Sketching Acadia National Park

Abraxas sketching Acadia National Park
Abraxas sketching Acadia National Park, photo by Kate Fitzgerald.

Maine's coast is rugged, beautiful, and full of subjects to paint! I just returned from a week long "campainting" trip to Acadia National Park and have lots of artwork started (and some completed).

Artists often travel to Maine in search of inspiration and I sure found plenty. It is always interesting to view the variation in works of other artists, and so as I always do, I browsed through the many galleries of coastal Maine, enjoying that wonderful diversity. I often see that unique interpretation of the same scenery when my friends and I paint together - there is so much happening when you paint outdoors that every passing moment presents new possibilities, and each of us will get excited about those different elements... Once incorporated into our canvas stories, our works become unique.

Coming from Delaware, especially after spending so much time on our beaches this summer (working of course), the craggy coast of Maine was a fascinating change. Great landscapes combined with the action of man upon the water made my head spin with ideas! Boats have always intrigued me and there were plenty to choose from as I wandered up and down the coast. Sailboats and fleets of lobster boats abound, beautiful in all forms; clean, dirty, moored, and sailing. While sitting on a rock or standing at my easel, I was mesmerized by the movement of the boats, some at anchor and some cruising past, nothing on the water stood still. Below are a couple of pencil sketches from my journey.

Northern Harbor, a pencil sketch by Abraxas.
Northern Harbor, a graphite sketch by Abraxas.
Morning Commute, a graphite sketch by Abraxas.
Morning Commute, a graphite sketch by Abraxas.

Having been a camper all of my life, leaky tents were all I knew, so I am really enjoying my Airstream travel trailer, especially in cold weather! My 19' International CCD has everything I need and is small enough that it is easy to tow (a harrowing near death experience on the trip proved that it is quite maneuverable). After a cold day of painting and exploring it is nice to have heat, music, and a cozy bed (and protection from wild animals). Actually, it's kind of hard to call that camping, but it sure is fun!

Abraxas' mobile studio.
Abraxas' mobile studio.

Thanks for checking in! Come visit if you find yourself in Milton, and I'll show you what I'm working on!

Rosario Beach prints are ready!

Prints of  my painting "Rosario Beach" are now available! This print was produced as a companion piece to my print of neighboring Deception Pass, both prints are the same size and depict two scenes from Washington state's Deception Pass State Park. The prints measure 17.5" tall by 29" wide, in an edition of 900 signed and numbered prints. Pricing for this Limited Edition print is; $200 for the numbered edition, $300 for Artist Proofs (while they last), and $400 for a print with an original pencil remarque. Rosario Beach prints are available online by clicking here or at my studio, as always I offer free shipping via FedEx!


Rosario Beach by Abraxas


Here I am working on Rosario Beach... Beautiful beach, warm light, and chilly air!


Abraxas Paints Rosario Beach



Puget Sound is one of my favorite destinations in America - and exploring the islands within the Sound is a memory that always makes me smile. Rosario Beach is on Fidalgo island, just North of Whidbey Island, where I typically stay. A place where bald eagles, orcas, salmon, and friendly people abound!

From Utah to Delaware

Now that I am back from an amazing trip through Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, I have sketches and paintings to finish... and thousands of photos to sort through! Although the weather was wonderful in Yellowstone, painting for hours in 50 degree weather made my hands numb, at which point I would put down my brushes and pick up my camera. Taking photographs was a great way of forcing myself to explore, as there was so much to see in the vast Western lands. For those who met me along my journey and asked about prints of my works in progress, send me an e-mail and I'll let you know when the paintings and prints are ready!

Wild animals are abundant in Yellowstone but shouldn't be taken for granted, those who are hurried will miss wonderful opportunities to observe this intricately woven ecosystem. Below are a few of my favorite photos from the trip, stop by my studio and I'll show you the full slide show, and my artwork from the trip!

*Note Oct. 17: People have asked what kind of fancy camera equipment I used on my trip, and the good news is, there is nothing fancy about it! My Canon SX100 IS works fine for me ($250, and it received only mediocre reviews), and unfortunately I didn't have my tripod... Here are my tips for good photography; a decent camera within reach, patience, composition, and plenty of charged batteries!!! When I paint on location it is rare that I am able to finish the entire piece while in front of the subject, so I use my photographs to remind myself of the subject's intricate details. Quite often the color present in real life is not reproduced by the camera, and that is where the challenge for me, the painter, begins - adding the colors and atmosphere that the camera could not capture.

Some people say luck plays a large part in taking good pictures, but as Thomas Jefferson once said, "I find that the harder I work, the luckier I am". Climbing out of my sleeping bag 2 hours before sunrise in 20 degree weather wasn't easy, nor was making it out to Yellowstone in the first place! I find joy in my adventures, and besides, as I have been heard saying "no one wants to hear stories about your time spent in front of the television, so get outside!"

Click here to view a short video of me painting works from this trip...


The following are photographs from my journey...

The Grand Tetons


Autumn color in Teton National Park


Sundance Resort


Trees in the mist


Yellowstone River Canyon


Yellowstone sunset


Fumaroles at Yellowstone


Moon over Yellowstone


Elk battle in Yellowstone


A coyote roams the plains of Yellowstone


A tiny fearless creature watches over Yellowstone Canyon

Camping and painting in Yellowstone!

The magnificence of Yellowstone cannot be over estimated! After painting, camping, and exploring, for five days I understand why this place was protected as the world's first national park.I have set my easel at Artist Point over-looking the lower falls of the Yellowstone River (below is a photo of my setup). Yellowstone Canyon is a scene of breathtaking beauty, I am painting the river as it cascades down 308 feet to a rainbow lit mist. The canyon is alive with color - yellow and red rocks accented with vibrant green vegetation growing from the craggy cliff walls! This painting will take weeks to complete, but I have laid out the basic shadow and light areas. Photos can be valuable for detail reference, but sketching out tonal values while on location allows the artist the chance to accurately capture the essence of a place, even if the painting is completed in the studio.

Many thanks to all who have called to check on my well being! Doing great out here in the wild, the air is clean and the wildlife is abundant, I had the good fortune to stumble upon two male elk in an antler locked fight for dominance (sixty feet from me)!


And here I am painting, my thanks to Nancy Housel for e-mailing this shot! 

Painting the Adirondack State Park!

My "Sketch the Parks" tour has begun! My plan to tour the parks of America has commenced with a journey throughout New York's Adirondack State Park and Catskill Park. Canoeing, camping, and painting off the beaten path has always brought me closer to nature, providing inspiration and clarity far from the daily distractions of modern living. Replacing the sound of telephones with the call of wild animals feeds my soul and reminds me of my true purpose, chronicling my time on earth with my paintbrush!

The National Park System was created to preserve the health, diversity, and beauty of nature, while ensuring public access to these wondrous places. Nineteenth century artists such as Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Thomas Moran, and Albert Bierstadt were instrumental in the creation of the National Parks System. By exposing people in the power centers of the Eastern U.S. to the beauty of the pristine wilderness, these artists and others ignited an effort to protect lands throughout America from the rampant industrialization and expansion of our growing country. By painting my favorite parks in the twenty first century, I am fulfilling my duty to renew interest in the magnificence of nature!

The Journey begins...

Paddling my canoe up a tributary of Raquette Lake in Adirondack State Park, I am with every stroke of my paddle further from man and closer to nature. Eager to allow my adventure to unfold as freely as possible, I left Milton, Delaware with plenty of painting and camping gear for a weeklong sojourn, with no exact destination in mind. Once I entered the Adirondacks, I explored by car and foot until I found a river with no manmade structures visible, and then I loaded and launched my canoe. 

Paddling from Raquette Lake

Hearing the distant sound of rushing water awakened my senses after a two hour paddle on that steamy June day. As the river had become marshland it was apparent that I would be portaging (carrying canoe and gear) through the swamp directed only by sound... Luckily it wasn't long before I was back in my boat heading towards a small waterfall/rapids area nestled in the woods. Perfect, I had found my first plein air painting scene!

Approaching the rapids

After setting up camp, hanging my food (bear country, oh dear!), and creating a rock fire ring, it was time for dinner... and sleep! The quantity and hunger of the black flies present necessitated a hot smoky fire... Luckily the pain and annoyance of these flying devils kept my mind from worrying about bears!

Campfire lit, flies gone!

Painting in the rain!

The next morning I awoke to a steady rain that informed me of my tent's lack of water repellency. Luckily I paint in oil so there was no problem painting in the rain! Having passed on the umbrella option that would have complemented my new Soltek Easel nicely, I was left with no choice but to set up and paint in a downpour. I have always enjoyed experiments and this was an interesting one. Water beads up and runs from a vertical oily surface, perfect! Painting at the base of the rapids in the pouring rain also kept me alert to the possibility of a flash flood, luckily that was an adventure that never materialized...


Surprise from the rapids...

"What is that strange noise?" I thought, and suddenly from ten feet away, a merganser appeared from under a rock in the rapids with eight ducklings in tow- two hitching a ride on her back. It was apparent that she wanted to make a speedy getaway when she realized she would be passing so close to me, but being a good mom swam slowly enough that her offspring could follow. I have highlighted this special moment in my painting of the rapids, which I am now completing back at my studio!