quoted in Maine Sublime:
It was a stirring sight to see the immense rollers come toppling in, changing their forms and gathering in bulk, then dashing into sparkling foam against the base of old "Schooner Head," leaping a hundred feet into the air. We tried painting them, and drawing and taking notes of them, but cannot suppress a doubt that we shall neither be able to give actual motion nor roar to any we may place upon canvas.
I was met with the same view of crashing, rolling waves. It really was exciting to see a big wave roll in and smash against the rocks, shoot water in the air, and have it crash back down. I was happy to sit there for a while to sketch (which was immensely difficult given that the water was constantly moving and changing - I felt Church's struggle...) and watch nature run its course. The tides are very powerful.

After it started to rain again I showered, went grocery shopping, and did laundry. Tomorrow will be another early morning to catch the sun rise over Schooner Head/Schoodic Peninsula.
Schooner Head.
The mansion.
The surf crashing in and out
Another angle, more similar to Church's painting.
Paddington Bear goes to sketch.
Paddington Bear sketches the surf.
Rocks and surf near Schooner Head.


  1. Thanks for another great blog and photos! In addition to seeing what you see, I can FEEL what you are feeling thought your descriptive words!
    Sketches are great....worthy of framing!
    Love, mom

  2. Hey Paddington Bear! You do look adorable ๐Ÿ˜†in your rainwear! Even on a rainy day, you still remained focused and got some work go girl!